Saturday, July 29, 2006

Links, science fiction, and a short tirade

Great post at Lowercase Liberty about one of my pet peeves: idiots who try to demonstrate their superior intelligence by making mistaken "corrections" to perfectly grammatical sentences.

Excellent article by Sheldon Richman about the role of business in promoting interventionism. (Hat tip to Mutualist Blog.) The only thing I have to add (building on something I posted earlier) is to comment on one great irony-namely, that "anti-corporate" liberals and leftists are usually the most vocal advocates of the very interventionist state that makes the manipulation and exploitation that Richman describes possible. They probably do more than anyone else to provide the necessary ideological support for the state powers that the rich and powerful use for their own ends.

I have not forgotten how large segments of the liberal/leftist commentariat, both online and off- Matthew Yglesias and the Daily Kos crowd being perhaps the most prominent online examples- leaped to defend the Kelo decision. (Not on federalist grounds, where there's arguably a legitimate case for the decision, but on the grounds that there was nothing objectionable about the government having the power to do what New London was doing.) They were the most passionate defenders of the state's right to forcibly transfer land from one private party to another, because such a power is supposedly necessary for the "common good." If that allows politically connected corporations to rob people of their homes, well, that's a small price to pay for the blessings of "progressive" rule. And they'll continue to bemoan the concentrated wealth and power of those same corporations, even as they cheer on the institutions that make such concentrations possible.

This is why I'm pleased by the emergence of the whole "libertarian left" thing, even though I don't consider myself a part of it. The harder the real effects of state economic intervention are hammered on, the more chance we have that at least some people on the statist left will wake up to the contradictions of their ideology.

Over at Unqualified Offerings, Jim Henley tears quasi-repentant war hawk Brink Lindsey a new one for his recent pseudo-apology for being wrong about the war. Choice quote:

Lindsey’s rhetorical sleights (and slights!) would be merely unpleasant if they didn’t indicate that Lindsey may not have learned much after all. Specifically, he does not seem to have learned the true usefulness of libertarian theory to foreign policy. You can boil it as far down as a single sentence:

National security may indeed be a legitimate function of the state, but it is still the state when it does this.

On a more fun note, my next science fiction review will be Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds. That should be up pretty soon. In the meantime, check out this Alastair Reynolds interview.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Big business and the federal highway system

There's a great new post at Mutualist Blog with the details on something Kevin Carson has alluded to before- the crucial role big business played in lobbying for the creation of the federal highway system. This, in turn allows big nation-spanning corporations to dump a big chunk of their transportation costs on the taxpayer. Whether these companies would remain viable if they had to pay the full cost themselves is an interesting question.

It is an amusing (or depressing, depending on my mood) irony that many liberal/"vital center" types who talk about how statism protects us from the depredations and exploitation of big business are the same people who consider the national government highway system a glorious achievement that proves that demonstrates the state's wisdom and benevolence. The people who rage against huge corporate chains are largely the same people who cheer for the many of the government programs that make the huge chains so powerful in the first place.

This suggests a possible recruitment opportunity- awakening people to this contradiction has the potential to lure at least some statist anti-business types to our side. I'm not as optimistic as some about the prospects of winning large numbers of leftists to the cause of libertarianism, but I still think there's some potential there.

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Science Fiction Commentary: Gridlinked by Neal Asher

Today I'll be examining Gridlinked by Neal Asher, who has only been published in America within the last few years, though he has been writing for some time now.

The setting is a futuristic A.I.-ruled human society called the Polity. Travel throughout the Polity is accomplished principally through teleportation devices called "runcibles," which can turn people into energy and instantly transmit them across light-years. When a runcible on the remote world of Samarkand is sabotaged, Earth Central Security agent Ian Cormac is sent on the Polity spacecraft Hubris to investigate. Meanwhile, a ruthless terrorist leader from his last case is gunning for him, and mysterious, inhuman beings are at work.


