Eight observations on the sentencing of Ross Ulbricht

On Feb. 4, Ross Ulbricht was convicted on all counts of the charges he faced for allegedly creating and running Silk Road, a Dark Web marketplace where state-disapproved goods and services were sold. When this happened, I made six observations on the event. On May 29, he was sentenced to two life sentences plus 35 years in prison with no chance for parole. He was also ordered to pay $183,961,921 in civil asset forfeiture. This event has at least eight important observations. Let us examine them.

1. Behaviors which have no unwilling victims should not be considered criminal. Under the standards of common law and the non-aggression principle, the commission of a crime requires that someone or their property has been harmed. State prosecutors argued that this occurred here, on the grounds that people died from using drugs purchased on Silk Road and Ulbricht is charged with hiring hitmen in a separate case. As for the people who died from using drugs, they took their own risks and suffered their own consequences, and the freedom to do this without external molestation is a fundamental aspect of liberty. By willfully using substances which have the power to end one’s life if used to excess, they implicitly consented to those “terms of use,” so to speak. Neither Ulbricht nor those who sold them the drugs should be held liable for this. In the cases of hiring hitmen to kill informants, Ulbricht was morally (if not legally) justified in doing this because they were threatening to send the most powerful and dangerous criminal organization in human history after him to kidnap and cage him for life, or kill him if he resisted.

2. By this standard, Judge Katherine Forrest is the real criminal here. As an agent of the state, she is paid with money that was extorted from the American people at gunpoint. By sentencing a man who has victimized no one to a lifetime in a cage, she has made herself an accessory to kidnapping. For her conduct toward the jury in denying them important information that they would need in order to make a fair decision, she has endeavored to influence, intimidate, or impede petit jurors. But because she is an agent of the state, and the state has a monopoly on criminal punishment, she will not face a life sentence for these activities as you or I would if one of us behaved identically.

3. This sentence was given more for a chilling effect than for justice. Prosecutors asked Judge Forrest to “send a clear message” with a sentence for Ulbricht well beyond the mandatory minimum, and she seemed all too happy to comply. “For those considering stepping into your shoes…they need to understand without equivocation that there will be severe consequences,” Forrest said. This is in keeping with typical statist tactics: pick a few high-profile defendants, preferably those who are viewed unsympathetically by the public, and make examples of them.

4. The chilling effect has already failed to deter the trend started by Ulbricht. The caging of Ulbricht for the rest of his natural life will do nothing to stop the dozens of new websites similar to Silk Road that sprung up following Ulbricht’s arrest and the seizure of the original site. Each time that agents of the state shut one down, more are created to replace it and their owners do not make the same mistakes that got the prior website owners identified and arrested. Also noteworthy is that marijuana, which made up the majority of sales on the original Silk Road, is quickly moving toward legalization.

5. Another dangerous precedent has been set. In the previous set of observations, I discussed how this case could create a chilling effect upon website owners, as Ulbricht is being harshly punished for creating a forum where illegal activities occurred when previously, only those who actually engaged in such activities directly were targeted by the state. But there is another precedent which has been set by the life sentence against Ulbricht. Had Judge Forrest been more lenient, perhaps only using the mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, those who have yet to be arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned by the state for engaging in similar activities would have some sense that they could serve some jail time and have a meaningful life after prison. With a sentence of life without parole, however, Ulbricht will likely die behind bars after serving more time there than many convicts who are sentenced to death. Those who will follow in his footsteps now have every incentive to take up arms and hold court in the street rather than submit to government agents who attempt to arrest them. After all, why not get your money’s worth and take a few costumed criminals with you on your way out if you are essentially facing a death sentence either way?

6. The state cares more about maintaining its power than about the well-being of its citizens. Reece’s razor says that whenever there are several possible explanations for a government action or policy, the most cynical explanation is the most likely to be correct. While starry-eyed state propagandists may argue that politicians want to make it harder for people to obtain substances that will harm or kill them as well as stop people from contracting for illegal services like assassinations because they care about their citizens and want them to be safe, the truth is that the rational self-interest of those who wield state power is to expand that power and remain in control of it. This is best accomplished by maintaining a boogeyman to scare the populace into supporting the state, and the creation of a site that decreases the amount of violence in the drug trade by undercutting the established cartels (and the CIA) is contrary to that goal. The idea that politicians value a rationale for government power more than the safety of their constituents are the most cynical explanations, so Reece’s razor selects them.

7. Events like this will keep happening until people put a stop to it. People will ultimately endure the level of oppression that they will tolerate. Taken to its logical conclusion, this means that a large enough and strong enough culture of resistance could end the oppressions of statism by making a place ungovernable. Applied to this particular case, it means that the War on Drugs will continue until the people refuse to tolerate it and those like Ross Ulbricht will remain caged until the people demand their release. The only questions concern which combination of the soapbox, the ballot box, the jury box, and the ammo box they will use to express this refusal, and whether the victims of the War on Drugs and the prison industrial complex will gain their freedom by pardon or by jailbreak.

