The Ron Paul Flap – Short Version

One thing that has been virtually absent from the whole Ron Paul Newsletter shitstorm is the simple fact that racism per se is not incompatible with libertarianism. That fact, brought to light when the newsletters were publicized, would have short-circuited weeks of yelling by both sides. So why hasn’t anyone prominent in the debate taken notice of it? The answer is that the public outrage to such a defense would be enormous.

Neither side in the newsletter flap cares to discuss this, because doing so would be very unpopular. Both sides would rather avoid unpopular truth – it’s of no use to them.

The Ron Paul flap basically boils down to two camps of liars, each of whom claims that the other is, well, …lying.

I’m slightly underwhelmed.

The Irony Of (Self)Defeat

Lewrockwell.com’s Stephan Kinsella recommends John Derbyshire on immigration. Derbyshire lectures libertarians thusly:

As to why I think libertarians are nuts to favor mass uncontrolled immigration from the third world: I think they are nuts because their enthusiasm on this matter is suicidal to their cause. Their ideological passion is blinding them to a rather obvious fact: that libertarianism is a peculiarly American doctrine, with very little appeal to the huddled masses of the third world.

Kinsella echoes Derbyshire at the LRC blog that

… libertarians are nuts to want a more open immigration policy, since it’s self-defeating.

What Derbyshire and Kinsella both miss is that libertarianism has very little appeal to Americans in the first place. Forget about immigrants for a second: how well has the American public been swayed by this “peculiarly American doctrine”?

Answer is not at all, collectivism has won on all fronts and continues to be a landslide winner every election. Even counting every Libertarian Party candidate, even the ones clamoring for more taxes, as a “libertarian”, it’s clear that libertarian ideas have been handed decades of resounding defeats. The open borders issue isn’t self-defeating for libertarians because libertarians have already lost.

For clues as to why, we don’t need to look further than the fact that Kinsella and Derbyshire themselves are arguing for nothing more than a particular collectivist public policy on the grounds that this policy will advance the libertarian cause. Our self-appointed libertarian strategists are proceeding on the assumption that more collectivism now will manufacture more libertarianism later, and they can still talk about “self-defeat” with a straight face.

It’s Funny ‘Cause It’s True

If Sarah Brady could articulate a caricature of the American gun owner, it would be Kim DuToit:

And don’t give me that jive about “sensitivity”—the only sensitivity I care about is that of my trigger finger, and let me tell you, it’s itching right now.

At some point, I might be in a position of a passenger denied service, and let me tell you this: if some guy refuses to provide me a paid service, just because he thinks I’ve broken some nonsensical and inconsequential taboo of his tribe, I’m going to kick his ass all over the goddamn block.

Randy Barnett’s Oddly Brief Response To Spooner

The previous post on Randy Barnett caused me to revisit my copy of Restoring The Lost Constitution. Just to recap, it’s widely claimed that Barnett’s book is a refutation of Lysander Spooner’s No Treason – The Constitution Of No Authority (*). Just for fun, I had a look at the Index of Names, looking specifically for all of the references to Spooner’s classic piece to see for myself just how neatly Barnett was able to demolish Spooner’s arguments. So how many times do you suppose that Barnett refers to Spooner’s No Treason in his 300-odd pages?

Get ready for it: once. In the introduction, he refers to having read No Treason years ago and finding it “unanswerable” at the time. Barnett then implies a few sentences later that this first impression has since changed. And that’s all he’s got to say about that. All of the other references to Lysander Spooner listed in the index (all seven others) are references either to Spooner’s Unconstitutionality Of Slavery or to Barnett’s writings on that same work. For perspective, Robert Bork is indexed as being mentioned in nine places.

Just in case that wasn’t clear: In Restoring The Lost Constitution, Randy Barnett refers to Robert Bork in more places than he refers to Lysander Spooner.

I personally find this brevity to be quite striking.

(*) Update [9-11-06]: It’s come to my attention that not everyone knows that Barnett’s book purports to be a refutation of Spooner. A couple of quotes ought to clarify matters. First, Barnett gives us an introduction to Spooner (first page of the book’s Preface):

In his best-known work, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (1870), Spooner argued that the Constitution of the United States was illegitimate because it was not and never could have been consented to by the people on whom it was imposed.

Then Barnett makes this odd claim (pages xiii and xiv):

Whether or not Spooner was right in this assessment of the constitutionality of slavery, his argument opened for me an entirely new position: a defense of original meaning rather than original intent that could withstand the well-known critique of originalism. The final missing ingredient was an answer to Spooner’s later charge [i.e., as laid in No Treason — ed.] that the Constitution was without authority because it lacked actual consent. My answer to Spooner’s challenge is presented in Part 1 of this book.

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.

Happy Birthday Virginia Dare!

