Up In The Air

I’m no nostalgia freak, but I do spend a good deal of my time in airports bemoaning the loss of the innocence that Gil Elvgren captured with such pure justice in this painting. He probably did it 50 years ago, but what you see there in the bright day’s breeze on the airfield is something you could have observed just a couple of years ago. It was freedom, beauty, respect, and intrepid courage. Elvgren may not have given it a conscious thought, but it’s all right there in the painting.

I can describe what could once be found at just about any local airport, but it’s a great shame that only a fraction of the people I describe this to will have the slightest inkling about what I’m saying a few years from now.

I’m talking about a time when you could drive up to a terminal and park your car without having a smiling chimp ask you to pop your trunk so he could crawl inside for a wee look around. When you would walk into a terminal and see relaxed aviators, ground crew and passengers who, in spite of any tribulations in their day, still exhibited the qualities of human intelligence and respect for their fellow airport denizens.

I mean a time when, unless your carry-on popped open accidently, or unless the breeze blew your dress up, your personal items were likely to remain so. Even in the case of the above blonde dish, at least there would be some thoughtworthy joy obtained by all within view. Now any thrill to be had is to be delivered at the latex-gloved hands of some GS-5 meticulously rifling through your things as per some directions outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations. Just fucking lovely.

The Elvgrenesque light is gone from the airfield. It was real, but what it’s been replaced with is nearly unbearable. I literally avert my eyes from it when I travel. I don’t have a melodramatic bone in my body, but I have to shut down because of the intensity with which I suffer in places like the dismal little “Gate 71” area satellite terminal for United Express puddle jumpers at LAX where the stench of the gray carpeting is the foundation for connection purgatory. It’s where passengers are taken on buses across the tarmac and herded into obnoxiously appointed rooms wherein they must endure the constant gate announcements screamed into the most hideous of PA systems.

Each announcement screamed, I say, with the urgency of some teevee show paramedic attending a coded patient. Screamed, with the regard that a delouser at Ellis Island might have employed against the wide-eyed huddled masses (except these masses are more glassy-eyed than wide-eyed and not so much huddled masses as shuffling masses.)

Screamed by squatty, Cheeto-fed, twenty-something, brick-brained gate agents stuffed into the most unfetching polyester get ups. They couldn’t manage their own car payment schedule, much less a scheduling curve ball due to delayed equipment or overall ground congestion.

These little sub-human gate slobs are brought to us courtesy their oblivious, numb-cunted parents who have conveniently produced them to populate the surreal circus wrought by a combination of post 9-11 phobia and stato-masochism. Just one more thing. Just one more bridge across the River Styx, that conveys us from the open, airy intelligence that it takes to appreciate a playful Elvgren beauty, right into a dank gray nightmare.

We’re cooked.

“We are dead and this is HELL.” — Nadine, The Stand

Enough Already

Hollywood’s latest hardened fem empowerment flick, ENOUGH, features an abused woman who discovers that the dream man she married isn’t all she thought he was.

It’s a classic rehash (Julia Roberts did it in 1991 with SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY), but much like the ever-popular “makeover” days on Oprah and Maury, this formula is a tried and true crowd pleaser and a sure box office pay off as a date movie. Women enjoy seeing a guy who’s got it coming get kung fu-ed by the poseable Barbie Doll du jour (Jennifer Lopez in this case). And in the “Yes, my sweet, I would adore nothing better than to go to the chick empowerment movie with you on Friday evening to hone my sensitivities in those regards” department, it is a prime opportunity for men to catch an ample glimpse at plenty of tense and writhing Latina anatomia.


Jennifer Lopez asserts her “divine animal right” in the movie ENOUGH

What’s my problem with this, you ask? Not a thing so far. When it’s all said and done there’s really nothing wrong with a movie reiterating what most of us already ought to know: the state may be getting very good at looting your ex’s paycheck so you can still afford to contribute next to zero by way of value to anyone, but if your former prince charming is a determined psycho, the cops can’t always save your mooching hide from him. So sometimes the only thing for it is to lay off the bon-bons for a couple weeks, get buff, and kill him.

Even so, where would we women be without our friends to validate us? How could we sisters soldier on if not by exploring the deeper fundamentals of natural rights via our girlfriends’ flawless epistemologically derived orts of wisdom like the one Lopez’s movie pal served up in ENOUGH when she advised, “You have a divine animal right to protect your own life and the life of your offspring.”

Well sure. It’s all so clear now. Here I was thinking the whole bunny-hugging lot of dizzy female celebs prancing about in bare-assed protest of fur coats and red meat was explained away by the fact that their lightweight intellects won’t go the distance that it takes to distinguish the difference between human and animal nature.

I figured somewhere in the heads of these puff-brained, over-privileged bints, they still carry imagery of themselves as six-year-olds, twirling about in their color coordinated bedrooms, protected from the realities of life that lead to the understanding that human beings evolved, survive, and exist by virtue of our unique nature and that no animal, no matter how cuddly and seemingly intelligent, begins to rival the importance of what even one real human being is.

I’m truly captivated and, though I’m not one to eagerly wade into voluminous treatises on rights derivations, I do feel compelled to give the above nimble-witted assertion regarding self-defense a further look.

“A divine animal right…”

I had presumed that was divine as in “sacred” or “proceeding directly from God”.

Or should I be turning my attention toward a more volant definition of the word divine, as in the Divine Miss M sense? If that’s the case, the postulate does begin to attain optimum coherance. I read somewhere that Bette Middler is an animal lover. She would, no doubt, approve of the logic behind ascribing rights to human beings based upon the purer, more fundamental animal rights model. Indeed she might well assert that animal rights are the foundation or, so to speak, “the wind beneath the wings” of human rights.

Now onto: “to protect herself and her offspring”

That much would seem to fall from its own obvious weight. However, employing the right to self-defense with the already discussed modifying clause – one’s divine animal right – widens the foundation for… about anything that animals do, right?

Shit howdy. There’s your free pass for every pilfering collectivist that could ever shake a copy of an Audubon Society Field Guide in the air.

