The Lefty Libertarian

Political commentary from an askew angle.

The Usual Suspects!

Fellow Travellers
Doc Searls
The Road to Surfdom
Hot Buttered Death
ABuddhas Memes
New World Disorder
American Samizdat
Find the rest of us[g]

A Little Right
The Kolkata Libertarian
End The War On Freedom
Tara Sue for Congress!
Jennifer Medlock!
Heretical Ideas
And all the rest.[g]

A Little Left
Lean Left
Viridian Blog
David Grenier
Radio Free Albemuth

Raw Data

Way, Way Left[g]

The Aardvark Speaks
Wil Forbis

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Saturday, September 21, 2002
11:55 AM 
Coming next week: practical action.

I've finally crystalized out a plan which, I think, is viable in any part of the country, with almost no resources, to get people organized for greater freedom and liberty.

I'll be working out the detail as I go along, but the overall plan is simple: establish places within which liberty is respected and build out from there. I'll be trying the plan locally and letting you know the results.

the lefty libertarian. not all talk any more!

Friday, September 20, 2002
8:38 AM 
Continuing the Evils Of Government Ramble: The School Of The Americas. This is where the USA trains all of those South American Deathsquads you hear so very, very little about.

This thing has been running for about fifty years, through Republican and Democrat. None of our presidents has had the balls to close it down - not even Carter. The SOA has specialities like murdering labor organizers, torturing the families of dissidents and "disappearing" lefties of all persuasions.

Of course, nobody give a damn because their graduates have mainly been operating down south.

I don't think I need to dredge any more of this kind of dirt to the surface: by the time you realize that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor, the Top Brass wanted to blow people up in America and blame it on the Cubans, the CIA (probably) financed it's South American operations dealing crack in South Central and the US Government, through successive administrations, mounted guerilla wars in South America to prevent socialist governments coming to power you should realize the essential truth:

We live in a ruthless and efficient empire. Our political leaders believe only in power and war. They have no respect for the rights of people and behave well only in as far as they are forced to.

We are all vulnerable to our government, and the current administration is dragging us into war with Iraq for it's own reasons, not for our good, our safety or our welfare.

You should feel personally threatened by these developments: government holding American citizens in indefinite detention without trial, massive inconsistencies in the official story of the events of 9/11 and it's investigation, use of bioweapons (the anthrax letters) on US soil with the sender still at large and an administration which openly operates primarily for corporate benefit.

This affects all us personally. Whether you are American or not, our internal politics affect the entire world, and frankly we're in real danger of screwing up completely and dragging the peace and security of billions away for no reason except the lust for power and greed itself.

Thursday, September 19, 2002
11:33 PM 
So what does this boil down to? The so-called President is a crook. He's rotten, as are his cabinet. FDR knew about Pearl Harbor, Hitler burned down the Reichstag, Stalin murdered Trotsky.

Blood. History is a river of blood. Betrayal of the public trust, back stabbing, double dealing. The mafia help the US Govt. with special operations in Sicily and guarding the docks in New York, and twenty five years later we get the French Connection. Soliders get hooked on smack in 'Nam and end up running drugs out of the Goldern Triangle. The CIA may or may not have sold tonnes of crack cocaine in LA to fuel black ops in South America.

If we could keep track of half of what's really going on our there we'd be sick to our stomaches all the time.

So here's to ignorance. May it keep us sane through the coming years.

Here's my advice to all of you:

  1. Read just enough history to realize that politicians are evil and untrustworthy, and that folks who look like Ghandi or King usually end that way.
  2. Plan on insecurity. Understand that the generations who got drafted for WW2 and Viet Nam were just like you are today. Bright, cheerful people who came back minus a leg and strung out on morphine and worse, with blindingly new sexual diseases. War sucks and it's not going away.
  3. Hope. Hope like bastards that whatever shining thread keeps us alive through history never fails: that somehow, on average, life on earth keeps getting better for most of the people. Hope we continue to dodge bullets and that evil men spend most of thier energy on eachother and have little or none left to harm us.

