Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Statists distort libertarianism, Episode 4,367

Excellent post by Will Wilkinson on this embarrassing screed about libertarianism in The Weekly Standard.

The Weekly Standard article is a useful reminder of how little neocons have strayed from their roots- neoconservatism is still liberalism’s thuggish little brother. (Which would, I suppose, make “national greatness conservatism” liberalism’s juvenile delinquent nephew.) Despite appearing in a conservative publication, the article is an outstanding distillation of what standard liberal commentary on the subject of libertarianism is like: The idiotic oversimplifications and distortions of what economists believe, the insistence that having good-willed people in office is all that matters, the ridiculous pretense of having no ideology, the belief that depriving people of economic freedom is a purely technocratic question with no moral content, and underlying it all, the contempt for the idea of people seeking individual success and fulfillment instead of gloriously dissolving themselves in some collective moral crusade. Make the language a little more gender-inclusive, replace “McCain” with “Obama,” remove the disapproving reference to pornography, and throw in the word “compassion” a few times and you’ve got something your average Democrat would whole-heartedly endorse.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

I can't imagine why Robert Nozick never addressed these key issues

Man, when it’s not the demon spiders, it’s shit like this. I had two extremely vivid dreams last night.

In the first one, my house was being assailed by what I can only describe as “scorpion men.” Bipedal, more or less human features, but with hard and chtin-like skin. They had enormous stinger tails, and people stung by them turned into scorpion men too. There were a bunch of guys I had never seen before in the house with me, and they all ended up becoming scorpion men, at which point they turned on each other. They never went after me, for some reason; apparently I wasn’t deemed worthy of scorpion man-dom.

In the second dream, I was at a giant racetrack. All the presidential candidates of both parties were driving big, supercharged go carts around the track to determine who would become President. The dream included a bizarrely detailed explanation of how the starting positions of the racers was determined by the number of primaries each candidate had won, or something like that.

This raises some important questions, both personal and political.

1. What deep truths about my psyche does my “scorpion men” dream reveal? Does the apparent refusal of the scorpion men to assimilate me into their species stem from being ostracized by my peers when I was a child? Or was it, perhaps, a precognitive dream? In that case, what steps can we take to prepare society for the horrors of a scorpion man invasion? In what ways, if any, would a libertarian society be better equipped to battle the scorpion men than the government we have now?

2. Would replacing the Electoral College with a go cart race- and, possibly, replacing the entire system of representative governement with government officials selected by go cart racing- improve or degrade the quality of American governance? Would an anarchocapitalist system of competing defense and insurance agencies be more viable if go cart racing was used to mediate disputes between private defense firms?

3. Would your answers to any of the questions in part 2 change if, instead of human legislators, the government consisted of scorpion men (and scorpion women)?

4. Who would win in a fight between Spider-Man and a scorpion man? If the former, how many scorpion men would it take to bring Spidey down?

5. Bonus question for paleolibertarians: Should a peaceful scorpion man (assuming such creatures exist) be permitted to cross international boundaries in search of work?

If only Murray Rothbard had done more LSD, we’d already have some useful insights into this.

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New article

Now that I’m done alienating the cosmopolitan libertarians by accusing them of caring more about PC respectability than the carnage wrought by the warfare state, I can move on to dismaying the paleolibertarians by accusing immigration opponents of being unwitting abettors of the police state at home in my first article for The Libertarian Enterprise.

I can only suppose that some deep-seated problem with my self-esteem, no doubt rooted in my unhappy childhood, is suddenly driving me to alienate everyone around me. Coming soon: My downward spiral continues as I disgust the left-libertarians with my impassioned defense of Allan Pinkerton. Don’t miss it!

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Rapists and their enablers

Found this via Hit and Run.

In a summary of a study of the economics of prostitution in Chicago, we learn:

What's particularly interesting is the authors' section on bargaining and the law. They estimate that roughly 3 percent of all tricks performed by prostitutes who aren't working with pimps are freebies given to police to avoid arrest. In fact, prostitutes get officially arrested only once per 450 tricks or so, leading the authors to conclude that "a prostitute is more likely to have sex with a police officer than to get officially arrested by one."