“I hereby derive my rights from those of The Graceful Seagull in flight, who, by his Divine Right, pillages the nests of other cliff dwelling sea birds. I, in turn, may also excercise my Right to pillage your belongings in order to ensure a more perfect survival of my needs and the needs of my offspring. If that means I vote money out of your pocket to buy my prescription drugs, or to school my own little “nest-nuggets”, you’d better cough up or else I’ll send someone over to fuck up your nest in a hurry.”

If we human beings are to derive our rights from our observations of animal behavior, well, just about anything goes. I mean, it may be arguable to some whether or not we have the right to load the atmosphere with fossil fuels emissions, but we certainly would have a “divine animal right” to piss on our neighbor’s landscaping. We can agree on that much, can’t we? And why stop there?

What about your divine animal right to gang bang the neighbor’s wife if you catch her alone in the front yard some enchanting moonlit night? It all falls into the realm of clearly precedented animal rights.

It was only a movie. Just the fancy of some boiler plate screenwriting team, but all this mind gook that it’s based upon is a clear and present product of popular thought. It’s not only being disseminated in the cool comfort of the summer cinematic mind massage, it’s, as the Visa ad says, everywhere you want to be. The streets, universities, stores, backyards, and barbeques. The stuff that passes for thought or profound wisdom is often rank and penetrating. You can ignore it with limited success, but you won’t escape the odor of it. Eventually it will reach you where you live.

In Defense of Liquid Joe’s

The folksy, light-hearted tone of the “Gone Fishin” sign doesn’t sit well with Debra Hudson, Oseguera’s aunt.

“I wanted to see that the place was actually closed, and I saw the ‘Gone Fishin’ sign. I took that as a slap. I took it personally. I know that’s not how they meant it, but they should have just said, ‘Closed.’ That just seemed a little big.”

In January 2000 Christopher Oseguera,18, and Casey Dugdale, 19, perished in a fiery crash when their Jeep Wrangler was rear-ended by a pick-up truck driven at 70 mph by Paul Upwall, a piss drunk patron of Liquid Joe’s bar in Salt Lake County, Utah.

Upwall left Oseguera and Dugdale to die, trapped in the burning Jeep, while he fled on foot from the scene. He was apprehended the following day at his home. Another passenger in the jeep, Aaron Sharples, was critically injured, but survived because he had been thrown clear of the wreckage.

The folksy, light-hearted tone of the “Gone Fishin” sign doesn’t sit well with Debra Hudson, Oseguera’s aunt.

“I wanted to see that the place was actually closed, and I saw the ‘Gone Fishin’ sign. I took that as a slap. I took it personally. I know that’s not how they meant it, but they should have just said, ‘Closed.’ That just seemed a little big.”

In January 2000 Christopher Oseguera,18, and Casey Dugdale, 19, perished in a fiery crash when their Jeep Wrangler was rear-ended by a pick-up truck driven at 70 mph by Paul Upwall, a piss drunk patron of Liquid Joe’s bar in Salt Lake County, Utah.

Upwall left Oseguera and Dugdale to die, trapped in the burning Jeep, while he fled on foot from the scene. He was apprehended the following day at his home. Another passenger in the jeep, Aaron Sharples, was critically injured, but survived because he had been thrown clear of the wreckage.

The only thing Upwall’s victims had done to deserve their fate was to stop at a traffic light while driving home from watching a hockey game. Paul Upwall was 100% responsible for slamming three young men into an instant inferno, but the state of Utah is getting serious about holding bar owners responsible for the carnage their customers cause on the state’s highways.

A few years ago I had a scrape with a drunk driver, an obnoxious, raging boar who damaged my sister’s parked vehicle. My experience was trivial compared to what the families of Upwall’s victims had to face, but I can surely understand why Utahns seek to end the nightmare of DUI damage across their majestic plateau.

Any debate over the state’s authority to license at all is undeniably part of the more pertinent and overarching problem here, but I’ll leave that part out for now and concede that Utah is acting within the bounds of the licensing agreement that Liquid Joe’s signed onto with the state. However, holding a business culpable for the crimes of its customers is a perverse way of addressing any problem.

“We need to have rigorous enforcement and also rigorous prosecution so that the licenses of bars are revoked when their actions result in a death,” said Art Brown, president of the Utah chapter of Mothers Against Drunken Driving.

And it is just this kind of enforcement advancement that some national research shows to be beneficial. A study published in the most recent issue of Advances by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suggests that cities “consider greater restrictions on alcohol accessibility and disciplinary measures for alcohol outlets that violate beverage laws.”

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of blaming the management of a hard partying imbibery for their customers’ behavior and to forget that the true core of the issue goes right back to that of individual responsibility. Are alcoholic beverage distributors also to be held liable since they know, or must know, that the businesses to which they sell have reputations for getting people drunk? Shouldn’t Seagrams know that Liquid Joe’s is using their product to mix up a concoction called a “Mind Eraser”?

Just how far and wide can the state seek to spread the distribution of culpability?

“But tackling enforcement of serving over-intoxicated patrons is much more than a DUI issue,” [Lt. Ed Michaud] said. “When bars and restaurants break the rules and serve too much to a drinker, they also contribute to domestic violence, alcohol poisoning, fights and other alcohol-related problems.”

The possibilities are endless.

Like Ares Comes The Cowgirl

Raise high the roof beam carpenters
like Ares comes the Cowgirl
taller far than a tall man

– Sappho

Some may have noticed that there has recently been an organizational bloodbath at No Treason. With one exception, I demoted the entire editorial staff. Gone from the journal staff are the Senior Editors; the position doesn’t even exist anymore. Robertson? Gone. Condor? Gone!! Schneider, Beck, Starr, and Freely? All gone. Gone likewise are the weblog editors. There are now simply two editors of No Treason, Lynette Warren and John Kennedy. The rest were demoted because they were not performing any editorial function. They occasionally produced good articles and items, but aside from that Lynette is the only one who ever did a lick of work around here.

Most people, even those participating in No Treason, are not aware that since even before the public launch on June 9th 2001 Lynette has been more influential than anyone in determining he course of this project.