Ian Cormac: Cormac is a long-serving agent of Earth Central Security. He has been rendered all but emotionless by the 30 years he has spent gridlinked- joined by brain implants with the Polity's computer network and the A.I.'s he works with. This is considered very dangerous- remaining gridlinked for longer than 20 years is highly discouraged. He is encouraged to give up his gridlink after he blows an undercover investigation because of it- he is so emotionally undemonstrative that he is mistaken for an android by the Separatists he was infiltrating.

Cormac is fairly robotic at the beginning- he has very little emotion, and is continuously frustrated by the fact that people are not as reliable or efficient as machines. It's interesting to see him try to adjust to losing his link- for instance, he has to get used to actually talking when he wants information, instead of simply downloading it into his brain. Getting used to relating to people normally is also a challenge for him at first, though he improves as time passes.

Arian Pelter: A ruthless terrorist and Separatist leader, obsessed with getting revenge against Cormac for killing his sister. Utterly ruthless and driven

Mister Crane: A homicidal android two-and-a-half meter tall android under Pelter's command. When not tearing people apart with his bare hands, he likes to examine the various toys and knickknacks he carries around in his coat.

John Stanton: An experienced mercenary in Pelter's service. Stanton isn't a good man by any means, but he still has a few remnant bits of conscience, and working for a man like Pelter gives them quite a workout.

Dragon: A bizarre alien organism/machine of unknown origin, consisting of four linked kilometer-wide spheres. Decades ago, Ian Cormac encountered this enigmatic being on the Polity world of Aster Colora, just before it vanished in a cataclysmic explosion. Now, Cormac sees traces of Dragon on Samarkand. Before it vanished, Dragon claimed to have been watching humanity for millennia. But what is its true nature?


Gridlinked is very solid enjoyable space opera/action story. I found the setting interesting (more on that in a bit), with some interesting locations. The story moves at a nice, quick pace, and made me want to keep reading. In particular, the central mystery of Dragon's true nature and intentions kept me interested in what would happen next. The action scenes are exciting and well done, though not for the squeamish. I liked the characters quite a bit- Ian Cormac is a likable hero who has an interesting psychological challenge to deal with, the psychological and moral progression of John Stanton is well done, and Pelter is very good as a villain.

I have two complaints. First, I wish more had been done with Cormac's adjustment to living without his gridlink. There's a lot of potential in the idea, and I don't think the book fully exploited the possibilities. Second, the ending seemed a bit rushed. These are only minor problems, however, and they don't detract significantly from the book.

Gridlinked is one of the few works of science fiction I can recall that really deals with the implications of a "convert people to energy" style-teleporter- namely, the fact that the mass of an entire human body yields a lot of energy, and that this energy could be incredibly destructive if turned lose. I'm kind of surprised that Star Trek, to the best of my recollection, never did anything with this, considering how many episodes revolved around transporter malfunctions. (Though Trek was seldom very good about thinking through the implications of its own technology.)

The story touches a bit on some of the possibilities of human alteration. Several characters make use of electronic brain implants to enhance their thought processes or help them link to machines. The aging process has been defeated, though some people choose to look old to project more authority or gravitas. (An idea that also comes up in David Drake's Cross the Stars.) Some people have been genetically engineered to live in heavy gravity or in deep space, and many people undergo extensive cosmetic alterations.

As I mentioned above, the Polity is ruled by artificial intelligences. I rather like the way Asher addresses the idea- it is portrayed as neither a cure-all for social ills, nor as some sort of oppressive dystopian nightmare. The A.I.s seem to do a reasonably good job of it- the Polity has a very high standard of living and appears to be fairly free; people can travel anywhere they want in the Polity without restriction, and free enterprise seems to be thriving. This does not greatly affect the plot, but some social effects are briefly touched upon- it is mentioned, for instance that certain humans, including Cormac, have all sorts of wild, larger-than-life legends attributed to them by a public desperate for proof that humans can still control their own destiny. The people of the Polity do not seem to object to their masters- it is mentioned, late in the book, that most people take it for granted that humans are not fit to rule.

