The Lefty Libertarian

Political commentary from an askew angle.

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Friday, October 04, 2002

11:58 AM 
This should be interesting: six more citizens arrested on terrorism charges. Given that Jose Padilla is still being locked away without consultation or trial (that's unconstitutional folks!) it'll be interesting to see if justice is done by these folks, or if they also vanish without a trace.

Remember: we've tried men who shot presidents. Let us try these people too.

10:25 AM 
Sixteen years ago this week, an agent of the Israeli secret police, Mossad, enticed the Israeli nuclear technician, Mordechai Vanunu, to Rome. The holiday ended abruptly when Mordechai was kidnapped and taken to Israel, where he was charged with espionage and treason and given a prison sentence of 18 years. His crime? In 1986 he had blown the whistle on Israel's nuclear weapons.
Israel makes me sick.

Seriously. Back in '48, the dream was of a peaceful existence: a secure homeland for the Jews, to make them safe from future persecutions. Instead it's become a militaristic hell run by ogers, armed to the teeth with nukes and the like, with a secret service which is among the bloodiest in the world. They spy on the USA on a regular basis (of course, I'm sure we spy on them too!) and flout just about every international body which asks them to moderate their behavior.

Nobody wants this: many Israeli citizens are disgusted by their government, and so am I.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

7:56 PM 
Tim Dunlop has this to say:
Rather than see the individual as being in opposition to something called "society" or "community" or even "the state", perhaps we can suggest that it is precisely the way we organise ourselves collectively--as communities, societies or states--that allows us to enjoy the sort of individual freedom we want. I think this opens up possibilities for political and economic organisation that are swamped in the usual liberal, rationalist emphasis on "the individual" and its concommitant denigration of nearly all forms of collective organisation.
Frankly, I wish I'd been able to articulate this feeling as well as Tim has. Hey man, wanna write a manifesto?

First, though, we've got to talk about this
This means that governments have a role, not just in facilitating a healthy business environment, but in providing institutions that allow our individuality to flourish outside the purely economic. This means letting market forces reign when they will do some good, but reining them in when they won't. Governments can get out of airlines, say, but it is important that they retain social control over vital infrastructure such as power and perhaps even telecommunications. They will have a role in regulating market practices. And they need to be able to provide universal health cover and education and other services that tend to equalise both opportunity and outcome, without which the concept of "individuality" or "individual freedom" is meaningless.
Nope. As I've talked about endlessly in the various posts about democide on this blog, the real reason for trying to eliminate big government is that, when the government makes war on the people as seems to happen every so often (tally: over a hundred million killed in government persecution in the 20th century, not counting wars between countries), a big state gives the bastards a massive head start.

No. Small government, strong people. If you give the government the right to regulate, own and control vital infrastructure simply because it is vital, you may as well declare yourself a socialist. Anything can be added to the list called "vital" at any time, and whatever freedoms we have managed to secure go straight down the toilet as soon as the government goes bad.

It's harsh, but we really have to face this head on: our institutions always become corrupt and turn against us. We have to stop praying for success and start designing for failure.

Fail-safe government: when the government goes bad, the people should be able to survive it's passing. No other stance I am aware of has integrated the lessons of our recent history about the murderousness of the unlimited state. All forms of traditional Leftism - socialist, green and communist alike - somehow assume that the people are going to be able to keep control of their institutions for ever. This is clearly a waking-eyed dream - history does not support it and, indeed, makes this stance look criminally negligent. Being in charge of a vote and not understanding your responsibility, as it were.

I'm really serious about this: institutions inevitably become corrupt. If we accept this truth, how would we build our society? Balance of powers is a good start: redundancy is a simple way of making a system more reliable.

But the failure, even of a multiply redundant system, always comes eventually. If the failure of the system results in the death of millions, a mistake has been made: life has been lost because of poor design.

Government should be designed that, when it fails, the people are not slaughtered, nor enslaved, nor deprived of their right to start over. The Founding Fathers clearly held this point of view, and they were very clear that the liberty of the people was their own to defend against tyrrany of all kinds. We've lost a lot of their clear sight over the years, and I pray it will return soon.

7:47 PM 
My sort-of-manifesto contained the following:
"So, in essence, if I thought that socialism could work, I'd be a socialist. I don't believe it can because of the problems implicit in the way power is handled inside the socialist construct. Anarchism, to my eye, has no effective defense against capitalism -free people will choose to trade and can accumulate wealth, state or no state. So we may as well accept that capitalism will arise inside of an anarchist system, which basically leaves Libertarianism - anarchism plus some government and a common law framework."

A few people, Scott (see below) among them, have thought that I'm against profit, free trade, mom and apple pie.

Nothing could be further from the truth: I love mom and apple pie. I'm all in favor of free trade too.

