Front Sight/Hsieh Flap Ends Quietly

I just noticed that Diana Mertz Hsieh announced in January of this year that the suit against her had been settled about nine months earlier:

I’m pleased to report that the lawsuit against me originally filed on behalf of Dr. Ignatius Piazza and Front Sight Firearms Training Institute over this web site was settled just before the case was scheduled to go to trial in April 2005. Although the details of the settlement are confidential, I can say that I’m reasonably happy with it. The lawsuit was a long and unpleasant ordeal, so I’m glad that it’s behind me.

As for the web site, it will remain where it is for the foreseeable future.

From the fact that she has not resumed her crusade to get Piazza to publicly renounce Scientology I infer that as part of the settlement she has probably agreed to discontinue that campaign.

I also note again that bloggers did a lot of posturing for a few days and then went dead silent on the matter for the last three and a half years.

Glenn Reynolds wrote:

It’s obvious that Front Sight’s lawsuit has so far bought it far more bad publicity than Diana Hsieh’s blogging ever did.

In retrospect the lawsuit stopped the crusade against Piazza and Front Sight in it’s tracks.

Hsieh keeps busy though. And it seems now every couple of years she discovers that, as at Front Sight, there’s something deeply troubling about the people she’s been hanging with. In 2004 she she broke with The Objectivist Center, reminiscent of her break with the Objectivist Study Group a decade earlier (also exhaustively documented on usenet). This year she’s outing her longtime friend Chris Sciabarra as dishonest and manipulative. I recommend her post on Sciabarra primarily as a fascinating window into the world of Objectivist back-channel communication.

Immigration: A Conservative Win-Win Scenario

Conservatives like Kim DuToit are under fire hereabouts for their immigration-control schemes, but as you’ll soon see, there really aren’t any problems – just exciting new opportunities.

For instance: how does DuToit suppose that the American border guards tell illegals from legals? Well, it would seem that some sort of identification documents would be required. Good thing we have those, right? One problem is that there’s already ten-jillion wetbacks inside the borders, but all we have to do about that is to have the border guards stop and search people at random. Now that by itself will lead to a massive increase in the size and intrusiveness of the American government’s law enforcers, but social conservatives have never cared about that particular issue as long as it’s the reds/wetbacks/negroes/gays/foreigners that are getting the whip. In fact, it’s job creation.

So no problem, right?

Except, oops, it turns out that there’s an enormous demand for illegal (read: market rate) labor, a massive in-place illegal population, and thousands of US counties that issue the fundamental citizenship document, the birth certificate. The only thing that’s preventing the illegal population from obtaining the best papers that money can buy is simply that they have better things to do with their money. DuToit’s scheme would change that overnight.

Once Mexicans start buying themselves identity documents, the conservatives will have to turn to Plan B. And Plan B is…

A National Identification Card, issued by one central agency, complete with biometrics, and backed up by draconian “must carry and present on demand” regulations. Sure, a few civil libertarians, religious fanatics, and homeless kooks are going to refuse to comply and thus get swept up and stuffed into the gulags, but let’s face facts: they probably weren’t voting Republican anyway.

And there’s many more uses for a National ID that just keeping union wages high (or “protecting America for Americans”, as you will). As long as you have a perfect form of ID, you might as well use it to conduct instant background checks for gun purchases. A national drug offender registry? No biggie, the framework’s already in place. Folks with tax “issues” won’t get beyond the next random highway FreedomStop(tm). Criminal background checks would be as easy as sliding the barcode under the scanner, and would come with the added bonus of tracking who was wanting to work where. “Carding” for booze and smokes becomes foolproof, and since computer data storage is virtually free, the fact that you both purchase firearms and use tobacco can be kept in your permanent file, awaiting the dawn of the inevitable National Health Care Plan. “No treatment for you, Mr. Lopez – you’re just too high risk for AmeriCare.”

Hell, with employers footing the bill for the premiums, you’d never even get hired.

And thus the circle is complete: social conservatives get to kick out the foreigners, create millions of new government jobs, and at the same time find a brand new source of cheap agricultural labor: all of the now-unemployable drug users, smokers, and other “uninsurables” that could no longer hide behind some sort of “right to privacy”.

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.

The Five To Ten Percent Solution

Lysander Spooner estimated that no more than 5-10% of the American population was even eligible to vote at the time the Constitution was framed and ratified. In his own time less than 20% of the population could vote.

