Wars seem important at the time, but they usually aren’t. Five years later, they are history. About sixty thousand GIs died in Vietnam. We lost. Nothing happened. It was a stupid war for nothing. Today the guys who lost faces and legs and internal organs back then are just freaks. Nobody gives a damn about them, and nobody will give a damn about you. A war is a politician’s toy, but your wheelchair is forever. If you want adventure, try the fishing fleet in Alaska.

Think about it.

Fred Reed

Rockhounds Beware

Money laundering investigations are up and the once wholesome concept of paying cash is now assumed to mean dirty business.

Even gem and mineral collectors are being put on notice, since it appears that some Northwest African meteorites are suspected to have been traded into Morocco by Muslim terror groups. So not only do you get to rub elbows at gun shows with your favorite LEO’s, now gem shows are likely to be visited by Federal officials in the name of fighting the War on Terror. Have a nice weekend.

Terror rock mugshot. Probably laundered into Morocco by extremist rockhounds.

The Custom of Thinking

At Two–Four Billy Beck has this to say about my suggestion that he should consider getting health insurance:

I don’t know what any of you ever thought was going to happen to me. I had to explain something to Lynette the other night, which ought to be available to a moment’s consideration by anyone in the custom of thinking. I’m forty-nine years old now, Rich. When I come to face the first serious systemic medical crisis of the sort that commonly happens to human beings approaching that part of their lives, there is going to be no way in this world that I will be able to deal with it in the way that every blinking asshole on the street assumes that such things should be taken care of.

If Billy Beck gets a serious ailment he will need either to pay for his treatment, use insurance, or he may not get effective treatment – just like any blinking asshole on the street would have to deal with it. I’ve suggested just one of many workable solutions to his impending health dilemma. A 49-year-old male can buy a very decent health policy for less than $100/month in most states in this country. $1200 a year. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that Billy Beck could manage such a payment? Yet, he rejects the very idea of it below.

Beck III: Tell me something: what would you have me do when, say, a serious kidney ailment — like the one that my father had in his late-50’s — rolls up on me.
Beck III: Go ahead. Tell me.
Lynette: What did your dad do when he had his back in what, the 1980’s?
Beck III: The United States Air Force — according to their contract with the man for his service — shelled out about a half-million dollars to save his life.
Beck III: Do you undestand?
Beck III: Nothing remotely like that is going to happen in my life.
Lynette: http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/ehi/index.html
Beck III: And here is a fact: if I’d been left alone to produce…
Beck III: Of for Christ’s fucking sake: I’m ont even going to entertain that with a mouse click.
Beck III: I mean: this is just stoopid.
Lynette: You can get health coverage
Beck III: You’re delusional on that popint, Lynette.
Lynette: Far as I know you don’t have to be in good standing with the IRS to buy health insurance
Beck III: How the fuck do you think I’m going to pay for something like that?
Lynette: I don’t know
Lynette: You’d think of a way
Beck III: That’s right. You don’t.
Beck III: Like *how*?
Lynette: Landscaping
Lynette: You’re in good shape
Beck III: This is getting absurd.

Now Playing — You Wish

Some libertarian chick flicks via LibertyBelles and ReasonHitandRun

You’ve Got Mail Delivered by a Non-Gov’t Agency
Taxless in Seattle
Reardon Metal Magnolias

But the list would be incomplete without the following blockbusters:

My Big Fat Offshore Bank Account
Bend it Like Billy Beckham
Alice Rosenbaum Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Meet John Galt
Waiting to Ex-Patriate

Seductive Delirium – The Power of Wielding Government for Liberty

The buzz in favor of using eminent domain to give Justice Souter a taste of his own medicine boils down to 1) street theatre – It’s effective in convincing the masses of the wrongness of blatant government thievery and 2) seductive delerium – It provides a slim, but desperate hope that equally applying oppressive policies to those who create and enforce those policies will make them lift the boot up from our necks – just a little, anyway. As a one commenter puts it, “If space aliens COULD rescue us from this government, I’d support that, too. ”

The street theatre justification for the Lost Liberty Hotel project falls flat from the get go. While it does call attention to the use of eminent domain for private enterprise, it doesn’t go far in convincing the masses of anything beyond simply reinforcing their own existing tendencies.

