Vester Flanagan Was A Model Social Justice Warrior

On the morning of August 26 in Roanoke, Va., two employees of CBS affiliate WDBJ7, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, were gunned down on live television during a field interview by Vester Flanagan, a former employee of the station. Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce and the subject of the interview, was shot but survived.

As Flanagan approached his victims, he recorded himself drawing his weapon, seeming to think twice about going through with the murders. He then advanced and opened fire. After the attack, he fled the scene in his Ford Mustang and picked up a rented Chevrolet Sonic at the airport in an apparent effort to evade police. It turns out that uploading a snuff film to social media and using Twitter to brag about it is not conducive to evading arrest. Just before 11:30 a.m., Flanagan’s rental car was identified and pursued eastbound on Interstate 66 by Virginia state troopers. After being chased 170 miles from the scene of the shooting, Flanagan used his gun to mortally wound himself.

Predictably, leftists and their lapdog media have blamed the usual suspects, namely mental illness and a lack of restrictions on guns. This is thoroughly misguided. A gun in the possession of any good person in the vicinity could have been used to confront and stop Flanagan during his rather lengthy approach, and no current or proposed laws to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill would have stopped Flanagan. (But they would have disarmed some morally upstanding people, which is the true purpose of gun control.) It must also be noted that not every person who commits an evil act has a diagnosable mental illness. Some people form in their minds a thoroughly false worldview and act upon it, which is not currently considered a mental illness (though perhaps it should be).

Let us consider a different target for blame: social justice warriorism. There are several characteristics which distinguish a social justice warrior from a sensible activist, as well as from a delusional person of another type. Social justice warriors typically exhibit a persecution complex, a lack of social skills, a sense of entitlement, a desire to engage in counter-oppression, and a desire to avoid responsibility for one’s actions. We will now see how these characteristics fit with Flanagan’s behavior.

Flanagan had a long history of exhibiting a persecution complex. In 2000, he was fired from NBC affiliate WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Fla. for “odd behavior” and a “poor work ethic.” After his termination, he sued the station and threatened to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging racist discrimination. The case was settled out of court, and his former colleagues said that his allegations were false. He made similar accusations upon being fired from WDBJ in 2013, and that lawsuit was dismissed on July 2 of this year. Dan Dennison, the news director who hired Williams at WBDJ in 2012 and then fired him the following year, said of him,

“Flanagan had a level of a long series of complaints against co-workers nearly from the beginning of employment at the TV station. That really had nothing to do with his termination, and after a lot of investigation both internally and externally, all of these allegations were deemed to be unfounded. And they were largely…along racial lines, and we did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man.”

WDBJ station manager Jeff Marks said of him,

“Vester was an unhappy man. We employed him as a reporter and he had some talent in that respect and some experience. He quickly gathered a reputation of someone who was difficult to work with. He was sort of looking out to people to say things he could take offense to. Eventually, after many incidents of his anger, we dismissed him. He did not take that well. We had to call police to escort him from the building.”

Implicit in his continual complaints about being discriminated against are a sense of entitlement and an avoidance of responsibility for his behavior. His behavior toward his co-workers also indicates poor social skills.

Flanagan also made many other efforts to avoid responsibility for his actions. When engaging in journalism, he used the false name Bryce Williams. This is not always wrong; a false name is sometimes necessary in journalism. If one is performing an undercover investigation, a false name can keep one’s cover intact and allow important information to be brought to public attention. In a political environment that is hostile to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, a false name can allow one to tell the truth about the rulers and their minions without the usual repercussions. In a discriminatory environment, a false name can allow a person of a discriminated class to be taken seriously when they otherwise would not be. For example, some female writers in ages past had a male pen name for this reason. None of these conditions applied to Flanagan, so his false name was simply an avoidance of responsibility by refusing to attach his real name to his journalistic content. His efforts to escape and his subsequent suicide when his escape was unsuccessful were also meant to avoid responsibility by evading justice for his crimes.

Flanagan claimed that his motive for murder was the shooting perpetrated by Dylann Roof in Charleston on June 17. In a 23-page suicide note sent to ABC, he said,

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15…What sent me over the top was the church shooting. And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them. As for Dylann Roof? You (expletive)! You want a race war (expletive)? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE …(expletive)!!! Yes, it will sound like I am angry…I am. And I have every right to be. But when I leave this Earth, the only emotion I want to feel is peace…The church shooting was the tipping point…but my anger has been building steadily…I’ve been a human powder keg for a while…just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

Rather than work to eliminate oppression, Flanagan acted to counter-oppress by killing innocent white people in response to an earlier killing of innocent black people.