Lovely. So, in addition to all the other fine things we get from our benevolent masters here in Chicagoland, we’ve got police on the prowl raping the most desperate members of society. (And don’t try to convince me that an interaction boiling down to “Have sex with me and I won’t haul you off to jail” is anything other than rape.)

No doubt the number of cops actually doing this is small. But, given how strong police omerta is, I’d be interested to know how many officers are aware of this and do nothing.

By all rights, I shouldn’t be shocked by this. State power preys upon the politically weak and socially despised, and it’s not as if prostitutes are in any position to fight back.

But wait, there’s more:

When freebies given to gang members are factored in, about one in 20 tricks go solely for protection and the "privilege" of plying their trade.

It would be interesting to find out just how many tricks that comes out to.

This is, of course, a direct result of prohibition pushing prostitutes underground, which makes them outside the law and thus much easier prey for predators. What’s a prostitute who’s been extorted for sex by a cop going to do, complain to the police? I suspect the illegality of it also makes it psychologically easier for a cop to do something like this. A man who would never dream of forcing himself on a law-abiding woman may be able to convince himself that a prostitute has it coming. Serves her right for breaking the law!

A large number of conservatives won’t give a shit, since 1) Who cares about whores?, 2) anyone who breaks the law deserves whatever they get, and 3) police are godlike beings beyond all moral judgment, and anyone who thinks a cop should be criticized for something as petty as rape is a dirty liberal and probably a traitor. The more sophisticated ones will expound on the need for establishing common moral truths and sending messages to young people, then politely avert their eyes from the price of their rectitude.

Respectable liberals, meanwhile, will profess great sorrow and concern, mumble something vague about more oversight of police, demand more tax money for welfare programs, and do nothing that might make a difference. What they won't do is suggest that the prohibition laws that make it so much easier for police and private-sector gangsters to engage in this kind of extortion be done away with.

And what will people who want to continue prohibition, and so continue this sort of abuse say? That legalizing prostitution would degrade the dignity of women. Better to be doomed to a life of violence and brutality than risk the greatest of all possible horrors, “commodification.” I’m sure all the women forced to service gangsters so they don’t wind up dead in an alley are grateful for your concern.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In which I succumb to the inevitable and write about Ron Paul

I haven’t talked about the Ron Paul candidacy here before, because it wasn’t something I had an especially strong opinion about either way; I feel neither the intense enthusiasm for him of the Mises Institute/ lewrockwell.com paleolibertarians nor the hostility of the Voluntaryist/ Agorist anti-voters or Reason/Cato “cosmopolitan” libertarians.. I’ve liked Paul for a long time, enough that I’d seriously consider breaking my eight-year nonvoting streak if he somehow got to the general election, but my natural inclination is not to get excited or hopeful about things, and that goes double for politics. I seriously doubt that he’s a racist; more to the point, I don’t think his policy views are racist. I’ve finally got some thoughts on it, mostly inspired by the recent revelations about the racist content of some of Paul’s newsletters.

I’ve never thought Paul had any chance of winning. His potential value is as an educational tool. If you don’t think he’s useful towards that end because of his stances on abortion and immigration, or you think the taint of racism on Paul will become associated with libertarianism as a whole, or you just think electoral politics are an inappropriate strategy in general, I’m fine with that. I certainly don’t think it’s some sort of libertarian litmus test, and I think it’s unfortunate that some Paul supporters have tried to turn it into that.

Likewise, I can understand “purist” libertarians who reject Paul because of the content of his newsletters, though I think that’s an overreaction. Racism is not logically incompatible with libertarianism, but it can be considered anti-libertarian in another sense- widespread racism would have a tendency to undermine support for libertarian values, in both individual minds and societies, by giving people an additional incentive to violate those values. Hating a group of people doesn’t make it impossible to support respecting and defending their rights, but it certainly makes it harder. So racism should not be a non-issue to libertarians, even though it is not in itself a rights violation that can be justly countered with force.

