The Libertarian Case Against Rand Paul

Since Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, several prominent libertarians have presented a range of views on his candidacy, ranging from full support to reluctant support to rejection of Paul as insufficiently libertarian to rejection of political means in general. This article will fall into the latter two categories in general, and will rebut Walter Block’s case for Rand Paul’s candidacy in particular.

First, some people support Rand as the best of a bunch of bad options, or as the best candidate with a reasonable chance of winning a presidential election (sorry, Gary Johnson). This is typical “lesser of two evils” nonsense extended to a larger number of candidates. Block, like Rothbard, uses the analogy of a slavemaster who allows his slaves to choose between a more oppressive overseer and a less oppressive overseer. As Samuel Konkin points out, “Can you imagine slaves on a plantation sitting around voting for masters and spending their energy on campaigning and candidates when they could be heading for the ‘underground railway?’ Surely they would choose the counter-economic alternative; surely Dr. Rothbard would urge them to do so and not be seduced into remaining on the plantation until the Abolitionist Slavemasters’ Party is elected.” One might also ask why the slaves do not take the whip from the overseer and use it to hang him, which is more likely to occur if the oppressions of the overseer are of an intolerable degree rather than a tolerable one. Far from “psychological perturbation” or “barking madness”, the idea of purposefully electing the worst politicians in order to make the statist system collapse faster is a possible mode of libertarian activism, particularly if one applies the non-aggression principle consistently to realize that forceful defense against the state is morally acceptable.

Secondly, support for Rand can be motivated by the desire to get libertarianism covered by the establishment lapdog media, but this is both largely unnecessary and potentially harmful. The strength of alternative media is continually growing, and trust in the established networks is steadily waning. In the near future, those with gigantic megaphones will find that their power has been cut and that their listeners have moved on to more credible sources. Before this happens, however, they will do their best to distort and corrupt the meaning of libertarianism. This could do more harm than good in the long run, as large numbers of people become convinced that libertarianism is something other than what it is.

Third, the presence of Rand on the national stage means that Ron Paul is a news story once more. Not that he was much of one before, as the lapdog media insisted on marginalizing him at every opportunity. Even so, more coverage of Ron is not necessarily a good thing. While I will be the first to defend the elder Paul against mindless attacks, there are legitimate criticisms to be made of him. Despite being one of the most effective advocates for libertarianism, Ron has taken actions and held positions on issues that may have alienated potential libertarians. Even though Ron himself did not write the infamous newsletters bearing his name, there are many contents therein which are indefensible, and allowing such content to go forth with his name on it does not speak well of his judgment, attentiveness, or management skills. As a member of Congress, he received a salary paid with money that was extorted from taxpayers under threat of violence and helped to distribute more of such money to constituents, both of which are also true of Rand. Both have expressed support for the Constitution, a slave contract written by slave-raping hypocrites that was crafted to expand the central state far beyond what the Articles of Confederation allowed. He has also rejected biological evolution despite being a medical doctor, accepted the pro-life (or pro-trespassing) position on abortion, and tried to use the United Nations to steal a website from his supporters. To ignore the possibility that some people who would have become libertarians did not because of Ron’s actions is to commit the broken window fallacy. These flaws will carry over to Rand and hinder his chances of winning, and comparisons to his father will show that Rand is even more wanting.

Fourth, Rand explicitly said during his Senate campaign in 2010 that he is not only “not a libertarian,” but that “[t]hey thought all along that they could call me a libertarian and hang that label around my neck like an albatross.” While this admission clears him of accusations of being a fake libertarian, he is far more than wanting from a libertarian perspective if he views being called a libertarian as an albatross about one’s neck. And while he may get more publicity for libertarianism than Gary Johnson or any non-political advocate, this is not necessarily a good thing if it brings in misinformed and misguided people to corrupt libertarianism. We have to deal with enough of this already.

Fifth, if Rand is flexible on the issues, then he is of little use to consistent libertarians. Hoping that a flip-flopping politician will happen to move in the right direction has a very poor track record of advancing liberty, as does hoping that such flip-flopping will occur on the basis of reason and evidence rather than faith and bribes. After all, there are no guarantees that a president will behave rationally or morally as there is no real penalty for failing to do so. And why must it be Rand? If all we care to do is find a human windsock, then any politician should be sufficient and there is no reason to support Rand over anyone else. There is also the matter that Rand has shown hostility toward those who would ask questions of him, to the point of trying not only to get Abby Martin stripped of her press credentials, but to get everyone at RT stripped of theirs as well just because Martin and Luke Rudkowski asked him a few questions that he did not want to answer as he walked on the Capitol grounds and then down a public street. This calls into question whether private citizens would even be able to get an audience with him should he get into the White House.