Vester Flanagan was the very model of a social justice warrior. He saw himself as a victim of non-existent oppression rather than as responsible for his own conduct and performance. He thought himself entitled to be treated favorably without taking the necessary steps to earn favorable treatment. Rather than act to bring about an end to oppression, he sought to reverse the oppression he perceived and harm innocent people who had what he wanted, what he once had and could not manage to keep because of his own poor behavior and choices. After doing this, he did everything he could to refuse to answer for his crimes. In other words, he was everything that social justice warriors strive to be.

America is both fascist and communist? An explanation

In the first two parts of this series, we looked at the 14 defining characteristics of fascism and the 10 measures outlined in the Communist Manifesto, and analyzed their presence in the United States of America in 2015. The results are that America is roughly 74 percent of the way toward fascism and 64 percent of the way toward communism. But historically, the rulers who governed under these two ideologies were mortal enemies, causing tens of millions of deaths in both war and democide. How can a country be both fascist and communist? Let us see.

First, there is the historical explanation. Of the two, communism has the earliest historical origin, with elements of communist thought being present from antiquity. But modern communism, as formulated by Marx and Engels, first achieved power in the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. While fascism arguably had a precedent in the Roman Empire, modern fascism grew in large part as a reaction against communism, which partly explains the common placement of fascism on the far right. However, this is not entirely accurate because the fasci in Italy were similar to guilds or syndicates, and most of them were on the political left. It was only with Mussolini’s formation of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in 1919, which would later become the National Fascist Party in 1921, that the ideas of syndicalism would be blended with ultra-nationalism to create what is now considered a right-wing statist ideology. In America, the closest analog to fascism at that time was the progressive movement under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the Democratic Party, and Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover from the Republican Party. State power grew enormously under the leadership of these presidents, and most of the government programs and laws that make America’s communist and fascist scores so high were enacted with their signatures. After World War II, the progressives sought to hide their similarities with fascists. They denounced the eugenicist positions they had formerly embraced and redefined nationalist socialism as right-wing while continuing to define their more international socialism as left-wing.

Next, there is the horseshoe theory proposed by Jean-Pierre Faye. It says that the far left and the far right share an authoritarian outlook and call for expansions of state power, and therefore have much more in common than adherents of either would care to admit. Despite being commonly considered to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, fascism and communism are actually quite similar in their results. This is because the common aspects of both are the most influential ones; both ideologies reject individualism, free markets, absolute private property, democratic voting, and religions that oppose the state, while promoting centralized government, one-party totalitarian rule, a planned economy, cronyism, government as the agent of change in society, the use of rallies and propaganda to promote the establishment, and the use of force to achieve political and social goals. As such, a country can be 60 to 80 percent in line with both communist and fascist ideology without completely falling into one or the other.

Finally, there is the political bell curve model proposed by Thomas Knapp. (My version of his diagram of this serves as the picture for this article.) In this model, political ideologies are positioned on a bell curve based upon their left-right position as well as their level of support for initiatory force. In this diagram, fascists and communists find themselves together at the top of the curve, as both have no qualms with the use of force to enact their ideologies. Rather high on each side of the curve are the mainstream Republicans and Democrats in America, with classical liberals and mainstream Libertarians residing lower on each side. The tails are occupied by classical anarchists and anarcho-capitalists, each of whom are completely opposed to state power, though for much different reasons.

All of these explanations are plausible, and together they create a convincing case that a nation can be both communist and fascist.

The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Nuclear Iran

On July 14, an agreement was reached between Iran, the P5+1, and the European Union concerning the Iranian nuclear program. The deal reduces the number of operating centrifuges by almost 70 percent, calls for the plutonium reactor at Arak to be redesigned so as not to produce fissile materials, and sets up an inspection regime. Reactions among the political establishment have been mostly negative, with all Senate Republicans now opposing the agreement while Democrats are more mixed. President Obama has threatened to veto a Congressional rejection of the agreement, so a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress will be needed to overturn the agreement.