In the very nature of things, the act of voting could bind nobody but the actual voters. But owing to the property qualifications required, it is probable that, during the first twenty or thirty years under the Constitution, not more than one-tenth, fifteenth, or perhaps twentieth of the whole population (black and white, men, women, and minors) were permitted to vote. Consequently, so far as voting was concerned, not more than one-tenth, fifteenth, or twentieth of those then existing, could have incurred any obligation to support the Constitution.

At the present time [1869], it is probable that not more than one-sixth of the whole population are permitted to vote. Consequently, so far as voting is concerned, the other five-sixths can have given no pledge that they will support the Constitution.

2. Of the one-sixth that are permitted to vote, probably not more than two-thirds (about one-ninth of the whole population) have usually voted. Many never vote at all. Many vote only once in two, three, five, or ten years, in periods of great excitement.

Even if there had been unanimous support for ratification of the Constitution among voters that would have been roughly the same percentage of the population that voted for Ross Perot in 1992. And Perot finished a distant third.

Yet constitutionalists pretend that this small minority was somehow entitled to bind all Americans in an eternal social contract.

Spooner’s critique doesn’t end here of course, he’s just getting warmed up. In No Treason he systematically demolishes any hope for the idea of legitimate Constitutional authority.

I Hate Paleocons

I leave a typically restrained and thoughtful comment on this

“You should be ashamed to think that someone who is not an individualist in politics is just waiting to bow the knee to some despotism, let alone to say it.”

Why should he be ashamed to say it? It’s only the simple truth. Power is what the paleos worship, not God, although they take care to disguise their worship of power with clouds of incense and sickening, pseudo-pious hypocrisy. But statements like “Perhaps the proper response of society in such confrontations would be that there will be no reason-giving, because it is fruitless, vain, and masturbatory to attempt to reason with the deranged” pretty much give the game away – note how Mr. “Maximos” creams his jeans at the thought of his fantasy-god, “Society”, crushing opposition – and not even bothering to give a reason!

It is my sincerely held hope, Mr.”Maximos” that someone takes your vile rubbish about “And without a contract, there can be no rights” literally, robs you at gunpoint and then proceeds to beat you like a gong. But since – unlike you, Mr. “Maximos”, I am not a complete lying booklicking Franco-sucking swine, I understand that it is very wrong to hope for such a thing.

Still, if I were you, I’d tremble when I reflect that God is just.

A curse upon them all.

U.S. Government Official Validates Anonymous Government Officials on Alpizar Shooting

It’s no surprise that the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica, Tomás Dueñas, is taking the official line on the killing of Rigoberto Alpizar last month by Federal Air Marshals.

Dueñas said by telephone that he met with officials of the State Department and the investigative team, but did not reveal the names of the officials…

Officials told Dueñas that Alpizar was sitting at the rear of the airplane, when he suddenly got up and carrying a handbag. when a stewardess told Alpizar to sit down, he went out of control and made the claim of carrying a bomb. One of the bilingual security officers says he told Alpizar to stop, which he didn’t and ran out of the aircraft, security officials giving chase. When Alpizar, now on outside the aircraft and on the loading ramp, put his hand in the bag, agents fired.

After closely following this story since the day of the shooting, I know of no first hand account by an eyewitness, be it a passenger, a member of the cabin crew, or an air marshal, who will corroborate the above version of events. To date, there is no public statement made by anyone on that plane who heard Alpizar say anything threatening or to the effect that he had a bomb. In fact, several passengers’ statements directly contradict the official story.

Needless to say, the Alpizar’s family isn’t satisfied with the Ambassador’s endorsement of the government’s story. They’re asking for more information, but I have to wonder if this incident, with all it’s vague fourth hand explanations and anonymous accountings, will soon be swept right out of the public’s consciousness.

The Dating Game: Catallarch Night

HHH: Welcome to the Dating Game! I’m Hans-Hermann Hoppe and I’ll be your host for Economics Week. My students are always asking me about dating. The way I explain this to my students is using the following example. Sometimes people hiss at it. Most people like it. Imagine a normal person, so to speak, that is in pursuit of a girl. Or vice versa, a girl in pursuit of a man. Then what we do, of course, is take her out to dinner and bring her flowers. We take her out to dinner again. We listen to the conversation. We are very impressed by all the deep thoughts that we hear. We have never heard anything interesting like that before in our lives. Of course, with some expectations. Which are, of course, in the more or less distant future. This is how normal people operate.