Raise high the roof beam carpenters
like Ares comes the Cowgirl
taller far than a tall man

– Sappho

Some may have noticed that there has recently been an organizational bloodbath at No Treason. With one exception, I demoted the entire editorial staff. Gone from the journal staff are the Senior Editors; the position doesn’t even exist anymore. Robertson? Gone. Condor? Gone!! Schneider, Beck, Starr, and Freely? All gone. Gone likewise are the weblog editors. There are now simply two editors of No Treason, Lynette Warren and John Kennedy. The rest were demoted because they were not performing any editorial function. They occasionally produced good articles and items, but aside from that Lynette is the only one who ever did a lick of work around here.

Most people, even those participating in No Treason, are not aware that since even before the public launch on June 9th 2001 Lynette has been more influential than anyone in determining he course of this project.

I met many of these people on the newsgroup alt.current-events.clinton.whitewater. I didn’t have all that much interest in the Clinton scandals, I thought they were largely irrelevant to the fundamental problems of government. But I was very interested in many of the writers I found on that newsgroup, and the Clinton scandals weren’t the only thing they were writing about. The people in the newsgroup who interested me most comprised the largest collection of individualist anarchists I had ever encountered, in fact Mike Schneider and Billy Beck were the very first such anarchists I became aware of. I don’t mean to delimit any of these people with labels, many of them strongly resist labels of any sort, but it was clear to me that there was a core of writers on the newsgroup who rejected government while recognizing property rights. And from my perspective these people were core of the newsgroup itself, though they certainly were not representative of the whole spectrum of views there. Kipawa Condor called the newsgroup alt.anarcho-capitalism and I think that’s appropriate, the individualist anarchists were the driving force of the newsgroup, they set the agenda.

As the end of Clinton’s term approached many realized that the newsgroup was unlikely to be sustained indefinitely in it’s current form. Sometime in 2000 Mike Schneider and I began a private discussion about ways to sustain what we valued most from the newsgroup. I also had in mind that I wanted to see the writing of some of these people become available to a broader audience than the newsgroup reached. It turned out that Mike and I had different visions. He wanted to create a forum that would continue the anarcho-capitalist discussions taking place in the newsgroup. He also wanted to weed out the weezils. In October of 2000 Mike did just that by launching American Liberty. I always thought American Liberty to be of great value and I offered my assistance from the beginning. I’m pretty sure I was the second moderator of the forum, after Mike. (My performance as a moderator has been entirely undistinguished, about all I can say in my defense is that I did considerably more scut work at AL then Mike ever did at NT.) But while I think I was welcome to join Mike as an equal or near-equal partner in AL, I did not do so. I knew that I wanted to take things in a different direction.

In November of 2000 I saw Union Square Journal and I said “That’s it.”

Martin McPhillips had skimmed the cream off of the Whitewater newsgroup, he had recruited three of the very best writers on the newsgroup and he started publishing articles by them and permanently archiving them on the web. The writers he recruited were Billy Beck, John Sabotta and Lynette Warren. On the I had followed the writing of all three for years, with great interest. Though Beck and Sabotta were writers I identified as individualist anarchists, USJ was by no means an anarchist journal. I decided I wanted to start my own anarchist journal, following the example of USJ.

Lysander Spooner’s No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority had for me forever demolished any pretense of legitimacy for government, so I chose the name No Treason for my project. Ultimately I wanted to recruit as many anarcho-capitalist writers of high quality as I could find, but I decided I needed at least three writers to get the ball rolling and launch the project. One of them would be me. I’ve never considered myself much of a writer, but I do have things I want to say and I judge I developed a voice of my own on usenet, for what it’s worth. It’s worth something to me anyway. I certainly have never considered my writing skills to have approached that of Beck, Sabotta or Warren.

I knew I could count on Mike for some support, but it seemed unwise to depend on him considering his commitment of effort to American Liberty. The first actual recruit to No Treason was Rob Robertson. Rob was also among the cream of the crop in the newsgroup, his writing could stand up against that of the USJ writers and not suffer by comparison. Rob was not an anarcho-capitalist at the time, but he was a very principled libertarian and he was finding it more difficult to defend any government as time went by. Rob was also impressed with USJ and decided he would write some articles for NT. I needed one more writer to get going, but instead I recruited Kipawa Condor. Kip was never one of the most prolific writers on the newsgroup, but he was a much better writer than I was, and his judgment was sound. Kip agreed to take a whack it.

It’s true that Kip has yet to produce an actual article, but it is also true that he was very influential in the planning stages of No Treason and I have always been grateful for his contribution at a crucial point of the project. And he had some great articles planned, perhaps I’ll share them sometime. No Treason could easily have just died then if I didn’t have Rob and Kip on board confirming that the project had a chance to succeed.

Rob and I started to write articles and I started to lay the foundation for he web site. (It’s unclear what Kip was doing.) I settled on the domain name no-treason.com. I was seriously considering the simpler notreason.com, but Rob threatened to bolt because that could be parsed as “not reason”. I think that was very good advice, but not the best advice Rob ever gave me. That came next.

As it became clear that we were going to be able to launch a respectable web site I decided to invite Beck and Sabotta to contribute articles if they had time. Rob insisted that I should invite Lynette too. I objected that while I respected Lynette, and liked her writing very much, she wasn’t close to being an anarchist and her USJ articles would not be appropriate on NT. Rob insisted I’d be stupid not to get Lynette if I could. That was the best advice he ever gave me.

I invited all three of them to contribute. I assured them that I hoped they would continue to be successful at USJ and that I did not see the two sites being in any sort of competition. Beck begged off initially as I recall, he had too much on his plate already. Sabotta seemed inclined to throw something my way, but urged me not to hold my breath. And Lynette said sure, she’d be pleased to contribute to No Treason.

Great, I thought, I bagged the statist.

To be continued.

Disputing Narveson – Round 2

After the publication of my recent article at anti-state.com, disagreeing with Jan Narveson on a point tangential to his excellent piece on Pure Libertarianism, Gene Callahan asserted in the ASC forum that a thief or robber was the kind of public goods defaulter which Narveson was talking about coercing and he offered this passage from an earlier piece by Narveson:

“The classic example of the public good in question is nonviolence. The assassin, the robber, the rapist, collect benefits from others without paying for them; the cost all is borne by the victim.”.