Most libertarians who have weighed in on the agreement are either in favor of it or ambivalent. The case that no one, libertarian or otherwise, has dared to make is that the agreement is bad not because it does too little to stop Iran, but because it does too much. Let us attempt to make that case.

Of course, the pragmatic libertarian case for nuclear proliferation in general applies to this particular case. When a nation state gains nuclear capability, the likelihood that it will be involved in a total war and/or be subject to invasion by a foreign power drops dramatically, as this has never happened thus far. Accordingly, having a nuclear deterrent also lessens the need for conventional military forces, meaning that the size of government budgets can shrink. And in the long run, nuclear weapons will need to proliferate to the point where private individuals can acquire them as a deterrent against existing states when establishing stateless communities. There are several concerns raised by those who seek to keep Iran out of the nuclear club, none of which withstand scrutiny because they require Iran to behave in exactly the opposite manner of every other nuclear state, especially those with highly questionable rulership. These concerns are that Iran would have a first-use policy, might hand nuclear weapons to terrorist groups like Hezbollah or Hamas, might be emboldened in its foreign policy, or might set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

The problem with believing that Iran would have a first-use policy is that Israel has far more nuclear weapons than Iran will, meaning that destruction would be mutually assured. The rulers of Iran want to survive and continue ruling, just like any other rulers. They do engage in hateful, religiously extreme rhetoric, but one must remember that religion in the hands of statists is just another tool for controlling the masses, not something that the rulers try to obey to the letter at all times. Their more measured behavior, such as refraining from blocking the Strait of Hormuz, is a more useful guide than their words. The problems with believing that Iran would supply nuclear weapons to terrorists are that 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 Iran is quite low, as Iran has stronger national security than most other states in the region. The problem with believing that having nuclear weapons would embolden Iran is that all nuclear powers except the United States have become more cautious abroad after getting the bomb, and there is no evidence to suggest that Iran will behave in a manner similar to American imperialism. It is also ahistorical to suggest that an Iranian nuclear weapon would lead other states in the region to seek their own nuclear weapons, but even if this were to happen, it will be argued later that this result would be positive.

There are several additional reasons beyond the standard case for why it may be beneficial for Iran to join the nuclear club. Currently, Israel is the only state in the region known to possess nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapons state that is unchecked by another exists nowhere else in the world at present; India and Pakistan check each other, the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China check each other, and North Korea is checked by the United States, Russia, and China. Unchecked nuclear weapons states have a dangerous history from the beginning; Truman was able to use nuclear weapons in anger against Japan because there was no threat of retaliation in kind. It is clear from Israel’s past strikes on Iraq and Syria that it intends to maintain this regional monopoly by force, and its ability to attack its neighbors with near-impunity creates a desire in its rivals to prevent this in the future. It is only a matter of time before some other state in the region gains nuclear capability, and if history is any guide, this will serve to balance an unbalanced situation and lead to less conflict.

Should Iran become a nuclear weapons state, the details may vary but three general outcomes are possible. One is that there will be peace through mutually assured destruction. Just as India and Pakistan each came to understand that challenging each other’s nuclear deterrent would be more dangerous than learning to live with it and signed a treaty in 1991 agreeing not to target each other’s nuclear facilities, Israel and Iran will be strongly incentivized to come to the same conclusion. Another is that there will be an uneasy direct peace, but Israel and Iran will fight each other through proxies, as the United States and Soviet Union did in Korea and Vietnam. This is already occurring in a sense, as Iran supplies arms to Hezbollah and Hamas. With a nuclear Iran, this sort of dynamic may continue as a stability-instability paradox. The final possibility is that of a nuclear exchange. This has never happened anywhere in the world and the rational self-interest of everyone involved suggests that this will not happen between Israel and Iran, but one cannot deny that the result of a nuclear exchange would be long-term peace in the Middle East, at least for those in the fallout zone.

The possibility that Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state would inspire other rulers in the area to acquire nuclear weapons of their own is raised as a dark specter by those who oppose Iranian nuclear weapons, but this could serve as an additional stabilizer if such a novel historical development were to occur. Iran has a Shia Muslim majority, while most other states in the region have a Sunni Muslim majority. If a Sunni state were also to acquire a nuclear deterrent as well, the likelihood of Sunnis being caught in a proxy war between Jews and Shiites decreases, as the proxies in other stability-instability paradoxes have not had nuclear weapons. The sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias would also be disincentivized, as the cost of continuing to engage in it would become too high for all but the most extreme elements on both sides.