Sixth, any money donated to or effort expended for Rand’s political candidacy is money and effort that cannot be put to another use. In other words, focus put on politics is focus lost to anti-politics. Who knows what innovations that increase liberty by out-competing the state and making it irrelevant will be lost because the efforts needed for those innovations were instead put toward Rand? Even if Rand stays in the race until the convention, we saw how that worked out when Ron tried it. He met the conditions to have a speaking slot, but the rules were changed on a whim to keep him off the stage. Even if Rand wins the nomination, he will still have to deal with an establishment lapdog media that is firmly in Hillary Clinton’s corner, some members of which will moderate the presidential debates.

Seventh, if Rand is in office and the economic crises which are going to occur as a result of government and central bank policies happen on his watch, the lapdog media will use this as an opportunity to attack libertarian ideas by blaming the new recession on laissez-faire, free market policies. The American people, being economically and historically illiterate for the most part, will believe this tripe and be alienated from libertarianism for a generation. If, however, an unrepentant statist is in charge when that which mathematically cannot continue finally stops continuing, libertarians will be able to say “we told you so” and deliver real solutions to a receptive audience.

While the perfect can be the enemy of the good, sometimes the mediocre is the enemy of the good. If putting a somewhat libertarian-leaning figurehead atop the most powerful and dangerous criminal organization in human history is the best we can do, then we should just give up. Fortunately, we can do much better and actually accomplish something meaningful if we realize that the path to liberty is anti-political.

Why The DEA Prostitution Scandal Should Not Be A Surprise

On Apr. 21, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, will step down next month. This follows congressional hearings last week in which she said that she could not fire DEA agents who allegedly participated in sex parties in Colombia which occurred in houses paid for by U.S. tax dollars and featured prostitutes paid for by drug cartels.

Many people in the establishment media were surprised and outraged that DEA agents would do such a thing. While outrage is certainly appropriate, surprise is not. Let us examine why we should not only expect such behavior to occur, but why such behavior not occurring would actually be surprising and newsworthy.

Bootleggers and Baptists

This phrase was invented by economist Bruce Yandle to describe situations where one group supports a regulation at face value while another group supports regulation because of the predictable consequences that undermine the face value. Evangelical Christians in the United States have consistently supported laws that restrict the sale of alcohol, while bootleggers realize that the demand for alcohol will not go away just because selling it is illegal; only their legal competition will go away. Politicians were thus able to pose as acting in the interest of morality while actually being puppets of illicit business interests. The same dynamic is at work in the War on Drugs today.

Plato o Plomo

This is a common phrase in Latin America, and it translates to English as “silver or lead.” It means that government agents and officials must choose to either accept bribes from the drug cartels and stay out of their way or be assassinated to make way for someone else who will. Contrary to popular belief, this is not always as bad as it sounds. That such a system can exist means that a government is corrupt, and will therefore do less damage to the economy than a government which imposes all of its laws and regulations to the letter. It also means that there is something of a culture of resistance, in that the use of violence to defend oneself from the state is openly practiced, while in some countries it is taboo to even discuss such a thing. But when violent criminal elements are utilizing such tactics, the results tend to be even more destabilizing to civilization than government alone. The DEA agents chose silver, as most rational actors would.

Black Market Fascism

Of course, the bribes may go above and beyond simple payments to government agents to leave the drug cartels alone. The most powerful drug cartels, just like the captains of any other industry, will seek to use state power to destroy smaller competing businesses. As Milton Friedman once said, “If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel.” It is known that the parties occurred “where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices and other government-issued equipment were present, potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion.” But such access to government-issued equipment by drug cartel members could also be used to gain intelligence on rival drug cartel operations, thereby providing an unfair advantage to the cartel that can most effectively bribe the DEA. The result of this regulatory capture is a sort of black market fascism where government agents and business leaders work together to set policies that benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else.

The State Only Cares About Itself

The interest of statists in pursuing the War on Drugs is not that they care about their citizens and want to protect them from substances that will harm or kill them, as starry-eyed state propagandists would have us believe. The real interest of those who wield state power is best discovered by taking a cynical look at what is in their rational self-interest. It is in the interest of those who wield state power to have a justification for maintaining or expanding their authority and budgets, and to have a productive population to support this parasitism. Making substances illegal does not make people stop using them; it only pushes such activity underground. Deprived of legal means of resolving disputes, the black-market drug traders start resorting to violence. The risks of dealing in illegal goods raises the prices of drugs several times higher than they would be in an open market, leading addicts to commit more thefts to acquire the money to support a drug habit. Those who wish to use drugs like cocaine and heroin may turn to alternatives which are more dangerous both to manufacture and use, such as crystal meth, when prohibition makes prices rise. These factors give statists an excuse to expand police actions to deal with the violence. This works even better if the violence is kept mostly in other countries, as the dead bodies are out of sight and out of mind for the domestic population. The fascist friends of government enforcers in the for-profit prison industry receive a boon as well, as they have an increased supply of prisoners to hold and government funding to receive. Authorities also wish to stamp out drug abuse because it makes workers less productive and more draining on the healthcare and welfare systems, but this is ultimately done for their own benefit, not for that of the workers.