8. Agorism alone will not end the state. This observation was in the previous list of six, but it bears repeating. Silk Road (and its successors) are experiments in agorism, which is the idea that a stateless society can eventually be achieved by using gray and black markets as much as possible while relying less on state-sanctioned markets. The trouble with this approach, as seen in the Ulbricht case, is that black market enterprises will eventually be revealed to government authorities, whether by an active search by the authorities, carelessness by those who run the black market enterprise, or snitching by those who run state-sanctioned enterprises. When this inevitably happens, those who run black market enterprises must either surrender to agents of the state or try to forcefully repel them. While agorism can be a positive force for freedom, meeting statist violence with non-violence will only continue to get good people like Ulbricht imprisoned or killed.

Austin Petersen’s Case Against Libertarianism

On May 12, Austin Petersen published an article called “5 Reasons Why I’m Not an Anarchist” in which he argues that anarchist libertarians do not really understand the basics of force, fraud, life, liberty, or property, and that some state is necessary. In this rebuttal, I will show on a point-by-point basis that he has failed to make the case, demonstrated blatant and willful ignorance on several issues, and actually made a case against libertarianism.

#1. Rights are guarantees

A right is something that MUST be provided.

This is the definition of an obligation, not a right. A right outlines an action which one should be free to perform without external interference. The idea of a right is prescriptive of the way people should interact, not descriptive of the way they do interact.

Any society aimed at protecting natural rights must use some type of force to guarantee those rights.

Petersen says this as though it is in dispute, but it is not. The only way that this would not be true would be for there to be no aggressors in the world, which has never been and likely never will be the case.

Any mechanism of force used to guarantee those rights have the same effect as government, no matter what that form may take.

Defending oneself from aggressors or hiring other people to assist one in doing so is much different from the effect of a group of people exercising a monopoly on initiatory violence in a geographical area. If one is dissatisfied with one’s current defense arrangement in the absence of a state, one can hire different defenders or acquire better weapons and armor, both of which are generally problematic if not illegal in a statist society, especially if one is seeking to use self-defense against the state, the ultimate aggressor in the area.

If there is a natural right to a lawyer if you are accused of a crime, then that right means that there must be resources expended to provide citizens with a defense against the government’s accusations.

There is not a natural right to a lawyer if one is accused of a crime. This would entail a right to force some lawyer to work for a particular person, which violates the lawyer’s rights of bodily ownership and freedom of association. These are natural rights because attempting to argue against them results in a performative contradiction. Also note that we need not worry about accusations from a government if there is no government.

A fully privatized law system would be justice for sale to the highest bidder. Citizens without the means to defend themselves could be railroaded into arbitration that works against their interests and for whoever paid for the judge.

It is interesting to note that the problems that statists believe will happen without a state do happen with a state. At present, those with money can bribe politicians and judges to get the results they want. This means that citizens, who lack the means to defend themselves from the state, are railroaded into the government monopoly legal system that works against their interests and for whoever paid for the politicians and judges. In a free society with multiple options for dispute resolution, those with money can try to bribe judges, but those judges will lose credibility and thereby lose customers to other judges who make fairer decisions. There is also no conflict of interest as there is in a statist system, where a citizen taking the government to court will do so before a government judge. Failing this, victims who cannot get justice by peaceful means would have an easier time employing defensive or retaliatory violence against those who have wronged them, as there would be no government monopoly on defense ready to defend the aggressors from vigilante justice. The aggressors would only have what protection they could afford, not the military might of a state.

For that reason, the constitution laid out the means for citizens to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, cruel or unusual punishments, or from things like double jeopardy.

The Constitution has done no such thing. In fact, it is the problem because it purports to establish and justify the institution that commits such wrongs against people. The interpretation of the Constitution is also left up to government agents, which means that foxes are guarding the chicken coop.

It means that while citizens have the right to defend themselves, they must also be defended if they are too weak to defend themselves. Members of the Arizona militia don’t worry about home invasions, but 90-year-old grandmothers in Massachusetts might.

Petersen is attempting to justify robbery and slavery here, which is obviously anti-libertarian. To say that someone must be defended is to say that someone must do the job and someone must pay for it. This means that if no one is willing to do it, then someone must be forced to do it. Forced labor is a form of slavery, and forcing people to fund something is a form of robbery. But according to Petersen, this is acceptable because he thinks it is necessary.

Of course members of the Arizona militia are not worried about home invasions. They have the means to exterminate those who would invade their homes. Where elderly women lack such means, it is generally because government gun control laws have forcibly prevented them from getting such means.

