Make America Miss Again: The 2016 Republican National Convention

On July 18-21, the Republican Party held its national presidential nominating convention in Cleveland. Over a thousand delegates from all 50 states attended the convention, along with dozens of guest speakers. Each day had a different theme, based on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.” These were “Make America Safe Again,” “Make America Work Again,” “Make America First Again,” and “Make America One Again.” Let us examine each of these themes, how they were presented, and what is wrong with the approach of Trump and the Republicans.

Safe Again

The theme of the first night was “Make America Safe Again.” According to the GOP convention site,

“From attacks on our own soil and overseas to the tragedy in Benghazi, the policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have left us vulnerable. Our immigration system is broken, leaving our country open to security threats and the negative consequences of illegal immigration. A Donald Trump administration will listen to and learn from our nation’s heroes who have put themselves in harm’s way and pursue a national security strategy and foreign policy that will strengthen our military and make America safe again.”

But it is the United States government that does the most to make Americans unsafe, and the Trump agenda does little to address this problem. To the extent that crime has decreased since its peak in 1991, it correlates more strongly with increased firearm ownership among the citizenry than with anything the government has done.

Under a Trump regime, there will still be a multitude of laws which criminalize behaviors that do not aggress against any person or property. The police who enforce those laws will continue to make Americans unsafe. Currently, Americans are 58 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, and this statistic is unlikely to improve unless more terrorism occurs during a Trump administration.

Unfortunately, that could be the case. Trump’s plan for dealing with ISIS (whatever it might be) is likely to motivate many more people to join terrorist organizations and kill Americans. When civilians are killed in drone bombings, as over 55 were in the week leading up to the convention, their surviving family members will want revenge. However horrible ISIS is, they will view it as the lesser evil if Americans killed their family members and ISIS did not. They will probably never find the drone pilots to kill them, as would be just, so they will try to kill American civilians, and some of them will succeed.

Trump’s military policy is to “build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us.” But the American military budget is five times larger than that of its next competitor (China) and as much as the next 11 countries combined. This drives up the national debt, which many experts consider to be the most serious long-term threat to national security.

Of course, the lineup of speakers failed to recognize any of this, instead focusing on the standard Republican fare of Hillary Clinton’s failure in Benghazi, the need for border security, and the hostile climate toward police. This may lead Trump to victory, but those who fail to understand the roots of problems have no hope of solving them. Then again, solving them may not be the point.

Work Again

The theme of the second night was “Make America Work Again.” According to the GOP convention site,

“The Obama years have delivered anemic economic growth, the lowest labor-force participation rate in 38 years, and job-killing regulations and legislation like Obamacare. These policies are crushing middle-class families, and a Hillary Clinton presidency would merely be an Obama third term that would deliver the same poor results. Donald Trump is a successful businessman with a solid record of creating jobs and the experience we need to get America’s economy up and running … and get Americans working again.”

Unfortunately, the speeches that night had almost nothing to do with the theme. There was criticism of the Clintons, vague talk of Trump “supporting businesses of all sizes” (whatever that means), and base assertions that Republicans care about jobs and the economy. To quote Peter Suderman, “None of these things are plans in the sense that offer or even suggest a set of specific, plausible, debatable steps that a president might take. That’s what a plan is. A plan is not the end result you hope to achieve; it’s a description of the particulars of how you intend to produce that result.”

What we know of Trump’s economic policy is not much better. His tariff proposals would not protect American jobs, but would make goods and services more expensive for the American population, as all such measures do. The tariffs against American goods that other countries would impose in response would harm American exports and destroy American jobs. His plan to oppose H1-B visas will only raise the cost of hiring people, which will result in less jobs. His support for intellectual property will maintain artificial economic inefficiencies and continue disrespect for real property rights. Labeling China a “currency manipulator,” as Trump intends to do, will strain relations while being enormously hypocritical, given the Federal Reserve’s record of currency debasement.

First Again

The theme of the third night was “Make America First Again.” According to the GOP convention site,

“America has always been an exceptional nation. Our Founding Fathers created a system of government that has protected our liberty, allowed American ingenuity to flourish, and lifted people out of poverty by creating the conditions for opportunity and prosperity. Unfortunately, years of bad policies and poor leadership have weakened our position in the world. Under a Trump administration, America will once again be a beacon of progress and opportunity.”

But there is a dark side to American exceptionalism. Too frequently, it is taken to mean that the United States government has carte blanche to commit atrocities which would land leaders of other countries in front of a war crimes tribunal. As for the Constitution, if it has truly protected liberty and allowed for human flourishing, then why does America lead the world in prison population? Why are Americans facing stagnant earnings? It is fair to point to bad policies and poor leadership, but Trump, like so many other politicians and businesspeople, fails to understand the root of the problem. As long as there is a government monopoly on currency and law, this power will be abused by those who are most capable of abusing it for their benefit.