These are rough, brutal times. You can't see the worst of it yet, but our system of government is hopelessly corroded. The rot must have spread very deep indeed that our Senators, Congressmen and Representatives allow a president who has suspended significant parts of the constitution (habeas corpus, for instance) to stay in power. They are in service to neither the Constitution nor the people, which means they either serve themselves or some other goal.

Think on this: what would an honest man do today if he (well, or she) were a Senator?

Given that nobody is doing that, you can draw your own conclusions. Let's hope they're just biding their time.

11:05 PM 
Another good historical example to throw on the table: Presidential foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor. What more can you say, really? Pretty solid evidence, but fifty years too late to cause a revolution in the way we manage power.

Don't mock conspiracy theorists: history is on their side.

4:25 PM 
FBI Informant LIVED with two of the hijackers.

More weigh behind the Bush let it happen on purpose allegations. Looks like that Herta fellow (see below) might know what he's talking about. For historical context, consider the Reichstag fire.
The exact sequence of events will never be known, but Nazi storm troopers under the direction of Göring were also involved in torching the place. They had befriended the arsonist and may have known or even encouraged him to burn the Reichstag that night. The storm troopers, led by SA leader Karl Ernst, used the underground tunnel that connected Göring's residence with the cellar in the Reichstag. They entered the building, scattered gasoline and incendiaries, then hurried back through the tunnel.

You may say "nobody in America would ever think of doing something like that". Well, would the Joint Chiefs of Staff do?

In Operation Northwoods the top brass proposed an extensive program of domestic terrorism on US soil to try and con Americans into invading Cuba. This isn't crypto-history; the documents are public. Here's a quote on the subject from ABC news:
America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

So, consider history before you think that these kinds of allegations against Bush are absurd. They may be wrong, but they are not absurd.

4:02 PM 
German Justice Minister Compares Bush To Hitler.
The regional Schwaebisches Tagblatt newspaper quoted German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's justice minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, as saying "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler used."

Here's the thing: here, comparing somebody to Hitler is usually a joke. In Germany to compare somebody to Hitler is a whole different thing. It's a whole other class of outrage.

11:47 AM 
Pragmatics of Digital Righs Management

DRM is a subclass of rights management in general: the technology changes the space in which the problem exists, but not the nature of the problem itself.

Let's take a look at another, very common, rights management problem: counterfeiting of currency.

Cash has to be hard to copy to be able to represent value.

When cash is not longer hard to copy, two things happen:

  1. cash becomes worthless for exchanges of value (paper bills == firelighters)
  2. exchanges of value now happen only through the banking system which is authenticated and clears all transactions in a centralized fashion.

Bitstrings are valuable as representations of artifacts like music.

When bitstrings are hard to copy they can hold value. Compact discs held value very well before the coming of CD burners and now they are essentially worthless.

As a type of bitstring becomes easy to copy we are see the collapse of that type of bitstrings' usefulness as device for exchanges of value. We see processes akin to the collapse of a cash system encountering widespread counterfeiting. Everybody has a copy of everything so nothing is valuable ("Global Napster").

Assuming that this is unacceptable to some people, there are two basic approaches which could be taken:

  1. Make bitstrings hard to copy (DRM style) which restores their ability to be used as carriers of value. We've seen a lot of action on this front.
  2. Take "cash" (unprotected bitstrings) out of circulation. We haven't seen this much discussed, but we're talking about building a system which would, effectively, be "banking" for data.

All exchanges of data would have to be authenticated and cleared by a rights management system, just like a wire transfer. This being, of course, the logical endpoint of content filtering at the network level. It is centralized banking for data.

A user would have an authenticated identity, an account - value would be deducted from the account and, in the event of some kind of rights management irregularity, police would come and deal with the problem. Just like they do if there are irregulities with your wire transfers, cheques or any other financial instrument. This how value is protected in the "real world" and it is irrational to ignore this possible outcome from the current chaos.

I feel like this analogy sheds some light on what is at stake and has the ability to really illuminate the civil rights aspects of DRM in it's network forms. The ability to purchase things anonymously with cash is very important from a civil liberties point of view: if you want to buy political literature, you may want there to be no authenticated record that you were the one who made the purchase.