In conclusion, the fears about Iranian nuclear weapons are largely overblown and tend to stand athwart history and reason. A nuclear armed Iran is by no means benign, but neither is any other group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force within a geographical area and have such devastating capability. Despite all of the emotional fear-mongering to the contrary, the result is very likely to be a more peaceful and stable Middle East. As always, the primary enemy is the state itself, not the boogeyman du jour.

A stateless solution to the problem of water pollution

On August 5, agents of the Environmental Protection Agency were investigating an abandoned gold mine near the Animas River in Colorado. It had been leaking toxic water at a rate of 50 to 250 gallons a minute, and the agents were looking for a way to stop it. They did quite the opposite, releasing more than 3 million gallons of pollutants including arsenic, cadmium, and lead into the Animas River.

In response, the City of Durango and La Plata County have declared states of emergency, and Gov. John Hickenlooper released $500,000 in funds for assistance. Durango’s officials stopped pumping water from the Animas into the city reservoir in time to prevent its contamination, but the people there must now make do with water from an unaffected tributary of the Animas. Those who live outside the city and use well water may have to stop due to contamination. The river is closed indefinitely, and the pollutants have made their way from Colorado to New Mexico and the Navajo Nation.

While this event is a major disaster that deserves at least as much attention that it is getting from the establishment media, a government agency causing the very problem it is supposed to prevent should not be news to anyone, as this is the fundamental nature of the state. The state is supposed to protect life, but it has destroyed life to the extent of 370 million people in the 20th century alone. The state is supposed to protect liberty, but it has incarcerated millions of people for no legitimate reason. The state is supposed to protect property, but it violates property rights with taxation, eminent domain, intellectual “property” laws, civil forfeiture, and (somewhat ironically) environmental regulations. That a government agency tasked with limiting pollution would cause a massive toxic spill is par for the course; the real surprise should be that this does not occur more frequently.

Clearly, the environment needs no enemies when it has friends like the EPA. But how can the problem of water pollution be solved without government involvement? Let us examine how this might work within a libertarian framework, and how the incentives therein contrast with the incentives of a government agency like the EPA.

The first thing to note is that all property in a free society is privately owned, whereas the state currently claims ownership over all navigable waterways. But state ownership is not the same as private ownership. Whereas a private owner both exercises exclusive control over a resource and may sell either the resource or stock in it, government officials cannot generally do the latter. This means that government officials lack an important economic incentive to take care of the waterways. A private owner of a river who finds garbage or toxic chemicals therein would sue the polluter for damages, but no one reasonably expects the EPA to file a lawsuit against itself, and such agencies tend to block such lawsuits when filed by concerned citizens. This lack of incentive also leads governments to pollute lakes and rivers with municipal sewage, to the extent of more than 850 billion gallons of raw or untreated sewage that reaches American streams, rivers, and lakes annually.

The essential fact about water pollution is that the polluter adds harmful substances to the water against the wishes of those who are exposed to it, either through consumption, external contact, or soil pollution as the contaminants are left behind once polluted water has been used for purposes such as crop irrigation. When such exposure occurs, the pollution is not only an aggression against private property, but against liberty and life as well in the event of illness or death caused by the pollutants. This means that a polluter may be guilty not only of damaging property, but of assault or homicide.

It is clear that governments cannot be trusted to defend its citizens from such aggressions, but it has done worse; it has prevented free market solutions from being implemented. During the 19th century, people whose property was damaged by factory smoke took the factory owners to court, seeking relief from the pollution in the form of injunctions and damages. The government judges, realizing on which side their bread was buttered, sided with the factory owners, claiming that the “public good” of industrial progress outweighed private property rights. Such case law regarding air pollution applies to water pollution as well. Legislators, also knowing who was more capable of funding their campaigns and bribing them, joined in for the polluters and against the victims by eliminating the option of class action lawsuits against polluters who cause damage over a large area. As Frank Bubb writes, “It is as if the government were to tell you that it will (attempt to) protect you from a thief who steals only from you, but it will not protect you if the thief also steals from everyone else in the neighborhood.” That the government’s tax collectors are thieves of this nature is not unrelated.