Most of the speakers failed to speak of making America first again in a sense that was separate from the themes of other days of the convention, and some did not even have the word “first” in their speeches. Only astronaut Eileen Collins spoke of a particular example of restoring American supremacy, but the future of space exploration belongs to the private sector, not to nation-states.

Despite all of this, America is first, and therefore cannot be made first again. But this is not the real problem. America is the prettiest horse in a glue factory of global statism, and Trump has no plan to solve this problem.

One Again

The theme of the final night was “Make America One Again.” According to the GOP convention site,

“America faces serious challenges at home and threats from abroad. In order to turn our challenges into opportunities and keep America secure, we need leadership that will focus on what unites us, not what divides us. Donald Trump will move our country beyond the divisive identity politics that have been holding us back by restoring leadership, building trust, and focusing on our shared love of country and our common goal of making America great again.”

This is exactly the wrong approach. America is more divided than it has been in over a century, and these divisions are over differences which cannot be resolved by compromise and unification. This is because there is and will be no common purpose among Americans; various groups are acting toward cross purposes. The only ways that unity can be brought about are for the United States to balkanize or for one side to violently suppress the other, whether by political means or civil war. No political figure, and especially not anyone as polarizing as Donald Trump, will unify such a divided population, and that which cannot be done should not be attempted.

Great Again

The overall theme of the Trump campaign is “Make America Great Again.” But its approach is misguided at every turn, either failing to recognize the true nature of problems or addressing them in ways which will only make them worse. As this is the latest in a long line of such campaigns by all major political parties, a more appropriate slogan would be “Make America Miss Again.”

Cleveland 2016: A Victory For Open Carry

On July 18-21, the Republican Party held its 2016 convention in Cleveland, Ohio. A significant portion of the media coverage leading up to the event focused on the possibility of violence on the streets involving leftist protesters and rightist counter-protesters. Last year, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors even threatened to shut down the convention. But there was no breakdown of law and order to speak of, with only some minor skirmishes occurring.

Multiple explanations have been offered for this in both establishment and alternative media. Some credit the lack of involvement of MoveOn.org, unions, and illegal immigrant groups for the small turnout. Others credit the strong police presence. What both groups seem to miss (or are intentionally refusing to credit) is that Ohio is an open carry state and many citizens were present and openly armed.

Joyous though it would have been to see well-armed American citizens physically removing democrats and communists from this plane of existence with the whole world watching, the lack of violence may ultimately have been a more important victory than could have been won in a street battle with radical leftists. This result has shown just how powerful a deterrent to degenerate behavior an armed population can be.

When a citizenry is disarmed, the only people who will be armed are government agents and criminals (but I repeat myself). In such a case, if government agents prove incapable of stopping riots or other violent protests because they are greatly outnumbered, then lawlessness, chaos, and destruction will rule the day. But a large number of armed citizens intent on preserving respect for people and their property raises the cost of acts of aggression beyond what all but the most determined and idiotic rabble-rousers are willing to pay. Even the threat that violent criminals may be shot dead by upstanding citizens is enough to prevent almost all trouble-making which would otherwise occur, as the worst elements will mostly stay home and the better protesters are more likely to demonstrate peacefully. Just as proliferated nuclear weapons tend to keep peace between nation-states, proliferated firearms tend to keep peace between individuals and groups thereof. Finally, the result demonstrates that government is unnecessary for security. Even though a monopoly government police force was present throughout Cleveland, it was ordinary people who desired peace and order who proved themselves capable of maintaining it.

We can certainly understand why the media, police, and politicians would attempt to black out this story. Fearing mass chaos, Stephen Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, asked Gov. John Kasich to suspend the right to keep and bear arms during the convention, which Kasich correctly recognized that he lacked the authority to do. Establishment media pundits were nearly unanimous in their fear-mongering over open carry in Cleveland, saying that this could only lead to violence and that essential liberty must therefore be given up for a little temporary safety. They now have egg on their faces, and are thus happy to pretend that the whole thing never happened and move on to another topic of discussion. But we must not let them do that. The 2016 Republican National Convention was a victory for open carry, and it should be shouted loud and clear.

An Overview Of Autistic Libertarianism

The term “autistic libertarianism” (or “libertarian autism”) has come into use as a criticism not so much of libertarian theory, but of libertarians who either misunderstand it or apply it in a manner inconsistent with the situation at hand. Unfortunately, it appears to be running along the same course as many other political terms, decaying from useful descriptor of a troublesome tendency to meaningless epithet for whatever a communicator dislikes. Whereas this term is more useful than most, at least for philosophical libertarians, I will attempt to prevent the decay of this term by providing a general overview of it.

