The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Site Almost Complete

Just about done with the new site. I think it's lookin' pretty good, if I do say so myself. Check it out:

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Site Changes and Happy Thanksgiving

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving whether you're an American or not and whether or not this is a holiday for you. It's a day of giving thanks (a harvest holiday) and this is the day that most of us in the U.S. celebrate it. So have a good one, even if you aren't having one. :)

Next, the site. I've promised updates and they're about to come. Special thanks to Kent McManigal for his donation and to David B. for his as well. Between them, there is enough to cover most of the costs involved right off the bat. I'm just going out of pocket for the rest.

Starting probably sometime today, the domain will move, though this blog will stay intact. I'll post here to update you on what's happening over the weekend once or twice, but the real changes will not be on Blogger here, they will be on the new setup at the .org address. That will become the new location for the site and blog.

I will import all of the posts from here to the new location, build the site around that, and slowly but surely put the whole thing together. I plan to have it ready to go before December 1, doing most of the work this weekend.

To reiterate, if you are an RSS subscriber, you shouldn't see an interruption in your feed as it's through Feedburner and I can transport that to the new location.

So Happy Thanksgiving and see you on the other side of the new Militant Libertarian!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Inconsistent Conservatives and Progressives

by Sheldon Richman

Listening to the leading voices of conservatism and progressivism, one gets the feeling they are not quite listening to themselves. On any given day you are likely to hear each side make arguments against the other that fully apply to itself in some area of public policy.

Progressives, for example, tend to be critical (though imperfectly so) of the military side of government. They approach all claims in favor of militarism, invasion, and occupation with a healthy skepticism. To their credit, they understand that government’s national-security apparatus is a blunt instrument with a comparative advantage in violence and destruction. Television commentators, such as Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, have expressed disappointment that President Obama has not moved more firmly to reverse the military and intelligence policies of George W. Bush.

Similarly, the progressives scrutinize every government activity in the national-security area that has any potential to impinge on civil liberties, including those of so-called illegal immigrants. Nothing raises their ire like government surveillance and heavy-handed police activity. They are also the first to protest when government interferes with free speech and the freedom to assemble.

On the other side, conservatives tend to be critical (if imperfectly so) of government interference with people’s property and economic activities. A proposal to raise taxes or spending, or a seizure of land under eminent domain, is sure to bring an outcry from that side of the political spectrum. The leading conservative media personalities, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, have been relentless critics of President Obama’s effort to have government further control the medical and medical-insurance industries. Not only do they emphasize the huge expense and growing debt that any such overhaul would require; they also argue that our rights to privacy and free choice would inevitably be subordinated to bureaucratic directives.

The problem is that conservatives and progressives fail to see that their arguments can legitimately be applied to government activity across the board, including activities they like. If each side were consistent, it would oppose many things it now favors.

Conservatives, for example, fail to see how their property, privacy, and fiscal concerns apply to national-security policy. The U.S. government cannot assume the role of world policeman without heavy taxation and borrowing; without distorting the civilian economy; and without relaxing the safeguards on civil liberties.

Similarly, most conservatives enthusiastically support “the drug war” and “energy independence,” although virtually every argument they use against the health-care grab and other economic intervention applies to those government objectives.

The progressives are no more consistent. Why are political thinkers who are so concerned about government intrusion by the CIA and FBI so unconcerned about intrusion by Health and Human Services? Why are they so willing to trust bureaucrats with lowering the country’s medical bill when that is an open invitation to rationing and other controls? Why do they generally object to big institutions’ pushing individuals around — but favor forcing people to buy government-defined medical insurance? And why do they ridicule as paranoid anyone concerned about empowering bureaucrats to second-guess doctors and patients? Is that any more paranoid than worrying about what the CIA and the National Security Agency are up to?

The fact is, by the standard of individual autonomy and freedom both kinds of activity should inspire wariness and fierce opposition. As bureaucracy grows, freedom shrinks. It makes little difference whether the bureaucracy is fighting an ill-defined open-ended “war on terror” or taking control of the medical industry. There are grave perils to liberty in both missions.

As George Washington is reputed to have acknowledged, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force.” More often than not, that force is wielded by agents of the U.S. government against innocent people at home and abroad. The drug war is an example. So is the occupation of Afghanistan and other superpower activities. So is eminent domain. And so is government orchestration of the practice of medicine.