With all that said, a certain aspect of the recent uproar over the racist content of some of Paul’s old newsletters sticks in my craw. It’s actually not new, but the Paul affair has made me think about it more.

Specifically, it’s the way a lot of Paul’s libertarian detractors- and detractors of paleolibertarians in general- draw the boundaries of libertarian purity. Consider the war issue. The paleolibertarians, most obviously at the Mises Institute and lewrockwell.com, have been resolutely antiwar. On the other hand, outfits like Reason and the Cato Institute have no problem welcoming vocal hawks into their ranks. (Cato’s position was against the war, but they still had pro-war thinkers like Brink Lindsay among their ranks; Reason had no official line, if memory serves, but it likewise has had no problem having hawks on its staff...)

That’s not necessarily wrong. Brink Lindsay’s views on Iraq don’t mean that he has nothing of value to say on free trade. But, reading comments on many libertarian websites, many libertarians will accept warmongers, but seem to consider racists –even if they do not support racist laws- to be morally beyond the pale. Indeed, some would seem to expand that to anyone with conservative moral or cultural views. This is quite at odds with my interpretation of libertarianism. For instance, I think that supporting an aggressive war that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people is worse than having made or endorsed racist remarks 15 years ago, or for that matter today. But that’s just me. Then again, I’ve noticed that a lot of Paul’s (and paleolibertarianism’s) loudest detractors- Tom Palmer, Virginia Postrel, Timothy Sandefeur, Brink Lindsay- are or were themselves pro-war, so I shouldn’t be surprised that their values are not in line with my own.

Likewise, I think having and tolerating supporters of military aggression, mass murder, and the warfare state among us is a hell of lot more likely to corrupt or poison the libertarian movement as a whole than tolerating people who don’t want to live near blacks and think gays are going to go to Hell, however distasteful the latter group may be. Thus, I think the call to purge the paleolibertarians from the movement is ridiculous, even if the paleos really are the ogres that the “cosmopolitan” libertarians say they are. (Which I doubt.) I’m a big-tent sort, and I don’t think Sandefeur, Postrel, Lindsay, et al. should be drummed out of libertarianism, but if I had to choose I’d throw them over the side a hell of a lot faster than I would Han-Hermann Hoppe

However, I can understand people wanting to cut Paul loose for racism while continuing to accept war supporters on purely strategic grounds, and I’d have a lot more sympathy for the cosmopolitan libertarians if I thought that was all this was about. Electoral campaigns are tools, and there’s no shame in discarding one that’s broken. Racists are generally hated more than warmongers, so associating with the former looks worse than the latter. The revelations about Paul’s newsletters may well mean an end to Paul’s usefulness as a conveyor of libertarian ideas, though I’m hoping it doesn’t. The American public and (perhaps more importanatly) the respectable press and intelligentsia seem to consider saying nasty things about nonwhites to be much worse than advocating slaughtering them en masse. But I expected more sense from libertarians.

More thoughts on some related issues coming soon.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

New article

I've got a new article on police brutality, public indifference, and related phenomena up at Strike the Root.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

I'm going to take up snuff, just out of spite

Well, it’s come: the statewide Illinois smoking ban for bars and restaurants has gone into effect. Freedom and the right to private property are nothing compared to the power of the ever-stronger health fascists. I paid a visit to my usual bar on New Year’s Eve for one last cigar there. Henceforth, when I leave my home, I’ll be limited to doing one unhealthy thing at a time. I’ve already said what at length I think of the ban, its underlying ideology, and its proponents, so I won’t rehash that anymore in this post.

It makes me wonder what cops in Illinois charged with enforcing this are feeling. I’m sure most of them, or at least a lot of them, entered that line of work with dreams of heroism, of protecting innocent people from rapists, murderers, and the rest of society’s scum. It must be quite a downer to go from that dream to the reality of snooping around bars in the hope of catching someone lighting a cigarette.

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