At best, statists see the Kelo case as a way that big, bad capitalists take advantage of the “little man.” They come away from the Lost Liberty Hotel Show saying, “Right on. It’s wrong for Souter to let Pfizer take property for business use. Government is the only group that should be confiscating property. Power to the people!”

Reason #2

“Don’t get me wrong. Being Lady of the Golden Wood is great and all, but I could pamper myself at a nice libertarian B&B now and then. Hmm… just a little government. Only for good, of course.”

“Confiscate this, Souter!”

Conservatives and libertarians who are enticed by the Lost Liberty Hotel plan believe that wielding the power of government could make government cry uncle and back off. In other words, the space alien rescue. Expansion of government doesn’t make government back off. Even if Congress passed a law limiting the use of eminent domain for private projects, it will still be back in force before the ink is dry, taking your stuff in all manner of other ways.

It’s like making it illegal to pick one pocket, but open season on all the other pockets. That’s how government rescues you.

So what’s the right way to react to the Kelo ruling? Do what you should have been doing all along. Work on a personal freedom strategy, not a collective one. Martyring yourself in order to make a point to the masses is a waste of life, just as expending the slightest energy in street theatre to sway the herd is a wasted effort.

What Can You Do About Things?

Often us anarchists are confronted with the charge that we’re unrealistic. Usually this is followed by a more-or-less rhetorical question as to what we suggest doing about the current situation. I say “rhetorical” because the questioner is usually attempting to prove that we have nothing in our proverbial pocket that’ll fix the matter at hand. Whether our lack of a plan for him to follow would in fact prove anything at all is a matter we won’t dwell on here, because in this particular instance I do have a plan, in fact I have more than a plan.

I have a philosophical point of view that will enable you, Dear Reader, to manufacture your very own plans for your life. Sounds too good to be true? Read on.

The point is really very simple: you, and only you, are responsible for producing the things you desire. Recall the definition of production: “The application of reason to the problem of survival”. Really it’s expandable to the application of reason to the problem at hand. Example: let’s say I want a car. How do I solve this problem? Answer is I need to produce a car for myself, using my reason. I reason that the best way to do that is to get a job and buy the car. I get a job, then I get a car.

In the matter at hand, the problem is the government stealing your property. You are responsible for solving that problem for yourself. You need to produce a solution. Now unlike a car, which is available in a wide variety of forms, solutions to government aren’t (yet) out there for ready purchase. Instead, you’ll need to manufacture a solution for yourself. Given that your time and resources are limited, this necessarily means that your solution will not be the best that you can imagine. But it will be the best that you can achieve.

So: how do you manufacture your own solution to the government stealing your property? Well, you need to weigh your own individual values against one another to come up with your solution, but I have some general examples that might serve to get you started.

Make it unprofitable for government to take your property. This doesn’t mean holing up with your assault rifle and starting to “shoot the bastards”, note. What I mean by unprofitable is to make it simply not worth the effort required to confiscate your land. Primarily this means purchasing property that isn’t worth seizing: stay away from beaches, parks, main roads, historical sites (sell those musket balls on Ebay, don’t go blabbing to Live At Five!), etc.

Minimize your risk. If you judge your house is in danger of being stolen, take steps to cut your losses. Don’t spring for that new roof just yet. Sock that extra cash into an investment more portable than a swimming pool.

Move. A combination of the first two suggestions, but well woth noting on its own merits. Often people ignore the simple fact that they can produce a great deal of relative freedom for themselves by relocating. If you can produce more freedom for yourself by moving across a line on a map, do so.

Other thoughts:
Use the government’s inefficiencies against itself: if you know that it will take them six months to fill out enough forms to steal your house, that’s six months you have to plan. Don’t hesitate to fight dirty (if you can win): if you can embarass the city council enough with charges of racism that they’ll back down, do so. Don’t ignore simple greed: If slipping the mayor a campaign contribution will get you let alone, if he’ll stay bought, then buy him off.

