Billy Beck’s Articles Removed From No Treason

In resurrecting No Treason, which has been off the web since 2008, I’ve decided to remove Billy Becks articles from the site, since I no longer have any use for them. This deserves some explanation since Beck was once a major contributor to the site. In 2006 Beck claimed that I was no longer authorized to host his articles:

Kennedy: you are no longer authorized to keep any of my articles here. This has been the fact since the very last thing I ever posted here. You can look it up, although you will refuse to understand it. You have said that *I* said that you can could keep that stuff here as long as the site existed. I didn’t argue with you, and I am not interested to, now. You know what I said: if I actually made that agreement, then I would live with it. I don’t believe that I did, but I’m not interested in the fight, because it would mean dealing with your fucking bullshit exactly one second longer than I care to. But none of that is to the point: that stuff is mine, everybody knows it, and now everyone is clear about it.

At the time I was in no mood to indulge Beck in this matter, since I had paid for the rights to host the material. I’ve decided to explain how I acquired those rights. The following timeline has been reconstructed from memory and context, since I no longer have the original emails, and is probably not completely accurate. But the substance of the agreements is accurate.

Around the time I launched No Treason in June 2001 I sent John Sabotta $50 for the No Treason logo you see above and for design work that went with it. I also sent Beck $50 for three articles he would write for No Treason, articles along the lines of those he had written for Union Square Journal. I never paid another writer for articles, but at the time I considered Beck a draw for the audience I was going after and I thought It would help the site to get him involved. Beck never actually submitted the three articles agreed upon, but the contract was eventually satisfied by mutual agreement. By early 2002 Beck had still submitted nothing. I saw a piece on abortion he’d posted, probably on Usenet, called “You’d Bloody Well Do It Without Me”. I offered to publish this as an article on No Treason as the first of Beck’s three articles. He agreed.

In June of 2002 I started the first blog at No Treason. Beck blogged there but had still not submitted the final two articles by the end of 2002. In early 2003 I offered to accept, in lieu of the two contracted articles, the right to publish a bunch of articles Beck had originally written for Laissez Faire City Times and Union Square Journal, along with a few articles that were on Beck’s own web site.

Mindful of the fact that Beck had withdrawn his articles from Union Square Journal over a disagreement with editor Martin McPhillips, I made it clear to Beck that I was purchasing the right to host those articles on No Treason in perpetuity, along with any blog posts he contributed – I wasn’t paying for material that he could withdraw at whim, as he had done in the past. Beck agreed, retaining the right to publish any of his NT contributions anywhere else he liked.

Beck claims to not remember making such a deal (though note that he stopped short of saying it didn’t happen), and I’ll take him at his word on that. But I do remember, and I retain the rights I purchased. At this time I have no further desire to host the material and and have removed it. It’s possible that I’ve missed stray posts, so if you find a Beck contribution on No Treason please bring it to my attention.

Billy Beck: No Shame

A correspondent to Beck expresses shame for jumping through government hoops to use his car:

Shame at being forced to think and act like this. Shame at realizing this type of behavior was business as usual in the communist countries. Shame at being compelled to take a short cut that on principle I wouldn’t take with my family or friends in an analogous situation.

Beck answers:

The only thing that I have to add right now is something that Tim Starr and Ernest Brown brought to my attention several weeks ago, which is that submission is not the same as compromise.

It’s nice that Starr and Brown recently brought this to his attention but Lynette and I (not to mention Greg Swann) have been telling him the same thing for years. Most recently:

jtk3isme: you pay taxes billy, so it seems to me you can
Wm J Beck III: What did you say?
jtk3isme: i said you pay taxes
Wm J Beck III: I mean: is that really what you intended to say?
jtk3isme: yes
Wm J Beck III: What are you talking about?
jtk3isme: you pay sales tax and other taxes
Wm J Beck III: John… have you *never* paid attention?
jtk3isme: sure I have
Wm J Beck III: I wouldn’t pay *those*, either, if I could find a way to stop it, and this fact has a serious implication.
jtk3isme: you do pay them, which means you *can*
Wm J Beck III: I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I will set up a fucking robot to let you know every Saturday that I haven’t burned myself on the Capitol steps. Will you shut your fucking impertinent mouth then?
jtk3isme: not a bit of it
Wm J Beck III: No, sir: I can’t. They’re different things.
jtk3isme: one theft is in principle different from another?
Wm J Beck III: No, they are different in practice. However, let me put it to you this way: by your way of thinking, I just die tomorrow. Will *that* shut you up?
jtk3isme: No, it will shut you up.
Wm J Beck III: You’re implying a problem of integrity, and I know the solution. Is that what you’re looking for?
Wm J Beck III: That should be at *least* as attractive to everyone involved.
Wm J Beck III: Certainly, the punk Swann might be satisfied.
jtk3isme: I’m not implying any lack of integrity for paying your taxes
Wm J Beck III: Look, John: don’t try to bullshit me.
jtk3isme: I say it’s fine
Wm J Beck III: It’s *not*.
jtk3isme: no really it is okay to live in the world, be it good or evil
jtk3isme: they commit a crime but you do not by paying