Tonight we have three eligible young Catallarchs for our Bachelorette to choose from. Let’s get started!

Bachelor Number One lives in Boston where he’s a resident at Harvard Medical School.

Number One: Hi!

Bachelorette: Mmmm, nice voice. Bachelor Number One, at your apartment I notice you just spent $1000 on a plasma screen TV, but you only spent $50 on our date. What does that reveal about your preferences?

Number One: Aren’t these considerations already taken into account by my actions? If I spend $1000 on a plasma screen TV, instead of favors from my date, then I have demonstrated that at the time of purchase, the marginal utility of the plasma screen TV was greater than the marginal utility of that unit (no pun intended) of sexual favors from my date, the marginal utility of the $1000, and the marginal utility of any other good I could have exchanged for that $1000.

Bachelorette: Well.

HHH: Our second Catallarch is a software engineer from Sunnyvale, California. In his spare time he’s building a utopian community in international waters.

Number Two: Hey baby!

Bachelorette: Bachelor Number Two, can you describe for me what kind of bachelorette you’ve been waiting for?

Number Two: Waiting? That doesn’t sound like a very good strategy. Essentially you’d be assuming that the ideal bachelorette exists and you will find her. Seems to me like this would lead to a lot of people never accepting a candidate, or doing so when they are old, say, too old to reproduce. If you are going to meet 100 bachelorettes a year, then the best out of 1000 seems way better than holding out for the absolute best.

Your strategy is willing to trade any amount of time being single for a minute increase in quality. Such lexicographic orderings are problematic and rarely describe real preferences.

Oh, and I’m not actually a bachelor, by the way, but I am polyamorous and available.

Bachelorette: What the…??

HHH: Polyamorous? Does that mean you are a homosexual?

Number Two: Well, that’s not what polyamory means Hans, although….

HHH: I ask because the advocates of alternative, non-family and kin-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order.

Let’s move on. Bachelor Number Three is studying economics and management and he’s chairman of the College Libertarians at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Number Three: Hello.

Bachelorette: Bachelor Number Three, would you be romantic on our date or is your time preference too high, like some economists?

HHH: Keynes, for instance.

Number Three: Well I don’t think that the benefits of rape are in principle inferior to the benefits of romance, if that’s what you’re asking. But personally I prefer efficiency, so I wouldn’t expect consummation until my benefits exceeded your costs.

Bachelorette: How… thoughtful.

HHH: There you have it! Now it’s time for our Bachelorette to choose – which Catallarch will it be?

Bachelorette: Sigh….

Hans? Your “dinner and flowers” routine is sounding better and better.

I guess I’ll choose the Least Imprudent Predator: You.

HHH: I HAVE NEVER HEARD ANYTHING INTERESTING LIKE THAT IN MY LIFE!!!

[aside to audience, with a wink]

Of course, with some expectations…..

Consequentialism: Means Redefining Ends

Patri Friedman has written that consequentialism is a means to his libertarian ends:

It’s important to distinguish between consequentialism as an end and as a means. I am not a utilitarian – my morality is not defined solely by results. I have strong internal beliefs that taxes, theft, and coercion are wrong. But these beliefs are not very proscriptive.

Ok, its wrong for my property to be stolen. How best to prevent that? Locks? Alarms? Constant vigilance? What about taxes? Work on the black market? Expatriate? Try to change the system? But in what way? Which leads to the big questions – why did government spending increase so much last century? How can we prevent a libertarian country from devolving into statism? What legal system will best safeguard my rights? How can I direct my efforts so as to achieve maximal effect on my own freedom?

Knowing my general philosophy is easy, but knowing how to make it happen is extremely difficult. The general approach is the same as any other question of strategy. Realistically consider your options, strengths, weaknesses, and the consequences of various approaches with respect to your goals. Pick the best and get to work. Often the answers will involve compromises and alliances.

In this case, answering the above questions requires seriously trying to understand and analyze the world. It takes a lot of thought, and one soon realizes that there are few simple answers. I view libertarianism as a science, not a religion, with tough compromises instead of easy platitudes.