Unlike their political opponents, libertarians (the original liberals) see the need to apply their political-moral principles consistently, to all government actions. Why don’t the conservatives and progressives?

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Government Is Good, Don’cha Know

by William L. Anderson

After years of writing about how governments abuse, murder, and imprison innocent people and destroy life around the world, I find that I have been wrong, really wrong. All this time, I wrongfully tried to convince readers that terrible things are done in the name of “good government,” and now I have to apologize to them.

Why this turnaround? I have seen the light. Government is good, yes, very, very good. How do I know this? Why Douglas J. Amy, a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts (an island of True Political Correctness in America’s Most Politically-Correct State) has opened a world of Truth and Beauty to me with his website, Government Is Good.

You see, until I read this wonderful site praising the Great Accomplishments and Missions of Government (or at least government when run by the Democratic Party), I had no idea that government constantly did wonderful things for me. I was ungrateful, but no more!

For example, did you know that if it were not for government, your house would burn down if you turned on the lights, as those wicked, profit-seeking homebuilders and electricians would wire your house in a sloppy manner that immediately would start a conflagration that would kill you and your family? (As I read this site, I realize that the world is divided into two kinds of people. The first category includes those who run private businesses in order to cheat and kill you, and the second category includes those selfless government workers who tirelessly labor to keep those other evil people from harming you.)

Now, let me deal with one of the complaints that libertarians falsely have made against the wonders and greatness of government: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is heavy-handed and abusive. Why, even as I write this article (on Saturday, November 14), I see that there is a terrible piece on this website that dares question our government masters who simply are protecting us from the predations of private enterprise.

If it were not for those wonderful TSA people, airlines would practically invite terrorists onto passenger aircraft and all of our cities would lay in ruins as plane after plane would be crashing into them, BECAUSE THIS IS THE GOAL OF THE PRIVATE AIRLINES: KILL ALL THEIR PASSENGERS. How do I know this is true? Professor Amy has told me.

Now, wait a minute, you say. What about our rights? Doesn’t the Declaration of Independence say that the role of government is to protect those rights that we already own by virtue of our human existence? Oh, silly you. Professor Amy is much more on target:

We often make the mistake of seeing our rights and civil liberties as merely the absence of some kind of governmental action. We believe that we have free speech or freedom of religion when the government does nothing to impede those freedoms. But in reality, our rights depend heavily on active government – on positive government actions. In fact, the very existence of rights depends on government. Rights and civil liberties are actually political constructs – creations of government. Rights do not exist until they are created by law or established in a constitution. We only have the right of free speech because it is guaranteed in our constitution. If we didn’t have our constitution, or if we didn’t have government, our civil liberties would literally not exist. (Emphasis mine) In the preamble of the Constitution, the founding fathers did not say that in order to “secure liberty for ourselves and our posterity” they were going to abolish government; they said that they were going to “ordain and establish” a democratic constitutional government to do so. They knew, as Benjamin Barber has explained, that “in democracies, representative institutions do not steal our liberties from us, they are the precious medium through which we secure our liberties."

Yes, before the establishment of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, no one had rights. Furthermore, those colonials who believed in things like liberty and the absence of tyranny were all wet. They didn’t have any rights because government had not established them. So THERE, readers of this page! Bet you have not even thought of this timeless truth!

As I read through this wonderful website, I find it is a treasure trove of Truth and Beauty, as I go through declaration after declaration in which we are told that taxes are what secure our freedom, that high taxes are preferable to low taxes, and bureaucracy is pure (when Democrats run it) and much more freedom-loving than those old private companies.

Professor Amy gives many wonderful examples that we should heed, and I will present a few. The first deals with the present economic crisis that occurred because private enterprise – working without any government regulatory oversight – created this recession that never would have happened had government been fully in charge of our economy. You see, the Federal Reserve System operates to protect the rest of us from the ravages of private enterprise, and when the government forced lending institutions to reduce their underwriting standards, government was not being foolish and reckless; oh, no, it was protecting its citizens from those mean and nasty arbitrary standards that those wicked people in private enterprise lay upon us.