Not So Different

Contrary to statist propaganda, governments and drug cartels have much in common. Drug cartels routinely kill rivals and innocents, to the tune of 125,000 dead and 27,000 missing as of 2013. Governments killed 262 million of their own people in the 20th century alone. Both ultimately maintain their power by force of arms, using violence to dispatch those would compete with them or seek to put them out of business. Both cloak themselves in what appear to be good deeds by providing assistance to the poor. Both exist parasitically on the productive economy and cause massive disruptions to free trade and peaceful living. It should be no surprise that similar evils would join forces when an opportunity for mutual benefit presents itself.


Every incentive is pointing in a favorable direction for corrupt government agents to collaborate with drug cartels for mutual benefit. We should therefore not be surprised that it is happening, and instead be surprised when it fails to happen.

How Rolling Stone Is Advancing Rape Accusation Culture

On Apr. 5, Rolling Stone issued a retraction of an article called “A Rape on Campus” written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely that was featured online and in the print magazine in November. The article alleged that members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity gang raped a female student, referred to as Jackie in the story, on September 28, 2012. After an initial response of outrage in the media and the decision by UVA president Teresa Sullivan to suspend the activities of Greek organizations on campus, questions began to emerge about the details of the story as well as Erdely’s journalistic methods. Over the following weeks, an increasing number of discrepancies emerged, leading Rolling Stone to ask the Columbia Journalism School to review Erdely’s work. A police investigation that concluded in March found no evidence of wrongdoing at any fraternity house on the UVA campus.

While Rolling Stone‘s editors as well as Erdely have apologized, no one involved in the story is going to be fired. They have said that “[s]exual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.” There is certainly nothing wrong with this position, and many others in the media have pointed out the chilling effect that this incident may have on the reporting of authentic rape cases. But let us examine the flip side. This story amounts to a false rape accusation for which no one is being punished. The name of Greek organizations on the UVA campus in general and Phi Kappa Psi in particular have been dragged through the mud for no good reason, and this has resulted in damages for which legal action is pending. But defamation cases are difficult to pursue in cases like this, and monetary relief cannot restore a tarnished public reputation. Regardless of what ultimately becomes of the lawsuit, neither Jackie nor Erdely will face consequences nearly as severe as a convicted rapist or an organization that turns a blind eye to rape would. All of this has the unfortunate effect of telling future false rape accusers that neither they themselves nor those who spread their stories will face any serious punishment for doing so. There is a reinforcement effect as well; if fewer women who have been raped come forward because they believe that they will be demonized as liars, then the percentage of false rape accusations will necessarily rise.

Some people will try to argue that false rape accusations are not a serious problem. The Rolling Stone retraction links to a study claiming that such cases amount to between 2 percent and 10 percent of all rape accusations. This figure could be restated as 6 percent ± 4 percent, and a figure with an error bar almost as large as the figure itself indicates poor methodology, which is exactly what one finds when delving into the details. The sample size of 136 cases is rather small, the false accusations number of 8 is small enough to cause statistical concerns, and the sample was taken at one unnamed university in the Northeastern United States over a 10-year period (1998-2007) rather than in a multitude of places.

Even if there were no methodological problems with the study, its presentation is also problematic. One could infer from the way the media is using this study that rape accusations are provably true in 90 to 98 percent of cases. This is not a correct inference. The breakdown of the study is that 5.9 percent of cases were provably false, 35.3 percent of cases led to criminal charges and/or disciplinary action from the university, 44.9 percent of cases either lacked sufficient evidence, had an uncooperative accuser, or did not meet statutory definitions of rape, and 13.9 percent of cases could not be categorized due to a lack of information. If we apply the rate of false accusations in the cases that are provably true or false to the total number of cases, we get a total rate of false accusations of 5.9*100/(5.9+35.3)=14.3 percent.

There is also a logical case to be made for why false rape accusations are more prevalent than false accusations of other criminal activity. The vast majority of people believe that rape is a special kind of evil, second only to murder in the amount of psychological damage that it does to a victim. (This fact alone is sufficient to debunk the myth of rape culture, but when have radical feminists ever cared about facts?) It follows that a person who wishes to get attention or ruin another person’s reputation would most likely accuse that person of rape, as a murder accusation is much easier to disprove and other accusations are less serious. A false rape accusation is also more useful in certain situations than other false accusations, such as revenge against exes, getting rid of a current romantic partner, or covering up an extramarital affair. Finally, there are radical feminists who view such accusations as a legitimate way to attack men collectively.