Without government involvement, the provision of legal services and pollution remedies will be open to the market. As most people seek to avoid armed confrontations whenever possible, it stands to reason that they will create organizations to resolve disputes peacefully whenever possible and resort to force only when necessary. These dispute resolution organizations would combine the (legitimate) services currently monopolized by government police and courts. Some may also offer various types of insurance, military defense, and/or correctional facilities, while others may contract out such services to other companies. Such companies make possible a number of solutions to the problem of water pollution. Let us examine them.

The threat of water pollution is a situation in which costs are unpredictable and consequences can be severe, so a natural response in a free market would be to have insurance against pollution of one’s private property in a waterway. This benefits everyone because the insurer makes a profit as long as pollution stays below the level specified in the insurance policy and the policy holders get a payoff if pollution does exceed that level. The insurer is also incentivized to spend any amount of money less than what the payoff would be in order to keep pollution from occurring. This could include buying waterways or land near them that potential polluters seek to acquire, paying potential polluters to either go elsewhere or refrain from polluting, helping potential polluters to operate a more environmentally friendly business, helping victims of pollution in their efforts to sue and/or prosecute polluters, organizing boycotts of polluting businesses and those who associate with them, or aiding those who use defensive violence against polluters.

We may anticipate a few criticisms. In the system described, a company could threaten to pollute in an effort to receive payments and/or assistance from a pollution insurer, outbid any attempt to buy up land or waterways, ignore court decisions against them, or try to militarily defeat property owners who use defensive violence against them. These are serious problems, but each of these problems is as bad or worse in a statist system. Threatening people or businesses with harm unless payment is made to them is the definition of extortion. This problem is rampant in statist societies, as states are funded through taxation, a form of extortion. States are far more capable than private companies of making and carrying out such threats. If private property owners in a statist society wish to exclude a polluter from their neighborhood by buying up all of the land, the polluter can have the state use its powers of eminent domain to give them the property and use as much force as necessary to evict the current occupants. (And the state controls the waterways, so no luck there.) While polluters could try to ignore court decisions against them in a stateless society, this would be quite risky because such courts are not likely to hear complaints from people who have a reputation of ignoring court rulings, and other people are disincentivized to do business with someone who ignores court rulings. This fact is what allowed historical merchant courts to be effective though they lacked the power of enforcement. And as discussed earlier, governments have severely curtailed the ability of pollution victims to sue for damages, so whereas court decisions may sometimes fail to stop polluters in a free society, they frequently are not even allowed to try in a statist society. Finally, there is the use of force in self-defense against polluters. This must be a legitimate option in the event that nonviolent methods of preventing the aggression of pollution fail; otherwise, property rights are not rights at all, but limited privileges. It may be that a polluter has the resources to militarily defeat property owners who use defensive violence against them, but a person or business in a free society has only the military might that it can afford, not the military might of a nation-state. The private property owners also have a better chance in a free society because there would be no arms control laws to keep them from owning machine guns, rockets, tanks, missiles, or anything else they may want to use in their efforts. Let us not pretend that this option is off the table in a statist society; it is just monopolized by the state, in that a violator of government environmental regulations would ultimately be stopped by government agents with guns if nothing less were effective at bringing the violator into compliance. But if pollution victims in a statist society were to take up arms to stop a polluter by force, the state would use as much force as necessary to stop them, and the pollution victims are almost certain to lose that fight eventually.

It is obvious that a stateless alternative to the current system has much better incentives to reduce water pollution and protect the environment. The answer to the question of why private property, free markets, and non-aggression have not been permitted to solve this problem as described above is the same as always: the rational self-interest of powerful people is to keep things as they are and stand athwart true progress.

Eight observations on the Memphis police shooting

On August 1, Memphis, Tenn. police officer Sean Bolton found a 2002 Mercedes Benz parked illegally. He pulled in front of the car and shined his spotlight inside. He then approached the vehicle and engaged in a struggle with Tremaine Wilbourn, who was in the passenger seat. Wilbourn then shot Bolton several times, mortally wounding him. Wilbourn and the driver fled the scene, leaving behind 1.7 grams of marijuana in their vehicle. The driver later turned himself in and was released without charges. Wilbourn turned himself in on August 3 and is facing first-degree murder charges. Eight observations on this incident follow.

