I Call, Show Your Hand

From Beck:

[Howard Dean] — and all like him — have been playing a game of studied ignorance ever since about three days after 9/11, in order to not grasp the facts and implications of a stridently anti-American Saddam’s Iraq in the wake of everything that made up 9/11. The fact that George Bush made a bloody hash out of the problem in his pre-war arguments as well as in having anything to do with post-Saddam Iraq politics does not relieve Howard Dean — or anybody else — of the responsibility to grasp the facts that added up to nothing but the imperative to destroy Saddam.

(emphasis his)

Let’s see those facts that made it an imperative for me to be compelled to assist in attacking Iraq.

Bastiat on Tabarrok on Cost-Benefit

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok writes:

Tyler asks, following philosopher Alastair Norcross, whether it could ever satisfy a cost-benefit test for one person to die a terrible and tortured death in order to alleviate the headaches of billions of others by one second. Tyler begs off with “a mushy mish-mash of philosophic pluralism, quasi-lexical values” and moral conceit. I will have none of this. The answer, is yes.

Bastiat presciently commented:

The plans differ; the planners are all alike.

Ditto for “libertarian” planners.

Abortion and the Nearest Airlock

Libertarians cannot defend abortion on property rights grounds, and until they stop getting the abortion analogy wrong, they will continue to use the property rights grounds defence incorrectly. Prof. Block, in a recently-published paper, repeats these wrong analogies, leading him to continue to defend the horrific practice of abortion.

Block uses two analogies – realising the second is wrong, but not the first. He first cites the Violinist’s Kidneys. Suppose you wake up one day in the hospital sewn to a world-class violinist. The violinist’s kidneys were failing, and they sewed yours into the violinist’s system, so that you are both sharing your kidneys. The violinist didn’t request this or perform it; it was done by wicked doctors. The second case is the case of an airplane owner who invites a person onto his plane then, in mid-air, decides to invoke his property rights and pitch the invitee out of the plane.

Both of these analogies fail, and they fail because of the agency of the woman having sex. A woman who has sex (save rape) is consenting to an ejaculate. With that ejaculate comes a risk: a risk of pregnancy. That is, a woman who consents to sex consents to a risk that another person becomes dependent on her. And, if someone cause a person to become dependent, that person must take every reasonable means of preserving the dependent: if I shove a person into deep water, I have to take every measure I can to save that person from drowning. If I cause a person to rely on me and me alone for their life, care, and sustenance, I have to take every reasonable means of preserving that life.

In the violinist’s analogy, the analogy fails because the victim took no action that could put the violinist at risk of becoming dependent on the victim. The agency entirely rests with the doctors. Thus, this analogy fails. The airplane analogy fails, as Block notes, because of the implicit contract.

The correct analogy must acknowledge the woman’s assumption of risk. So, I propose a new one. The USS Enterprise is flying over the surface of the planet. It has a new gadget that performs some task, but as a side effect, it may accidently beam a person on the surface of the planet aboard the ship. Can that person be shoved out the nearest airlock on the captain’s whim? Absolutely not.

The gadget performs some non-beaming function, just as sex may: revenge, pleasure, etc. But just like sex, there is the assumed risk of bringing someone else aboard. Once aboard, of course, the ship is responsible for the welfare of the new passenger until that passenger can be safely off-loaded.

So, what about the health of the mother and rape?

In the health of the mother analogy, the only thing that changes is that, while aboard, the passenger unwillingly and unwittingly threatens the safety of the ship: the person puts off some sort of natural radiation that causes the engines to feedback. The first right of all is self-defense, and the ship’s crew has a right to kill the person or evict them in order to save the ship. In the same way, a person who shoots at you, albeit under mind control, may be killed in order to save yourself.

The rape case is much harder. Someone is unwillingly beamed aboard the ship, through neither the fault of the ship or the new passenger. The new passenger is undesired, and causes distress and embarassment to the ship’s crew, but is causing no harm (say, a Lwaxana Troi episode). Can the ship force the passenger out the nearest airlock? I don’t think so. Why? Because the property rights of the ship’s owner are less than the right to life of the person. People are worth more than property. “Property rights serve human values. They are recognized to that end, and are limited by it.” State v. Shack, 277 A.2d 369, 372 (N.J. 1971).