Competitive policing and private security would be available, but public security for those who can’t protect themselves is a natural right if the aim of society is to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Society does not exist; each individual person exists. Therefore, society has no aim apart from the aim of each individual person. The reason why public security cannot be a natural right was explained in the previous section.

A virtuous society would also hopefully include the unborn in that definition.

This is not an argument, but a personal preference, so we may move on.

#2. An anarchist society is unable to protect its citizens from foreign invasion.

A fully anarchist society with no collective means of defense is at the mercy of foreign powers who have not abdicated such means of survival. An anarchist state is at the mercy of anyone who wishes to expand into their territory unchecked. The Native Americans can attest to this.

This is a straw man fallacy because no one is seriously proposing a fully anarchist society with no collective means of defense. In fact, most proposals involve private defense agencies armed with nuclear weapons to deter states from invading, along with a heavily armed population that is ready and willing to exterminate invaders on contact. This fallacy is made quite strange by Petersen’s previous mention of the Arizona militia.

Petersen is also shifting the burden of proof because the burden of proof is on the person who makes a positive claim. The statist must show that the state is the only way to provide military defense; it is not incumbent upon the anarchist to prove that the state is not the only way until the initial burden is met. One can understand why Petersen would shift such a burden, of course. The burden is impossible to bear because for the state to take a portion of one’s property to fund a defense of one’s property makes it a expropriating property protector, a contradiction of terms.

The Native Americans did not have anarchist societies. Most of them would be called social democracies in modern political terms. They also had a huge technology gap against the Europeans that anarchists will not have against statists. And was it not a relatively minarchist government that committed genocide against them?

The constitution laid out the means through which American society can protect itself.

The Constitution empowered the principal enemy against which Americans have not been able to protect themselves.

If I band together with my neighbors to form a mutual defense pact, and we call that a constitution, it would necessarily have the same effect as government.

If you and your neighbors form an organization that has the same effect as government, then it is not a mutual defense pact. The effect of government is to force people to engage or refrain from engaging in certain behaviors, as well as to force people to pay for certain goods and services. In a free society, your constitution would be treated as a charter for a criminal organization.

If government is to exist, its number one job is to protect citizen’s liberties, and after that to protect their lives through a reasonable national defense that is not overly interventionist or burdensome on its taxpayers.

It is impossible for a government to protect the liberties of its citizens because it inherently violates them. The best it can do is to act like a farmer and treat the citizens like sheep. The sheep may be protected from the wolves, but they are not safe from the farmer, who also intends to exploit them and quite possibly slaughter them in due time.

Citizens should absolutely be free to seek the means of self-defense, and should not be prohibited from exercising those means vigorously to defend their own lives, liberty, and property. They should be free to join together for mutual protection, provided they do not infringe on the fundamental natural rights of other citizens in doing so.

I suppose even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut. And sometimes, a person arguing against libertarianism manages to destroy his own arguments.

#3. Anarchy means the non-aggression principle is optional.

The non-aggression principle is always optional. Just because everyone should observe it does not mean that they will. The relevant question is always what penalties or retaliations, if any, one will face for violating the non-aggression principle.

If you believe in the non-aggression principle… who’s job is it to enforce it?

Anyone who wishes to use violence against aggressors may do so, as their violation of the non-aggression principle estops them from making a complaint when someone gives them a taste of their own medicine.

If someone breaks into your home, and you are unable to defend yourself, or pay for private security, who do you call?

This assumes that no one would ever defend another person without being paid to do so, which is false due to a great multitude of counterexamples. People would not suddenly lose what good will they have toward each other simply due to the absence of a violent criminal organization called the state. It also assumes that no company which only services paying customers would ever be proactive. Why would a defense company that is interested in providing better services than its competitors at a lower cost wait until an aggressor robs or kills one of its customers when that threat can be eliminated before such a crime happens? Their customers would demand no less, as it is against the rational self-interest of property owners to have aggressors running around their neighborhoods, even if their own properties have not yet been directly affected.

If Petersen would be consistent here, then he should abandon libertarianism and call for full socialization of everything that he thinks people should not have to do without.

If you have a dispute with your neighbor, who (you allege) stole your life savings, how will you sue them or have them arrested to get it back, assuming you might be correct?

Petersen demonstrates willful ignorance here because anarchists have set forth proposals for how this could be done and he does not appear to have bothered with reading them. The most notable proposal involves a number of dispute resolution organizations which one may choose to resolve the dispute. These would operate like a hybrid of an insurance company, a credit rating agency, and a mediation service, with private defense agencies on call when needed. If it is found that a person has committed an act of theft, then that person would have the choice to either pay restitution or become an outlaw who may be attacked by anyone at any time without penalty, as no DRO or PDA would want the reputation of protecting a person who ignores DRO decisions.