Speaking of the perils of immigration, they are, no doubt, passing around the angel food cake today at V-Dare in celebration of the 419th birthday of The White Doe.

from Peter Brimelow:

I have always been fascinated by the story of Virginia Dare. She was the first English child to be born in the New World, in August 1587, shortly after the founding of what was to become known as “The Lost Colony” on Roanoke Island off the North Carolina coast. It says something about the mettle of those settlers that any pregnant woman would cross the Atlantic, the equivalent of a lunar expedition at that time—and Virginia’s mother Elenor was no less than the daughter of John White, the colony’s governor…

Today, Virginia Dare seems to be vanishing from American education too. But she was a fixture for earlier generations. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt felt free to give a speech commemorating the 350th anniversary of her birth. At one point, I planned to pay homage by bestowing her name on the heroine of a projected fictional concluding chapter in Alien Nation, about the flight of the last white family in Los Angeles. It seemed symmetrical.

I was dissuaded.

But multiculturalists will be happy to know that there is always the possibility that the colonists survived, merging with the local Indians. There are fables that Virginia Dare as a young woman got involved in a love triangle with a warrior and an angry medicine man, who transformed her into a white doe…

So Virginia Dare could be symbolic of the coming racial nirvana that immigration enthusiasts are forced to start fantasizing about when you compel them to look at the statistical consequences of current policy.

Or perhaps not. The actress Heather Locklear (Melrose Place, etc.) is claimed as a prominent Lumbee. But if, through some miracle of genetic recombination, Virginia Dare is reborn in Ms. Locklear’s beautiful face, John White might well have recognized her.

If It’s On The Internet, It Must Be True!

Remember Alexa rankings? Wow, them things were the cat’s pajamas. If you don’t remember that far back, Alexa rankings were generated by a piece of software that users downloaded, and thus supposedly measured the real-life popularity of websites. Certain movementarians encouraged everyone in sight to download the thing and so thus increase their Alexa ranking, presumably increasing the number of people converted to the libertarian cause. Sign up now! No money down! Libertopia awaits!

Problem was that pretty much the only people who bothered to download it were libertarian movement types. Hilarity ensued as the Alexa rankings became the victims of movementarian hyperinflation and the movementarians themselves started overdosing on their own Kool-Aid: More popular than the Washington Times? I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true!

The Alexa rankings disappeared into embarassed obscurity, but our never-flagging movementeers have a brand new promotional scheme: Digg. Digg promotes articles and links based on other Digg users’ recommendations – so totally not like Alexa rankings!

Can you guess who’s recommending that their readers all sign up and recommend articles? And can you guess what that sort of gamesmanship will do to Digg’s wonderful, “democratic” recommendation system? That’s right. More readers than the New York Times! Doubling in users every two months! I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true!

Attention Kim DuToit: The Free Market Is Not Your Enemy

Kim DuToit expresses a mild dissent against my amusement regarding his faith in government:

I suppose it matters not to these frigging anarchists that government is sometimes capable of doing some things reasonably well (not always to our satisfaction, but when your binding purchasing criterion is always to go with the low bidder… well).

Government sometimes does some things reasonably well, y’know, for an organization that always goes with the lowest bidder. Now that’s a ringing endorsement.

But DuToit’s just getting warmed up, he’s not going to let the immigration issue get forgotten:

As for preventing the influx of illegal aliens across our southern border: well, I guess we could leave it up to Blackwater or someone to set up patrols—as long as their salaries and expenses could be paid by… whom, exactly? The border ranchers? Displaced native-born agricultural workers and housemaids?

DuToit carries this theme into comments at NT:

I await with interest to see how well the private sector manages to prevent Mexicans from flooding into the country.

The answer is of course that not only won’t the “private sector” prevent Mexicans from darkening DuToit’s neighborhood but that it’s the private sector (or “free market”) that’s drawing them here in the first place.

And this is a good thing.

A free exchange of values is what drives all of human progress. This is what first allowed people to spare enough time from tending to the business of staying alive to advance their own well-being. Everyone involved becomes richer as a result of a free exchange of values. For example, when Farmer Jim pays Jose Illegal to pick veggies, they both gain: Jose gains money from the work and Jim gains money by paying Jose less than it would have cost Jim to pick the crop. Jim can sell his crop to Safeway, and again they both benefit. And when Kim DuToit shows up and buys those vegetables in Safeway, he benefits too. Free exchange creates wealth: the more, the merrier.

But coercion works differently. DuToit’s IRS, for example. You know, the instrument with which he would pay for his border-closing scheme. They aren’t exchanging values, instead they’re presenting us all with the highwayman’s challenge: “Your money or your life”.

Every thin dime that this government confiscates is money that will be spent in a manner that doesn’t benefit all parties involved. In principle, as DuToit affirms above, it might be spent well (sort of) on things that (maybe) might be worth doing, kind of. In practice, most of it gets simply wasted. It’s potential wealth that gets lost, just as surely as if you take out a loan and burn the money rather than investing it.