The obvious comparison, of course is the Culture universe of Iain M. Banks. The Polity, while portrayed as attractive, is a good deal less utopian then the Culture, where the A.I.s (or "Minds") do pretty much all the work while humans live in total leisure. (By the way, what's the deal with British space opera authors and these incredibly vague names? I half-expect Alistair Reynolds or Peter F. Hamilton to come out with novels about "The Society" or "The Regime." I kid, I kid.) The only other A.I.-ruled society in recent print SF that comes immediately to mind (I'm missing some, I'm sure) is the Consensus from David Drake's Northworld trilogy, and in those books it's just a minor background detail, albeit an effective and atmospheric one.

I would highly recommend Gridlinked for anyone who likes science fiction, and I look forward to reading more from Asher.

Well, that's my first science fiction review segment. Any feedback would be appreciated enormously.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quotes from around the internet

Liberals are now rightly accusing Bush of grabbing power, but unfortunately nobody is listening. After all, we’re used to overweening presidents by now, thanks in large part to those same liberals who have celebrated the “strong” presidencies of Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, and others. It was only during the Nixon years that they discovered the dangers of the “imperial presidency"... Liberals have been paving the way for a president like this for a long time, and they’ve finally gotten the “conservative” they deserve. They’ve done their best to make the Constitution so malleable as to be meaningless, without stopping to think that two can play that game. Now it’s the Republicans’ turn. Joseph Sobran, "The Lawless State"

Jockey Paul O'Neill apologized Tuesday for head-butting his horse at a race last weekend. AP, Fox Sports

Anyone with half a brain who looks at how international trade has gone since the creation of the WTO would realize its real purpose is not to liberalize trade but to provide bickering grounds as cover for keeping it as restrained as it already was, while loking like they care. You don’t cut subsidies to humble american family farms corporatized agribusiness by having “talks” or trying to wrench concessions out of people who don’t have the luxury of leisure, you do it by cutting the f$@%ing subsidies. b psycho, "No Suprises in Geneva"

Chinese restaurant owners are arming themselves with increasingly dangerous weaponry these days. Saw a story the other day where some guy was murdered with the steamy filling of a hot crab rangoon. Radley Balko, "Fish Raid"

Besides, why should we expect business people to favor laissez faire and to abhor government intervention? Few people outside of business do so. Why would people in business be different? As Albert Jay Nock noted long ago, people tend to favor the path of least exertion. If a business owner can increase his profits with a tax, regulation, or import quota on his domestic or foreign competitors, why not go for it? You and I may expect his ethical governor to stop him. But what if he, like most other people, doesn't equate government action with plunder? In that case he won't see himself as a hooligan once removed. Rather, he'll seem himself as a citizen in a democracy petitioning his government for badly needed relief, which, as it happens, will also serve the general welfare. Sheldon Richman, "The Tariff is the Mother of Trusts"

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

New links

I've added Notes from the Lounge, Rad Geek's People's Daily, Brad Spangler, Once Upon a Time, and Psychopolitik to the list of links. All are quality blogs. Within a day or two, I should also have a nice set of science fiction links up, and maybe some other stuff.

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Science fiction and a new regular feature

In the interest of making this a blog with actual content, and not just a compendium of links to other, better writers, I plan to begin what will hopefully be a regular feature: commentary on science fiction books. They won't really be proper reviews of the buy this/don't buy this type, which I don't really feel qualified to do, just examination of content and ideas from books I find interesting. You'll probably find much more positive than negative commentary, not because I like everything, but simply because I'd rather spend my time and effort focusing on authors who deserve attention than on those who don't. If that sounds interesting to you, please stick around.

First up will be Neal Asher's Gridlinked. We'll see where it goes from there.

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The stem cell veto and liberal blindness

Bush has finally used his veto power, to veto federal funding for stem cell research. He did the right thing, albeit for the wrong reason. Personally, I'm more interested in the response to hisactions.