If we end up with a rights management infrastructure which relies on hard identity information we are essentially wiring the reading and watching habits of the entire world directly into the panopticon. What ever you are watching, you are being watched watching.

This model also suggests that much of the technical work on digital cash could be re-applied to developing DRM systems which preserved the cash-like properties of the internet (anonymity, for example) while keeping copyright holders from trying to destroy the whole thing. Secure transactions to exchange value, without revealing the identity of a user except in a fraud situation.

Read about Chaum's digital cash work for some ideas about how such a system might work. Chaumian cash has the property that if a unit of cash is spent once, the transaction is anonymous. If fraud is comitted by spending the cash a second time, the transaction record from the first spend can be combined with the new transaction to reveal the identity of the person comitting fraud.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
9:29 PM 
Anybody with a sincere wish to change the world into a better place is your friend.

The real enemy of all political reformers is apathy and acceptance of misery. We all put up with things we should not all the time.

Anarchists, Libertarians and Communists all focus on different kinds of injustice, different kinds of wrong. All, in essence, try and formulate a solution to a different kind of suffering.

I think that there is a lot of common sense in the left: "holy shit, these inequalities in wealth are causing enormous, unnecessary suffering, this is just broken and we should fix it". There's a truth in the abuse and oppression which the anti-globalization people see: yes, corporations have union organizers murdered pretty fucking frequently, and Shell has made a horrible mess of Nigeria.

I also believe that left has failed. Even in it's new forms, as expressed by folks like Naomi Klein, it's short on real fundamental answers, thank god. We tried those answers: Stalin, Mao and Hitler (who was, let us not forget, a National Socialist). Sorry I keep harping on about those guys. You just can't believe how many people they killed.

But. And this is hard to hear if you're a Libertopian - it could have been us. Had our approach been tried, it could have failed miserably, cause untold suffering and killed more people than Communism ever did. I can't imagine exactly how, and that is really important. If we're serious about changing the world in any way it's important to be humble: we could be wrong, we will make mistakes, we may do more harm than good. And before our changes are implimented, we have no idea of what the end result may be.

Had Russia had a Libertarian revolution, perhaps the entire population would have ended up as slaves owned by Stalin. We just don't know, and you [know who you are!] should stop being so bloody cocky and superior! We do not have the answers!

Never trust anybody who is certain about politics.

So here's my main thought for the day: there's a lot of ideological antagonism between the left, the far left, the Libertarians (who are often far right), the other far right and the Anarchists who, frankly, are worthy of a lot more respect than they get.

We'd all be in much better shape if we stopped slinging shit at eachother and focussed on dealing with the real problems of the day: massive curtailment of civil liberties and a government that is marching into a war which nobody wants and which will mainly serve to profit the oil companies our so-called president represents.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is this: go and read something from an activist who's ideology you just can't fucking stand. If you're a lefty, try something libertarian or anarchist - hell, even something by a fundamentalist christian. If you're libertarian, go straight to the source: the Communist Party.

And anarchists? Something religious: try the Liberation Theology folk.

Try to connect to the core motivation of your fellow activists: see the suffering they see, and for a moment, try and see it as they see it. See the starving, the poor, the underpaid as the socialist sees them: robbed by the billionairs who feast on the labor of the millions and oppress them. See the governments as a libertarian sees them, fermenting war and enslaving entire populations to fuel their insane causes. If you're an anarchist, imagine the authoritarian religious leader trying to bring the people out of their chaos and confusion into peace, calm, obidience and certainty, into an age of reason.

Understand the other points of view. Even if you know that they are wrong, respect the suffering which they see. There are many different kinds of suffering and we each percieve a different kind as primary, as the most important kind of suffering, the one we must address.

Respect people who are trying to reduce human suffering. Many of us are dedicating our lives to our causes. None of us can prove that we are right, because suffering still exists. Either the experiment we propose is untried, or it has tried and failed, either due to fundamental flaws or experimental errors. We can't know, for sure, which.

Work on whatever angle you must, but stop harassing each other. Focus on the common enemy. The Judean People's Liberation Front.

10:17 AM 
Blogging Candidates

Tara Sue Grubb and Jennifer Medlock. In their own way the demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the Libertarian Party.