1. The War on Drugs is a war on people. When government agents wage the War on Drugs, they do not ultimately fight against drugs; they fight against people. They may confiscate drugs, paraphernalia, and money believed to be part of the drug trade, but they are ultimately depriving drug users, sellers, and manufacturers of their liberty and property. If they resist, then they are frequently deprived of their lives as well.

2. Agents of the state who enforce laws against victimless activities are aggressors. Under the common law as well as libertarian principles, a crime requires a victim. Some person must be harmed and/or some property must be damaged. In other words, some violation of rights must have occurred. All other behaviors may be disliked, but are not legally actionable under such a standard.

The current legal code is quite different, however. It consists of threats made by sociopaths who managed to win popularity contests, and very few of these are within the realm of punishing rights violators. While the current system rewards government agents who enforce such “laws,” these agents are the real criminals by common law as well as libertarian standards.

3. Killing an aggressor is not murder; it is self-defense. “You gunned down, you murdered a police officer, for less than 2 grams of marijuana,” said Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong during a press conference on August 2. As explained in the previous point, when a government agent enforces an unjust law, that agent is the aggressor in the situation. Although a jury will almost certainly disagree in cases where the aggressor wears a government badge and costume, a person who is aggressed against has the right to defend oneself from an aggressor by using any level of force necessary to end the threat. As government agents are hired to use as much force as necessary to gain the compliance of the population, it is reasonable to expect that deadly force will be necessary if one wishes to use violence in self-defense against them.

4. Actions have opposing reactions. “You literally destroyed a family,” said Armstrong. That may be, but how many families have Bolton and other government agents like him destroyed with the War on Drugs? In 2013, the number of arrests for drug offenses was estimated at 1,501,043, which was higher than the number of arrests for violent crimes (480,360), driving under the influence (1,166,824), larceny-theft (1,231,580). Only property crimes (1,559,284 arrests) ranked higher, and some of these (as well as the other categories) are indirectly caused by the economic side effects of the War on Drugs, as pushing drugs into the black market both encourages criminal violence as a form of dispute resolution and raises prices to a point where drug addicts must steal to finance their habits. When government agents fight a war on people as explained in observation #1, the people will eventually fight back.

There is another aspect to Newton’s Third Law as applied to this situation. Statistics correlating crime rates to race aside, there is a perception that white police officers are disproportionately killing black citizens. This has led more peaceful activists to form the Black Lives Matter movement, and has led more violent activists to riot in Ferguson and Baltimore. In some cases, this perception encourages black citizens to shoot at white police officers as a form of retaliation for perceived injustices.

5. Wilbourn was not a coward. “I think it’s safe to say that when you look at this individual, you’re looking at a coward. He’s a coward,” Armstrong said of Wilbourn. The word “coward” is defined as “a person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.” While killing an aggressor in self-defense is morally justifiable, ending another person’s life is not a pleasant experience for most people. Engaging in a gun battle with a government agent is certainly dangerous, as many people who do so do not survive the experience, and those who do usually face decades in a cage, capital punishment, or both. Wilbourn engaged in these actions and is likely to be sentenced for first-degree murder, so clearly he did not lack the courage to do so. His actions were therefore not cowardly, but somewhere on a sliding scale between bravery and foolhardiness.

6. That being said, Wilbourn was also not a hero. Upon hearing statements like observations #2, #3, and #5, statist apologists are prone to emotional outbursts in which they declare the speaker to be insane and/or treasonous, and accuse the speaker of idolizing and sympathizing with criminals. Fortunately, logic overrules emotion, and we may thus dismiss such foolishness. Basic logic shows that the idea of the winner of a conflict being a hero does not follow just because the loser of the conflict was a villain. The facts of the case show this as well. Wilbourn was on probation for an armed bank robbery after being released two years early from a 10 year federal prison term in July 2014. When common criminals and state agents fight, those who seek liberty should pull for no one rather than pull for the common criminals.

7. All lives do not matter. “There is a theme that Black lives matter,” said Armstrong. “At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, do all lives matter? Regardless of race, creed, color, economic status, what profession that person holds. All lives matter … and this is just a reminder of how dangerous this job is.” The idea that all lives matter implies that there is some inherent value to human life. This is false because there is no such thing as inherent value. It is known both rationally and empirically that all value is subjective. Goods and services are worth what people are willing to pay for them; no more and no less. People get the dignity and respect that other people are willing to afford them; no more and no less.