What you don’t want to do:

Don’t make yourself worth killing. Is your house worth the rest of your and your family’s lives? No? Then don’t go punching/shooting/threatening cops and politicos.

Don’t fool yourself into believing that other people are going to lift a finger to help you. This is a very important concept, and it goes back to the philosophy mentioned above. Most people are in fact rational when they have to be, as one of our editors noted so well. All of the conservatives making talk about shooting government officials? Mere wind. When confronted with the direct choice of either dying alongside of you in a futile stand against government or getting on with their lives, they will choose their lives every time. How many people came to help Randy Weaver? How many gun-toting conservatives showed up in Waco? How many “gunbloggers” donated their lives to help Dorothy LaFortune? Answer is none at all, so how many d’you suppose would come to help you? Answer again is none at all, they’re going to be too busy getting on with their lives. If you’re counting on support from anyone else beyond having them drive the second moving van, you need to be married to them.

Don’t bother trying to vote your way out of this. Anyone that suggests that you need to spend more time voting, writing to Congress, faxing the President, etc., you make them answer this question, for their state. If they evade or avoid the question, promptly round-file their advice: they are not interested in a rational, practical solution, instead they want you to help them continue to fool themselves.

Don’t try for perfection. You aren’t going to save the world all by your lonesome, in fact the world doesn’t much want to be saved. You are attempting the art of the practical: if your charges of bigotry against the city manager induces him to cough up some extra cash for your house just to get rid of you and you can scoot across the county line into relative safety, then you’re ahead of the game. Your solution doesn’t have to be elegant, it just has to work.

To sum it all up: understand the philosophy that underpins all of this. That’s the key to solving this problem and most others that you see out there. You’re effectively on your own to make your way in the world: no Association, Constitution, or Institution is going to produce your freedom. It’s up to you: Do it now.

Henry David Thoreau, Bill Clinton, And The Movement Mindset

Here in the declining days of April, having, along with the rest of the mass of thralls, recently sent off a yearly accounting of my life to the bastards in DC, I see that the tax protesters have come out of the woodwork.

And I don’t mean the children of Thoreau, the “this rotten government can kiss my ass” tax protestors. I have respect for those individuals that choose to pursue their own ends in the face of government dictat.

I’m speaking instead of the people that examine arcane legal documents, claiming to have found some nugget of detail therein that exempts them (and everyone else) from a legal obligation to pay taxes.

Like the folks referenced here.

What does someone say when they claim that the Constitution doesn’t authorize income taxes, and therefore the IRS is in the wrong for collecting them? They’re saying that if the Constitution in fact authorized income taxes, then you’d be in the wrong for not paying them. To put it more plainly, if the Constitution authorized you to beat the shit out of Mexicans, would that make it right?

Yes, or no?

Because those are the only two choices on the table, here: either government law is in fact the arbiter of right and wrong, or it is not. If it is, then the government of the United States can rightfully pack up every person it wants to into cattle cars and stuff them into the ovens — as long as the paperwork is correct. If government law isn’t the arbiter of right and wrong, then the arguments about what “the law” purports to authorize are meaningless for determining what ought to be done.

This line of thinking is often dismissed as being impractical. Me, I’m wondering just what it is that people who endorse government are in fact attempting to practice.

The most charitable explanation is that they don’t know, either.

Now, some of the folks in the tax-protest movement admit that their endorsement of government isn’t honest, but claim that it’s merely a means to an end. Most people can’t or won’t understand the moral arguments, they say, so they feel that they need to lie in order to spread their ideas. They don’t call it lying, of course, they call it “making arguments”. But calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so: words do in fact have meanings.

Look: anyone that can be convinced by rational arguments is best served by being presented with those arguments, which in this case consist of “My stuff! Mine!”. As for those that can’t be convinced by reason, what are the tax protestors offering? They’re offering a lie. But their opponents are offering better lies: free stuff on everyone else’s dime. Sure you pay a little in taxes, but Senator Fatbottom’s getting Frogdick County twenty million bucks in Federal grants because of it! What, you wanna get rid of all the things that the government gives you?