They're both young, relatively regular people. They talk about ideology and political philosophy, but haven't quite got the moves down. They're too honest to be good politicians.

But, for all that, I'd much rather have people like this in power, shooting their mouths off and making mistakes, than the folks we have now. Humbleness and closeness to the struggles of real life is a really important thing in a politician, and it's something our political system weeds out and destroys with ruthless efficiency.

9:38 AM 
Routes to Libertarianism #5: Direct Democracy
To my mind, this is the highest reason of all for Libertarianism.

Parlimentary democracy or republical government aggregate power in the hands of intermediaries: people we appoint to do the will of the people.

This may, once, have made perfect sense. But in an age of telecommunications, do we still need intermediaries to do our decision making for us?

Perhaps not. One approach to moving power out of the hands of the government and back into the hands of the people is libertarianism; simply reduce the power of the government and allow society to take over.

Not such a hard thing to see, right? Move power from the rulers to the ruled and allow them to live their lives as they will. In many ways this is the goal of all revolutionary or radical politics: freedom for the people.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002
5:09 PM 
Special bonus link Rebuilding America's Defences. A blisteringly imperialist defense review paper written by none other than Cheney, Wolfowitz and the rest of the shiney happy marauding gang.

Filled with plans for war with Iraq, "just as soon as we can".

Now, put this beside Halliburton (Cheney's company) trading with Iraq via subsidiaries and what do you see?

Plotting for war with Iraq on one hand, while selling them $73 million in oil production equipment with the other.

Rotten, rotten, rotten.

Governments will always be corruptible. We have to find an alternative before these people kill us, and electing a Democrat is not enough.

Vesting the kind of power that BushCo has in fallible individuals produces horrors. People working together can accomplish great things, but our current forms of government have created single points of failure. The USA has more of it's population in jail than any comparible country: seven times as many as England or Germany! Is that because Americans are more criminal? Seven times more criminal?

Or because we have an absurd "war on drugs" including the legality of Alchohol and Tobacco, which kill something like 350,000 people a year, but long jail sentences for marijuana, which has (in all of recorded history) killed 2 people total.

A handful of evil men can wage war on the world or slaughter their own people, and history has show us, the common people, to be unable to stop them most of the time. The citizens of Germany appointed Hitler, those of Russia had Lenin and then Stalin, and the Chinese, Mao.

We do not have wholesale slaughter, but we have massive incarceration, and our government just gave itself the power to hold American citizens, without charges, for as long as it sees fit on the whim of the Resident. FOR AS LONG AS IT LIKES WITHOUT A TRIAL .

Who cares what Jose Padilla did or did not do. He's an American, protected by our constitution and our laws, and our government has held him, without trial, access to a lawyer or a chance to tell his side of the story.

Tens of millions of Germans, Chinese and Russians were killed by their own governments, not counting those (conscripts) killed fighting in foreign wars.

The problem of the war of the state against the people is much larger than America and goes back in history as far as we have history and further still. I believe that we could see it here, that it may have already begun.

I am a libertarian because I do not trust the governments of the world not to slaugher their citizens and the citizens of the world through wars, both internal and external.

Libertarianism has problems: absolute property rights being the main one. But the promise it holds out to us is that we could have a society in which no person has the power to order the death of another.

Never mind the destruction of entire nations on the whim of a few corrupt men.

4:57 PM 
The hits just keep on coming: more on iraqi WMD capability, including a potential smallpox threat.Now, let me make this clear: I believe that the weapons inspectors got just about all of this crap. But if they missed one ten pound can of weaponized anthrax or botox, we could lose a city.

If they missed a single vial of smallpox, we could lose a million people in a month.

Ask yourselves this: why are we making war with Iraq before taking serious and hefty precautions to protect the public against these sorts of attacks? Where's the vaccination program? Training?

We're making out this is going to be some sort of walk in the park, and there is a significant chance that it is not. A lot of people could die, and a lot of them might be Americans.

I'm not suggesting some kind of "biowar detent", a replay of the "mutually assured distruction" strategy of the cold war.

I'm pointing to the incompetence of the administration. Don't make unnececessary wars against people who can wipe out your cities.