To conclude, incidents like the recent debacle at Rolling Stone are not only counterproductive for dealing with the problem of rape, but move us toward a rape accusation culture where a woman can ruin the reputation of men or even send them to prison on baseless charges while suffering no penalty for doing so, all the while empowering the state at the expense of the individual.

Why Paul Krugman Is Wrong About Social Security And Public Goods

On Apr. 10, economist Paul Krugman wrote an opinion piece called “Where Government Excels” in which he praises some Democrats who are calling for the expansion of Social Security and defends a role of government in the provision of so-called “public goods.” In this rebuttal, I will attempt to show that these ideas are unsound.

Krugman claims that “We …know that some things more or less must be done by government. Every economics textbook talks about ‘public goods’ like national defense and air traffic control that can’t be made available to anyone without being made available to everyone, and which profit-seeking firms, therefore, have no incentive to provide.” First, let us ask how it might be known that some things must be done by government. There is no logical proof that government must provide certain services, as this would require one to show that every possible effort of private enterprise to provide said services must fail. This requires one to not only examine every historical effort, but to predict every conceivable future effort. This is an inexhaustible proof by exhaustion, and therefore cannot be proven.

The specific examples that Krugman gives are national defense, air traffic control, healthcare, and retirement security. To a person who believes in some degree of central planning and has an empirical rather than rational understanding of economics, this may make sense. But let us examine the true nature of these services.

National defense is largely a myth, as nations do not exist apart from the individual people that comprise them. The valid concept is that of individual defense. The purpose of government police and military forces is not the objective protection of the civilian population, but the protection of the rulers from the civilian population, the protection of the statist system should the civilian population overthrow the rulers, and the presentation of a deterrent to rulers of other nations elsewhere in the world who might seek to take over the tax base for themselves. Moreover, individual defense is made impossible by the presence of a government because governments force their subjects to rely upon their armed forces for defense, use said armed forces to destroy any competitors who may wish to offer defense services, and force their subjects to pay taxes to fund said armed forces. All of these activities are incompatible with protecting the citizenry, as true protection from violence must include protection from violence done by the state as well, so objective defense requires anarchy.

As for the provision of military defense in a stateless society, the private sector actually has every incentive to provide it. This is a service which all people want for themselves, and which everyone except for criminals wants for everyone else in the society as well. We know that the demand for this service is very high because people are willing to endure all of the oppressions of statism just to obtain the counterfeit version of it described above. It therefore stands to reason that many people will be willing to meet this demand and be paid for doing so, with competition driving down prices far below what defense budgets of governments currently cost.

Finally, Krugman raises the “free rider” objection, that military defense cannot be provided to anyone if it is not provided to everyone. If true, then the argument must apply to governments as well, which would mean that governments can “free ride” on the military defense provisions of other governments, which fails to explain why all governments field militaries and seek a strong national defense. Secondly, a private defense agency could simply tell any aggressors who would seek to invade an area who is not under their protection. (Although without any gun control laws to stop such people from acquiring military-grade weaponry and lower costs for defensive weapons due to the free market in defense technologies, an aggressive militant group would have a much tougher time attacking the average person than they would now.) Also note that because the “free rider problem” has no solution, it is not really a problem, but a possibly negative fact of life that must be tolerated. It is not certainly negative because money spent on one thing cannot then be spent on another, meaning that eliminating free ridership by making everyone who benefits from a service pay for it will eliminate some other economic activities that were occurring. To ignore this is to commit the broken window fallacy.

The case against air traffic control as a public good is much simpler because the idea that profit-seeking firms have no incentive to ensure the safety of their customers (as well as those on the ground who may be hit by falling aircraft) is sheer lunacy. If the goal of a company is to maximize profits, then civil lawsuits and criminal investigations for wrongful deaths and injuries that occur as a result of a lack of safety precautions that reasonable people would expect to be in place will certainly be detrimental to that goal. The losses would be exacerbated by customers fleeing from less safe airlines to more safe airlines.

Next, Krugman claims that government is better than the market at providing health insurance and that while conservatives agitate for privatization, this will make healthcare less efficient and more expensive. What conservatives agitate for is not true privatization, as this would mean an end to government involvement. Instead, they seek a sort of fascism where healthcare industry leaders and government officials work together to set policies that protect each other at the expense of smaller competing companies and the average person. This fake privatization would move us in the wrong direction, as it would magnify the worst of both worlds by capitalizing risks and socializing losses as well as combining the efficiency of the market with the evil of the state. But real privatization is quite different. Striking down barriers to entry, such as the restriction on buying health insurance across state lines as well as individual and corporate licensing requirements, would give consumers more choices and thereby force companies to either provide better insurance policies or be outcompeted.