It’s transparent nonsense, but unlike the transparent nonsense the fringe-flaggers are offering, it’s attractive nonsense. Consumers of nonsense will take attractive nonsense over unattractive nonsense, the proof of that is as close as the last election you care to examine.

If the tax-protest movement were serious about attracting people who can’t process rational arguments, they’d adopt tactics from other purveyors of foolishness. Why not claim a religious vision about the issue? That works very well for attracting hordes of people who aren’t inclined to think too much about the matter in front of them. Why not find some celebrity to endorse their cause? Courtney Love yelling “Taxes fucking suck!” at a concert would garner more attention and thus more unthinking converts than the tax protest movement has achieved to date.

The answer is of course that they aren’t interested in either making good arguments or in gaining support for their cause, they’re interested in eating their cake and then getting to have it, too: they want to feel like they’re making some sort of moral argument while at the same time feeding appealing lies to the masses.

The end result of that, as always, is that they’re left with neither principles nor appeal.

Political movements lead to exactly nowhere for principled individualists, because mass politics require the suppression of individuals in favor of the collective. Honest individualists recognize this and abandon mass politics for the pursuit of their own values. Opportunistic collectivists realize this and exploit mass politics for their own ends. Movement types, well, they play-act at principles while they analyze what the fringe around the American flag really means.

It’s up to you what you want to be: Henry David Thoreau marching to the beat of his own drummer, Bill Clinton eagerly fleecing the masses, or some pitiful myope dropping his shovel and petitioning his masters because they aren’t whipping him according to regulation.

Distraction Is A Good Thing

Via Politech comes this gem:

RALEIGH, N.C. – In the computer era, one game is ubiquitous, a humble standard on nearly every computer in the halls of international commerce.
The game, of course, is solitaire.

But now some state lawmakers want the fun and games to stop – at least on company time. Saying taxpayers would be “outraged” to know how much work time is frittered away by insurance-commission secretaries and DMV employees honing their solitaire and Mine Sweeper skills on the state’s 50,000 computers, Catawba County Republican Sen. Austin Allran has sponsored what may be the country’s first anti- solitaire legislation.

Personally, being a free-market type, I’m against this. This proposed legislation is destructive to the idea of private property and human freedom in general.

Let’s look at the issue more closely: where I work, there are some informal but strict policies about use of company resources. No walkmans/radios/etc., and no personal use of the Internet being a couple. And that’s fine, it’s the company’s computers and electricity so they get to make the rules. That’s what a job is all about: they don’t pay me to listen to the radio or surf the net. Their freedom means that they get to make the rules, and my freedom means that I get to walk out anytime I don’t like it.

So why am I against the proposed legislation?

Simple: when we’re talking about government employees, things are quite different. First, as Spooner has pointed out, the “government” is at best a secret band of robbers and murderers. It doesn’t rightfully exist, and certainly can’t be said to rightfully own anything. Secondly, those employees of this secret band are mainly engaged in enforcing that band’s policies, policies which mainly consist of attacking individuals.

Therefore the more time that government drones spend playing Solitare, downloading porn, checking sports scores, buying crap from Ebay, and chatting with friends, the less time they’ll have to stick their noses into my personal affairs and monkey with my property. Stupidity and laziness on the part of government employees is a good thing for individual freedom. Seriously: if you could pick the person who audits your tax return, would you rather have the person who was focused on you obeying the rules, or would you rather have the guy itching to get back to his game at PokerStars.com? Would you rather have your building permit scrutinized by a sharp-eyed bureaubot, or by the lady trying to scoop that rare Beanie Baby from Ebay?

It’s clear that the best government employee is one that never does his “job”.

So down with anti-distraction legislation! Up with DMV Solitare, courthouse gambling, tax department porn! Three cheers for stupid, distracted, inefficient government!

“I remain, etc., etc.”