4:33 PM 
I just dug out this great article about the Iraqi biological warfare program (fixed link). It's pretty intense.

More on Smallpox from the Center for Disease Control and from the New York Times, The Demon in the Freezer (mirrored on Cryptome).

I think that, until we have much more fully developed plans to deal with bioterrorism, making war on Iraq is, in purely military terms, bloody stupid.

There is no way we are ready to handle a biological warfare event on America soil. When you can't defend your people, why make war?

Never mind telegraphing the punch for a year in advance, with regular leaks from the Whitehouse.

3:44 PM 
Routes to Libertarianism #4: The Terrors of Fascism and Communism
The catastrophic failures of fascist and communist governments - and by failures I mean the murder of tens of millions of people - are enough to derive libertarianism from almost immediately.

Assume that eventually all nations may drift into either Fascism or Communism. Not will but may - just as the Germans elected Hitler (counterpoint). Then proceed directly to anarchism, so there is no state to make war on the people ("the state will eventually always commmit democide! down with the state!").

From there try and figure out how to make a society work without a government controlling everything. One reasonable guess is Libertariaism. Another is anarchy.

Alternatively, keep lopping power away from the state until it is too small to hurt anybody. Either approach will do, both end up with a libertarian approach as one reasonable answer to the question of "how do we stop the state murdering it's people if a dictator arises".

Don't assume that it could not happen here either. If we were hit with biological warfare and one million americans died (that's a number from a Johns Hopkins study called Dark Winter), well....

We would probably see an American Fascism which would make the Third Reich look like a picnic.

This is the scenario which finally pushed me over the edge into Libertarianism. I think that, of the available political systems, it is the one which best protects against fascism and dictatorship.

That reason alone is enough.

11:34 AM 
Another reason I'm a libertarian: the democrats suck at opposing the Republicans and their predations.

Really. They should have been tearing the Bush administration a new asshole at least twice a week for the entire duration of the "presidency". Instead? Complicity and silence. They ought to be shot. By their own voters, for not doing their job of opposing the Republicans and standing up for their supporters, their voters and those they represent. A political system like this, with two parties essentially forming a political power cartel is bound to degenerate into cronyism and corruption, just as you would expect if there were only two telephone companies or two car companies.

With too little competition, all markets become corrupt.

(The "market" is really just a way of saying "choice" in my book, but that's one for another day)

10:20 AM 
More de Soto, this time on the history of the USA and property rights for the poor.

By 1830, the 13 original states were 24, including seven in the West whose representatives in Washington were fully committed to policies favoring the squatters.


The American experience is very much like what is going on today in the Third World and the formerly communist countries: The official law has not been able to keep up with popular initiative, and government has lost control. Third Worlders are organized in modern-day claim clubs, and their governments have begun to give them preemption rights.


What they have not done is craft a formal legal system that recognizes those multitudes’ property rights and lets them create capital. In other words, they have not learned the lessons of U.S. history. Until they do, they’ll remain citadels of dead capital.

You can have a brain and a heart.

10:15 AM 
A political note: you've been seeing a lot more lefty than libertarian in the last few posts.

Rest assured that normal service will soon be resumed.

Carry on!\

10:00 AM 
Reason has a fantastic interview with de Soto.

Hernando de Soto is a Peruvian "field economist" who's done amazing, amazing work on figureing out why Capitialism doesn't work very well for poor people the world over. I don't mean "doesn't work" as in "sweatshops by Nike".

One can argue that the "shitty conditions" part of captialism just has to be endured until there is enough of a middle class to kick the ass of those who own places like this and get some labor regulations passed. I have serious concerns about places like this existing for ever because the wealth they generate is exported to the first world, rather than being kept locally and spent locally as it was in, say, England when it was industrializing. When the owners and the workers live within walking distance of eachother I think that fair division of profit is much more likely than when they are on different continents divided by large armys.

But back to the thread! What I mean by "doesn't work" is "can't quite get a local produce market working" and "can't quite figure out how to get business started to improve our lot".

It's very interesting when compared to Microcredit - an aid institution which organizes very small loans for poor people to buy tools to earn a living. Worth noting, though, that there are other opinions on why the microcredit system works. More on microfinance:[g].