Autism Symptoms

The term “autistic libertarianism” came into use because the types of arguments, behaviors, and strategies it describes have clear analogues in the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. Some symptoms of autism do not have political relevance, and several can even cause a person to be removed from politics entirely, as they can be socially and economically crippling. Therefore, let us focus upon the aspects of autism which commonly manifest among some libertarians which can impair but which do not completely eliminate their effectiveness.

Communication Breakdown

People who have autism spectrum disorders typically have a lack of interest in sharing achievements, emotions, or interests with other people. They frequently lack empathy for other people’s feelings and have difficulties in forming and sustaining relationships. They can become preoccupied with particular topics, having a very intense, focused interest in those topics. They can have difficulties in understanding other perspectives as well as non-literal speech. Repetitive use of set phrases can also occur.

Naturally, this leads to communication problems that most other people do not have. Most commonly, the result is that an autistic libertarian will use reason and evidence exclusively while being unable to process that a listener is operating emotionally rather than rationally, and is therefore unreceptive to reason and evidence. Continuing to be unresponsive to their emotional state is as useful as administering medicine to the dead and will only serve to frustrate the listener, but the autistic libertarian will keep right on doing so with blissful ignorance of its ineffectiveness.

Another effect of these symptoms is a sort of hyper-individualism in which a person loses the ability to identify or think about groups or shared interests, as well as make collective judgments. Because the autistic libertarian has difficulties in dealing with other people, it can be psychologically comforting to attempt to define out of existence one’s interactions with them. But without the abilities to organize into voluntarily formed groups to accomplish tasks which are too difficult to complete on one’s own and to recognize large-scale threats in the form of a demographic shift to a culture which is hostile to liberty, libertarians will consistently lose to opponents who suffer from no such handicaps.

The preoccupation with libertarian theory can take on such an extent that one’s other interests, activities, and relationships suffer. The result can be a lack of ability to talk about anything else, and thus an inability to sustain relationships which depend upon variety in conversation and activities. Finally, whether by intellectual laziness or by the culmination of all of the above symptoms, the autistic libertarian may come to replace reasoned argument with hackneyed bromides; “Taxation is theft!,” “Conscription is slavery!,” and so on. Such statements are true, of course, but simply shouting them repeatedly without explaining them convinces few people to join the cause.

Mind Versus Matter

People who have autism spectrum disorders can have difficulty with abstract thinking and central coherence, causing them to focus on details while missing the big picture and fail to plan ahead for future possibilities. Autistic people can have a troubling need for routines, being unable to deal with even small changes. These symptoms, when combined with the other symptoms discussed above, cause most of the incorrect thinking produced by autistic libertarians. At the time of this writing, this occurs most notably on the issues of immigration, censorship, political activity, hedonistic behavior, and self-defense, so let us consider each of these examples.

Many libertarians argue that state immigration controls should be completely lifted because they violate freedom of movement of immigrants, private property rights of residents, and freedom of association of both. This response is autistic because it denies the context in which these immigration controls are enforced. The state imposes common spaces upon its population, has the power to bring into the society people who are fundamentally opposed to its basic principles, uses anti-discrimination laws to force people to associate with the immigrants, steals money from its citizens to give handouts to the immigrants, and even allows the immigrants to start voting after a period of time. When the correct libertarian answer of private property border enforcement is not on the table and even talking about what would be required to put that answer on the table can get one run off from publishing platforms and speaking engagements, we are left with the state forcing either inclusion or exclusion, and forced exclusion is clearly the lesser evil. Note that more generally, there is no right to move across private property within which one is unwelcome outside of some extreme lifeboat scenarios, and some forms of immigration would require this.

Libertarians rightly condemn governments for suppressing freedom of speech, but will generally support the right of a private person or company to dissociate from particular speakers or remove their content from a publication and/or website. At first glance there is nothing wrong with this position, but looking deeper can reveal an example of autistic libertarianism. Popular social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter influence and are influenced by multiple governments. These governments usually have an agenda which is left-wing and anti-libertarian, and these platforms frequently censor posts and ban users who are openly critical of such agendas, especially if tempers flare between critics and supporters. The libertarian who supports the social media platforms in their censorship or praises the overall result as an example of the free market punishing bigots should check their autism.

While mainstream libertarians tend to be politically active within a libertarian party or another party which is occasionally receptive to libertarian positions on certain issues, some more ardent libertarians will denounce any form of political action as incrementalist or as helping to perpetuate the statist democratic system. But the consequence of being completely uninvolved in politics, as Plato wisely noted, is to be ruled by one’s inferiors. This is not to say that a libertarian is autistic for refusing to vote for the lesser of two evils in a two-party system or that staying home on Election Day is an inherently autistic behavior, but these positions require other justifications.