Last, Krugman makes a case for Social Security. He argues that it is necessary because people are not rational actors and therefore cannot be trusted to save and invest based on a realistic assessment of what they will need in retirement and an intelligent understanding of risk and return. But what comprises the state? Is it run by a super-intelligent race of aliens who can centrally plan everyone’s lives? Of course not. Those who wield state power are people as well, subject to the same shortcomings as everyone else. He then says that people are losing billions of dollars because investment advisors are looking out for themselves first and their customers second, but if this is a surprise to anyone who uses their services, then they are paying the price for failing to observe caveat emptor.

Some will say, and Krugman does, that people should not be at fault for saving too little and making poor investment decisions. But the essence of liberty is the freedom to take one’s own risks, reap one’s own rewards, and suffer one’s own consequences without external molestation. While Krugman is correct to say that the economy “should not be an obstacle course only a few can navigate” and “is supposed to work for real people leading real lives,” the obstacle courses that few can navigate are arranged with state power on behalf of those who can buy political favor, and this prevents the economy from working for the average person.

Social Security is not the shining example of a working system that Krugman says it is. Since its inception, it has been worse than a Ponzi scheme, as Ponzi schemes at least spare the unborn and only take money from those who willingly enter them. Since the Reagan administration, the trust fund for Social Security has routinely been looted by politicians to fund their pet projects without raising the budget deficit as much as it would otherwise be raised. This sleight of hand would not be possible if people were allowed to completely manage their own retirement funds. While Krugman claims that expanding Social Security is necessary because of the replacement of private pensions with 401(k) plans, the reality is that pension plans for life are both economically unsustainable and logically indefensible, as they amount to paying people for not producing something of value just because they once did produce something of value.

Ultimately, there is no such thing as a right to a retirement. Until relatively recently, a period of relative relaxation and unproductivity between an arbitrary age and death was unheard of unless a person had earned the means to engage in such. Those who did not earn such means either had to continue working or be cared for by other family members. With government interference, the responsibility of a particular children paying for particular parents as well as full responsibility for one’s own financial affairs were erased, thereby creating moral hazards that have led to malinvestments. Krugman asks why we should not make Social Security bigger. The short answer is that malinvestments ultimately cause recessions, and the entitlement bubble is a potential killer of the economy as we know it. The impact of the collapse of this unsustainable system will be large enough without efforts to make it even larger.

Why Good (Government) Police Cannot Exist

On Mar. 28, Julian Adorney published an article called “Resolved: Good Cops Do Exist” in which he argues that government police officers can not only be good people, but can produce a net benefit for society. In this rebuttal, I will attempt to show that this position is unsound on a point-by-point basis.

“Many libertarians argue that ‘good cop’ is a contradiction in terms, at least by the standards of the non-aggression principle. According to this position, any job that requires a person to aggress against his fellow citizens is bad for society. And every cop will probably be required, over the course of his or her career, to initiate force: to issue traffic tickets, to detain an innocent suspect, to apprehend someone for a nonviolent crime. So while individual police officers may be good people off the job (they have families, friends, people they care for), in their professional roles, they are necessarily bad for liberty.”

It is even worse than this. Even if a government police officer sits behind a desk and directly victimizes no one during his or her career, such a person is still receiving a paycheck that is funded by theft and slavery.

“This is a powerful argument, but it is too simplistic. The initiation of force isn’t the be-all and end-all when determining whether one is a good or bad police officer.

First, not everyone who initiates force is automatically immoral.”

The non-aggression principle is the litmus test for morality in libertarian philosophy, as the non-aggression principle is the essence of libertarianism. Establishing the validity of this principle is straightforward. Each person has the right to exclusive control of one’s physical body, as the act of arguing otherwise requires one to exercise exclusive control of one’s physical body, thereby creating a performative contradiction. If each person has the right to exclusive control of one’s physical body, then it is wrong for one person to initiate an interference with another person’s right to the same. Thus the non-aggression principle is logically proven for people. Private property rights also follow from exclusive control of one’s physical body, as they are one aspect of owning responsibility for one’s actions.

“Morality is at least partly determined by intentions, rather than results. A burglar is surely less moral than a drunkard who unintentionally stumbles into the wrong house. The facts of the case — unlawfully entering someone’s property — are the same, but intention makes all the difference.”

Morality is determined by the nature of one’s actions and whether they are compatible with objective moral rules, such as those that follow from the act of argumentation. In contrast, the author uses a consequentialist approach to morality. To refute this approach requires two steps.