(You see, companies only profit when they kill or maim their customers, or put prices so high that they cannot sell many of their goods. It is government that provides our goods for free because government is so far-seeing and so wise that it knows how to take scarce goods the turn them into free goods without causing any economic dislocations. After all, everyone who believes in the wonder and goodness of government knows that the Law of Scarcity was made up by evil people who think government is bad.)

This past week, people celebrated the 20th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall. Yet, few people know the truth as to why communism, and especially the Soviet Union, collapsed. That is why you, dear reader, must read Government Is Good, for Professor Amy has the answer to that question, too.

Why did the U.S.S.R. go the way of the Assyrian Empire? Let the good professor explain:

…our rights depend heavily on an active and well-funded government. When governments find themselves in a position where they can’t effectively tax and spend as has sometimes been the case in countries in the former Soviet Union citizen rights and liberties become unenforceable and largely non-existent.

I had no idea that the real reason that Stalin murdered millions of people and enslaved hundreds of millions more was because he and his minions could not “effectively tax and spend.” Oh, if only, IF ONLY the leadership of the Soviet government could have found this website or hired this great professor as a consultant, THE U.S.S.R. COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED, AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A BEACON OF GOOD GOVERNMENT AND LIBERTY FOR THE ENTIRE WORLD. Hooda thunkit?

Therefore, dear readers, you must abandon this antiquated notion that the state is the enemy of liberty. Indeed, those who heap calumny upon the agents of the state are guilty of promoting false and evil doctrines. Thus, to gain a true education, you must read, nay absorb, Government Is Good.

As you read through this site (which, admittedly, takes a long, long time, as Professor Amy is quite prolific in his writings that lay praise upon praise upon the state) you will find many wonderful truths. You will discover that Ludwig von Mises was absolutely wrong in his views on bureaucracy because Professor Amy knows that bureaucracy is an efficient and compassionate servant of a mostly-ungrateful populace. You also will discover that you need to pay more taxes – lest our fate be that of the U.S.S.R.

Furthermore, you will find that one of the Great Prophets of our time is Paul Krugman. (He does not mention Ron Paul, but I am sure that the Good Professor believes that Rep. Paul is a very bad man who is harming the Cause of Good Government because, as we already know, Government Is Good.)

Should you continue to explore this wonderful site, you will find that capitalism itself “needs government.” If you read this section, you will find that the reason serfdom existed in the Middle Ages was because there was not enough government. You also will find that private enterprise cannot survive without government because government money is sound and wonderful, not like that dishonest private money that used to exist.

(The one thing that puzzles me, however, is why the Good Professor does not deal with what seems to be the obvious question: If government is so good and so efficient and so kind and gentle, then why do we need private enterprise and private property at all? I’m not sure as to why he has failed to make the obvious connection, but maybe he wants to humor us or let us go slowly into socialism so that when we finally discover the error of our ways, we won’t be in despair because we had wasted so much of our lives.)

I could go on and on, but I won’t. My article, unfortunately, will not convince many readers of this blog and other libertarians to change their evil ways and embrace the state. No, they will continue to believe the falsehood that the U.S.S.R. collapsed because economic calculation under socialism is impossible and not the truth, according to the Good Professor, that the Land of Lenin and Stalin could not “effectively tax and spend.”

So, there you have it. Government Is Good, and if you don’t believe it, then perhaps you need to face the same fate as befell David Koresh and Vickie Weaver, who got what was coming to them because they didn’t believe that Government Is Good.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CRU Files Betray Climate Alarmists' Funding Hypocrisy

by Marc Sheppard

It seems that while scientists who accept funding from oil companies are branded as bought-and-paid-for shills, those financed by renewable energy interests remain unchallenged authorities in their fields. Words can’t adequately express my astonishment.

Amid the thousands of files apparently lifted from Britain’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) last week sit two documents on the subject of the unit’s funding. One is a spreadsheet (pdj_grant_since1990.xls) logging the various grants CRU chief P.D. Jones has received since 1990. It lists 55 such endowments from agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of Energy to NATO, worth a total of £13,718,547, or approximately $22.6 million. I guess cooking climate data can be an expensive habit, particularly for an oft-quoted and highly exalted U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) chief climatologist.