Many libertarians, especially those who come from the left, will emphasize the decriminalization of vices and the amount of harm that governments have done by trying to stamp out drugs, prostitution, gambling, and so forth. Autistic libertarianism enters the scene in the form of those who encourage vices as though they were virtues. This places emphasis on a hedonistic individualism to the detriment of community survival. A successful libertarian civilization must have a well-functioning market economy and be capable of both stopping common criminality and repelling external invasions. Those who abuse drugs, engage in sexual promiscuity, gamble excessively, and so forth may not be directly harming anyone other than themselves, but these behaviors practiced frequently on a large scale not only fail to make a successful libertarian civilization, but endanger its continued existence and flourishing by weakening its members and attracting people who will fake being a libertarian for their own selfish ends while undermining the community.

The issue which attracts the most autistic libertarian thought is that of self-defense in general and how far it may go in particular. Some libertarians have misinterpreted the non-aggression principle to mean that a defender may not use any more force than an aggressor has used, that force may only be used in a situation of immediate danger, and that no innocents may be harmed by said defensive force. This view is autistic because it completely fails to comprehend the nature of aggression and violent conflict while taking a small, compartmentalized view of the matter. If a defender may not use any amount of force necessary to subdue an aggressor, then all an aggressor need do to get away with criminal behavior is to use force in such a way that the defender cannot use enough force to subdue the aggressor. If one may only use force in a situation of immediate danger, then people are left without a way to recover stolen property, stop someone who hires hitmen, defend themselves against state aggression, or do much of anything about criminals who can obfuscate responsibility. If no innocent may be harmed in the course of defending oneself, then all an aggressor need do is to hide behind innocent shields in such a way that it is impossible to subdue them without harming an innocent.

Benefits

People who have autism spectrum disorders can have unusual sensory perceptions, such as pain with light pressure but comfort with heavy pressure. Others have no pain sensation whatsoever. About 10% of autistic people have a savant skill, being far more competent than most people in some specific discipline. Unfortunately, these rarely have analogues in the sort of political autism being discussed here. However, those who are both medically and politically autistic while possessing savant skills or unusual sensory perceptions can spearhead a philosophical breakthrough.

What Should Be Done

While autistic libertarians frequently present a false representation of libertarian theory, they are not usually doing so in bad faith. And while they can steer actions in a counterproductive direction, some of them are capable of producing novel, valid arguments with far less difficulty than the average person. The best way to handle them, then, is to accept their presence but correct them when they go astray, with the aim of helping them to recognize their political autism and check it as needed so that other, non-autistic libertarians no longer have to do so for them.

What Recent Killings Of Police Are Not

On July 7, five police officers were killed by a sniper in Dallas who said that he was upset about recent police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement, and stated he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” Other people have since attacked officers in Ballwin, Mo., Valdosta, Ga., Roswell, Ga., and St. Joseph, Mich.

When such events occur, the response from the political class and the establishment lapdog media is predictable. They will always side with government agents, regardless of merit. They will always condemn violence, regardless of their complicity in it. They will always use certain adjectives to describe such events, even though they do not fit upon closer examination. As such, let us delve into such an examination.

Senseless

In order to be senseless, an activity must be “without discernible meaning or purpose.” What exactly is senseless about either criminals or concerned citizens attacking government agents? A criminal may seek retaliation for earlier interference by government agents with his criminal activities, may want a greater challenge than victimizing a common person, may want to break fellow criminals out of police custody, or may want to scare government agents into doing less police work. A concerned citizen may have tried all available peaceful methods to right a wrong done by government agents and gotten nowhere, or may act out of a reasonable fear of being aggressed against. In many cases, the Dallas shooting included, the shooter will even inform people about the motive for the attack.

Although such attacks make sense, there are reasons for the establishment to lead people to think otherwise. For as long as such attacks remain senseless, they remain unpredictable, unpreventable, and inexplicable. This is exactly what those who wield state power want people to think because it provides them with an excuse to fulfill their political agendas which would otherwise be opposed and stopped. There is also the matter that the modern nation-state is an inherently left-wing institution, and an environment of random predation (or, at least, a popular belief that one exists) is more likely to produce support for leftist ideas.