More to the point, I believe that free people will trade, will profit, and will therefore accumulate capital. You have to try really, really hard to stop them, and all that results is corruption. Trying to ban capitalism is like trying to ban drinking - people route around the foolishness and get on with their lives. It's an attempt to prohibit human nature. That doesn't work!

If you try to ban markets, then all markets will be black markets. That serves nobody.

To me, this argument damns classical Anarchism as surely as the "democide" argument slays socialism of all forms.

If anarchism is not an evolutionarily stable strategy with respect to anarchocapitalism, we may as well bury Anarchism in the graveyard of unrealistic ideas. Let us say an anarchy exists. Some people start trading with eachother using pre-revolutionary Budweiser cans as currency. Soon enough, a capitalist enclave exists within the Anarchy. Anarchocapitalism can exist within Anarchy and it cannot be prevented from arising: at that point the notion of Anarchy Without Capitalism becomes a joke: if it can arise, it probably will, so we might as well stop pretending that somehow, if Anarchy comes, capitalism is going away.

I don't necessarily believe in pure anarchocapitalism as a possibility either, but the differences between it and a more general libertarian stance are a long, long way from mattering in any current real-world political situation. At the moment, as far as I can see, all stripes of Libertarian and anarcho-capitalist have common cause, and as I said earlier, that's good enough for me.

So, I hope that clears the point up, and I appologise for any confusion I caused! LL.

7:12 PM 
I'm locked and loaded. ;-)

I'd sort-of been waiting for classical or crypto-republican libertarians to start firing back, and here's a prize one:
Scott Wickstein has his say.
The problem I have with this statement is that you have to define terms. "Human Welfare" is a relative concept. It involves making decisions. And remember what I said before- People are Stupid! Therefore you have stupid people making decisions about the welfare of the community.
There's a lot more of that sort of stuff. You know the basic tune, right?

Scott seems to be arguing that, because I'm libertarian for altruistic reasons (I think everybody will be happier and safer with a libertarian situation), I'm not a libertarian. This is conflating libertarianism with selfishness. The whole point of this blog is to try and flesh out a new ideological foundation for Libertarianism. A libertarianism based on altruism: the desire for everybody to be happy.

Now, stop and think about that: an individualist philosophy adopted for collectivist aims. I believe that WE will ALL be happier if we choose to live as freely as we can. To encourage people as a whole, as a collective which sets the ground rules for conduct within a nation, to change those groundrules to maximise individual freedom of choice. Not because it's some sort of "natural right" but because it is better for us all to be free than to be eachother's chattel.

All government is about collective decision making. The notion that selfishness is a good enough foundation for freedom, and that "enlightened self interest" is going to motivate people, is pure stupidity. All successful political movements wave the flag of "Better For Everybody! Freedom, Peace and Happiness For ALL". People clearly have within them an urge to identify with groups and try and attain the welfare of groups they identify with. Libertarian thinking usually ignores this impulse and that is one reason the Party languishes: they're still essentially taking the same old selfish line forward. Be a Libertarian because it's The Best Thing For YOU!.

This is pure crypto-republicanism. It's not radical politics, it's the same old hypercapitalist, limited-liability bullshit. Nothing visionary or uplifting about it at all. And without a visionary and uplifting element, without an appeal to the welfare of the whole human race, almost all political philosopies are as appealing as turd pie. Bob Black in The Libertarian as Conservative is required reading here.

David Brin, in Essences, Orcs and Civilization: The Case for a Cheerful Libertarianism is thinking along the same lines: these quirks in the way that we pitch Libertarianism make a great philosophy of life look like a bunch of selfish, arrogant assholes trying to ditch the weak and the unfortunate. It's an excellent essay.

I think that Brin has really articulated the case for pitching the Libertarian conclusion - indeed, arriving at the libertarian conclusion, from different axioms. One sign of a good political philosophy is when different kinds of people can agree that it is a good idea, even if they start from different situations, different axioms and different ways of life. Political biodiversity is a sign of health, and it's one of the reasons we ought to ditch Ayn Rand and her followers as the High Priesthood of Libertarian Thought. Their insistance that all other axioms are faulty, and that all other modes of thought are the result of stupidity, is totalizing nonsense. It's intellectually lazy, cultish and unworthy.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Tuesday, October 01, 2002
9:23 PM 
David Brin - Essences, Orcs and Civilization: The Case for a Cheerful Libertarianism. Still thinking about this, I'll have some thoughts on it tomorrow.

2:45 PM 
Freedom of Information Act reports close the book on Pearl Harbor. The government knew, at the very least. Case closed. Fifty years from now we may discover that Bush knew too. Maybe, maybe not. But it's not a stupid position any more, at least in my book.