If it seemed like libertarian rhetoric worked, I’d be out there thumping the Fountainhead and preaching the virtue of selfishness. But while such sermons are easy to generate, only the choir listens. Anyone can rant vaguely and passionately about how things ought to be, and many of them do. Yet (with a few notable exceptions) the world spins on unchanged.

Conversion is desirable, but very difficult. Yet while people disagree vehemently and inflexibly on morality and rights, they all tend to like systems that work and make them happy. Its not that this appeal is desirable as an end, but that its a key means to actually make change happen. Finding such changes may require compromise, but I’ll take a small real step towards freedom over an imaginary large one any day.

Such an approach misses out on the self-righteous glow of loudly insisting that the world conform to your desires, but it actually has a chance. Clicking your heels together three times only works in the movie . To actually get somewhere, you’d best find a map, plan a route, and sometimes be willing to take the long way round.

This view is very close to the consequentialism of Micha Ghertner at and it increasingly influences other bloggers at Catallarchy.

Patri holds consequentialism to be a means to his moral ends but he really doesn’t take moral ends seriously. His assertion that he believes theft is wrong is undermined by his inability to make a meaningful distinction between morality and personal preference.

These two statements mean the same thing:

(1) I believe theft is wrong.

(2) I believe the statement “Theft is wrong” corresponds to reality.

Patri says (1) but he doesn’t mean (2). What he means when he says (1) is simply that he prefers that theft not take place. This begs the question of why he shouldn’t prefer theft that benefits him.

David Friedman conceded he didn’t know how to derive oughts. Patri and Micha have made the leap from that to moral nihilism – any oughts they consider are simply personal preferences which have no moral content in traditional terms.

Their consequentialism thus becomes the means to groundless ends. And because the ends are groundless the means push them around. And why not? Why prefer libertarian preferences?

Thus encouraged, we increasingly see Catallarchs applying consequentialist means without reference to libertarian ends. Should we outlaw suicide? Well , Scott Scheule may have started with the libertarian preference that people be free to do what they choose. But that preference has been trivialized and assumed baseless, so how can it stand up against a muscular utility maximization via Kaldor-Hicks efficiency? It’s always a lot more exciting to prefer the course of action that entitles you to roll up your sleeves and sort people out. People are eggs; efficiency is a mouth watering omelet.

David Friedman wrote:

One could object that the economist, defining efficiency according to what questions he can answer rather than what questions he is being asked, is like the drunk looking for his wallet under the street light because the light is better there than where he lost it. The reply is that an imperfect criterion of desirability is better than none.

The problem is the Catallarchs like the streetlight so much that they forget what they were looking for.

Libertarians Will Always Be Losers

Courtesy of S. Maravillosa comes this juicy snippet of libertarian gossip:

Op-Eds for Sale
A columnist from a libertarian think tank admits accepting payments to promote an indicted lobbyist’s clients. Will more examples follow?

A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff’s clients. Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid ’90s.

I judge this to be a natural consequence of being a libertarian wonk. Suppose that you’re a budding libertarian pundit with aspirations of respectability. You’ve read the arguments against government, and you, like everyone else, have exactly nothing to say contrary to them. They’re airtight. But what are you going to say the first time someone asks “What are ya, some kind of anarchist?” If you reply with a “yes”, you’re done. Virtually everyone in the mainstream thinks that “anarchist” is a synonym for “violent nutball”. So you say “No, I believe in a smaller government with limited power…”, even though you know better.

In a word, you lie.

You lie because you have your eyes on the prize. The end justifies the means, because you can’t get from here to there without appealing to the voting masses’ simple prejudices and superstitions. As time goes on, the lies come easier. Sugar-coat this, gloss over that, ignore the other. You get good at telling people what they want to hear.

And if your job consists of telling pleasant lies, why not make as much as you can from for it? What’s the difference in principle between telling lies for a salary and telling lies for a salary plus a payment on the side? Let’s see:

Bandow isn’t the only think-tanker to have received payments from Abramoff for writing articles. Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, says he, too, took money from Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist’s clients. “I do that all the time,” Ferrara says. “I’ve done that in the past, and I’ll do it in the future.”

Ferrara, who has been an influential conservative voice on Social Security reform, among other issues, says he doesn’t see a conflict of interest in taking undisclosed money to write op-ed pieces because his columns never violated his ideological principles.