Conversely, if people were to identify agency, meaning, and purpose concerning attacks on government agents, then they might come to understand the problem and find a solution. The problem, of course, is that government police do not restrict themselves to enforcing laws which prohibit attacking people or their property. This is because they are part of the state apparatus, which monopolizes initiatory force within a geographical area. Because the state has such a monopoly, it controls the nature and enforcement of the law within its domain. As such, if a legislature criminalizes an activity which harms no one or allows government agents to do that which would be criminal for anyone else to do, government police will enforce those laws just as they would enforce morally legitimate laws. When they do this, and they do so frequently, this makes them the aggressors. If enough people realize this, then they will take appropriate measures to defend themselves, up to and including the use of force. This is not in the interest of those who wield state power, as such a solution means the abolition of state power, and the implementation of said solution would endanger their well-being.

Cowardly

In order to be cowardly, an activity must be done “in a way that shows lack of courage” or “carried out against a person who is unable to retaliate.” Government agents are more likely to be armed than people of any other demographic and are more likely to have combat training. They also have a monopolistic criminal justice system on their side. The idea that they are unable to retaliate is risible at best. As such, we are left only with the question of whether attacking government agents shows a lack of courage. In order to be courageous, one must have “the ability to do something that frightens one” and “be ready to face and endure danger or pain.” Attacking an enemy who is almost certain to cause one’s death would be frightening to anyone but a fool, and doing so requires one to be ready to face and endure danger and pain. Therefore, we may completely dismiss the idea that people who attack government agents are cowardly.

Murder

In order to be murder, an activity must be “an unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.” Of course, killing government agents will almost always be unlawful by the state’s standards. But what about the higher standard of natural law? Natural law begins with self-ownership; that each person has a right to exclusive control over one’s body. This must be true because arguing against exclusive control over one’s body requires one to exert exclusive control over one’s body, thus creating a performative contradiction. Self-ownership is absolute except for the self-ownership of others; it is immoral to initiate interference with another person’s self-ownership. If someone does this, the person who is wrongfully interfered with may use force to defend against this interference. In libertarian circles, this is called the non-aggression axiom or non-aggression principle (although as a corollary of another principle, it is not an axiom; “non-aggression theorem” may be the most appropriate term). The amount of force that one may use to defend against aggression cannot be limited because placing a limit upon it means that might makes right, as an aggressor who wishes to get away with criminal behavior (and nearly all do) could simply escalate beyond the force limit to win a conflict with those who seek subjugation of and restitution from the aggressor.

As discussed above, the job of an agent of the state is to enforce all of the state’s laws, not just those which are in accordance with natural law or universal ethics. These laws are enforced by presenting a consistent threat to use as much force as necessary to stop a person who is known to be breaking the laws. In other words, they will escalate until a person submits, is killed, or kills them. Salaries for agents of the state are paid with money collected through taxation, which violates the non-aggression principle and private property rights by forcing people to turn over their money to the state or be subject to initiatory force. Thus, to become a government police officer is to choose to present a consistent threat to use as much force as necessary to stop a person who is known to be breaking immoral laws, or in other words, acting morally. Thus, killing them to defend innocent people from their predations is a defensive act from a natural law perspective.

In Fairness

While such attacks make sense, are not cowardly, and are not murder when viewed in a natural law perspective rather than a state law perspective, there are also some adjectives with positive connotations which are being used by sympathizers of the shootings, but which do not fit the circumstances. Let us explore these as well.

Heroic

Whether it be state apologists who have an apoplectic reaction to the above reasoning or ardent but autistic libertarians who appreciate force in self-defense against government but fail to recognize context, attacking and killing villains does not automatically make one a hero. Those who kill government agents in the name of Black Lives Matter generally have an endgame not of a free and stateless society, but of a dindutopia where criminal behavior goes unchallenged by either police or anyone else. It is necessary to recognize that the enemy of one’s enemy can still be an enemy, and that those who fight against villains can themselves be villains. Thus, when government agents and common criminals fight, it is best to pull for no one, hope for heavy losses on both sides, and recognize it as a battle without heroes.

Productive

In order to produce a positive result of forcing out the state and leaving those who seek liberty with only a private criminal element to defeat, there would have to be many more incidents like these. Resorting to force before there are sufficient people and resources available to defeat an enemy is likely only to embolden that enemy, increase public support for it, and result in the defeat and violent suppression of one’s uprising. And given the nature of the contemporary anti-police movements, this is not their goal.

Government Will Not Hold Government Accountable

Since the beginning of statism, rulers have sought to monopolize the provision of justice and criminal punishment for obvious reasons. Not only is it lucrative to do so, in the form of rulers taking for themselves in fines what should be given to victims in restitution, but it also allows for agents of the state to engage with impunity in activities which are criminalized for the commoner. Since time immemorial for those alive at the time of this writing, the nation-state has done so the world over. But when a government politician or enforcement agent is examined by government investigators or tried in a government court, this creates a conflict of interest. Government prosecutors and judges may be interested in promoting justice (or an illusion thereof), but they must also interested in maintaining the structure of state power, which may be endangered by indicting or convicting a politician or enforcement agent. And then there is the matter that the laws being used by said investigators, prosecutors, and judges are monopolized by the state, the common result of which is that a politician or enforcement agent is exonerated for what would land a commoner in prison.