In an anarchist state, no one is responsible for defending life, liberty, or property unless they are paid to do so. Crimes such as theft, fraud, breach of contract, or murder could be committed against those who do not have the means of self-defense. In Ancapistan… no one can hear you scream. And no one cares.

Ignoring the fact that an anarchist state is a contradiction of terms (much like Libertarian Republic, the name of the website where Petersen’s essay is published), Petersen is once again worrying that the problems which do occur with a state might be problems without a state. That which may or may not work is always a better option than that which is known not to work. With a state, even those who are supposedly paid to defend life, liberty, and property are under no obligation to do so, as the state has monopolized the courts and may indemnify its agents for failure to provide defense services. No matter the system, crimes may be committed against those who do not have the means of self-defense. In a statist society, the state frequently victimizes people while the masses cheer for the oppressors and no one cares about the victims, and the victims are deprived by law of the means to defend themselves from the state.

#4. The Non-Aggression Principle? I didn’t sign sh*t!

The Non Aggression principle is a social contract… but I didn’t sign it, and neither did the enemies of liberty. Anarchist often sneer at constitutionalists, arguing that they didn’t sign the document, nor did they agree to it. Then they claim that the only thing we need to live in peace and harmony is the non-aggression principle. The only problem? I didn’t sign it. And neither did Kim Jong Un, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or any other statist dictator on the planet. The non-aggression principle is a social contract, but there is zero obligation to live by it.

The non-aggression principle is not a social contract. It is a moral statement about what constitutes the acceptable use of force. (Nor is the Constitution a social contract; it is a slave contract written by slave-raping hypocrites who had no right to force their contract upon anyone who did not agree to be bound by it at the time, let alone those of us who live almost two centuries after its last surviving signatory died.) Petersen then uses another straw man, as no one is seriously claiming that the non-aggression principle is that the only thing we need to live in peace and harmony.

If Petersen truly believes that there is zero obligation to live by the non-aggression principle, then he should stop calling himself a libertarian, because he is not one.

Indeed, it would be dangerously naive to submit to any form of a non-aggression principle, for as soon as one party signs, those who have not could feel free to decline, and everyone who chooses to live life in a pacific state would be easy prey for those who do not live according to that principle.

The non-aggression principle is not the non-violence principle. Using defensive violence to deter, repel, and kill aggressors as necessary is allowed by the non-aggression principle. Petersen also demonstrates complete ignorance about the definition of a contract. A valid contract is not unilateral (this is why the social contract is invalid, but Petersen also fails to understand this), but is an agreement between two or more parties who enter the agreement in the absence of both coercion and fraud.

People who choose to live as pacifists are easy prey, period. History shows us that those who choose not to defend themselves will be exploited by those who are willing to prey upon them. The state itself is the most triumphant example of this.

Also, in many cases the non-aggression principle forbids the basic principle of a preemptive attack for the purpose of self-defense.

This is false because threatening someone counts as initiating the use of force and may be responded to with as much force as necessary to end the threat.

Anarchists argue that there is ‘no harm, no crime,’ however, if that is the case, then someone pointing a gun at you is not a crime. For if someone points a gun at you, it could be considered aggression, but if they do not shoot, then there is no harm. A minarchist society punishes threats and rightly labels such acts as aggression.

Not all anarchists take this position. No victim means that no restitution is owed and that once the aggressor is subdued, then no force beyond what is necessary to prevent the aggressor from victimizing someone in the future is justified. Thus, an anarchist society can also punish threats and rightly label such acts as aggression.

Now, what if Kim Jong Un placed a nuclear weapon on the launchpad aimed at Los Angeles… the equivalent of pointing a gun? Is it then moral or ethical to destroy their means of aggression? Who may be targeted ethically in such a situation?

If the weapon is ready to be launched and its target is known, then the weapon as well as those who are intent on using it are valid targets, just as one may shoot at a robber’s pistol or at the robber himself. One could also put one’s own nuclear missile on a launchpad and aim at Kim Jong-un’s location in response.

Is there any level of collateral damage acceptable in defending oneself from attack? If there is collateral damage, should there be forced redistributive justice against the citizens defending themselves and to those unfairly harmed as a consequence of being in proximity to destroying the nuclear weapon’s launchpad?

The first question is essentially about whether it is acceptable to harm human shields, and the answer is yes. To answer the second question, those who are in proximity to an implement that is being used for an act of aggression and suffer ill effects from its destruction are homesteaders of their own misery and may not pass that misery onto others in the form of a forced redistribution of wealth.

In even the most rudimentary of scenarios, the non-aggression principle does not provide for the means of adequate self-defense. Not in national defense, or personal.

This is not the function of the non-aggression principle. A moral statement about what constitutes the acceptable use of force would only serve as a guideline for such means.

#5. Private Property

Who defines what is private property? In an anarchist society, there is no commonly accepted definition.