It had not occurred to me that Narveson was considering a robber or thief to be a defaulter in the context of a public good, but after reading the article that Callahan had pointed out it was clear to me that he was. I disagree that a thief can properly be considered to be a public good defaulter, but the dispute has been reduced from what might have been a disagreement in principle to a disagreement over how certain terms should used.

I emailed Narveson on this point, saying I did not see how a thief is a defaulter in a public goods problem. Narveson was kind enough to send me a thorough reply. I felt the issue still boiled down to one crucial statement he made in the email, he said that a public good a case where the producer of the good isn’t the one who gets it. I replied to Narveson:

“I would say that this is not what a public good is. A public good is a case where the producer of the good can’t control who gets it. But if we say that a thief is “producing peace” by not stealing from you, we recognize that he certainly has control over who gets the peace he is producing. The bad he produces when he steals from you is not a public bad, it is your private bad. And the good he would produce by not stealing from you is your private good.”

(I would not normally speak of a bad as opposed to a good, but Narveson had in is email so I followed his lead.)

Narveson was kind enough to reply again; he said that he didn’t see any difference between his characterization of a public good and mine. That doesn’t seem quite right to me, but I didn’t see any point in bothering him about it by email again.

I stand my my assertion that those who steal produce private bads for their victims, and therefore any good they produce when they don’t steal is a private good, not a public good. Narveson said to me that the victim of violence is unable to control the benefit of nonviolence, which is within the control of the aggressor. I’d point out that many producers of goods don’t get what they produce. The masseuse doesn’t get the massage she produces and the surgeon doesn’t get the operation he produces. But these are private goods because the producer determines who gets them. And I would say that the producers of non-violence certainly determine who gets any non-violence they produce – the people they choose not to aggress against.

Thus I think that Narveson is wrong about a thief being a defaulter in the context of a public good, and thus the argument in my article stands intact against what he said about public goods defaulters. But he was actually talking about something other than public goods; so our dispute is not a disagreement over principle.

Charlie Anderson Takes On The Feds

Last week I quoted a scene from Shenandoah where anarcho-capitalist Charlie Anderson (played by Jimmy Stewart) stood up to a Confederate officer who came to enlist his sons. There’s another fine scene later when the feds show up to “buy” Anderson’s horses for the war effort. They arrive as delegation of about ten men, headed by a federal representative of some sort named Carroll who is being advised by a man named Tinkum. Anderson recognizes Tinkum as a horse thief, it’s little wonder the feds have hired him to find the best horses. The feds just start looking over the horses and talking between themselves as Anderson looks on with increasing dissatisfaction. Soon the feds start making decisions.

Carroll: We’ll take these…

Anderson: (forcefully) What do you mean take ’em?

Charlie and his eldest son Jacob approach the feds.

Tinkum: Well howdy Mr. Anderson, I ain’t seen you in quite a spell.

Anderson: I don’t get around to visiting jails much Tinkum.

Tinkum: This here is Mr. Carroll, Mr. Osbourne, and Mr. Marshall. They’re our federal purchasing agents.

Carroll: That’s right Mr. Anderson. Although we’ve got a set price that we can pay, I’d like to hear what you think these animals are worth.

Jacob: The horses aren’t for sale.

Anderson: Now what my son tells you is the gospel truth gentlemen, and you can carve his words in stone if you’ve a mind to. The horses are not for sale.

Carroll: Now that may be, but I just think I oughta tell you we’re authorized to confiscate anything we can’t buy.

Anderson’s youngest boy has never heard the word…

Boy: What’s confiscate mean Pa?

Anderson: Steal.

Anderson identifies it without hesitation.

Carroll: You know, I don’t think you quite understand…

Jacob: You’re not gonna take one horse off this farm mister, so you might as well forget it.

Carroll: I thought you said these were reasonable people.

Tinkum: Everybody in the county knows they’re just sitting out the war.

Carroll: I, I think what Mr. Tinkum means is that he figured anybody who’s uh, too yellow to fight wouldn’t mind making a few dollars off of the war…

Jacob: Yellow?

He lunges for Carroll but Charlie Anderson intercepts his son.

Anderson: I apologize for my son’s manners Mr. Carroll, he was taught to have more respect for his elders.

Carroll: I accept your apology sir.

Anderson: Jacob, I don’t know what gets into you every once in a while. You know you shouldn’t hit this gentleman…while I’m around!

Charlie pops Carroll squarely on the chin, and a brawl breaks out between the Andersons and the feds. It goes on for a bit in the old comic movie style until Carroll has had enough and pulls out a pistol to shoot Charlie in the back. Instead Charlie’s daughter Jenny shoots the gun from his hand with a rifle. She orders the feds off the farm; they pick themselves up and leave.

Anderson: That fellow Tinkum is the the only man I know who started at the bottom and went down. He used to steal horses for nothing, now he gets paid for it.

Jacob. Pa? First it was Johnson. Then it was on our land. And now they come driving right up into our yard. Aren’t we gonna do something about it?

Anderson: Now, I must be getting old. Seems to me we just did.

Shenandoah: A Terrific Anarcho-Capitalist Film

I saw this terrific anti-state film starring Jimmy Stewart over the weekend. Stewart has long been one of my favorite Hollywood actors but I had missed this film, which I now gather is his last great role.

Stewart plays Charlie Anderson, a Virginian patriarch in the Shenandoah Valley during the civil war. The film opens with a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops. Two of Anderson’s sons witness it and the eldest son Jacob reports back to Anderson, who can hear the cannons clearly:

Jacob: They come closer every day, Pa.

Anderson: They on our land?

Jacob: No sir.

Anderson: Well, then it doesn’t concern us. (Pause.) Does it?

Charlie Anderson is a widower still deeply in love with his wife who has been dead for sixteen years. He promised her on her deathbed that he would raise their children as Christians but it is clear that Charlie himself is not by nature a religious man. He begins each meal by leading the family in saying grace. Charlie Anderson doesn’t have much to say to God, but if he has to speak to him then God’s going to hear what’s on his mind:

“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t of done it all ourselves. We worked dog bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway Lord for this food we’re about to eat, Amen.”