While there is a long line of abuses and usurpations stretching back millennia, three well-publicized concrete examples of these problems have manifested themselves just in the United States in the month prior to the time of this writing. These are the non-indictment of Hillary Clinton for her mishandling of classified information, the overturning of Bob McDonnell’s conviction for political corruption, and the acquittal of Caesar Goodson in the Freddie Gray case. Let us consider each of these cases.

Hillary Clinton

While Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she used private email servers and mobile devices to conduct government business. On July 5, 2016, an FBI investigation found that “from the group of 30,000 e-mails returned to the State Department, 110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were ‘up-classified’ to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the e-mails were sent.” Three additional classified emails were found outside of the group of 30,000, one Secret and two Confidential. Evidence was found that Clinton or her colleagues were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” According to FBI director James Comey, “None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.” It was assessed that hostile actors could have gained access to Clinton’s email account and that they did gain access to email accounts belonging to people who corresponded with Clinton on classified matters.

Despite such a damning litany, Comey recommended that no charges be brought. Although the requirements for criminal charges under USC Title 18, Section 793, Subsection F were clearly met, Comey set up a straw man by claiming that there is not sufficient evidence of intent, even though intent is not part of the statute. This is for good reason because negligence in protecting classified information that can put innocent people in danger, and is therefore a malicious form of incompetence. Comey’s language concerning a “reasonable prosecutor” (whatever that means) was especially concerning, as it condemns as unreasonable anyone in the Department of Justice who might disagree with Comey’s recommendations. It is also noteworthy that Gen. David Petraeus and Maj. Jason Brezler were pushed out of the military in recent years for less.

The most likely explanations for this result are that Attorney General Loretta Lynch received her major career push from former President Bill Clinton, that Hillary could expose much deeper issues and many more violations in response to being indicted, that Comey lacks the fortitude to upset the electoral apple cart, and that Democrats care more about keeping power than accountability.

Bob McDonnell

In 2014, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen were convicted of accepting more than $175,000 in gifts, loans and other benefits from Star Scientific executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in exchange for the governor’s help in securing state testing of dietary product. Bob was sentenced to two years in prison for bribery and extortion, while Maureen was sentenced to one year and one day for corruption. He appealed his conviction, which was upheld by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July 2015. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and overturned the conviction on June 27, 2016.

At issue was whether Gov. McDonnell committed (or agreed to commit) an “official act” in exchange for the loans and gifts. An “official act” is defined as “any decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy, which may at any time be pending, or which may by law be brought before any public official, in such official’s official capacity, or in such official’s place of trust or profit. The Court decided 8-0 that the prosecutor’s view of an “official act” was too broad, and that although McDonnell conduct was “tawdry,” it should not have resulted in a criminal conviction.

Jack Abramoff, a former congressional lobbyist who was imprisoned for fraud, corruption, and conspiracy, said of the ruling,

“I continue to be concerned by what seems to be a lack of understanding on the part of the justices that a little bit of money can breed corruption. When somebody petitioning a public servant for action provides any kind of extra resources — money or a gift or anything — that affects the process. People come to think those seeking favors and giving you things are your friends, your buddies. Human nature is such that your natural inclination is, ‘He has done something for me, what can I do for him?’ The minute that has crept into the public service discussion, that is a problem.”

Whereas the overarching theme of this article is conflict of interest, it is worth noting that the very Supreme Court justices who decided this case are themselves the recipients of lavish paid trips and gifts from private donors.

Caesar Goodson

On April 12, 2015, Baltimore police arrested Freddie Gray for possessing what was alleged to be an illegal switchblade. While Gray had a prior criminal record, some of which was comprised of crimes against people and property, simple possession of a switchblade knife would not be criminal in a free society unless one were on private property whose owner disallows such armaments. While being transported in a police van driven by Officer Caesar Goodson, Gray was rendered comatose and was taken to a trauma center where he died on April 19. His death was caused by injuries to his spinal cord. It was found upon investigation that Gray was not secured properly in the van; he was handcuffed and foot shackled, but not buckled to his seat.

Goodson opted for a bench trial rather than a trial by jury. On June 23, 2016, Circuit Judge Barry Williams acquitted Goodson of all charges, including second-degree depraved heart murder, second-degree assault, involuntary manslaughter, manslaughter by vehicles (criminal and gross negligence), reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. These charges could have resulted in up to a 30-year prison sentence. Williams claimed that the prosecution lacked the evidence to prove its case. Williams acquitted another officer involved in the case in May 2016.