First, let us consider determinism versus indeterminism. Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event. This implies that it is not possible to persuade others of one’s philosophical position, as strict determination of our actions (and therefore, our philosophical positions) would mean they were completely necessitated by past events beyond our present control, and therefore not alterable by argumentation. But the effort to persuade others of one’s philosophical position is part and parcel of rational argumentation. Thus, to argue for determinism is to try to convince someone that it is impossible to convince them of anything, which constitutes a performative contradiction. Therefore, indeterminism must be true.

There is one possible objection to this argument, and that is to maintain that free will is not a requirement for rationality because an arguer could be determined to persuade someone and the recipient of the argument could be determined to be persuaded. But if this were the case, then there would be no moral agency because there would be no ability to choose, which would mean that moral nihilism is true. This would also accomplish the purpose of defeating consequentialism, but it would also defeat every other normative ethical theory, so it will not do to stop here. Instead, we should note that objective moral rules follow from the act of argumentation, so arguing that there are no objective moral rules constitutes a performative contradiction. Thus, moral nihilism is false and the compatibilist objection to the argument against determinism is rebutted.

Now, we can disprove consequentialism. Consider two people who find themselves in identical situations and who take identical actions. Because of indeterminism, the future is not directly knowable by extrapolating from the past. Thus, the consequences may play out differently in each case. Regardless of one’s criteria for distinguishing good consequences from evil consequences, the situations may play out with good consequences in one situation and with evil consequences in the other situation. This means that the same action taken under the same circumstances can be both good and evil. This is a contradiction, therefore consequentialism is false.

“If cops give out traffic tickets because they believe that speeding kills people, we may try to change their minds. But we cannot fault their intention to make society safer, even when it manifests as forceful actions with which we may disagree.”

Of course we may fault their intention. If government police officers believe that speeding kills people and that this justifies murder threats against the citizenry, then they are making a positive claim which carries a burden of proof. If they do not fulfill said burden of proof but act upon it, then we may rightly fault them for acting in a logically irresponsible manner.

“Second, an officer who initiates force may still provide a net gain for his ‘customers’ (in this case, society at large). Imagine a cop hunting a serial killer. As part of her investigation, she pulls an innocent man in for questioning. Later, she also catches the serial killer. The cop clearly initiated force, but she also made society safer. One innocent man is worse off for having been detained and questioned, but thousands of people who live near the killer — unseen victims of his future crimes — are now safer. If she were employed by a private protection agency, the community that hired her would call this cop a hero and recognize the net benefits of her service.

This argument is admittedly utilitarian.”

As utilitarianism is a type of consequentialism and consequentialism has already been refuted above, utilitarianism fails a fortiori. But even within a utilitarian framework, it need not be the case that a community would recognize the officer’s actions as a net benefit. What was the innocent man prevented from doing with the time that he spent in questioning? Perhaps he was a scientist working on a critical research experiment which failed because he was not there, and now the world has lost a scientific breakthrough. Did the time spent questioning the innocent man prevent the cop from catching the killer earlier, thereby allowing the killer to murder more victims than he otherwise would have? Perhaps so.

“But if a company you hire for X service does something wrong, you would probably not immediately terminate the contract. Rather, you might weigh the wrong against the other good they do you, engaging in a consequentialist calculus to decide whether they provide value to you. We should apply the same analysis of trade-offs, not to police forces as a whole, but to individual officers.”

It depends on what that wrong is. If it is a matter of occasional human error, then one might forgive them and let them try again. If it is a matter of blatant incompetence, then one might be considering other options. But if it is a matter of violating absolute moral principles, then one would be justified in immediately terminating the contract and either finding a different provider, taking matters into one’s own hands, or doing without. One must also remember that there is no contract of employment here, at least not a valid one. Rather, agents of the state have used violence, threats, fear, and intimidation to monopolize police services.

“But are there actually cops who make society better? Many libertarians don’t think so. Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant secretary of the US Treasury, asserts that all police officers are ‘psychopaths.’ It’s common in libertarian circles to call the police ‘a gang of thieves.’ This argument fails to respect the inherent diversity in any profession.”

No, this argument respects the implications of becoming an agent of the state. There is no diversity in the fact that every person who has chosen to present oneself as a government police officer, the job description of which is to enforce the laws and to be paid from government coffers for doing so. To enforce the laws is to present a consistent threat to use as much force as necessary to stop a person who is known to be acting contrary to the whims of politicians. As some of the laws are contrary to the non-aggression principle, those laws are immoral. Thus, to become a government police officer is to choose to present a consistent threat to initiate the use of as much force as necessary to stop a person who is known to be breaking immoral laws, or in other words, acting morally. This violates the non-aggression principle and is therefore immoral by libertarian standards.