People will contend that a ship is not a person, and that the person has bodily integrity rights that a ship’s owner does not have. I agree with that, which is why rape is a harder case. But, ultimately, the life of the undesired passenger outweighs the shame and humiliation of the mother. Put another way, rape puts up bodily integrity & stigma vs. life, and the health of the mother puts up life vs. life. Life always wins.

Prof. Block argues that there is no right to life, because that would be a positive right. But abortion is about the ultimate negative right: the right not to be killed. If we are to support liberty, we must support life.

Libertarians cannot be pro-choice.

Stephan Kinsella On Libertarian Activism

At Lewrockwell.com:

We principled libertarians have no problem recognizing the difference between what is right and true, with what is likely and what we can get away with. They are different questions. But strategists have trouble seeing past strategy and “what works”. If a principles-based libertarian says, “public education is unjustified and ought to be abolished,” a typical reply of a tactician-activist is “but that is not practical” or “but that is not going to sell with the average person”. In other words, the activist makes the mistake of confusing what will sell with what is true. But the committed activist too often relegates something that will not sell now, today, as useless, and in effect as untrue – or, more to the point, he adopts the view that what is true does not really matter; only results matter. Sure, both inquiries – what is the best strategy to achieve liberty? what is liberty? – have their own value and roles. But they are not the same.

The only thing I would add to the above analysis is that this activist mindset, the focus on what will sell to the great mass of men, is the result of focusing on a collective solution (specifically mass persuasion) to the problem of liberty. Libertarians can avoid the problems Kinsella points out by focusing on individual solutions to liberty rather than collective ones.

In fact, libertarians will do better in general to focus more on individualism and less on collectivism. Not only will individualist solutions not get you into the ethical trouble that collectivist solutions will, but sometimes the individualist solutions will actually produce a little liberty for you. And that’s a bar that collective solutions to the freedom problem haven’t yet been able to cross.

Libertarian View of War Cleared Up, Let’s Have a Drink

Over at Catallarchy, debate begins anew about the justice of the Iraq War, sparked by a post about the libertarian split over the war at the Volokh Conspiracy. Fortunately, our esteemed senior editor cleared up this little spat a few years ago in “The Wrong Hill”:

It doesn’t matter if there is a right side in the war, neither side can have any right to require Charlie Anderson to participate in any way. This is the argument libertarians need to make, not that war is evil, but that it can never be moral to force others to participate. It will do no good to win the argument that a war is evil while implicitly accepting that it is legitimately a collective decision; that’s the wrong hill. The right hill is the one where we reject the collectivist premise first.

Pace the argument at Catallarchy, the war may or may not be moral (though I don’t think it is) and it may or may not be utility-maximizing (I think the idea is incoherent in itself), but what matters is that no one has the right to require my money or my body to fight it.

Interestingly enough, at the Volokh post, Rose Friedman says, “And we will!” in response to a quip from Milton Friedman about winning the war. There’s the wrong hill right there.

I’ll have a gin and tonic.

The Great Wetback Prevention And Elk Encouragement Debate

I find it amusing that Kim DuToit can notice the fact that the US government can’t wrangle elk properly but naively accepts that the government is competent to secure 5000 miles of borders.

The reason for this is easy enough to explain: DuToit isn’t a philosopher and so has no inherent stake in making a correct analysis of the situation. His credulous faith in the nonexistent abilities of the Federal government to keep Mexicans out of the US doesn’t do him much good, but more importantly it doesn’t do him much harm either: however much or how little thought he puts into this, he’ll get the same amount of Mexicans. Likewise with elk.

A majoritarian democratic government might as well be a cargo cult for all the good that rational thought does you: think this, blog that, vote the other, and out pops a result. If you like the result, do the same thing next year. If you don’t, change a few things and try again. A cargo cult doesn’t operate any better if you think real hard about it.

This is a capsule example of why rational evangelism doesn’t work. There’s no penalty for holding contradictory political ideas, there’s no apparent benefit from adopting a more consistent worldview. The goofiest bumpkin notion is equal to the finest philisophical idea, when they’re committed to ballots.

All of that seems to speak against logical argumentation in general: why bother if it isn’t going to get anyone anywhere? Why think about things if the most likely outcome of the matter at hand is that everyone maintains their state of rational ignorance?

The best possible outcome of the great Wetback Prevention and Elk Encouragement debate isn’t that it’s going to end up producing you any different amounts of elk or wetbacks, the best possible outcome is that you gain something by participating.