The Common Problem

The thread which ties together these seemingly disparate cases is that all of them involve certain or nearly certain misdeeds by government personnel. These personnel are then subject to what is essentially an internal review, as they are investigated by another branch of the same organization. The investigation predictably finds that no wrongdoing worthy of prosecution or conviction occurred unless the conduct was so egregious that it is simply impossible to cover up, and the bar for this is set quite high.

Government will not hold government accountable because it is not in their interest. The only way to solve this conflict of interest is to eliminate it. If we are to have justice for the crimes of government personnel, we must take direct action to end the government monopoly on criminal justice. The remainder of this essay will consider what forms this might take and address likely objections.

Solving The Problem

The first response of most people when confronted with a proposal to end a government monopoly on a service is that one must be objecting to any organized provision of that service at all. In other words, they assume a false dilemma between state laws, police, courts, and prisons, or a vigilantist free-for-all. There is something positive to be said for vigilante justice, in that it can be better than no justice at all, and no justice at all is what the government system tends to provide for those who are victimized by the state. Vigilantism can also demonstrate that an oppressed people have had enough, and that those in power should listen to their grievances lest they be removed from power by an angry mob. But vigilantism has a tendency to descend into directionless violence that accomplishes nothing in the long run. As such, it is necessary to construct competing criminal justice systems which can replace the government monopoly and provide the due process that a lynch mob cannot.

Laws

We must, of course, start with the law itself, for no good cider may be made from poisoned apples. Government laws have extended into every facet of life and have become so complex that most people run afoul of the law on a regular basis without even realizing it. Without a government monopoly on laws, people would have the freedom to choose their own legal codes by either choosing from a number of law service providers or going into business as such a service provider. This system in which only the laws that people are willing to financially support through voluntary means can be enforced would have the effect of shrinking the laws which are mandatory for every person to the bare minimum; no murder, slavery, rape, kidnapping, assault, theft, vandalism, and so forth. Any activity which does not constitute aggression against a person or their property would not be criminal unless one had agreed not to engage in that activity as part of a valid contract, which is a contract that all parties enter into without fraud or coercion and that does not demand the impossible. This would swiftly eliminate police confrontations with citizens over such issues as possessing a state-disapproved kind of weapon or drug, or engaging in a state-disapproved business venture.

Police

Next, we must consider the enforcers of the law. When the state has a monopoly on law enforcement, its agents can break the law with impunity to the extent that the statist system will not hold itself accountable. But in a system of competing private enforcers, the agents of one police company may be held in check by agents of all of the other police companies as well as a considerably more armed citizenry, as gun control laws would almost certainly be among the government laws which would fall by the wayside. Without the ability to enforce higher-order aspects of legal codes to which people have not consented and with the much greater probability that overreaching enforcers may be fired or martially defeated, non-government police lack the mechanisms that make government police so oppressive.

Courts

Third, we must consider private court systems. Without government laws and courts, every interaction between people of any complexity would need to involve a contract to specify how the people involved in the interaction agree to handle disputes which may arise between them. Individuals would likely hire insurance companies to co-sign their contracts for the purpose of ensuring that victims get restitution without having to wait for a contract breaker to provide it. Should one engage in criminal activity, one would be tried in a court specified by one’s contracts, with the appeals process also specified. Failure to abide by the ruling that one contracted to abide by would be economically crippling, as private defenders and dispute mediators would treat this as a risk worthy of raising a person’s rates significantly or even dropping them as a customer. Being without private defenders and dispute mediators would leave one in a difficult position, as one would have trouble buying, selling, entering into contracts, or even defending oneself.

Punishment

Fourth, we must consider how a private legal system will deal with punishment and restitution. While the libertarian theoretical limits of punishment are quite broad, there is no reason why these limits must be approached in every case. Punishment in a libertarian society would generally take the form of forced restitution in cases where an aggressor refuses to make restitution without being forced, with the possibility of “eye for an eye” punishments where restitution is impossible.

In a private justice system, prisons would be tailored to the purpose of helping criminals provide restitution by keeping them safe and in decent living conditions while they do so. Several incentives are at work toward this end. The private prisons are competing with each other to house prisoners, so they each must try to offer the best service for the least cost. The prisoners are paying customers of the insurance companies which are affiliated with the prisons, so they can take their business and transfer their prison time elsewhere if they feel mistreated or endangered and can find a better option. The insurance companies wish to reduce violent crimes for which they must pay claims, and so have an incentive to keep prisoners from harming or being harmed by anyone. Getting criminals to go to prison could be accomplished by making their continued coverage contingent upon going there and making restitution, with the alternative being life as an outlaw in the traditional sense.