And this is why I answer DuToit’s rhetorical question like so:

Mr. DuToit, closing the border oughtn’t be paid for at all. The free market isn’t my enemy, and it shouldn’t be your enemy either.

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.

Robert E. Lee And The Twenty Nigger Law

Bizzarely lionized at the anti-state/anti-war lewrockwell.com, statist warrior Robert E. Lee was in fact the prime mover behind the first federal conscription in American history:

Seeing no way of preventing the disorganization of the army except by conscription, Lee made himself an opportunity, even during the crisis that followed the landing at Old Point on March 23, to review the subject fully with the new lawyer-member of his staff, Major Charles Marshall of Baltimore. Lee maintained, said Marshall, “that every other consideration should be subordinated to the great end of public safety, and that since the whole duty of the nation would be war until independence should be secured, the whole nation should for the time be converted into an army, the producers to feed and the soldiers to fight” — a principle that in 1917 America wisely adopted.

Marshall was directed by Lee to draw up the heads of a bill providing for the conscription of all white males between eighteen and forty-five years of age. The finished paper Lee took to the President, who approved its principles and had it put into shape by Mr. Benjamin. Introduced in Congress, the bill was amended and mangled. Provision was made for the election of officers in re-enlisted commands, and most of the other useless paraphernalia of the bounty and furlough act were loaded on it. The upper age-limit was reduced from forty-five to thirty-five years, and a bill allowing liberal exemption was soon adopted. The press had applause for the object of the bill and sharp words on its weaknesses. In the army, those who had intended not to re-enlist on the expiration of their terms grumbled and charged bad faith on the part of the government,18 but those who were determined to carry on the war to ruin or independence rejoiced that those who had stayed at home were at last to smell gunpowder. In the well-disciplined commands, men who went home at the expiration of their twelve months and returned as conscripts soon settled down to army routine. The election of new officers resulted in the defeat of many good soldiers and in the choice of “good fellows” in their places, but, on the whole, the elections wrought less evil than could reasonably have been expected.20 For his part Lee realized the danger involved in reorganizing the army to the accompaniment of Federal bullets, but he read in the law a promise that recruits would ere long fill the regiments which passed down Main Street that day, and for that promise he must have been grateful. It probably never occurred to him that chief credit for the conscript act was his own.

Confederate conscription was soon known by another name, the Twenty Nigger Law:

Although many soldiers despised the way they were treated in the army, they
took heart in the fact that they were volunteers, freely giving themselves to their
country. In 1862 the Confederate government threatened their volunteer status by
turning them into long service soldiers. By late 1861 volunteering dried up as a
source of new troops. With many units’ enlistments about to expire in the spring and
summer of 1862, the Davis administration scrambled to hold the armies together.
On April 16, 1862, Congress passed the first conscription act in American history
by a surprising two-to-one margin. The act enabled the government to replenish the
ranks by drafting all able-bodied men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five.
Those already mustered into Confederate service had their terms extended an
additional three years. The act granted established regiments the privilege of
reorganizing and reelecting their officers. A thirty-day grace period before the draft
took effect allowed men to volunteer and avoid the stigma of being conscripted.

Volunteers applauded that part of the bill that put rifles in the hands of
reluctant southerners, but they railed against the provisions that kept them in the
army beyond their original terms of service. Many people angrily condemned the
government for breaking a contract with its soldiers. J. W. Reid spoke for many
when he surmised that “the bill will pass, for Jeff Davis recommended it, and it
seems that he is a dictator…. If [C]ongress can constitutionally … force the balance
to remain three years they may just as easily keep them ten years. What is the
difference?” If this “infernal bill…. passes all patriotism is dead, and the
Confederacy will be dead sooner or later,” predicted Reid. Another soldier believed
“the bill will prove very unpopular with the army. When we hear men comparing
the despotism of the Confederacy with that of the Lincoln government — something
must be wrong.” The soldiers’ fears were correct. In 1864 their enlistments were
extended for the duration of the war. Soldiering began to look like involuntary
servitude to the state. Only a crippling wound or death released soldiers from their
commitment to the army.

Substitution and exemption, the corollaries of conscription, generated their own
controversies. Substitution allowed men to avoid service by hiring a replacement,
as long as the stand-in was not eligible to be drafted. Since the price for substitutes
typically ranged from $1,500-3,000, it provided an escape hatch only for the
wealthy. The exemption act caused an even greater controversy. The bill exempted
overseers on plantations with twenty or more slaves. Nonslaveholding soldiers and
their families perceived the bill as class legislation and derisively dubbed it the
“twenty-nigger” law.

If you think I’m unfairly picking on one old piece on Lee at LRC there are plenty more for you to peruse. If your search LRC for articles which mention both Lee and conscription you’ll find conscription deplored, Lee treated reverently, and no connection noted between the two. Rockwell has even encouraged voters to consider casting their ballot for Lee: “It could be the proudest vote you ever cast!”.