A great anti-state scene comes early in the film. A confederate officer named Johnson arrives with a handful of soldiers and asks Anderson if they can drink from his well. Anderson recognizes Johnson, and gives his permission. Their conversation begins politely enough but quickly turns sour:

Johnson: When are you gonna take this war seriously, Mr. Anderson?

Anderson: Now let me tell you something Johnson, ‘fore you get on my wrong side. My corn I take serious because it’s my corn. And my potatoes and my tomatoes and my fences I take note of because they’re mine. But this war is not mine and I take no note of it.

Johnson: Well…, maybe you’ll take note of it when the Yankees drop a cannonball in your front parlor.

Anderson: Well I might as well tell you right now that I can’t think of another thing I want to hear you say.

Johnson: You have six sons, don’t you Mr. Anderson?

Anderson: What, does the size of my family have some special interest for you?

Johnson: Matter of fact it does. We need men. Now two of these men here are no more than sixteen. It seems strange to quite a few people around here that none of your sons are in the army.

Anderson: Well it don’t seem strange to me, with all the work there is around here.

Johnson: I’ll come right to the point Mr. Anderson. Came out here to get ’em.

Anderson’s eyes narrow. He has not enjoyed talking to Johnson, but now he begins to contemplate the ways he could kill Johnson, if need be. Then he laughs in the officer’s face. Johnson has not brought enough men, not nearly enough.

Johnson: I say something funny?

Anderson: I think so… You came all the way out here to get my boys, huh?

Charlie Anderson calls out his six sons and invites Johnson to say his piece to them.

Johnson: There’s a Yankee army breathing down your neck Mr. Anderson, I don’t think you realize…

Anderson: You’re town bred, aren’t ya?

Johnson: I don’t see what that has to do…

Anderson: I’ve got five hundred acres of good rich dirt here. As long as the rains come and the sun shines it’ll grow anything I have a mind to plant. And we’ve pulled every stump, we’ve cleared every field, and we done it ourselves, without the sweat of one slave.

Johnson: So?

Anderson: So? Can you give me one good reason why I should send my family, that took me a lifetime to raise, down that road like a bunch of damn fools to do somebody else’s fightin’?

Johnson: Virginia needs all of her sons Mr. Anderson.

Anderson: That might be so Johnson, but these are my sons! They don’t belong to the state. When they were babies I never saw the state comin’ around with a spare tit. We never asked anything of the state and never expected anything. We do our own living and thanks to no man for the right.

War Is Not Criminal Justice

One of the things I’ve been wanting
to do for a long time is bash the idiocies about the current war and previous ones coming
from the regular columnists of Lew Rockwell’s web site. Gene Callahan has kindly provided a target of opportunity in a recent article.

In it, he makes the mistake of treating the military prosecution of Japan in WWII as if it
were a matter of whether the Japanese people, as distinct from the Japanese military or
government, were necessarily to blame for their government and military’s war against the
USA. Of course they weren’t. But, because of the total economic mobilization of the
Japanese economy, and the preparations for total military mobilization of the Japanese
people in the event of US ground invasion of Japan, they still contributed to the Japanese
military threat to the USA. While this wouldn’t include those Japanese who were not
engaged in war production or in the militia, military technology of the time wasn’t
accurate enough to enable the US to only attack those who were engaged in war production
or in the militia. Those in war production or the militia were fair game, the rest were
collateral damage whose deaths and wounding are properly the fault of the Japanese
government/military, not the US.

Callahan’s comments would be applicable if, after Japan’s surrender, the US had put the
Japanese people as a whole on trial and then inflicted some sort of collective punishment,
such as the aerial bombardment of the whole country. But, in fact, US conduct after
Japan’s surrender shows that US intent was quite different. Truman accepted the first
surrender terms formally offered by Japan, even though they weren’t the unconditional
surrender FDR had been pushing for, and MacArthur called for massive famine relief to
prevent widespread starvation due to the destruction of the Japanese merchant marine and
railroad networks during the war. Starvation was prevented, land was redistributed from
the feudal aristocracy and given to the peasants as private property, women were given the
right to vote, a liberal constitution was imposed on Japan, free elections were allowed to
take place, and the foundations were laid for one of the freest and richest countries in
Asia and the world. Those actions were hardly consistent with the idea of collective
punishment.

Interested readers are recommended to read Richard Frank’s "Downfall" about the
atomic bombing of Japan and the question of Japanese surrender to the USA. Also see Thomas
Fleming’s "The New Dealer’s War" for additional criticism of FDR’s policy of
unconditional surrender.

I see that Callahan has also joined the chorus protesting
the detention of Jose Padilla. I really wish those who criticize the War on Terror on
civil-libertarian grounds would make up their minds. First, they criticize the detention
of Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arguing that they
ought to be treated as POWs, even though POW status is a privilege to be earned by obeying
such laws of war as wearing uniforms, insignia, having a recognized chain of command,
bearing arms openly, etc. Then they criticize the detention of Jose Padilla for his
terrorist activities, arguing that he ought to be either charged with a crime or released.
If he actually were a lawful enemy combatant, the US would be under no obligation to do
either, they could simply hold him as a POW until the end of the war, at which point he
could be repatriated – or tried for war crimes.

Padilla certainly isn’t a lawful combatant, as he wasn’t in uniform, openly bearing arms,
etc., when he was caught. But in detaining him for the duration of the war to question him
and ensure he never actually succeeded in any terrorist conspiracy, the US is well within
its legal and moral rights to treat him as a POW in this respect. The Bush administration
has already said that if it does decide to charge him with a crime, he will then be turned
over to the civil court system.

Rothbardian libertarians like Callahan don’t seem to understand the international laws of
war. They make much of the distinction between combatants and non-combatants when
criticizing the killing of non-combatants, but they don’t seem to recognize that it is the
responsibility of combatants to distinguish themselves from non-combatants so their
enemies may attack them without endangering non-combatants. That means no using
non-combatants as human shields, no hiding in civilian hospitals, churches, mosques,
refugee camps, etc. It means wearing uniforms to distinguish yourself from non-combatants
and insignia to distinguish yourself from enemy combatants. It also means restricting your
choice of targets to enemy combatants. Terrorists, by any reasonable definition, break all
of these rules. That puts them in the category of unlawful combatants, just like spies and
saboteurs. Ever see one of those great WWII movies about Allied commandos operating behind
enemy lines, like "The Guns of Navarrone"? A standard bit of dialogue in them is
about how they can be shot as spies once they’ve been captured by the Germans. Those lines
are usually assigned to the German characters, but they reflected the same international
laws of war that were observed by the Allies, too. Enemy spies are subject to summary
execution under the laws of war. That’s one of the things that makes espionage so risky
and exciting.