Missing The Big Love Boat

The HBO series Big Love is of course provoking considerable debate on polygamy. I expect most libertarians to miss the boat on this by focusing on polygamy as a matter of public policy.

I see something far more interesting here: Polygamists simply don’t recognize that government has legitimate authority over their marriages. Whereas many gays complain that they can’t marry the spouse of their choice because the government won’t permit it, polygamists simply defy the law and marry however they please.

Forget policy, polygamists are demonstrating that individuals can and do take their marriages private. As well they should:

The Sovereign Individual argues instead, that one must simply evict the state from one’s own marriage. Your marriage is not properly a matter of public debate so don’t treat it as one. Take and keep private what ought to be private. And all of your life is your private affair.

Leave the institution of marriage to the Institutional Man.

Sovereign Individuals are the Makers of Manners:

You and I cannot be confined
within the weak list of a country’s fashion
we are the makers of manners,
and the liberty that follows our places
stops the mouth of all find-faults

What’s Wrong With Breaking The Law?

The political superstar of movement libertarianism writes:

We must reject amnesty for illegal immigrants in any form. We cannot continue to reward lawbreakers and expect things to get better. If we reward millions who came here illegally, surely millions more will follow suit. Ten years from now we will be in the same position, with a whole new generation of lawbreakers seeking amnesty.

Memo To Ron Paul,

You bandy about the words “illegal” and “lawbreaker” as if they had moral content. They don’t.

Weren’t Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and all the founding fathers lawbreakers? Wasn’t Thoreau? Or Martin Luther King?

Wasn’t the Declaration of Independence itself an act of lawbreaking?

Men have no moral obligation whatsoever to obey or even recognize immoral laws, including many immoral laws that you are party to. Stop using law as a proxy for morality in your arguments. There is no necessary relationship between the two.


Update: Billy Beck recommends Kyle Bennett’s critique of this post. I respond in comments at Bennett’s post.

Cultivation Of The Individual

The ancients who wished to demonstrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extention of knowledge lay in the investigation of things. . . . From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything besides.

– attributed to Confucius in The Diamond Age

The State Legislator is the Child Grown Strong

Missouri Lawmaker Seeks to Ban Cold Beer Sales

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A state senator wants to force Missouri stores to sell warm beer. Under a bill by Sen. Bill Alter, grocery and convenience stores would risk losing their liquor licenses if they sold beer colder than 60 degrees. The intent is to cut down on drunken driving by making it less tempting to pop open a beer after leaving the store.

“The only reason why beer would need to be cold is so that it can be consumed right away,” Alter, who has been a police offer for more than 20 years, said Thursday.

He said the idea came from a fifth-grade student in Jefferson County who was participating in a program to teach elementary students about state government. He sought their suggestions for new laws and chose the cold beer ban from a list of the top three ideas.

There are a few things disturbing about this article:

1. “He [the state senator] sought their [fifth-graders] suggestions for new laws…” A state senator is asking ten-year olds for ideas about law? What’s next, state-provided Mountain Dew fountains in public places?

2. Hey, I like cold beer. Fuck you, pal.

3. Does anyone actually crack a beer open on the ride home? And if they do, is that enough to get anyone drunk enough to cause an accident? Come on.

4. I really like cold beer. Double fuck you, pal.

Hat tip: The Agitator

Refusing to be a Refusenik

Along the road to martyrdom,Claire Wolfe reaffirms an old lament in An American Refusenik, while at Strike the Root Per Byland lays out a better roadmap.

I live for myself first and foremost, and then come my family and friends. I do not care to save the world if I can find freedom for myself and the ones I love without doing it. Why should I? I’m nobody’s slave; I do as I please simply because I want to. It would be nice to live in a free world, but I don’t think it is worth the trouble. I’d rather be free now, on my own, than break free along with millions of strangers 40 or 50 years from now.

Isn’t this what individualism is all about? One has to make one’s own choices, for oneself and the ones willing to follow. If they do not want the freedom I want, then why the hell should I spend my time and money on making them share my ideals and go with me? I’m no selfless Samaritan or a slave of the peoples; I’m my own.

As libertarians, we need to break free from the collectivist worldview of this Savior Complex. There is no reason to work day and night to liberate people you don’t know, never will know, and who sincerely do not appreciate what you are trying to do for them.

Most NT worthy attitude.