Private property requires an anarchist society because having a state makes private property impossible. Private property is property which a individual has an exclusive right to control and use. In the presence of a state, the state will fund its activities through taxation, which is the taking of private property for state use. If any person or organization may take property from its rightful owner without penalty, then the owner’s right to exclusive control and use has been violated. Therefore, the only possibility for private property rights is to have no state.

Over time, a commonly accepted definition will arise within a particular area because it is less dangerous and more productive to avoid unnecessary violent conflicts, and the purpose of private property is to avoid violent conflicts.

Some may choose to argue that intellectual property is private. Some may decide otherwise and begin acquiring that property for their own benefit.

Some may choose to argue that two plus two equals potato, but they are speaking nonsense, as are those who try to apply the concept of private property to that which is not scarce, not rivalrous, and has no particular form in physical reality. As the entire concept of intellectual property is logically indefensible, there is no means to acquire that which cannot exist.

Some may argue that they have a right to food, and thus their neighbor’s surplus should be rightly theirs, seeing as how the creek from their property fed the crops next door. The farmer next door might argue that the creek actually belongs to him, since it flows across his fields. The beggar next door might argue that the fields are his, since he has been sleeping in them for longer than the farmer has sown them.

Again, people may try to argue for anything, but facts trump opinions. The fact is that while a person may own the ground upon which a creek flows, the water that constitutes the creek is passing from property to property, owned by no one unless someone gathers and uses it, mixing one’s labor with the unowned natural resource. The beggar has no rightful claim because he has not mixed any labor with any unowned natural resource.

Without a firm definition of what constitutes private property, there can be no reliable transactions between parties.

While true, this is not a problem for an anarchist society, as shown above.

An anarchist society can attempt to define what is truly property, but they cannot enforce it, even if they all agree.

Several possible means of enforcement have been discussed above.

To conclude, Petersen fails to prove any of his five points, has committed numerous logical fallacies, and has argued in favor of several anti-libertarian positions. But this is what one should expect in an argument for an idea that has internal contradictions, such as an expropriating property protector or a defense agency that threatens to become an attacking force if one does not submit to its whims.

Why Charles Murray’s Strategy Is Bad, But Should Be Tried Anyway

On May 12, Charles Murray released a new book called By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission. In it, he makes the case that government has greatly overstepped any legitimate functions it may have had, has grown too powerful to fight, and cannot be reined in by normal political means, such as voting and court challenges. While technological advances are helping to return some liberty to the people, there is still a burdensome regulatory state that holds back economic growth and does little (if anything) to actually protect people.

His strategy for dealing with this problem is to overwhelm the enforcement means of the state through large-scale civil disobedience. Examples could include becoming part-time Uber drivers, routinely making deposits of $9,999, or parents including cupcakes in their schoolchildren’s packed lunches. It could also mean people continuing to live life as they have, even though doing so is now in violation of government regulations. To aid in such efforts, Murray proposes a legal defense fund and an insurance against regulatory action. He calls the former the Madison Fund, which is to be an organization that will defend individuals and small businesses against government regulations which would be too costly and time-consuming for them to fight on their own. The latter is to be an effort to treat government fines for regulatory non-compliance as an insurable hazard like other natural or man-made incidents that can lead to financial losses. To aid in such efforts, he proposes that only regulations which are arbitrary, capricious, and lacking in public support be targeted. His goal is to “make large portions of the Code of Federal Regulations de facto unenforceable” and return the United States government to the constraints outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

While this strategy is better than nothing, it leaves much to be desired from a philosophical libertarian perspective. Let us see why this strategy is bad, but should be tried anyway.

The first thing to note is that this is not a strategy for harm elimination, but for harm reduction. Even if Murray’s proposals come to fruition and everything goes as planned, this tactic does nothing to end the source of the problem. His ultimate goal is merely to repeat the experiment of 1787, and we already know how this experiment plays out. The government will stay small for a time, but eventually people will figure out how to buy influence, vote themselves money from the public treasury, and use state power to get protections for themselves at the expense of others. In another century or two, our descendants will face the same problems all over again if Murray has his way. His strategy will also send the message that keeping and using the statist system is the path to liberty, despite the fact that the statist system has caused the erosion of liberty in the first place. There could scarcely be a more detrimental idea to the pursuit of liberty. It must also be noted that while the resisters are gaining inches through their acts of disobedience and court challenges, the state will continue to take miles behind their backs, just as it always has.