At this point many people will object, wondering how human life can be respected if it has no inherent value. But respect for human life comes not from value, but from the very act of argumentation. When people agree to engage in rational argumentation, they implicitly accept certain behavioral norms. One such norm is to respect the lives of the people who are receiving one’s arguments, as acting in a contrary manner implies that force is preferable to reason. If an arguer believes this, then it begs the question of why the arguer is arguing rather than resorting to force. The arguer is clearly being deceitful in one way or another; the arguer may simply be lying, or may be using argumentation as a ruse while preparing to use force.

There is also the matter that the right to life, like any other right, is proven by rational argument and is therefore subject to rational argumentation. To claim a right for oneself while violating the equivalent right of other people is moral hypocrisy, and hypocrisy cannot be rationally advanced in argument. Therefore, a murderer can claim no right to life because a murderer is defined as a person who has violated the right to life of another person. Thus, the lives of murderers do not matter, which serves as a counterexample to the claim that all lives matter.

8. Contrary to establishment media content, the true nature of this struggle is not black versus white, but blue versus you. The establishment media continues to make the story about race, but this is a deflection to keep people from fighting the real enemy. Even if there were no racial component whatsoever, there would still be a group of people who call themselves “the state” and violate the behavioral norms that everyone else (aside from common criminals, mafia members, and terrorists) follows. The state is the real enemy, but the establishment media cannot say this because doing so is against their rational self-interest. It is far easier and safer for them to repeat propaganda and serve as lapdogs for state power than to do authentic journalism, and siding with the people against the state would jeopardize their cozy relationship with the political class.

A Measure Of Communism In America

Communism is a political theory originating with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, though aspects of communism can be found in various societies dating back to antiquity. In practice, communism combines the ideas of collectivism and socialism into a system in which class, money, and private property are abolished. While its original adherents believed in a withering away of the state (anarcho-communism), in practice communism has only existed under authoritarian, nationalistic governments that are usually considered to be far left-wing. Historically, it gained prominence with the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union, and was the major rival of more capitalistic systems until the end of the Cold War. Five communist states are still extant: China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea, and Vietnam.

To what extent is the United States of America in 2015 a communist nation? In order to determine this, a means of measurement is needed. In Chapter II of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels laid out 10 measures which should be enacted by governments to move a society closer to communism. Let us examine these measures and assign each of them a value on a ten-point scale, with zero being completely absent and 10 being omnipresent. Let us also see how many are trending upward, trending downward, and holding steady. The final score on a 100-point scale will give a useful measure of the degree of communism in America.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

While true private property rights require anarchy (and thus no statist society can get a 0/10 score on this item), most states allow for some exercise of control over land by private citizens. In a statist society without complete communism, it is thus a question of the extent to which the state interferes with private property rights. In America, there are zoning laws which tell property owners that they are not allowed to build structures which serve a certain purpose or which fall outside of certain parameters. The state also has expansive eminent domain powers which allow it to take private property for public use. Environmental regulations have taken the place of the exercise of private property rights to either sue polluters for damages or use defensive force to stop them from polluting. Civil asset forfeiture allows government agents to steal private property under color of law, even from people who are ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. The federal government claims over 600 million acres of land, with especially large claims in the Western United States. At the local level, there are property taxes which can result in seizure of one’s property by the state for non-payment. Recent years have seen more protests over these abuses, but the expansion of state power in this regard continues.

Score: 7/10, Trend: Slightly Up

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

While income taxes in America began with the Revenue Act of 1861 and was tried again in 1894, the income tax as it is known today began with the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913. The highest tax rate was 94 percent for people earning over $200,000 in 1944 and 1945, but has since been backed off to 39.6 percent. 43 out of 50 state governments also impose income taxes. The federal corporate tax rate in the United States is the highest in the world, although some sub-national governments in the United Arab Emirates impose a 55 percent corporate tax rate. While there are calls for reform, there are many powerful people whose rational self-interest is against such reform.

Score: 8/10, Trend: Steady

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

While Americans are free to write wills and bequeath their possessions, there have been taxes on inheritance since the 18th century. One such tax was levied from 1797 to 1802, and others were levied temporarily to fund the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. The modern estate tax was enacted in 1916 and was in effect until 2001, returning again in 2011. The tax rate on inheritance can be as high as 40 percent, but it only applies to estates valued at over $5.43 million, which are relatively few in number. The issue continues to be contentious, with some politicians advocating for the abolition of estate taxes.