The response to Bush's veto of federally funded stem cell research has been interesting, and not just because this is the first good thing Bush has done in God-only-knows how long. It's remarkable how many people have condemned Bush for "pushing his morality" on others when, at least at this point, he has done nothing more than refuse to fund stem-cell research with tax money. What do supporters of federal funding think forcing taxpayers who disapprove of stem-cell research to pay for it is, if not forcing your morality on others?

(Nitpicker's Note: In some sense, of course, any law constitutes an imposition of morality, even if it's just a law that protects basic rights- laws against murder and rape and theft and so forth. Even self-defense counts as "imposing morality" in this sense. For the purposes of this post I am using the term "imposing morality" in its more popular sense- that is, imposing what is usually thought of as private morality, rather than principles of public morality or justice like J.S. Mill's harm principle. Julian Sanchez explains it better than I could.)

This sort of thing is part of the reason I still usually find liberals more irritating than conservatives, despite conservatism's manifest failings: conservatives are self-aware, for lack of a better term, in a way liberals typically aren't. When conservatives try to put religious propaganda into schools, or regulate people's sex lives, or censor expression on TV that they don't like, they generally know that they're forcing their private morals and beliefs onto other people. Hell, they're proud of it.

When liberals do the same thing- when they try to force people to pay for scientific research or art they find immoral, or take away people's economic liberties and right of free association to create the social outcomes liberals want, or try to censor expression they don't like on publicly funded college campuses, or try to force pro-life taxpayers to pay for abortions-they are simply oblivious to what they're doing, even as they rail against conservatives for "pushing their morality" on people.

In the case of the stem-cell veto, this has led many of them to completely invert who is and who isn't forcing their morality on others. When their attempts to force their moral beliefs on others are thwarted- as has just happened with Bush's veto- they accuse the other side of being the ones imposing their beliefs. If I put a lock on my front door to keep thieves out, I suppose these people would condemn me for my lack of respect for the local burglar's property rights.

Good God, I actually defended Bush. I need a shower.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sheldon Richman article

Sheldon Richman has some ideas about communicating economic principles to liberals in his new column at the Foundation for Economic Education. He's more optimistic about this matter than I am, but his strategy is worth a try. There's some interesting discussion on misconceptions about economics at the comments section at Free Association. Commenter Larry Ruane touches on something I've noticed myself- the tendency of some people to think of the economy as if it were a command economy or a giant corporation, with the federal government as CEO. Worth a look.

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Upcoming science fiction

Some interesting science fiction releases coming up. From Baen Books this August, we've got two books I'm interested in. One is David Drake's Other Times Than Peace, a story collection I've been looking forward to for a while. (And I'll be looking forward to it for a while yet, alas, because hardcover just isn't in the budget.) Aside from "The Interrogation Team" and "A Grand Tour", these stories are all new to me. (And this is apparently a different version of "A Grand Tour.) Drake is one of my favorite living writers, so I'm looking forward to this one.

The other Baen book is The Trouble With Aliens, a collection if Christopher Anvil stories edited by Eric Flint. My experience of Anvil is limited to a previous Baen collection, Interstellar Patrol. I found the stories in that one to be hit-and-miss, but overall I liked it. There are several Baen collections of Anvil's work, if you're curious.

From Eos, we've got the upcoming paperback edition of Olympos by Dan Simmons. I'm looking forward to that, but I've got Ilium to read first.

I don't mean for these science fiction news posts to be so Baen-heavy, but unfortunately most publishers of science fiction have been woefully slow in getting a good online presence. Ironic, huh?

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Gene Healy at Cato-at-Liberty

Great post by Gene Healy at Cato-at-Liberty on the neoconservative mentality. Here's my favorite parts:

But the current squawking also strikes me as a useful reminder of how very, very important war is in the neoconservative vision. It is as central to that vision as peace is to the classical liberal vision... Who we’re fighting is secondary. That we’re fighting is the main thing.
Found the link at Unqualified Offerings. Have a look.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

I've found my niche!