Another problem is that when such cases go to court, the courts are not an impartial forum for dispute resolution, as starry-eyed progressives would have us believe. The courts are monopolized by the state and presided over by judges on a government payroll. The prosecutors are also on a government payroll, and any jury members present are there because the state has summoned them. This degree of conflict of interest would not be tolerated in any situation not involving the government. It is thus in the rational self-interest of prosecutors to get decisions that favor the expansion of state power, judges to make such decisions, and both to nudge jurors in that direction. In short, the scofflaws will not get a fair hearing. There is also the matter that politicians will use the sudden clogging of the courts as a pretext for expanding the power of government by creating more courts.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in Murray’s presentation is that he does not fully consider the likely response of the state to his plans. The state will respond to challenges to its power as it always does, with violence, threats, fear, and intimidation. While Murray recognizes that many regulations are arbitrary and capricious, he does not seem to account for the fact that the penalties for violating said regulations can also be made arbitrarily severe to counter the influence of his proposed Madison Fund and insurance companies. Another likely response by the state will be to pick a few high-profile cases, preferably with defendants viewed unsympathetically by the public, and make examples of them, ruining their lives and livelihoods for daring to stand against the almighty colossus of state power. One should also expect to see the IRS and other agencies target the Madison Fund and any insurance company offering policies to protect against regulatory actions. The insurance companies may simply be banned by law from offering such policies, while the Madison Fund could be harassed out of effective operation by civil asset forfeitures and SWAT raids. The Madison Fund and the insurance companies will likely find no relief from this abuse in the courts for reasons explained above, and their manpower and resources would be too busy defending themselves to be able to help those it is intended to help.

There is also the matter that civil disobedience is something of a misnomer. Given that governments are institutions of force, its agents will respond uncivilly to those who practice civil disobedience. In the American civil rights movement and the struggle for Indian independence from Great Britain, the two most common examples used by advocates of non-violent resistance, many demonstrators were assaulted, kidnapped, and murdered. The leaders of these movements were both rewarded with assassination for their pacifism. Non-compliance until force is used risks sending a message to the public that government violence is the solution to the problem of dealing with lawbreakers, regardless of the nature of the laws being broken.

Clearly, this strategy has some serious flaws. But why should it be tried anyway? Murray correctly notes that civil disobedience can succeed where democratic voting cannot. Fewer people are needed to nullify regulations through mass non-compliance than are needed to vote out those who created the regulations, if such people are even subject to elections. More important, however, is the fact that the manpower and resources to resist the state more forcefully are not yet available, and perhaps the only way to gain them is to try more peaceful methods like those advocated by Murray and demonstrate their inadequacy. After all, most people are empiricists to the point of being anti-rational, depending mostly upon their own experiences with some influence from the experience of others, but with very little a priori logic involved. They will not be swayed by reason (otherwise the fight for liberty would have been won long ago!) and must therefore learn by observation and bitter experience. If we are to form a culture of resistance and end the state in our lifetimes, we must recognize that people tend to do the right thing once they run out of other options and do everything we can to test those other options and show their shortcomings as soon as possible.

Police And Criminals: When To Pull For No One

Have you ever watched a sports game between two teams that are bitter rivals of your favorite team? You probably wanted to see both teams exhaust themselves and accomplish nothing of importance. If you are a jerk, you might have wanted to see both teams lose important players to injuries as well. The reason, of course, is that your team will have a better chance of defeating both of them if this happens. If your team is liberty-loving people, then something like this occurred on May 2 in Queens, N.Y.

At about 6:00 p.m. that evening, NYPD officers Brian Moore and Erik Jansen were in an unmarked police car near 212th Street and 104th Avenue, and they were not wearing their uniforms. They spotted a man who was walking and adjusting an object in his waistband. They recognized him as Demetrius Blackwell, 35, a man with an extensive criminal record. Thinking that he may be illegally carrying a firearm, they moved their vehicle to approach him. “Do you have something in your waist?’’ Moore asked Blackwell. “Yeah, I got something,” Blackwell responded, then he pulled out a gun and shot Moore in the head. Moore died two days later.

Of course, everyone in the establishment lapdog media sided for Moore and against Blackwell. I will attempt to show that a person who seeks liberty should side with neither of them.

The case for siding against Blackwell is straightforward. He is known to have no respect for people or private property, as his arrest record contains two arrests for robbery in 1995, one in 2000, and another in 2013. The 2000 robbery also resulted in an attempted murder charge, to which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail. He was also arrested earlier in 2000 for assault. (A 1999 charge for possessing a weapon and a 2000 charge for possessing marijuana would not be crimes in a free society, as there is no victim and no credible threat posed by such actions.) It is clear from his record of multiple aggressions over a long time period that he is an unrepentant aggressor who should be physically removed from society. The first-degree murder of a police officer charge he will now face and likely be convicted on should take care of that. In keeping with his background, the gun Blackwell used to kill Moore was stolen.

The case for siding against Moore requires more thought, as well as some debunking of statist propaganda. The job description of a government police officer 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 reasonably suspected to be breaking the laws. There is no evident problem so far, but let us consider the nature of the laws and how the money in government coffers came to be there.