My original commentary stands:

We’ve had the same discussion a number of times. Every time we do Beck chooses to construe it as an implicit attack on his integrity, as if I were saying he ought not be paying sales tax and other taxes. On the contrary, I’m saying that it’s fine for him to pay sales tax and it would be fine for him to pay income tax. I’m saying his behavior demonstrates that he judges that paying sales tax is better for him than not paying it – else he wouldn’t pay. His behavior demonstrates that he judges he should pay sales tax (which of course is not to say he should have to pay it, he shouldn’t) to get on with pursuing other values.

And he could pay income tax to get on with pursuing his other values.

Clearly Beck submits to vehicle inspection because he judges his life will be better for that submission under the circumstances. And clearly Beck submits to having his required papers inspected every time he catches a commercial flight because he judges his life will be better for that submission under the circumstances.

And that’s perfectly fine. But Beck explains to Richard Nikoley about how the state is killing him:

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.

All we’ve done is point out to Beck that he doesn’t have to die that way, that he could get plenty of decent medical care the same way he gets his car registered and the same way he gets to fly to a gig: by submitting to some injustice.

For this we get:

Do you understand? I had to point out to her some elementary facts involving the nature of production and the function of money in human life, because those two people — John and Lynette, who really do seem to care about me with a good deal of the emotive force of hysterics — have serious difficulty at bringing themselves face to face with real-live practical implications of a murderous society. Forever, I have been telling people: “This ain’t no disco. Ideas matter.” Their estimation of my personal devotion to an ideal of freedom rises almost to the level of resentment because I am so serious about it. And I appear to be the only one on the scene who is not fooled: I have always known — every step of the way — exactly where this, my life, was going in the present political circumstances, which have only darkened greatly in general since I took my first adult steps.

I’d like to ask Richard: Do you resent the fact that Beck refuses to pay income taxes while you pay that ransom to improve your life under the circumstances? Does it seem plausible to you that Lynette and I resent him for not paying income tax while we do pay taxes? And if it’s not plausible, then who’s exhibiting “the emotive force of hysterics”? And why?

I have an idea why. Principle does not require Beck to do without health care or the bulk of the fortune he could earn any more than it requires him to do without his car or air travel. Beck could still improve his lot in life dramatically by submitting to some injustices the very same way he already submits to others.

But at 50 it would be a very bitter pill to swallow – to concede, even implicitly, that he has foregone decades of production that principle did not require him to refuse.

Half Right At Best

I’ve said for years now that we need to take an analogy to David Ben Gurion’s position on WWII as our motto. His position was: fight the war against the Nazis as if there was no White Paper (British restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine) and fight the White Paper as if there no war against the Nazis. We need to fight the Islamo-Fascists as if there were no State (or any more than a minarchist state), and fight the State as if there were no Islamo-Fascists.

That’s Billy Beck quoting former No-Treason’er Tim Starr. Beck agrees with Starr’s analysis, calling it “Exactly right”.

Thing is, it ain’t.

You can’t conduct a war against the Islamo-Fascists as if there were no State, because there is a State. Your behavior, your options, your whole course of life is directly affected by the government’s policies.

Think not? Imagine what you might do to help in The War Against Terror if there wasn’t a government. Maybe you’d hire people — superbly trained killers, you bet — to get there first with the most and just smash ’em on the spot, like bugs. Except that it turns out that trying to get a private military up and running violates about ten-jillion Federal statutes, so getting involved in a free-market jihadi hunt is a good way to end up in the slam.

So are you really going to “fight the Islamo-Fascists as if there were no State”? Of course not, you’re going to recognize that the government can bring overwhelming force to bear on you, and you’re going to act accordingly.

Starr’s analogy is half right at best: conduct your affairs towards government as if there weren’t any Islamic terrorists. Matter of fact, that’s what I do. But that’s because compared to the State, Islamic terrorists have effectively no impact on my life. I judge that that’s the case for the vast majority of individuals as well. More to the point, Islamo-Fascists aren’t able to do anything to force me to change my behavior in regards to the government.

And as we’ve seen before, that doesn’t work the other way.