Realizing that the US would be within its legal rights to simply line up Padilla against a
wall and shoot him as an enemy spy puts his treatment into perspective. He’s being treated
very leniently, all things considered. So are the detainees at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba.

The Anarchist’s Dilemma

John Kennedy’s got a few
things going for him. He can write, he can argue, he has a catchy website (updated
semiannually), and let’s face it: he’s
one handsome man.

But in his latest two articles, Mr. Kennedy has outdone himself. First, he coins
the excellent term market anarchism.* Like Jeremy Sapienza, I defy intellectual
property rights when convenient, and so will henceforth use this term instead of the
awkward and geeky anarcho-capitalism. (The term never even made sense: a capitalist
isn’t one who studies or endorses capitalism.)

More important, however, is the milestone
Kennedy has reached: His are the first articles ever, devoted entirely to the ideas of me,
Bob Murphy. Whatever the flaws in his reasoning (and there are many—see below),
history will look kindly upon John Kennedy.

(In contrast, Jonah Goldberg—who
referred to me in e-print as a "no-talent ass clown," in a move comparable to
his estimation of Al Qaeda strength on September 10—will be dealt a much harsher
verdict.)

* * *

Kennedy’s articles are a response to In Search of the Antimarx, in
which I argued that "the only hope for a stateless society is a population committed
to true voluntarism." I think people may have misunderstood me, so let me elaborate.

Let’s say we’re in a stateless
society. If the vast majority of people saw nothing wrong in (re)establishing a democratic
government, then it would happen. This is almost a tautology, under present circumstances.
(If the vast majority of people see nothing wrong with abortion, then it will occur,
regardless of whatever incentive mechanisms may be in place.) In fact, if a terrorist
attack were to plunge society into an anarchic Mad Max world, I have little doubt that a
government would be one of the first things the survivors would build. (Look how
naturally Stephen King drifted into it in The Stand. It didn’t even occur to
him that a laissez-faire system might work.)

Few people realize how crucial widespread, voluntary
respect of others’ property is for social order. No amount of police would save
society if most people didn’t believe theft and murder were unacceptable. Now, what
we as evangelical market anarchists need to do is convince
people that their intuitive opinion of theft and murder is still valid when it is
government officials doing the stealing and killing. If we are successful, we will then
have our "only hope" for a stable stateless society: a population committed to
true voluntarism.

John Kennedy (melodramatically) objects to
this analysis: "Frankly I would despair if I thought this were true. And anyway, if
such a population were so committed to freedom there wouldn’t be much reason to worry
about limited government because it would work."

Ironically, it is exactly this mindset that
the rational evangelist will have to overcome if he is to succeed in proselytizing
potential market anarchists. If a limited government were in place, then the population
couldn’t be very committed to freedom, now could they? This is precisely our mission:
We have to shake people free of the notion that a minimal state wouldn’t be so bad.
It’s suicidal to rely on government monopolies to provide food, and it’s almost
as foolhardy to allow government police and military to monopolize our security.

(To the extent that Kennedy just means that
a noble population would at least keep their government to a tolerable size, he’s
simply wrong. Look at what happened to the United States. The Founding Fathers were some
amazing and honorable individuals. But since they allowed for an institution of official
violence, their scheme was bound to degenerate as it historically did.)

My original remarks apparently misled
Kennedy to believe that I rested my hopes on a new Anarchist Man, far more virtuous than
man in his present nature. This isn’t correct. As I have written elsewhere
(in response to a Charley Reese caricature), "Libertarianism simply says: Given any
level of morality, a society will function less smoothly if shackled by government.
The more moral the populace, the better, but this is a different matter altogether."

In order to drive home the point that
anarchy doesn’t require perfect people, Kennedy quotes extensively from David
Friedman, who writes:

An ideal objectivist society with a limited
government is superior to an anarcho-capitalist [What a geek! –BM] society in
precisely the same sense that an ideal socialist society is superior to a capitalist
society. Socialism does better with perfect people than capitalism does with imperfect
people; limited government does better with perfect people than anarcho-capitalism with
imperfect. And it is better to wear a bikini with the sun shining than a raincoat when it
is raining. That is no argument against carrying an umbrella.

Even putting aside his apparent endorsement
of cross-dressing, we see that Friedman commits a serious error in this analysis. Like
many mainstream economists, he assumes that the only problem with socialism (or government
in general) is that it provides the wrong incentives for people.

Friedman overlooks the much more
fundamental problem, articulated by Ludwig von Mises and later Friedrich Hayek, that
without private ownership of capital goods, socialist planners would lack the market
prices needed to calculate the profitability of possible production plans. Even if they
were angels, the socialist rulers would not know the "optimal"
goods and services to produce. This general problem is true in the specific case of police
and military defense, and so a limited government wouldn’t be "perfect"
even with perfectly virtuous citizens.

* * *

Unfortunately, Kennedy shares David
Friedman’s fascination with incentives, and devotes much of his time explaining the
mechanics of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which rational individuals acting in their
self-interest reach an undesirable (and avoidable) outcome. Kennedy applies the
Prisoner’s Dilemma framework to our current situation:’

Go back to the original Prisoner’s
Dilemma to understand why rational evangelism [for market anarchism] won’t work. If
you’re prisoner A and you understand the situation you can easily explain to B why
it’s in your common interest to cooperate….But you haven’t changed the
situation a bit, you’re both still individually better off defecting….In the
game where we’re all prisoners of government the overwhelming majority will
consistently choose to defect, out of rational self-interest, regardless of valid
arguments for voluntary cooperation against government….’