But it’s actually the second document (potential-funding.doc) that tells the more compelling tale. In addition to four government sources of potential CRU funding, it lists an equal number of "energy agencies" they might put the bite on. Three -- the Carbon Trust, the Northern Energy Initiative, and the Energy Saving Trust -- are U.K.-based consultancy and funding specialists promoting "new energy" technologies with the goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The fourth -- Renewables North West -- is an American company promoting the expansion of solar, wind, and geothermal energy in the Pacific Northwest.

Needless to say, all four of these CRU "potential funding sources" have an undeniably intrinsic financial interest in the promotion of the carbochondriacal reports CRU is ready, willing, and able to dish out ostensibly on demand. And equally obvious, Jones is all too aware that a renewable energy-funded CRU will remain the world’s premiere authority on the subject of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) despite any appearance of conflict.

And yet, no such latitude has ever been extended to scientists in the skeptical camp.

For instance, when MIT’s Richard Lindzen delivers one of his trademark brilliant presentations leading to the conclusion that climate sensitivity for a doubling of CO2 is about 0.5°C, not the 1.5°-5°C predicted by IPCC models, all we hear from alarmists and complicit media types is that the professor once charged oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services and is therefore an unreliable big-oil hack.

Or when S. Fred Singer challenges the IPCC to explain whether water vapor and clouds represent positive or negative feedback, or stands before a graph depicting temperatures decreasing over the past ten years while CO2 climbed and declares that “the relationship is meaningless,” his words are similarly dismissed based solely on the fact that he has received funding from ExxonMobil.

Let’s set aside the fact that Lindzen had actually accepted a total of $10,000 in expenses and expert witness fees from such interests on the day he ceased such activities two decades ago. And that Singer has received only $20,000 from ExxonMobil. And that alarmists outfund climate by several orders of magnitude, which leads to the artificial expansion of the number of scientists who appear to support alarmist views. And even that monies paid to either side of the debate have zero impact on the science of whether or not 20th-century warming was caused or is exacerbated by man-made CO2 emissions. And don’t get me started on carbon-millionaire Al Gore.

The issue is this: Just how is it that funding from renewable energy interests evades charges of bias, yet subsidies from traditional power entities scream bloody conflict when each is equally friendly to the recipient’s cause?

As with all things AGW, the alarmist quick-draw canard that the science is settled but for a few outliers in the fossil fuel industry's pockets is quickly losing whatever civic support it may have had. And the scientific subterfuge exposed last week by the CRU emails and documents represents but the latest of many recent outrages sure to accelerate the ongoing public awakening to the hoax that has been perpetrated upon them.

In the broader scheme, the credibility blow the IPCC will likely suffer from its top acolytes -- senior authors and editors -- bandying data-manipulation-revealing e-mails will weaken and perhaps ultimately break the AGW orthodoxy spine erected by its politically-charged assessments. And that can only serve to further declaw their fellow alarmists and media minions -- which of course would be nothing short of stupendous.

For as Lord Christopher Monckton emphasized in his rousing speech to close the second International Conference on Climate Change in New York City last March:
There is no climate crisis. There was no climate crisis. There will be no climate crisis.

And it has become abundantly clear that it is not, nor was it ever, the AGW skeptics who were the liers. Or the cheaters.

Or the bought-and-paid-for hypocrites.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

What Government Really Is!

Freedom Shenanigans & High Jinks

It really isn't an old joke;
"Why doesn't government like organized crime?" "Because it hates competition!"

It is the truth.

Most governments use the fraud of the sanctity of Law to support the illusion of majority rule while a noncompetitive minority makes decisions sans any actual majority input other than an occasional ballot whose outcome may or may not be prearranged. Furthermore, government routinely tries to monopolize everything it can by coercion. Therefore, ANY government that does not allow and protect voluntary disassociation is a violence based protection racket no different than the "organized crime" that it sanctimoniously excoriates.