In the last few hours, not one but two people have come to this site because they searched Google for the phrase "Daddy is the breadwinner." In fact, I am proud to say that I am, according to Google, the #2 site on the web for that phrase. It feels good to be recognized.

UPDATE: The Vader video has really taken off online, and I've dropped in the Google standings. Still, nice to have that moment in the sun.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ayn Rand Institute madness

Recently, the Ayn Rand Institute published this:

Results from a recent poll indicate that 77 percent of Palestinians support their government's kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and that 60 percent support the continued rocket fire from Gaza into Israel--this despite Israel's withdrawal of its troops and removal of its citizens from Gaza just a few months ago.

Israel should declare and wage war not only against the Palestinian leadership but also against the Palestinian people. The inevitable deaths of a few truly innocent Palestinians should not stop Israel from doing whatever it takes to eliminate its enemies; any deaths of innocents would be the moral responsibility not of Israel but of the guilty majority of Palestinians that seek to destroy it.

That's David Holcberg, a writer for the Institute. The Ayn Rand Institute has taken a rather cavalier attitude towards civilian casualties ever since 9/11, but to my knowledge this is the first time the Institute has sunk so low as to call for the deliberate attacks on civilian populations as an end in itself.

This is extremely depressing to me. Ayn Rand isn't the reason I became a libertarian- Friedrich Hayek got me started down that path when I was about 15 or 16, and from that point on it was basically an inevitability, because Hayek pointed me to Mises and Rothbard- but it was Rand who first radicalized me, who brought me to the idea that statism was not something to be trimmed here and there, but something that deserved to be torn out at the root. Seeing so many of her successors degenerate to this level is very, very sad.

Happily, there are some Objectivists out there who don't go along with this. A good antidote to the ARI's warmongering statism can be found at ARI Watch.

Hat tip to Sheldon Richman at Free Association.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

New article is up

I've got a new article up over at Strike the Root about the recent flag burning debate, and the quasi-religious mood that seems to surround it. Check it out. And if you're not familiar with Strike the Root, give the rest of it a good look too.

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Keeping America safe

Well, now we've started kidnapping foreign nationals to show we're tough on online gambling- even online gambling conducted by foreigners that takes place in countries where it's completely legal. After all, why limit your paternalism to your own country?

I eagerly look forward to the American reaction when an American citizen gets tossed in prison for violating European "hate speech" laws, or when Muslim countries start arresting American women for wearing trousers and going unveiled when they were back in America. Fair's fair, right?

Found this at The Agitator.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

More LRC stuff

Over at the Mutalist Blog, Kevin Carson has a great post on the Libertarian Reform Caucus, as well as some thoughts on libertarian strategy. Check it out.

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The last laugh

The great thing about the internet is the way you can just wonder from site to site, never quite sure of what you'll find. Case in point: Wikipedia's entry for "List of Unusual Deaths." My personal favorite is Sigurd, 1st Earl of Orkney, who actually managed to be killed by a fallen enemy's severed head. Not the way I want to go.

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Mass and niche culture

Great post by Jim Henley at Unqualified Offerings about the well-deserved death of "mass culture," which was inspired by this article by Marc Gunther. I have a few thoughts on the article as well, some of them inspired by Henley.

First, as commented on by Henley, it's worth noting that Gunther, in his lamentation of the decline of mass culture, seems oblivious (or indifferent) to the existence of people who never fit into that mass culture, the people it excluded. Most of my youthful experiences with "mass culture" consisted of being ridiculed and isolated for being outside of it, and I know I'm not alone. For someone who differs too much from the norm, the mass culture brings not unity and a sense of togetherness, but rather greater isolation and alienation. The spread of niche culture has done a great deal to alleviate this, and Gunther ignores this fact.