9:25 AM 
Peaceniks go camping in Iraq. Now, these people are going to catch hell in the blogosphere..... just catch hell. But I'll say this: they have the courage of their convictions, unlike the gajillions of right-wing bloggers howling for war.

You want war? Go enlist and fight it yourself.

Monday, September 30, 2002

12:13 PM 
More on the American Empire.
In essence, it lays out a plan for permanent U.S. military and economic domination of every region on the globe, unfettered by international treaty or concern. And to make that plan a reality, it envisions a stark expansion of our global military presence.

"The United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia," the document warns, "as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. troops."

Sunday, September 29, 2002

1:07 PM 
Black Panther Coloring Book. Priceless images, great story. Those whacky government agents!

12:50 PM 
Global warming could change fundamental weather patterns within the decade and fuck the climate on a massive, massive scale.
When I say “dramatic,” I mean: Average winter temperatures could drop by 5 degrees Fahrenheit over much of the United States, and by 10 degrees in the northeastern United States and in Europe. That’s enough to send mountain glaciers advancing down from the Alps. To freeze rivers and harbors and bind North Atlantic shipping lanes in ice. To disrupt the operation of ground and air transportation. To cause energy needs to soar exponentially. To force wholesale changes in agricultural practices and fisheries. To change the way we feed our populations. In short, the world, and the world economy, would be drastically different.

12:45 PM 
Smuggled uranium is grams, not kilograms. I'm guessing they weight the stuff in it's lead container. Better still, the two men caught with the goods were released and have vanished. WHAT THE FUCK? How the hell do you explain that?

12:42 PM 
Kuro5hin on the tragedy of the commons. Some good links and references in the comments.

12:34 PM 
International Atomic Energy Authority says BushCo are making up stories about Iraq's nuclear capability. In essence, Bush has been quoting reports which do not exist to justify claims that Iraq is close to the bomb.

1:40 AM 
By the way, if we do end up fighting a full scale war with Iraq, don't be surprised if we get hit really fucking hard.

Not necessarily by the Iraqis, you understand: in the light of the openly declared "Total World Domination" plans of the new defence reviews, anybody who thinks different could mount attacks and blame the Iraqis. It could be the Chinese, the remains of Eastern Europe, any of the other Arab nations, hell even the Israelis. Anybody who wants to take us down or blow the entire situation to hell and back could attack the US covertly under cover of the War With Iraq. They've all got plenty-good weapons programs, or can buy what they would need on the black market (Soviet biowar labs are pretty poorly guarded these days, right?). They have motives, of one sort or another. It could happen. Hand a couple of Arab extremeists a vial of something nasty or a suitcase nuke or have your own people plant something nasty and leave a Koran where the CIA will find it after the balloon goes up. People really do things like that.

Hell, even the Iraqis could have something nasty hidden away: imagine that! We declare war on them, and they fuck us up. Okay then, that's a novel idea.

Back to the point. I'm not a survivalist. I took Y2K seriously enough to have filled the bathtubs with water and worried about food. But if you live in the USA, now might be a good time to do some survival shopping. In most of the scenarios in which there is a strike on US soil, it's going to be nuclear, biological or chemical. Chemical is unlikely to affect you: unless you're unlucky enough to be where the event/s are, you're fine.

Nuclear likewise. Of course, the horrific shock of the US losing an entire city in a momentary flash of light and heat isn't very real to us at this point (just ask the Japanese how it affected them.... then watch Akira for the real answer) but if it happens expect martial law, supply chain problems, the whole nine yards. Also electromagnetic damage to things like telephone networks. But the big one is psychological shock; we'd go down and not get up again for at least six weeks.

Biological is the biggie. I've talked extensively about smallpox elsewhere in the blog, but it's not the only person-to-person transmissible agent. By which I mean this: a biological agent which is not spread person-to-person is essentially the same as a chemical weapon. If you're there, you're dead, and if you're not, you're going to be fine.

Person-to-person transmissable pathogens - plague agents, if you will - are a much bigger concern. We're talking about end-of-life-as-we-know-it scenarios at least until calm is restored.

In any case, we're headed for times in which it might not hurt to be able to stay indoors for a couple of weeks and not have to worry so much about what's happening outside.

The Lefty Libertarian's Guide To Disaster Preparedness In A Nutshell.
Disclaimer: I'm not an expert, but I'm intelligent, worried, and I've trawled the internet endlessly. You have been warned, and if my advice gets you killed, tough shit. This isn't a guide to "survival done right" - rather, this is the plan you could carry out in a long weekend and get mostly right, if you got very worried about stability of supply lines.