Billy Beck, Death, And Taxes

I recently witnessed a chat between Lynette and Billy Beck. Billy said he’d told his Uncle that he “now & then contemplates burning himself on the capitol steps”. From the transcript:

Wm J Beck III: This evening, I described to my mother’s brother how her baby boy now & then contemplates burning himself on the capitol steps.
Lynette Warr3n: Not trying to be cryptic. I just want to be clear
Wm J Beck III: It’s literally funny: I never even allude to that without suspecting that anyone who’s ever seen it before will suspect that I’m having an acute episode.
Lynette Warr3n: I know better
Wm J Beck III: It’s not, of course. This is chronic: low-level, but always present.
Wm J Beck III: Well, my uncle had never heard it before. He drew a sharp breath, and said, slowly and quietly: “That’s pretty heavy.”
Wm J Beck III: I was right instantly up in his face: “Well, what the motherfuck do you think it’s ever going to *take*?”


Self-immolation

This was by no means the first time we’d heard Beck speak of thinking along these lines. He’s spoken of such matters in chat before, he’s even blogged about it recently. Upon witnessing the chat cited above I blogged an entry contrasting Thoreau’s determination to live in the world “be it good or bad” with Beck’s perspective. Beck soon contacted me and we had another chat. Then he wrote a post saying that Lynette and I seemed to be exhibiting “a good deal of the emotive force of hysterics” and that “Their estimation of my personal devotion to an ideal of freedom rises almost to the level of resentment because I am so serious about it.”

I had already decided to discuss all of this publicly but those comments will help make clear why. I’m doing so because I think that in public it will be more difficult for Beck to sustain the idea that we are resentful of his devotion to freedom or that we are in hysterics. Sometimes an audience can provide a reality check. Since he cares what people think about him I think he’ll find it more difficult to dismiss what we have to say in public than in private.


Beck says he cannot pay taxes. I say the fact that he does proves that he can:

jtk3isme: you pay taxes billy, so it seems to me you can
Wm J Beck III: What did you say?
jtk3isme: i said you pay taxes
Wm J Beck III: I mean: is that really what you intended to say?
jtk3isme: yes
Wm J Beck III: What are you talking about?
jtk3isme: you pay sales tax and other taxes
Wm J Beck III: John… have you *never* paid attention?
jtk3isme: sure I have
Wm J Beck III: I wouldn’t pay *those*, either, if I could find a way to stop it, and this fact has a serious implication.
jtk3isme: you do pay them, which means you *can*
Wm J Beck III: I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I will set up a fucking robot to let you know every Saturday that I haven’t burned myself on the Capitol steps. Will you shut your fucking impertinent mouth then?
jtk3isme: not a bit of it
Wm J Beck III: No, sir: I can’t. They’re different things.
jtk3isme: one theft is in princple different from another?
Wm J Beck III: No, they are different in practice. However, let me put it to you this way: by your way of thinking, I just die tomorrow. Will *that* shut you up?
jtk3isme: No, it will shut you up.
Wm J Beck III: You’re implying a problem of integrity, and I know the solution. Is that what you’re looking for?
Wm J Beck III: That should be at *least* as attractive to everyone involved.
Wm J Beck III: Certainly, the punk Swann might be satisfied.
jtk3isme: I’m not implying any lack of integrity for paying your taxes
Wm J Beck III: Look, John: don’t try to bullshit me.
jtk3isme: I say it’s fine
Wm J Beck III: It’s *not*.
jtk3isme: no really it is okay to live in the world, be it good or evil
jtk3isme: they commit a crime but you do not by paying

We’ve had the same discussion a number of times. Every time we do Beck chooses to construe it as an implicit attack on his integrity, as if I were saying he ought not be paying sales tax and other taxes. On the contrary, I’m saying that it’s fine for him to pay sales tax and it would be fine for him to pay income tax. I’m saying his behavior demonstrates that he judges that paying sales tax is better for him than not paying it – else he wouldn’t pay. His behavior demonstrates that he judges he should pay sales tax (which of course is not to say he should have to pay it, he shouldn’t) to get on with pursuing other values.

And he could pay income tax to get on with pursuing his other values.

Paying taxes is no moral crime and it need not be a vice.

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.

Did You Come To Camp For Justice Or To Make Your Fucking Way?

Beck quotes Thoreau:

I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it, be it good or bad.

Words to live by. They remind me of something Al Swearengen said in Deadwood:

When did you get the idea every wrong had a remedy, Wu? Did you come to camp for justice or to make your fucking way?