The other thing worth commenting on is Gunther's mourning of the decline of the mass media. To quote from his article:

I think the explosion of choice has left us poorer in at least two arenas. The first is journalism. (Yes, as a Fortune writer, I've got a stake in the health of the mainstream media, which bloggers call the MSM.) The network evening newscasts, big-city newspapers and the national news magazines once had the money, access, skills, commitment and power to deliver lots of original reporting and put important issues on the national agenda. Today, they are all diminished.

However much he may dress this up in public interest terms, this boils down to Marc Gunther bemoaning the fact that people like Marc Gunther aren't as powerful and important as they used to be, and that he and his fellows can no longer dominate public debate, and use that power to push their opinions on the public. (Which he euphemistically calls "put[ing] important issues on the national agenda.") I don't share some people's loathing of the diabolical "MSM" (mostly because I work for said MSM), but I still think it's a very good thing that our sources of information have been expanded beyond the Marc Gunther's of the world. I suspect he'd be thrilled if everyone got all their news from him and his corporate liberal fellows, but I can't say I would be. This leads up to another quote from the article, in which Gunther says:

The second arena where we are worse off is politics. This is related to journalism, as the moderate and responsible (okay, bland) voices of the MSM get drowned out by partisan, opinionated cableheads and bloggers.

Here we have a supposed dichotomy between the moderate, objective mass media and ideological, biased bloggers. The problem is that this presumes that the mainstream media is not biased towards a particular viewpoint, which is nonsense. Virtually every TV news report on social problems I have ever witnessed has an undercurrent of, "Clearly the state must do something." Any government propaganda or piece of junk science that can be spun to encourage greater statism is given center stage, and given the most alarmist spin possible. (Case in point, the way the mainstream media portrayed the recent Surgeon general's report on second-hand smoke. Demonstration of a slight health risk was spun as proof that the direst claims of the nanny statists were all true.)

Whether the media is biased to the left is a matter I won't touch, but it is certainly biased towards big government. Now, Gunther is probably not deliberately trying to deceive, here; he may be genuinely oblivious to the fact this does not constitute objective, unbiased news. This is one of the annoying things about many advocates of increased statism, especially liberals and "vital center" types; they consider their worldview so self-evident that they don't recognize that their ideology is, in fact, an ideology. If you've spent all your time soaking in a uniform "mass culture," I guess that's not surprising.
I realize this post may seem unduly harsh to some. Frankly, after hearing complaints like Gunther's over and over for so many years now, my tolerance for this sort of thing has worn thin.

If you just can't get enough about this subject, or you just want to hear about it from a better writer, Radley Balko has more.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

More thoughts on the Libertarian Reform Caucus

Okay, I've had some time to look at the Libertarian Reform Caucus page a bit more thoroughly, and I have some thoughts on it.

I think the underlying problem is that the reformers are mistaken as to what a libertarian political party is useful for at this particular point in history. The LRC places its political hopes in the idea of getting libertarian candidates elected in the near future. To quote from the FAQ:

Our premise is that many voters could support more incremental steps to roll back the State. We’re for smaller government -- across the board -- and feel very comfortable that that is a principled approach. More importantly, we believe that voters are ready for such an approach…now!

I'd like to share their optimism, but I don't buy this. I don't think any serious libertarian reform is going to be happening in that time frame, no matter what we do. My experience is that people talk about supporting freedom in the abstract, but quickly change their tune when concrete examples come up. The culture is too statist for any serious reform, and in that sort of climate the Libertarian Party is not going to be winning pluralities unless it ceases to be libertarian.

That doesn't, however, mean that all is lost, or that there is no useful work to be done for liberty. What we need more than anything else is education- letting people know we're out there, letting them know that an alternative exists. When the state screws things up, we'll be there to say, "I told you so. Here's something better." Having a Libertarian Party can be useful to this political education, because by putting up candidates and advertising them, it helps remind people that this alternative exists. Weakening the message weakens our ability to do that- change the Party to appeal to the majority of the American public circa 2006, and it ceases to be an alternative to the statist worldview. We will be offering only a slight modification of the status quo, not a serious change. That is not going to grab people's attention.