Dear Sir or Madam:

Others, some fifteen-hundred of them at the time of this writing, may wish to crawl to you like whipped curs, begging for permission to conduct their own affairs. I am not among them. Knowing full well the uselessness of any such endeavor for the purpose of securing my liberty, I decline to degrade myself before you. I do not and shall not recognize any authority you may claim to possess, except such recognition as you may impose upon me at the point of a bayonet. I shall not stoop to the pretense of asking your permission for or begging your recognition of my property, or of my right to use it as I see fit. Instead, I will take notice of the fact that you are in fact usurpers and thieves, robbers and murderers.

It does not behoove a man to entreat such with gentle words and kind gestures: your hearts are cold and your hands are bloody. I shall conduct my life as I see fit, avoiding you and your like to the greatest extent possible. I shall grudgingly acquiesce to your demands when they are presented with overwhelming force, as I would any common bandit, but I shall not take part in your shallow deceptions as to the nature of that force, or of my willingness to have it imposed on me. I refuse, on the grounds of common sense and simple human dignity, to entreat you and your non-existent mercies: you are and remain the sworn enemy of every free man.

Go forth now and rob and pillage and regulate, as is your very nature, but know that I recognize you for what you are, and will not willingly give my words as cover for your foul deeds.

(Tip: The indispensable Drizz.)

The Flag Doesn’t Matter, Dude. You’ve Got Bigger Problems.

Look at this comment left behind here (2nd down) about this McCain-Feingold crap:

The flag your are using [a modified skull-and-crossbones] is a big problem.
It connotes illegality and in this day, party on and fun, and thus, frivolousness.

These two objections have one root cause, which I will address here:

That poster has no fucking idea whatsoever about what he’s got himself into.

Let me explain that in more detail with a dissection of key words:

First: “Illegality”.

I’m forced to point out that this is an instance in which internet commentators may very well be forced to choose between being “legal”, and operating their little weblogs. And that brings up the fundamental point that what’s legal and what’s moral are two totally unrelated things.

A fundamental point that that person quoted there explicitly does not understand.

When I read people blathering mindlessly about “obeying the law”, I think of nothing so much as the plain fact that not much more than six decades ago, millions of human beings were herded aboard cattle cars and taken off to be gassed and incinerated, because the law said so.

Y’know what? Fuck the law, and unthinking reverence for same.

Second: “Frivolousness”.

Remember the first principle of American politics: one idiot, one vote. The votes of idiots count just as much as the votes of serious people (that is, if anyone serious actually bothers to hoof-mark a ballot anymore). So there’s exactly nothing to lose and possibly something to gain by adopting a cutesy pirate flag for a logo, if only because some otherwise-disinterested voters will respond to a cutesy pirate flag.

Get it? It doesn’t matter how silly this logo is, because the electorate goes out and endorses even sillier things all the time.

If you want to stand for something here, stand up for the principle of you. Otherwise, just sit in the corner and shut up, because you’d be doing less damage there than you do forging your own manacles and pretending that they’re wings.

I’m Difficult

I took my sons to Cost Cutters for haircuts yesterday. The young lady behind the counter asked for our names, which makes sense, since we would have to wait for our turn and she would need to know who to call.

“Andy, Geoffrey, and Dylan,” I replied.
“Telephone number?” she asked, oh-so-casually.
“You don’t need that.”
“Last name?”
“You don’t need that, either.”
“Well,” she explained, “we need to know the name to call.”
“You can just call Andy, Geoffrey, and Dylan.”

She then entered three customers as “No Name” in the computer, as I watched, but I could tell from the look on her face: I was “difficult.” As we sat waiting, another employee came to the computer and said, loudly, “what’s with all these ‘no name’ entries?” I raised my hand, “that’s us.” The look on her face was a combination of confusion and disapproval.

About five more customers came in during the next ten minutes. All of them gave full names, telephone numbers, and addresses, without hesitation, even spelling out names and streets that gave the employees trouble. The same people are no doubt annoyed with the quantity of telemarketing calls and junk mail they receive, but are evidently unable to think enough to connect the two, or even to ask the obvious question: why do you need this information to cut my damn hair? The punch line is that every one of the stylists has prudently covered her address on her framed State Cosmetology License, which is displayed on the wall as required.