From John Robb's Global Guerrillas
Diving into military theory (again).
A core dynamic behind the emergence of the nation-state was it's ability to run a successful protection business (aka racket). A system that has been growing since the treaties of Westphalia in the 1600s. The protection business is relatively simple:

It is a monopoly. It has exclusive ownership over the use of violence. As a monopoly, it must crush all internal competitors.
It defends its monopoly from outside interests -- as in warfare with nation-state and non-state competitors.
It charges the customers (individuals and businesses) within its geographical areas of control for this service. This isn't optional. Customers presumably benefit from this protection.
Historically Successful Protection Rackets

So what made the nation-state formula for protection so superior to its competitors during its ascent over the last 400 years? It's simple. It delivered value to its customers. Let's dive into this with a paper by Charles Tilly (War Making and State Making as Organized Crime). He cites the economic historian Frederic Lane's simple formula for success:

The protection monopoly must generate tributes in excess of the costs necessary to maintain it's monopoly.

The protection monopoly must generate protection rents for its customers. The amount the customers benefit gain from the protection of their interests less the amount they pay for it.

Both tributes and protection rents must be positive for long term success. Further, the nation-state that minimized protection tributes in favor of maximizing protection rents grew the fastest (historically, that was partly accomplished through economies of scale).

The Status of Modern Protection Rackets

The protection formula broke down in the latter half of the 20th Century as the nation-state became more complex. Key elements of this breakdown include:

First, the advent of nuclear weapons made full scale war impossible (van Creveld).
Second, the emergence of a global marketplace with global property rights meant that the commercial interests of the nation-state's remaining customers became more powerful than nation-state's interests. This restricted/limited warfare even more.

The result has been a slow unraveling of the nation-state's ability to maintain it's monopoly over violence (and much more) within and outside its geographical borders. This has created a gap in protection at the local level into which small violent groups are now quickly converging. Finally, there is additional evidence that the economies of scale that drove the growth of earlier protection monopolies has broken down.

What this Means

It's likely that small groups that emerge to seize local control (as in, create a TAZ), will eventually converge on the successful protection model (delineated above). In fact, we have already seen this shift with groups as diverse in origin as the Sendero Luminoso to the Taliban to the Zetas to MEND. These groups will be successful in so far as they:
Stay decentralized and cooperative (re: opposition to the state) to ensure protection efficiency. There are few economies of scale in this environment given the leverage offered by globalization and the presence of legacy nation-states as barriers to growth.

Generate positive protection rents for their customers. Deliver value. Protection monopolies that expand into the core businesses of its customers will become vulnerable and inefficient. Expand the business interests of customers by eliminating competition when possible and ensuring market access. Charge competitive rates and not monopoly rents (sufficient tribute but not excessive).

Diversify. To maximize potential tributes while still delivering accelerating protection rents to customers, a protection racket should expand its customer list.
This means extending protection from drug smuggling to generic smuggling (across the entire range of potential goods) to generic commercial activity (standard corporate and small business interests). Create a vibrant local commercial environment across the entire spectrum of potential activity.

NOTE: I think this is a nice expansion of the theoretical groundwork laid down in Brave New War, with the goal of laying out the entirely new framework for how 21st Century warfare will work. Of course, since I don't work for anybody exclusively, it is available to everybody. Use as you see fit.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Getting Closer to the New Look for MLib

I spent some more time fiddling with the CSS, building a logo (is anyone a logo designer? Email me) and improving the layout.

Here's what the test site looks like now:

The four "Friends" sites will basically be the site blog roll, rotating the little button ads for like-minded liberty sites. If you're currently on the blog roll (on the left-hand bar <<), you'll be there if I can possibly figure out how to get a graphic for you. If you have one that's square (in any size above 125x125), I can size it to fit and throw it in. That's helpful (hint, hint).

I have a lot of ideas and decisions to make before D-Day. I'm hoping to gather some time this weekend and begin the big change. Aiming for a launch of December 1 at latest. This tweaking I've been doing now will do a lot to cut down on the down-time for the site as I put it together.

When I move the test site to its new host, it will go live nearly immediately, so if you're interested in watching the progress in real time, you can sit and reload the page repeatedly and do so. Maybe send me an email and we'll open up a Facebook or Skype chat so you can see me make up new words as I screw things up in the process.

Still looking for donations to make this a dollar-neutral operation. I figure the blog's been building since I got serious about it in 2004 and has been running with the same layout since Day 1 before that. I was able to import all 2,200+ posts from Blogger to the new system. I wish I still had the stuff from when this blog was just a website on my server back in the day. Ahh well. Nobody read it anyway. :)

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