At this point, let us pause to point out a
certain irony in Kennedy’s position. In his articles, he chides my admiration of Karl
Marx’s rhetorical brilliance, since Kennedy would never stoop to cheap parlor tricks
in the great debate over government. Yet here he apparently uses one of Marx’s most
celebrated ploys. According to Marx, the bourgeoisie would resist the communist paradise,
even though it was in everyone’s interest, because their class membership prevented
them from seeing the truth as only the proletariat could. Yet Marx, himself bourgeois, was
mysteriously exempt from this "law" of history.

In a similar manner, Kennedy argues that it
is rational for everyone to endorse government. Yet Kennedy exempts himself from the
implications of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. But unlike Marx, who implicitly condemned the
bourgeois logic as faulty, Kennedy is not claiming that widespread stupidity enables
government; he is claiming that people correctly choose government (in the present
system). What implications this has for Kennedy’s opinion of his own rationality we
leave to the reader.

* * *

Is all hope lost? No. Kennedy writes,
"So how can we win this game? We can’t. We need to change the rules, we need
another game."

This seems to contradict his analysis from
the previous section. If we can’t convince people to stop using government, how can
we convince them to abolish it? It’s true, if everyone agreed to "change
the rules," we’d all be better off, but any individual agreement won’t bind
anyone else. Kennedy’s own logic would therefore dictate that the overwhelming
majority will rationally choose to keep the rules just as they are.

Of course, we all know what Kennedy is
driving at. Rather than argue with people on a principled, abstract level about the sins
of government action, he wants us to encourage people to opt out of the system. Show them
the techniques of successful tax evasion and encryption, not the natural law view of
contract.

But this is entirely compatible with my
philosophy, and contradicts nothing in my articles praising evangelism. I certainly
encourage people to commit acts of (nonviolent) civil disobedience; I don’t think the
transition to anarchy needs to be "lawful."

However, Kennedy fails to realize that
people won’t let the State wither away out of sheer selfishness. Even the
typical tax cheat thinks taxes "need" to be paid. Until we can be sure our
neighbors won’t report us to "the authorities," market anarchists have to
be completely above-board.

In conclusion, we must change people’s
minds, just as Kennedy’s has been changed. The dry, intellectual case for market
anarchism has been made; it has convinced people like Kennedy and me. Now it remains for
other, more creative individuals—and above all a genius whom I have dubbed the
Antimarx—to spread the truth to the masses.

Now, to communicate this truth, we
mustn’t shy away from "packaging." Kennedy acknowledges this strategy when
he uses funny appellations for me, or quotes David Friedman on bikinis. There is nothing
wrong with entertainment, and evangelists of market anarchism could take pointers from
their enemies.

* However, Kennedy admits that he may have
been influenced by this punchy piece.
(Rothbard fans, you are forewarned.)

Requiem For A Mighty MoPar

mopar_sm.jpg (3194 bytes)

Traffic was wide-open travelling south on I-95
out of New Hampshire, and the deep breathing, long-legged Sport Satellite settled nicely
into into its favorite 100 mile per hour cruising groove. 7.2 liters of displacement
coupled with 3.23 highway gears gave it all the low end torque it needed for handling the
in-town chores, but where the pavement turned long and straight the top-end was limited
only by a somewhat indifferent front suspension,… and nerve. Being young and not
overly-bright meant not having the sense to listen to that spark of reason in my head
because there was competition to be found out here, and I would have it.

I’d meant no harm when the pretty little IROC
Z retreated in my rearview mirror, and frankly I wasn’t interested in wasting gas on an
anemic ghost of a past champion. The showroom Chevy raced up beside me, young boys
crowding its windows, challenging the old MoPar and its driver as they mouthed,
"Let’s go!" Bored but curious, I let the Camaro pull ahead by half a car length,
making sure to keep the nose of the Plymouth right in the corner of the driver’s eye.
Easing up to 120, the Chevy had run out of air, or gears, or perhaps guts, and I casually
gave them a wave as I eased past right before mashing my foot to the floor, leaving them
once again (and finally).

Mustangs also fell by the wayside in the same
manner, and I’d always resented the emasculated Corvette owners who gave some pretense to
racing yet fell back whenever we approached triple digits. Their machine was ‘an
investment’, or ‘a statement’, or anything but the instrument for which it was designed;
to propel a human being at speeds beyond the sanely acceptable. "The car has more
balls than you do," I thought to myself, eyeing the middle-aged, executive type
behind the wheel of what *should* have been some real competition. ‘Cool it down and pack
it up’ was the plan to which I’d resigned myself as I looped around to pick up 128 North
to Cape Ann.

North of Beverly is where the complexion of
Route 128 really changes. The malls and industrial parks are left far behind, as well as
the clots of commuters and extra lanes. Dense and green, the trees grew right up to the
edge of the highway as well as filling the wide median, blocking the view between the
north and southbound lanes. Even at 85 the scene was peaceful, and in my reverie I never
noticed the bright red Porche 911 bearing down on me. Alone on that two lane stretch of
highway, the Porche smoothly negotiated around me and back into the fast lane, checking
his rearview to see if I was willing to give chase.

A slight dip of the nose told him all he need
to know, and in a heartbeat our speedometers registered the news; each of us had found the
challenge we were looking for.

My stock instrument gauge was useless as the
needle swung through 120, pinning itself at the (undesignated) speed of 130, leaving only
the tachometer and some ungodly sound from under the hood to tell the tale. NASCAR racing
was coming to life, and the high-pitched sound of an engine running past six thousand RPM
filled me with visions of pistons punching through the hood. Still the Porche maintained
the lead, and drafting was no longer just a buzzword from the broadcasting booth. The
911’s whale tail opened a pocket for me to slip into, and moving out to pass left me
desperately trying to convince the front-end of the Mighty MoPar that my notion of
direction was worthy of merit.

The road pulled up into a slight rise with a
sweeping right hand turn at its crest, and at 7400 RPM my motor seemed eager for even more
fuel. This was my spot, my only chance to break away from the German fury and prove the
mettle of American iron. Standing between me and victory was a sedate little commuter car
in the right hand travel lane, blithely rolling along at the posted 55 miles per hour.
Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for him), the breakdown lane was just wide enough
for the Plymouth’s bulging rear fenders plus a jelly donut, and with the most careful
input to the steering wheel I could muster, I let the beast drift across the lane,
sheering off distance as I took a radically inside line, aiming for an apex between gravel
and the station wagon’s side molding.