Case in point: the Iraq War. The new platform contains no strong stance against our involvement in Iraq and our attempts at "nation building," and thus misses an ideal "I told you so" opportunity that will exist as the public turns more and more against the war. This is an especially big loss, because my experience has been that the war issue has been especially powerful among young people. This is a golden opportunity to show them that left-wing statists like the Greens aren't the only principled enemies of war, and it's being squandered.

Another serious problem is that moderating the libertarian message will make it easier for non-libertarians to apply the label to themselves, thereby diluting the word and bringing real libertarians into disrepute. Imagine if every conservative statist and government-connected business interest starts calling himself "libertarian," because the word has been diluted to mean anyone who supports a few reductions in government here or there. Consider the damage already done by conservatives who dishonestly use libertarian rhetoric, and multiply that many times over. All the ills of the statist mixed economy would be laid at the feet of "libertarianism," and it will be all the harder for real libertarians to get the public to listen. We've already lost the word "liberal" to the statists; I don't want to lose "libertarian" as well.

I don't doubt the admirable intentions of the LRC. But I think their desire to grab a few quick tactical victories will lead to strategic defeat.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Thoughts on the recent Libertarian Party convention

I am not strongly interested in electoral politics. I have not voted in an election for any level of government since the 2000 election (when I voted for Browne), though I do not take the hard-line Voluntaryist position that voting is always wrong. That said, I have a few thoughts on the recent controversy concerning the Party convention in Portland:

1. I agree with the idea of eliminating the Pledge. I agree that it is potentially off-putting to minarchists and libertarian sympathizers, without any compensating benefits.

2. The decision to weaken the antiwar plank, and the failure to come out strongly against involvement in Iraq is a huge mistake, not merely as a matter of principle but on purely pragmatic grounds. This is ironic: the Libertarian Reform Caucus, the group largely behind the toning down of the platform, bases its arguments on the idea that the Party must dilute itself to appeal to a larger portion of the electorate. The war, however, is one of the few issues where the majority is actually on our side, or at least moving in that direction. LRC supporters vehemently deny being crypto-Republicans, and I'm sure most of them are sincere, but this is the sort of thing that makes people suspicious.

I'll probably have more about this when I've had more time to peruse the Libertarian Reform Caucus homepage. Stay tuned. The website Boston Tea Party has more stuff on this topic, as does the personal site of its founder, Thomas Knapp.

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"Daddy is the breadwinner..."

Check out this Youtube video. That's all I have to say.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Classic science fiction

Just found out from checking the schedule on the Baen Books homepage that Baen will be republishing some of the work of Cordwainer Smith and A. E. van Vogt, both great authors. Baen has been bringing classic science fiction back into print for several years now- I owe my love of Murray Leinster and Keith Laumer to them. Hopefully, some people will discover Smith and van Vogt in the same way.

My first exposure to van Vogt was, appropriately enough, in the Baen collection Give Me Liberty- I had never even heard of him before that. I was then able to acquire a few of his books from my local used book store. My first exposure to Smith was finding his only novel Norstrilia at the same bookstore. I bought it on the strength of various descriptions of Cordwainer Smith, and ended up loving it.

The van Vogt book consists of one novel and group of stories published in Astounding Science Fiction. The contents of the Smith book aren't listed- though Smith's total body of work is fairly small, so they probably cram a good percentage in if they want- these Baen collections usually don't skimp on length. If the first book sells well enough to justify a follow up, they could probably get his entire body of work available in two books. Now, what I'd really like to see is some more Poul Anderson…

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And so it begins...

Hello, and welcome to The Superfluous Man. The blog is named after a newspaper column I did in college, which was in turn named after one of my favorite books Albert Jay Nock's Memoirs of A Superfluous Man. The blog will be mostly about politics (I'm a libertarian, on the disreputable anarchocapitalist lunatic fringe) but with some fun stuff too, centering on my various nerdly interests- science fiction, bad movies, fine liquors, cheap liquors, video games, weird news and so on and so forth. Stick around.

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