Best Buy and Toys-R-Us are two stores I occasionally buy from, where the cashiers ask for a telephone number from each and every customer at the checkout. I used to give random fake numbers, but a couple of years ago I decided that this didn’t properly communicate my disapproval of the process, so I started simply responding with a firm “no.” The first few times, I received dumbfounded expressions, protests that “well, it’s the computer that needs it,” (answer: “oh, the computer needs it, why didn’t you say so?… no,”) and semi-panicked calls to a manager because the cashier didn’t know what to do. Lately, though, they don’t do more than just look a little affronted, before going on with the transaction. I don’t shop at either store enough to fantasize that they remember me specifically, so they must be getting enough “difficult” people, who aren’t going along with this silliness, to have an official procedure now.

I’m not, by any means, trying to portray my refusal as some kind of protest against the state. It isn’t. However, I think that there is a relationship in the reverse direction. The state has, through its petty bureaucrats at the DMV, IRS, Social Security Administration, and similar pointless wastes of time, created a populace that simply doesn’t question requests for such information. Refuse one of these mini-tyrants a piece of information, and you know you won’t get your driver’s license, construction permit, or whatever piece of paper you’re trying to get today. They have no motivation to work with you (unless you’re bribing them appropriately, of course.) It simply never occurs to most people that, conversely, Best Buy will still sell you the printer, Toys-R-Us will still sell you the bicycle, and Cost Cutters will still cut your hair, even if you refuse to add yourself to their database. Sellers in a free market know that if they won’t, someone else surely will.

Thoughts On Intra-Libertarian Cooperation, or “John Doesn’t Play Well With Others”

Roderick Long has posted a brief call for courtesy amidst the angry debate between various factions of libertarian types. I can see his intent, but I don’t agree.

Let’s get something straight: I’m not here for the libertarian movement. I judge that the libertarian movement (whatever it is, with whatever sorts of people graft themselves onto it) is a waste of time at best. And I don’t care overmuch about you, Gentle Reader, either. Specifically, I don’t care whether I convince you of anything in particular.

I’m here for me.

I judge that having a worldview that’s more in accordance with reality is of value to me. As Mencken put it,

I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.

Thus, I continually look for things that refine my perception of reality. If those things come without effort on my part, that’s fine. If I have to work for them, then that’s fine too. An example of something that came without effort on my part is this entry on the subject of abortion by fellow No-Treason’er Joshua Holmes. I’d thought about the subject in passing before, even gathered tantalizing hints from other people I respect, but Holmes knocked the argument out of the park in seven paragraphs. Something that took a tiny bit of effort was getting this correction from Stephan Kinsella. Despite the sharp tone of the discussion, I could and did recognize that I was wrong. And by doing so, I’m personally better off. I judge that neither Kinsella nor Holmes were looking to do me any favors there, they wrote what they did for their own purposes. And that’s just fine with me.

So what’s wrong with a sharp tone, anyway? Given my goals (which again explicilty do not consist of persuading anyone of much of anything) it’s at worst irrelevant. In actuality though, I judge blunt honesty to be a benefit. “I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie.” I have no problem whatsoever with exposing my ideas to the criticism of others, I judge that they can stand or fail on their own merits. I don’t ask for or expect any quarter whatsoever if I’m wrong: instead it’s in my interests to be corrected as quickly as possible.

My goals as a principled individualist are perhaps different from those who view themselves as part of some greater movement. I have no desire to build coalitions with or gently persuade people who can’t deal with blunt honesty. To put it quite simply, people who can’t handle criticism aren’t going to be of any use to me at all: I judge that folks who crack when their flaws are exposed are never going to have a signifigant amount of ability to expose mine.

I don’t expect many people to agree with any part of the above. I flies in the face of what a political movement is supposed to be about, but I’m not a part of any movement. I’m looking to better my own self, and if other people gain value from my content, that’s just gravy for them. To sum it up once again, I’m here for me.