I wondered what the unsuspecting commuter felt
as the two speed demons passed him on either side at nearly the exact moment, but by the
time I’d pulled back into the passing lane in front of the 911 he was nowhere to be seen
in the vibrating mirror. A bit of panic seeped into my brain as I realized that we were
fast approaching traffic ahead at what must have been 165 mph, but both the Porche pilot
and I throttled back and let it go with a friendly wave. Adrenaline rushed through me, my
legs rubbery and jangling as I scrubbed off speed to take my exit, leaving me spent but
elated as I mused, "there’s no replacement for cubic displacement!"

Insurance And Private Defense In Chaos Theory

I’ve recommended
Bob Murphy’s Chaos Theory
as a book that will stimulate readers to think about free market alternatives to
government. But I have serious reservations about Murphy’s overall scheme for a market
based society because it relies on insurance to do things that insurance won’t do. From
cover to cover Murphy offers insurance as the glue which will hold a free society
together.

The idea that insurance can provide market
solutions to certain crucial problems goes back at least to The Market for Liberty written
by Morris and Linda Tannahill in 1970. In the second half of Chaos Theory Murphy offers
essentially the same market solution for defense that the Tannahills do. In the first half
of his book he spins even more elaborate insurance schemes, but I believe his interest in
market solutions insurance could provide probably had it’s origin in consideration of
proposals for defense like those offered in The Market For Liberty. So I will begin my
critique there.

Insurance is central to defense in the society
Murphy envisions:

"In an anarchist society committed to
the sanctity of private property and contract, insurance companies would most likely
oversee defense services."

It’s certainly natural that people will seek
to be insured against the damages of foreign invasion, and Murphy sees this as the first
step toward the solution to the problem of defense.

"Like natural disasters, wars bring
widespread death and destruction. In market anarchy, insurance companies would provide
coverage for these losses too, and would thus have a great financial interest in deterring
and repelling military attacks."

Murphy then asks us to consider a society that
starts with no collective defense. People will want to be insured against invasion, but
the price of insurance will be very high, and insurance itself will do nothing to protect
the people.

"In this bleak situation, an executive
at the Ace insurance company has a brilliant idea. He can undercut his rivals and offer
the same level of coverage for only, say, 5,000 per person – half the price charged by his
competitors. He can afford to do this by spending some of his revenues on military
defenses, and thereby lower the probability of foreign conquest. For example, he might pay
private defense agencies $40 billion per year to maintain helicopters, tanks, trained
personnel, etc. and be on the constant alert to repel any attacks. If these preparations
reduced the chance of foreign invasion to only, say, one-half of one percent per year,
then they would "pay for themselves." The innovative insurance executive would
reap huge profits and capture the market for military liability, while the residents would
enjoy increased security and lower premiums. With property safe from foreign
expropriation, investment and population growth would be stimulated, allowing greater
economies of scale and further rate cuts."

This "brilliant idea" is in fact a
recipe for driving the Ace insurance company into bankruptcy. Producing defense will not
enable Ace to charge lower prices than it’s rivals, quite the opposite is true. If Ace
produces defense which lowers the chance of public invasion all of Ace’s competitors will
cut their prices to take full advantage of the new situation. And they will be able to
charge less for insurance than Ace, because they don’t have to pay for the overhead of
actually producing defense.

David Friedman explained this in The Machinery
of Freedom in 1972:

"This is the problem of Morris and
Linda Tannahill’s idea of financing national defense through an insurance company or
companies which would insure customers against injury by foreign states and finance
national defense out of the money saved by financing the customers. Such an insurance
company, in order to pay the cost of defense, would have to charge rates substantially
higher than the real risk justified, given the existence of it’s defense system. Since
people living in the geographical area defended would be protected whether or not they
were insured by that particular company, it would be in their interest either not to be
insured or to be insured by a company which did not have to bear the burden of paying for
defense and could therefore charge lower rates. The national defense insurance company
would lose all it’s customers and go bankrupt, just as it would if it were simply selling
national defense directly to customers who would be defended whether or not they paid.’

As Friedman points out, defense is a hard
problem in the free market because it is a public goods problem. In a free market
producers of defense cannot easily control who receives the benefit of the defense they
produce. There is no magical quality of insurance that enables insurance companies to
profit from producing public goods.

Murphy is aware of the public goods problem.

"Does the above system really avoid
the perennial problem of private defense? That is, can it overcome the free rider problem?
After Ace Insurance entered into long-term contracts with defense agencies, what would
stop a rival firm, such as Moocher Insurance, from undercutting Ace? After all, the
likelihood of property damage would be the same for Moocher’s clients as for Ace’s, yet
Moocher wouldn’t spend a dime on military expenditures. This reasoning is perfectly valid,
yet the case for private defense remains strong."

The reasoning is perfectly valid, which means
that no case has been made. It means that such a plan would result in bankruptcy for any
company that attempted to implement it.

Murphy goes on to talk about factors which may
tend to make the public goods problem easier to solve, but they have nothing in principle
to do with insurance. He says that the market of defense is "lumpier" than
generally assumed which really means that a small number of agencies have the ability to
afford national scale defense even with free riders. That’s nice if it’s true, but it has
nothing to do with insurance. He talks about offers the defense producing agency cold make
to get enough subscribers to make defense profitable. Such offers might well work in
certain circumstances, but again they have nothing to do with insurance.

If two companies are offering to sell defense
to you, why should it matter to you that one of them is your insurance company? The
defense will only be produced if it is profitable to produce in and of itself, and if it
is produced you’ll be able to get a better rate on your insurance regardless of who
produced the defense.

There is no good argument in Chaos Theory to
support Murphy’s assertion that insurance companies would most likely oversee defense.
Some other points he makes on defense are plausible enough, but it is unfortunate that he
chose insurance as the lynch pin of his scheme because it really has no bearing on the
hard problem of defense.

Murphy asks a great deal more of insurance in
the first part of his book; I will address that in another piece.