“In Thinking As a Science, Henry Hazlitt points out that when we think of a concept, our mental construction of the concept is limited to an amalgamation of specific examples we have encountered, experienced, or imagined. When I say the word ‘cop,’ you think of cops you have known, cops you have seen or read about, cops in a specific context. We can each think of the same word, but we are actually imagining vastly different individuals. I might imagine a man hunting violent gang members, while you might imagine a white cop killing a black person for a victimless crime.

Both of us are drawing on our unique experiences to assemble a mental concept. We are thinking of one cop, or a combination of some of those that we’ve met or heard of, and projecting our experience onto all 900,000 officers in the United States. Anyone asserting that there are no good cops, cops are psychopaths, or the opposite (all cops are saints), is making an unjustified assumption.”

Hazlitt’s argument is only valid for a posteriori thinking. A priori logic suffers no such limitations, and the statement that there are no good (government) cops is shown in the previous paragraph to be a priori true.

“Indeed, many of our individual concepts are skewed, because most people only ever hear about officers who behave badly. Heroic cops sometimes make the news, but their stories don’t go viral like videos of police brutality do. Additionally, most people don’t interact with police officers who are helping them — if you see those flashing lights in your rear-view window, you’re mentally gearing up to lose at least $150 for a traffic offense. That we are inundated with experiences and stories of bad police but not good ones gives us a skewed perspective when we’re creating our concept of the word ‘cop.’

That makes it easier to make sweeping statements like ‘cops are a gang of thieves.’ But it also means these assertions are unjustified.

Some critics go another route to argue that all police are bad: if there are good officers, they ask, why aren’t they out there denouncing bad cops? But the fact is that these whistleblowers already exist. Detective Joe Crystal testified against other officers in a misconduct case. Officer Regina Tasca pulled her abusive coworkers off of an unarmed 22-year-old they were punching.

It is not to the credit of the police that these two officers were punished for standing up to their brethren. Crystal found himself ‘a target of intimidation’ for his actions, and Tasca was fired. But most police who stand up to their fellows only make the news when they’re then punished: that story fits a pre-existing narrative that drives website traffic. A cop who reveals police corruption and stays on the force isn’t newsworthy, so we rarely hear about it.

None of this is to say that all cops are good. Many are abusive, bullying, or even racist. I hear stories every day of police engaging in appalling behavior. But the activities of bad police are becoming increasingly public, while heroic officers usually only make the local news.”

Confirmation bias is indeed something to be watchful for, but a few particular good deeds by a few particular people do not justify or atone for institutionalized evil. Only the perpetrators of said evil can atone for their misdeeds by renouncing their affiliation with the state and performing restitution for any acts of aggression that they have committed in the course of their careers.

The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for Nuclear Proliferation

From the perspective of anyone concerned with limiting state power and preserving human life, the current arrangement of nuclear-armed governments is a disaster waiting to happen. As of this writing, nine governments (United States, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) possess a total of 15,650 warheads, 4,300 of which are ready for immediate use. These governments spent $91 billion on nuclear weapons in 2010, rising to $104.9 billion in 2011. It may seem that only a madman would want even more of this, but there is a case to be made that nuclear proliferation among governments, even if it is not ideal from a libertarian perspective, is significantly better on libertarian grounds than the current state of affairs.

The first thing to note is that no nuclear-armed government has had its territory invaded by another government. While this is not an a priori truth, it is in agreement with all empirical evidence and the rational self-interest of rulers. Before nuclear weapons were invented, rulers could invade other countries with little chance of being personally affected by the violence. When only the United States had nuclear weapons, Truman was able to use them against Hiroshima and Nagasaki with impunity. But once the Soviets exploded RDS-1 on August 29, 1949, the monopoly on nuclear capability was lost, never to be regained. The advent of mutually assured destruction meant that anyone who dared to use nuclear weapons could expect to be hit with them in return in a matter of hours (minutes with modern delivery systems). While the ruling classes used the funds they extorted from their populations to build shelters to survive a nuclear exchange, they knew that such survival would not truly be life; they would have no useful territory to control and no people to rule upon emerging from their bunkers. As such, the creation of nuclear weapons has led to a more peaceful world, at least in terms of major wars between world powers. One may speculate that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by more governments (or private defense agencies in stateless societies) would take all-out warfare off the table for them as well.

Another benefit is that with a nuclear deterrent making an invasion far less likely, a government can afford to spend less resources on maintaining conventional military forces, thus freeing up money to either be spent domestically or left in the pockets of citizens to boost the private sector. (Of course, this does not mean that they will, only that they can.) For example, the United States has generally lowered its military budget as a percent of GDP since nuclear weapons were invented, with a few exceptions for wars. This also means that agents of bureaucracy as well as special interest groups within the military-industrial complex will be smaller, less wealthy, and less able to influence politics than they otherwise would be (though they can still be terribly powerful in some cases). Reducing the size and scope of government militaries and their equipment providers would obviously be good for pragmatic libertarian concerns about state power.