The laws in a statist society are not determined in accordance with the non-aggression principle, but by the whims of politicians. Some of these laws criminalize behaviors which harm no one, and are therefore contrary to the non-aggression principle. But the job of a government police officer is to enforce all of the laws, not just those which are morally defensible. A government police officer is therefore hired to commit acts of aggression against the citizenry, against which the citizenry may morally (if not legally) use force to defend themselves. The money in government coffers was not homesteaded by the state or gained through voluntary trade, but came into government possession either through conquest or extortion. In earlier times, the state claimed lands as well as the resources in them and either murdered or pushed out those who disagreed with such claims and acted upon their disagreements. In current times, the state extorts people for tax payments by threatening them with additional fines, confiscations, and/or imprisonment for noncompliance, to be enforced by the government police officers if necessary.

This much establishes that a government police officer, although providing some useful services at times, is playing a fundamentally immoral role in society. What Moore did on the night of his slaying, however, was not a useful service. He was disguised as a normal citizen, lying in wait to catch someone doing anything which was not in agreement with the laws of New York City, regardless of the morality of said laws. He sighted someone who might be carrying a gun, which as a form of owning private property and being ready to defend oneself is a perfectly valid behavior that happens to be in disagreement with the laws of New York City, to the point of carrying a prison term of seven years upon conviction. (Interestingly, this is 40 percent longer than the amount of time that Blackwell served for trying to murder someone.) While one can make the argument that a free society might not allow Blackwell to carry a gun because of his violent history, Moore saw the potential firearm before he recognized that it was Blackwell who was carrying it, thereby demonstrating that he would have stopped anyone for this. If Blackwell had attempted to flee, Moore (or other officers) would have pursued him and used as much force as necessary to stop him, up to the point of gunning him down. For the above reasons, Moore demonstrated that he was an aggressor as well.

Like Blackwell, Moore also had a violent history, but unlike Blackwell, his will be celebrated rather than condemned thanks to statist propaganda. According to New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, “In his very brief career, less than five years, he had already proven himself to be an exceptional young officer. In that career, he had made over 150 arrests, protecting and serving the citizens of this city. …He had already received two exceptional police service medals and two meritorious police service medals. We don’t give them out easily.” A significant number of those 150 arrests were made for offenses which do not involve harm done to people or property. Such arrests are not morally defensible, but are acts of aggression against those who are arrested. And again, such arrests are made with as much force as necessary to make them.

While Blackwell had gained the nickname “Hellraiser” on the streets, gun control laws have allowed for far more hellraising than Blackwell could have dreamed of, as they disarm victims and leave only those like Blackwell in possession of firearms. Far from protecting and serving, the government police officers who enforce gun control laws enable criminals to victimize innocent people by depriving them of the means they need to deter, repel, and kill aggressors. In a New York City full of morally upstanding armed citizens, a man like Blackwell would likely not live long enough to compile such a rap sheet, thereby sparing his victims of his aggressions, which ironically means that Brian Moore would likely be alive today.

Now that the case that neither of these men are worthy of support from liberty-minded people has been made, let us return to the sports analogy. Agents of the state and common criminals are two teams which are bitter rivals of people who wish to be free. In this case, both teams lost players and failed to gain any real ground. If events like this were to happen enough times, it would make the fight for liberty from both organized and unorganized criminals an easier fight to win.

Ten observations on the Baltimore riots

On April 12, Baltimore police officers arrested Freddie Gray, who died one week later as a result of injuries sustained during the arrest, including a severed spinal cord, broken neck, and head injury. Following his funeral, riots occurred in which many cars and businesses were looted and destroyed. Ten observations follow.

1. Freddie Gray appears to have been kidnapped and murdered by police. Whether his death was ultimately brought about by physical assault by officers or by a “rough ride” while handcuffed and legcuffed in the back of a police van, there was no legitimate reason for Gray to be arrested. If people who were not agents of the state behaved identically, they would be facing more serious charges than the officers are currently facing, including kidnapping, first degree murder, and conspiracy.

2. The word of the other criminal suspect accompanying Gray is not credible. The suspect riding in the other side of the police van told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post. The problem with such a document is that the police can either fabricate it or gain such a statement under duress by threatening the suspect with decades of imprisonment if the suspect is uncooperative.

3. The government cannot be trusted to hold agents of the government accountable in an unbiased manner. As noted above, private citizens who behaved identically would be facing more serious charges and would likely be subject to death penalty proceedings. Additionally, a government prosecutor trying government agents by a jury of government-convened citizens in a courtroom presided over by a government judge is an enormous conflict of interest that would not be tolerated in any aspect of society that does not involve the government. Both of these facts show a bias inherent in the state to protect its own interests above the interests of justice. There is also the matter that any prison terms for the accused officers will be funded by taxing the citizenry.