Especially when your ideological principles are somewhat… elastic.

Bandow’s real problem is that he picked a political ideology whose adherents have to tell themselves they’re more principled than Republicans and Democrats. In reality they aren’t, they’re just more confused. The R’s and D’s are quite plainly after power. The libertarian types, on the other hand, like to pretend that they have principles. As I’ve said before, that pretense gets in the way of effective action in electoral politics. In this particular case, the conservative pundit can laugh off being paid for op-eds while the libertarian pundit gets to slink out the back door for the exact same thing. It’s yet another example of why libertarians are destined to be perennial losers in partisan politics.

Balko On Perfectly Acceptable Government

Radley Balko speaks for libertarians:

“It’s perfectly acceptable for a constitutionally-limited government to act to prevent the outbreak of deadly, highly-communicable diseases. If the bird flu is as lethal and transferable as some have suggested, protection from it amounts to a public good worthy of government attention, provided said attention is proportional to the extent of the threat, transparent, and accountable.”

Translation: It’s perfectly acceptable for the government to put a gun to your head to compel you to participate in collectivist schemes when it will produce a sufficient public good.

But what about all Balko’s caveats you ask? They amount to nothing.

Is this government accountable? Sure, it’s accountable to the voters. How could government be more accountable than that?

Ah, but is our government constitutionally limited? Yup, as much as it can be. There’s a note in the cookie jar that says “We promise to never reach in the cookie jar. Sincerely, We The People”. Now of course the fact that they got the note in the cookie jar in the first place implies they’re going to reach in there whenever they feel the need, but you can’t really improve on the note. It’s as limiting to We The People as any such note could be in principle.

But is the public good produced sufficient? And is the government action proportional and transparent? Well someone has to judge, but who? It can only go back to accountability. The voters judge whether the benefits are sufficient and whether the means are acceptably proportional and transparent.

We pretty much already have everything Balko wants in politics, he just happens to disagree with most voters about the weights to assign to the costs and benefits of government actions. So he spends his life arguing with them about how much of your life should be stolen and what it should be spent on.

And that passes for libertarianism.

Via Beck.

Attention Karen DeCoster: Private Business Decisions Are Not “Affirmative Action”

There’s a fundamental difference between government quotas (imposed as they are by force) and a business decision. That seems simple enough, right?

Well, not so simple for Lewrockwell.com contributor Karen DeCoster. In a post titled “Affirmative Action NASCAR”, she whimpers

As with everything else Southern, the traditional roots of NASCAR are no longer acceptable.

The link points to a story about NASCAR’s new CEO:

AR CEO Brian France doesn’t like fans flying Confederate flags at races as he tries to make auto racing more appealing to minorities and women.

France is trying to broaden auto racing’s appeal with minorities in places like Los Angeles, where France moved the important Labor Day NASCAR event last year, and New York, soon to have a track.

Is that really “Affirmative Action“? Because it sounds like a simple business decision to me. People in New York and Los Angeles, shocking as it may be to the delicate sensibilities of neo-Confederates, have far more money to spend than people in the South. It certainly makes sense on the face of it for an entertainment company (which is what NASCAR is) to try to appeal to people with money.

In fact if the impending multiculturization of NASCAR were really a bad decision, then this presents a golden opportunity for Karen DeCoster and her ilk to swoop in with their very own Association of Stock Car Auto Racing and take the huge and neglected Confederate Flag demographic away from the NASCAR crowd.

Of course DeCoster isn’t interested in making a business case for the Stars And Bars, instead she segues into the main point of the matter:

From the Charlotte Observer:

It’s a stretch to call Adrian Fernández the future of NASCAR. But that’s who he is to a budding legion of Latino racing fans who consider him the “Dale Earnhardt of Mexico.”

(Thanks to MT for the link.) What next? Shall we have a Mexican/Yankee menu at Waffle House? (Chorizo, not grits, please.)

And that’s what this is about: simple racial/cultural paranoia. Why didn’t DeCoster just come out and say “I don’t like Mexicans and Yankees buying up my beloved Southern icons”?

Because that would have been far too honest. So instead of puzzling but forthright prejudice, DeCoster transparently disguised her screed as a takedown of “Affirmative Action”. It’s fair to note, however, that not every Lewrockwell.com blogger has forgotten that words have meanings.