Score: 3/10, Trend: Steady

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

If we take the word “rebels” broadly, to refer to anyone who disagrees with the state and acts upon that disagreement, then this is certainly being done. The government violations of private property rights mentioned in item #1 are more pronounced against political opponents of the state in general or the current regime in particular. Those who rebel against tax laws can have liens placed on their property. As for those who wish to emigrate, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act makes it more difficult for Americans to have assets outside of the United States. Unlike most states, America taxes its citizens on income earned anywhere in the world and regardless of whether they reside inside the United States. To deter avoidance of taxes by renunciation of citizenship, the United States has levied an expatriation tax on those who have done so since 1966. Any person with a net worth over $2 million or with an average income tax liability of over $139,000 per year who renounces his or her citizenship is automatically assumed to have done so for tax avoidance reasons and is subject to additional expatriation taxes. Calls to further persecute those who flee America are growing, and the use of force against those who oppose the state is escalating.

Score: 7/10, Trend: Up

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

This measure has been in place since the Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913. The Federal Reserve System is a national central bank that has an exclusive monopoly over legal tender in the United States. All local banks are members of the Federal Reserve System. Like central banks in other nations, the Federal Reserve indirectly loans money to the government by purchasing sovereign debt. While there are growing calls to audit or even abolish the Federal Reserve, serious action toward the latter has not been forthcoming.

Score: 10/10, Trend: Steady

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

Since the creation of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1934 and the revision of its powers in 1996, all communication by radio, telephone, wire, cable, and satellite falls under its regulatory power, though broadcasters and content creators are usually private. On February 26, 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality, which tightens restrictions on Internet service providers. The delivery of letter mail in the United States was monopolized by the state with the Postal Act of 1851. Most transportation infrastructure in America, such as roads, railways, seaports, and airports, are either completely state-controlled or heavily regulated by the Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Interstate Commerce Commission, and various state government port authorities. Driving a vehicle on the roads requires a license. Amtrak is a state-owned monopoly passenger rail company. Technology to circumvent these government activities and create a freer market is roughly keeping pace with expansions of government power.

Score: 7/10, Trend: Steady

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

The United States does not have factories and instruments of production which are directly owned by the state, but they are heavily subsidized and regulated. This is accomplished through a multitude of government agencies, some of which are the Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Internal Revenue Service. Likewise, there are no communist-style collective farms in America, but there are giant agribusinesses which are heavily subsidized and regulated by the state. Again, a multitude of government agencies are involved, such as the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration. The Desert Land Act of 1877 allows American citizens to settle waste-lands in an effort to bring them into cultivation and improve the soil, but there is no common plan for this. These conditions show no sign of changing anytime soon.

Score: 6/10, Trend: Steady

8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

The equal liability of all to work has been significantly damaged by the welfare state, minimum wage laws, and other such government interference with the free market. It is also noteworthy that the heavy, progressive income tax recommended in item #2 creates incentives which are contrary to this goal. The establishment of industrial armies has been made largely unnecessary by advances in technology and automation since the time of Marx and Engels, although parts of the large prison population in America are used in this way. These effects will change in the long term because the current system is unsustainable, but are likely to continue for several more years.

Score: 4/10, Trend: Steady

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.

As mentioned in item #7, government involvement in agriculture is making small family farms less viable, leading to more large agribusinesses that treat farming more like manufacturing. As America urbanizes, the distinction between town and country is growing rather than being abolished. In 1790, only 5.1 percent of Americans lived in cities. As of 2010, the number has grown to 80.7 percent. These trends are likely to continue.

Score: 4/10, Trend: Slightly Down

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production.

Between 1852 and 1917, state governments in the United States passed laws to make schooling compulsory. While there are private schools and home schools, they are subject to government oversight and regulation. Child labor was outlawed in America for children under the age of 14 (except for agricultural jobs) by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The combination of education with industrial production is rather limited, occurring only for some occupations. There are calls for government schooling to begin earlier than kindergarten currently does, and minimum wage increases are making it harder for the minors who are allowed to work to find jobs.

Score: 8/10, Trend: Up

Overall, America gets a score of 64 out of 100, meaning that America is 64 percent of the way toward communism and away from liberty. The overall trend is slightly upward, meaning that the score could advance at a rate of one or two points per year.