In an anarcho-capitalist world, it may be the case that nuclear weapons are completely absent. There are many libertarians who doubt that a libertarian society could square the use of nuclear weapons with libertarian principles, as killing innocent bystanders is impermissible under the non-aggression principle. Only by viewing those in the vicinity of the blast as human shields and applying the theory of negative homesteading could the use of nuclear weapons be justified in libertarian theory. But an idyllic Ancapistan is still out of reach, and no method for getting from here to there has been effectively demonstrated. As such, we must deal with the world that is and is likely to be in the near future, not the world we want.

As for the world that is likely to be in the near future, the transition from statism to anarcho-capitalism will almost certainly not occur overnight. There is almost certainly going to be a period of time in which some parts of the world still have governments while other parts of the world are anarchist control zones, regardless of the means used to circumvent or abolish existing states. When this happens, the stateless people will have economic advantages over those who live under the burden of government regulation. Eventually, this will lead to conflict as rulers blame the anarcho-capitalists for luring away people and resources that governments need to continue functioning. States in this time period will be dealing with an existential threat of a sort that they have not faced in time memorial and to which they have no answers other than to abolish themselves or use violence. Those in power who are unwilling to give up violent dominion and live peacefully with their fellow human beings could consider this situation worthy of using nuclear weapons, and if the anarcho-capitalists want to be able to defend themselves, they will ultimately need a nuclear deterrent. Nuclear proliferation serves libertarian interests in this scenario as well, as it means that there will be more potential sources from which the anarcho-capitalists can acquire a nuclear deterrent.

Of course, any decent philosophical case must deal with potential objections.

Nuclear weapons can turn rogue states into dangerous threats. Just as nuclear weapons can reduce the belligerence of world powers, they can also protect rogue rulers from being overthrown, thereby making them more willing to threaten their neighbors. This argument is not credible due to the number of counterexamples. Leaders who seek nuclear weapons are portrayed by the media as insane, but their behavior demonstrates rational self-interest and skilled use of brinkmanship. While they are by no means benign, they do not have a track record of acting like madmen. Even Hitler refused to use chemical weapons (the closest analogue of a nuclear device in his time) on the battlefield in World War II due to fears of retaliation as well as first-hand experience.

Just because mutually assured destruction has worked in the past does not mean it will work in the future. This is true, but when all empirical evidence as well as the rational self-interest of influential people points in one direction, it is wise to go in that direction until contrary evidence is available. To argue that this does not apply here is both a special pleading fallacy and an appeal to fear. That being said, a military commander’s strategy in a conflict between nuclear powers might be a first-use of nuclear weapons, with the hope of destroying the other side’s nuclear arsenal before it can be used in a counterattack. If this were to happen, millions of lives may be lost in the two countries in such a war. But consider the likely events that would follow. The rest of the world would be shown first-hand how devastating nuclear weapons are, leading to much less willingness by other rulers to initiate their use. Also note that should the person or people who ordered the first strike survive, they would be the most wanted criminals in human history, likely to have very high bounties placed on their heads by other governments and private individuals all over the world.

Nuclear weapons are too dangerous to be owned by individuals. But how will they be banned? We can see how well bans on other types of weapons have worked. Like gun control laws, the scribbles of politicians (or the terms of dispute resolution organization contracts in a stateless society) saying that civilians must not possess nuclear weapons are not of concern to a misanthrope who wants to hold a community hostage (or just perform a massive murder-suicide). There is also the matter that enforcement could not reasonably lead to an armed confrontation, as a surrounded psychopath in possession of a nuclear device will most likely detonate it, blowing up several square kilometers and everyone in them. Furthermore, other weapons of mass destruction have been more widely available for longer than nuclear weapons have, and they go all but unused by criminals because they can achieve their goals more easily with other means. After all, why use chlorine gas or nukes to kill people when crashing a plane or shooting up a museum is easier? Finally, one must note that while private individuals have never used nuclear weapons despite the fact that there are probably some that have been lost by governments available somewhere, governments have used them, so which is the greater danger?

More nuclear powers means more opportunities for terrorists to get and use nuclear weapons. Terrorist groups operate outside the control of governments, and governments have a poor track record of predicting the behavior of terrorists. The possibility of being hoisted by one’s own petard, the high risk of being found out, and the high cost of building nuclear weapons mean that governments have every reason not to provide nuclear weapons to terrorists. The potential for terrorists to take nuclear weapons from governments has been dealt with in the previous argument.

To conclude, this is not an ironclad libertarian case in favor of nuclear proliferation, but it will suffice to start discussion on what is certainly an important topic.