This, to my mind, is effective aid. Not nearly effective as getting our boot off the throat of the world, but it's a start.

9:33 AM 
An Objectivist bashes libertarianism very effectively.

This is really worth a read. It fleshes out the fundamental problems with pure libertarian though very well and very quickly.

This is why I'm a lefty libertarian.

8:43 AM 
Routes to Libertarianism #3: Fundamental Rights
If you argue that all group rights arise from the aggregation of individual rights (i.e. that, for example, the right to self determination of a nation is an aggregate of the right to self determination of it's people), and you focus hard on what is essential, textbook libertarian thinking is a natural result.

It is not the only result: Marxism can be derived at by an equivalent process.

If you start with "freedom to" - to act, to think, to speak, to trade, to profit - freedom to do as you wish, then Libertarianism results.

If you start with "freedom from" - from hunger, from thirst, from disease, from poverty, from want - then Marxism results.

Where does anarchy fit in? From these same axioms you can derive anarchy too. It's the questions of "how are free people to live in peace?" that separate libertarians from anarchists. Libertarians say "by property rights and contract law" (i.e. "good fences make good neighbours"), and anarchists essentially say "by good will" (i.e. "if none are oppressed, why would there be strife?").

I suspect that, in practice, a libertarian way of life could quickly and rapidly be replaced by an anarchy if the need arose, if, for example, the "despotism of the wealthy" came to pass.....

It's a comforting thought ;-). Nothing in the libertarian agenda removes the origins of class struggle: people with more wealth and power mistreating those with less. Some say it evens up the playing field, but that all comes down to precise details of implimentation.

Me? I'm anti-libertopian. I think we need much more time to test how the libertarian system works, in practice, before we go lording it over other political ideas and saying "no, no, we're the only ones who are right!!!!". There was a time when a lot of radical intellectuals, very smart people, thought that global socialism was an inevitibility[g], once socialism had been made an explicit option. Some people believe it still.

A lot of people say the same things (in the same tone of voice, fer gods' sake - yes, plural!) about Libertarianism. Me? I'm not so sure. By all means, let's impliment some of the stuff closest to hand (emptying the jails of people convicted of victimless crimes, for a start) and see how it works out.

It's all a great experiment, and don't let party zelots convince you otherwise!

Monday, September 16, 2002
8:48 PM 
Routes to Libertarianism #2: Greed
"This stuff is my stuff, this stuff is my stuff,
because I made it, can't make me share it!
I'm making more stuff, 'cos I'm free to keep it,
this stuff was all made just for me!" (profound appologies to Woody Guthrie)

You can arrive at the libertarian conclusion by greed: in what political system can you maximize your wealth? Libertarianism will let you try anything to make a buck! What's more, the sworn aim of the philosophy is to minimize taxation as far as possible, preferably phasing it out entirely in favor of charging for services.

If you are motivated by greed, we've got what you need. But this is not an indictment of the system: people have always been motivated by greed. Having a political system which is designed to accept greed and channel it in directions which do not interfere with the liberties of other people may be distinct progress.

One reason that socialism and communism produced such distorted societies is because they left no healthy outlet for greed. Just as sexuality sours into poision if not allowed healthy expression, I think the human desire for personal gain has healthy and unhealthy aspects.

Best to give the people who are motivated by greed some sort out outlet which won't interfere too badly with the lives of other people - better a business man motivated by greed than a politician or a priest or a beaurcrat, I'd say.

7:28 PM 
Routes to Libertarianism
There are many reasons why individuals might wish to vest as little power as possible in thier government.

Over the next day or two I want to write a little about how people get to be libertarian, and a little later in the week about how those different agendas change what we mean when we say the word.

A lot of people equate all libertarians with the "randroids"[g] - people slavishly devoted to a theology of individualism. I have nothing against that belief system (any more than I object to any religious system ;->) but I want to say: there are more reasons for being a libertarian than a deification of the self!

The libertarian framework can arise from clear vision and a great desire for all beings to be happy: it does not have to be a selfish, nor a self-serving philosophy. Nor is it incompatible with spirituality.