  1. Most important: pre-order any medications you need.
    Have an advanced supply of at least two weeks, and preferably two months. I don't need to explain how hard it is to come by insulin when somebody just detonated a nuclear bomb in Chicago or smallpox is raging in LA.
  2. Get food and water.
    There are endless survival food guides online. They're all great if you live in a bunker. The Lefty Libertarian Survival Shopping Guide? Go to Sam's Club or an equivalent bulk foods place. Buy $200 dollars worth of food in cans plus fifteen pounds of Pasta. Get the fun stuff - party food, instant coffee, cheeze whiz. A simple propane stove and ten 1lb tanks of propane is another $35 - Wal Mart is your friend here. Without this you will not be able to heat your food. Owie.

    Especially pay attention to the #10 cans of things like refried beans for like $3. You may say "why would I ever want something like that?" and the answer is simple: they make excellent spacers for bookshelves. If you ever need to eat them, hell has probably come to earth. But they're there, just in case. Buy some water: ten gallons in those two gallon plastic tubs they have at the store is about enough for a week. Unless you live by a river, multiply by how paranoid you are for the amount to buy.

    This is not a well-planned approach, you understand. This is realistic behavior in times of panic ;-). You could do more but, at the very least, consider doing this. The shopping list is simple: $200 of non-perishable foods and a propane stove plus fuel for two months, plus water.
  3. Urban Camping Supplies
    You have stout boots, a waterproof jacket, a tent and sleeping bag and all of that stuff, right? Good. If it's cold, pitching your tent indoors and sleeping in your bag will help a lot. Water filters: if there's biological warfare afoot, drinking water could be contaminated: iodine is your friend here. May also help with fallout.

    Yes, we could get hit. Let me repeat that: yes, we could get hit. If we do get hit, these things could save your life. You could die in this war. Can I make that real to you? We could die in this war: these "weapons of mass destruction" take out cities. We live in cities. What if one reaches us?

    Given the inefficiencies of the FBI and the CIA, who were warned again and again about hijackers, who had been tracking many of the 19 people who scarred new york last year and started this whole mess, do you feel safe? Do you trust them to protect you, given how badly they failed before???

    Think batteries: LED flashlights run for weeks off three AAA cells. Buy one. Spare batteries, perhaps a cheap chinese solar powered battery charger. Possibly a couple of cheap FRS or GRMS radios. Make sure you know how to use them. Think first aid kit: bandages, antibiotics, know-how. Think "do I know what to do if I get food poisoning, and the emergency room is filled with burn victims and I'm on my own?". Speculate on treatments for radiation poisoning.

    This is what war is like. Do we really want to unleash this on anybody? What if they manage to unleash it on us?

    Maps: of your city, and of your immeidate locality, in as much detail as you can manage. A good backpack, in case you have to leave on foot, as could happen if your area was evacuated.

    Make sure you have all the things you would need to go "camping", but in exactly the place where you live. Strip off the constant influx of goods and services and energy which we have around us at all times in town, and suddenly you're in the wilderness right where you are.
  4. Talk to your similarly paranoid friends.
    Encourage them to prepare also. If you're lucky, one or more of them will be hardened Y2K nuts who've just been dying to show off their gear and psychowisdom after looking like such idiots only a couple of years ago.

    Friends are important because imperfect planning is greatly improved by redundancy. You bought fifty pounds of Tuna, and they've got sixteen crates of Mayonaise. You've got a flashlight, and they've got batteries.

    Nobody can do it all and we all make mistakes. Community will keep you alive better than any other single asset.

    Understand that in a war, your friends are all you have. Sometimes they die.

I hope I'm being sufficiently alarmist here. Between Bush suspending important bits of the constitution on one hand, the Israelis vaccinating first responders against smallpox on the other, and the 33 pounds of Uranium on the other hand again, I'm beginning to think it'll be a bloody miracle if we don't see troubles on this scale before the year's end. If we do, we'll be drawing on the same kinds of experience and wisdom which helped keep the Europeans alive during WWII. Boiling your shoes and eating them, for instance.

We haven't had a war fought on American soil in many, many generations. We've forgotten what it might be like.

It might be like this: you could starve to death in your home in the middle of winter with the lights out for as far as the eye can see and armed soldiers preventing egress from your town. That's what war is like. No war in Iraq.

If you were an Iraqi, how would you feel right now, knowing that the Americans, who have been systematically denying your nation the ability to purchase basic medical equipment, food and god knows what else on the world market, are planning to invade your nation? How would you feel if rather than a small chance of attack from terrorists, you faced the entire might of the US military, plus the dictator of your own nation, whom you secretly loathe and fear?

Be prepared. We could get hurt. Have compassion. They certainly will get hurt, and many tens of thousands will die.

This is war. This is what it really looks like. Ask a Vietnam veteran how it was for them to really understand it. Don't let our evil idiot Resident drag us into this.

1:23 AM 
Let's Declare War!. Well, yeah, if we're going to blow up Iraq, it'd be polite to do this.