4. Government police do not exist to protect the citizenry. Once again, the police excelled at assaulting, kidnapping, and murdering people like Freddie Gray who posed no serious threat while doing nothing to stop large numbers of criminals who were destroying property, businesses, and livelihoods. Somehow this comes as a surprise to most people, but it should not. The purpose of all government security forces is not the objective protection of the civilian population and their private property, as starry-eyed state propagandists would have us believe. The true purpose is threefold: protect the politicians from the citizenry by making it very difficult for citizens to violently overthrow the government, provide a last line of defense for the institution of statism in the form of martial law should the citizens succeed in violently overthrowing the government, and present a deterrent to other rulers elsewhere in the world who might seek to take over and capture the tax base for themselves.

This theory was observable in Baltimore, as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appears to have ordered the police to stand down during the riots, saying at a press conference on April 26, “…we also gave those who wished to destroy, space to do that, as well,” and saying to the police later, “Let them loot. It’s only property.” Notably, she made such comments while living in a gated community with private security and presiding over an institution that helps to deprive the residents of the looted and destroyed areas of the same opportunities for protection.

5. Gun control laws encourage crime. Gun laws in Maryland are among the strictest in the nation, and the city of Baltimore is number 36 on a recent list of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world as a result. Restrictions on the ability of morally upstanding people to carry arms make them more vulnerable to attack while doing little to keep aggressors from taking up arms, as those who will break laws against harming people and property will also break laws that forbid them from using guns to do so. Such laws do not even effectively apply to criminals in most cases, as the Supreme Court has ruled that compliance with gun registration and permit laws by a person who is legally prohibited from owning firearms is a violation of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

6. The militia movement missed a golden opportunity. When the worst rioting occurred on the night of April 27, the police stood down and the National Guard was not yet mobilized and sent to the area. This meant that the rioters had free reign to loot and destroy unless private citizens were present to defend their properties. Had militia groups shown up to defend people and businesses from the rioters, they could have been the heroes of the day, providing security in the wake of a government failure. This would also have done much to combat the idea that militia groups are racist, as the scene of the riots is home to a large percentage of racial minorities. Unfortunately, they missed the best public relations opportunity they have had in years.

7. The rioters are not anarchists. Several members of the establishment media, as well as a few of the protesters themselves, have referred to the protesters and rioters as anarchists, using the word as a synonym for chaos. While this is common, it is incorrect. The word “anarchy” comes from Greek αυαρχος (anarkhos), meaning “without rulers.” To destroy private property and threaten people is to assert one’s rule over them and impose an involuntary hierarchy upon them, which is criminal activity that forms the root of statism. Those who behave in this manner are not anarchists, and those who call themselves anarchists while behaving in this manner are fake anarchists.

8. To understand the rioters is not to condone their actions. Several people from the area who were interviewed about the riots said that while they do not condone the behavior of the rioters, they do understand it. Several left-wing pundits echoed this sentiment. As usual, several right-wing pundits have conflated explanation with justification. But one can understand that the rioters have legitimate grievances without condoning their particular outlet for those grievances. While we can and should condemn the rioters for their poor marksmanship, this does not negate the fact that a group of people have been systematically oppressed by state power. This misunderstanding is nothing new, of course. The same thinking that led the right to denounce Ron Paul and Harry Browne concerning the reasons for the September 11 attacks is at work here.

9. Toya Graham is not an admirable person, let alone “mother of the year.” Many in the media are praising Graham for the way she dealt with her son upon seeing his involvement with the rioting. But in any other context, everyone would understand that this sort of violent parenting is child abuse. A true “mother of the year” would have raised a son who would not be participating in a riot that is targeting innocent people and their property, and would have done so by reasoning with him instead of initiating the use of violence against him. She is also the mother of six children by six different fathers, which shows poor decision making at best and an intention to abuse social welfare programs at worst.

10. All of these problems are ultimately caused by government. In 1910, the city of Baltimore enacted a racial zoning ordinance which created black ghettos where none previously existed. Since then, one government intervention has followed another to create the conditions for the death of Freddie Gray and the rioting that followed. Most of Gray’s lengthy rap sheet would be nonexistent if not for the War on Drugs, so police likely would not have bothered him. Without a government monopoly on security services, a police operation as corrupt as the Baltimore Police Department would have been fired by its customers and had its agents arrested by competing protection agencies for their aggressions against the citizenry. A free market in security services would also mean that the private security officers who protect people and property would out-compete the private security officers who stand down and watch crimes occur. Without a government monopoly on the law, people could possess any weapons they want to have and can get, so they could defend what is rightfully theirs against rioters more effectively. Without a government welfare system providing perverse incentives, the black family would not be in shambles and single motherhood would not be rampant. No matter where we look, government is the problem and removing it is the solution.