("then I mentioned I'm religious, and there was nobody left to offend")

Still, for the sake of realism, let's get the ugly stuff out of the way first, shall we?

Routes to Libertarianism #1: Solipsism
If your primary focus is on your self and you map out your interactions with the world from an assumption that your experience is primary (much, it must be said, as small children do), Libertarianism is one natural result. That is can be reached from such a primitive approach does not deprive the schema of integrity: communism and democracy can both be reached from simple impulses (the desire for everybody to have the same, and the desire for everybody to choose what to do together).

Indeed, "what is the most childish impulse which gives rise to this philosophy" is a good analytical tool. For Libertarians, the simplest impulse is (in my opinion), the desire of a small boy to run around in the world doing what he feels like and exploring.

Not a bad position to construct a political system from, I'd say. I'd rather have a philosophy based on the adventurousness of small children than on the hostility of the overbearing father.

4:07 PM 
The question at hand is "is indefinite copyright constitutional?" The case is Eldred Vs. Ashcroft. Our Champion at Law is Lawrence Lessig (who happens to have a blog).

If we win this case, everything from about 1974 onwards falling into the public domain.


Suddenly there is content for broadband! Suddenly there is an enormous public archive to serve peer-to-peer. Suddenly the public will have won out over special interest groups. Suddenly it will seem like the constitution is good for something!

Seriously. This one is incredibly, incredibly important. do what you can to help.

3:56 PM 
While I'm on an art kick, Carl Steadman was a genius once.

3:46 PM 
This is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen on the web.

I recently discovered that the artist's life was intertwined with that of one of my favorite web authors. If you like magic and mysticism, and tales from the high frontier, read the story[g]

1:11 PM 
Why even bother with the left?

I've really been wrestling with this recently: the pure libertarian philosophy of "fuck you if you can't keep up" is so philosophically simple and elegant - clear principles resulting in a clear politics.

The problem is that, like all simple solutions to complex problems, it operates by destroying the problem and then solving the ashes. The hard problems in society are not "what to do about the healthy, prosperous people in peace time". Everybody can handle that one.

The problem is, what about the sick and the poor? What about famine and war?

The left has a big problem [g] a hundred million dead people. But the right has a worse problem: 8 million people a year starve to death.

Somewhere, between these two extremes, lies the path of peace and prosperity.

11:44 AM 
Welcome to my new blog.

I'll be trying to present a libertarian take on the world but not the usual crypto-republicanism.

I saw this post on non-utopian libertarians on a mailing list I'm part of on Yahoo. I agree!


I'm against all people who believe their ideology can lead to a utopia: I think Libertarianism has a lot to offer the world, but I reject utopianism outright: it makes people stupid and apt to ignore reality.

Property rights can be abused. They are not inherently sacred and holy, and they can be used to violate basic human dignity just as surely as democracy can (i.e. the people as a whole vote for a draft).

Our constitution works as well as it does because of the system of checks and balances which are so carefully designed into it.

This notion of "property rights without end" is, to my mind, obviously devoid of the checks and balances which are so important in real, functioning legal-political systems. Absolute property rights are, to my eye at least, potentially as dangerous as simply banning personal property entirely, as far as the general welfare of the individual is concerned.

Realistically, of course, in the real world case law would soon build up around these basic notions in a way which would fill in the grey. Yes, your neighbours can to get you to turn your stereo down, and no, you can't charge people for walking on your sidewalk if they don't sign a contract agreeing to your terms; gradually detail would accumulate in this fashion.

But still, let us not mistake principle for practice: I am all in favor of individual liberty but I respect the complexity of life and do not think that Libertarianism is going to somehow magically remove the ills of the world.

Rather, there are a specific set of ills (high taxation, ineffective state and federal governments, absolutely shitty foreign policy, etc.) which I think Libertarianism is an excellent political response to.

But, like all reforming political movements (yes, I'm thinking Marxism and National Socialism, Fascism too), all movements which offer the promise of remaking the world in a new image, there is a danger of and in fanaticism.

Libertarianism is not going to make this place a heaven on earth, but it might just help us all get along.

11:05 AM