Beck:

I’ve been so near the end of my goddamned rope that, for years now, I’ve harbored a half-baked plan to set myself on fire on the steps of the Capitol. Go ahead and make fun of it. Am I any more far-gone than the rest of you? What difference would it make if I was? Here is the central problem surrounding what you people are talking about:

There is no coherent and cohesive philosophy underpinning it. Everybody’s pissed off, but you all have your varying degrees of what you’ll settle for. Someone like me comes along to suggest something like starving the Beast out of existence by not paying for it, or withdrawing the overt political sanction by not bloody voting — like I’ve been doing for years to general laughter — and, suddenly, nobody is so pissed off anymore.

What’s incoherent about choosing to live in the world, be it good or bad? What’s incoherent about making your fucking way, in spite of rampant injustice?

I Think That War Is Probably Quite Short…

They’re discussing the prospect of imminent Civil War over at Who Tends The Fires. Who will be the antagonists in this war? My friend Billy Beck writes:

The question of the day is whether that nation exists, now. I say that, if it does, then it exists only as one party to an irreconcilable division between individualists and collectivists. Try to understand that this is a metaphysical antagonism: there is nothing to “compromise” because the antagonism is bound up with two completely different assertions of the nature of reality, raised to the domain of politics over the matter of what human beings are.

Civil War between individualists and collectivists? One immediate problem that occurs to me is that there aren’t any individualists to speak of. To paraphrase Benjy Mouse:

“Quite clearly, if we’re sitting there in the blogosphere mentioning that there’s going to be war between the collectivists and the individualists , and then have to eventually admit that the number of individualists who will show up for it is forty-two, then I think that war is probably quite short.”

I don’t see that civil war is imminent at all, I see pressures continuing to build that might be released in any number of ways. I will find a way to advance my life or make one, but I certainly see no sense in going to war with the collectivists.

Galt Or Roark?

Browsing the virtual stacks of Billy Beck’s library today, I came across this:

Atlas Shrugged, 1957, Ayn Rand — “The most subversive political implication of ‘Atlas Shrugged’, is that individual freedom is possible only to those who are strong enough, psychologically and morally, to withdraw their sanction from any system that coercively thrives off their productive energies.” (Sciabarra — “The Russian Radical”, pp. 301-302) Say no more.

Anyone who knows Beck a bit knows why he appreciates that quote. There’s no doubt in my mind that Beck is strong enough, psychologically and morally, to withdraw his production from a system that coercively feeds off of it. He’s demonstrated that. But the fact remains that the system thrives without his productive energies.

Does the withholding of his production make him free? It is certainly a demonstration of his metaphysical freedom to choose. But I also know from talking with him that there are many things he’d like to do, things that he is very well prepared to do, which he cannot do without making his production available to those he does not sanction. If he were happy with the result of this choice then I could call it an exercise of freedom. But he’s not happy with the result.

Rand used her literary creation John Galt to systematically lay out her philosophy. I don’t think his program for stopping the motor of the world ought to be entertained as a serious practical proposal. Galt’s program overlooks the Prisoners Dilemma. The world can do without the individual’s production and that is all the the individual has power over. Galt’s program relies on a wishful collectivism, he wishes a lot of other individuals will shrug with him. It works in the novel.

I met Beck a while back and he told me the thought that 250,000 conscientious objectors to taxation could turn the tide in America. I had two objections to this vision: 1) The 250,000 weren’t coming, and 2) Even if they did show up they would be of little consequence. Our America is quite capable of swallowing that many conscientious objectors whole.

I recommend Roark’s more natural individualism over Galt’s wishful collective program. Roark always pursued his goals by doing the business he wanted to do. His progress and his happiness did not depend on the enlightenment of an arbitrary number on men – one individual would suffice.

BECKSTRAVAGANZA!

No Treason is pleased to be able to make available a collection of twenty-three articles written by Billy Beck between 1997 and 2001. These articles were written for Laissez Faire City Times and Union Square Journal. A couple of them have been available on Beck’s web site and a couple have been available here, but all the rest have been unavailable for some time.

Billy Beck has been one of No Treason’s most valued contributors. I didn’t want these articles to disappear. Enjoy.

Forget McVeigh
That’s Right Folks: It’s A Glamorous Profession
Faith Bases Under Siege
Dale Earnhardt: The Whole Hook-Up
Why Should Sleeping Dogs Lie?
Power On Demand, For Money
Yo, Magic: Don’t Do It
Endarkenment. For Real
My Guitar Life
Heisenberg in a Hawaiian Shirt
Storming the Barricades of Ruin
I, Criminal
Piling Up Smash
The Bums’ Rush: an Election Meditation
Hog Heaven at Sturgis
Tale of a Taildragger
Stealing Midnight With Style
Reflections On a Blue-Gel Tab
Course of Conduct
Animals in the Disney-Tinted Village
Vietnam War on the 21st Amendment: The War On Drugs
Energy & Passion
Commentary on the Media