Note that unlike a statist system with mandatory sentencing requirements, a private justice system may allow the victim of a crime to negotiate an agreement with the criminal to reduce or even eliminate the criminal’s obligation to perform restitution. One could even specify in one’s will what should be done to one’s murderer if one is murdered.

Additionally, there is one punishment that one may undoubtedly inflict upon anyone for any reason without any need for judicial oversight: ostracism. To be denied association with one’s fellows as well as with one’s trading partners by said fellows and trading partners can certainly meet all of the above definitions of punishment. Psychologists have found that the pain of ostracism is quite similar to the pain of physical injury in terms of the effect it has on a person. The long-term effects that an episode of ostracism has make it an effective way to enforce beneficial social norms without violating the non-aggression principle. The lack of government anti-discrimination laws in this proposed system makes the full realization of ostracism possible.

Objections Rebutted

Such a proposal typically meets three criticisms which were not addressed above. First, there is the “public goods” argument that this system may leave behind the poorest people who cannot afford to pay for it. Aside from the fact that “public goods” are a myth, the amount of productivity that could be unleashed by ending the government monopoly on laws should ensure that no one who does not wish to be poor would have to be. Even if this were not the case, the poor could still receive charity or form neighborhood watch groups while using the aforementioned newly legal heavy weapons, which would also be cheaper due to loosened restrictions on manufacture and ownership.

Second, there is the argument that competing private police forces will fight. The problem with this argument is that the incentives are all pointed in the opposite direction. Fighting will result in deaths for both private police forces, which makes it harder and more expensive for the surviving officers to serve their customers while hurting the public relations of the fighting forces. This creates an opportunity for other private police forces to step in and provide services more efficiently, thus sending the fighting forces into an economic death spiral. Note also that heavy area effect weapons cannot be used in such a fight without harming innocents and bringing legal claims and militant reprisals against the offending officers and companies. Failing all of this, such forces would still be less capable of destruction than nation-states currently are.

Finally, there is the contention that the state will not allow such a system to replace its monopoly. The state is quite profitable to those who run it and those who benefit from its influence, and they will not simply surrender this power. This would be the ultimate result of losing a monopoly on criminal law, as a private law system would treat government crimes committed under color of state law as though they were committed by private citizens. This is why liberty requires revolution, as the answer to the state disallowing a challenge to its power is to put it out of a position of being able to allow or disallow anything.

Conclusion

While government will not hold government accountable, the people living under it can, and it is they who must do it if they wish it done. The above market solution outlines an alternative to the statist criminal justice system, but it is up to the citizens afflicted by state crimes to build and operate such a system. The sooner this is done, the sooner all people can be held to the same basic standard of conduct and the crimes of the state can end.

 

The Vice Presidency Is Assassination Insurance

In the middle of every presidential election year, the establishment media wastes an inordinate amount of time engaging in speculation about who will be the running mate of each major party presidential candidate. The various talking heads discuss the potential benefits that each potential vice presidential pick could have, such as shoring up support with a certain demographic group by picking a member of that group or appealing to voters in a battleground state by running with a popular person from that state. But just how important is the Vice Presidency, and how do presidential candidates really choose a running mate?

The Original Plan

The office of the Vice Presidency is described in Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution. The most important clauses therein for the Vice Presidency are the first, second, third, fifth, and sixth, which read:

“[Clause 1]The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

[Clause 2]Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

[Clause 3]The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall choose from them by Ballot the Vice President.

[Clause 5]No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

[Clause 6]In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.”

The Vice President is only given one official function besides presidential succession, by Article I, Section 3, Clause 4:

“The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.”

In practice, this function is relatively unimportant in modern times, as contentious legislation that could end in a tie vote is likely to be filibustered. The ambition of most Vice Presidents to later become President also restrains them from being too active in their role as President of the Senate.

Immediate Problems

Even though they were some of the brightest men of their time, the Framers proved unable to figure out that an electoral system of first-past-the-post naturally leads to partisan politics and a two-party system. By the time of George Washington’s warning about such parties in his farewell address, it was already far too late. As such, the original system in which presidential candidates ran solo and the top two vote recipients in the Electoral College became President and Vice President, respectively, caused anomalies in 1796 and 1800. In 1796, this resulted in a Federalist Party president and a Democratic-Republican Party vice president. In a contentious political environment, such an outcome is actually assassination bait rather than assassination insurance. In 1800, this resulted in a tie vote between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr which required 36 ballots in the House of Representatives to resolve. As such, the Twelfth Amendment was ratified in 1804 to create the current system in which a ticket of a presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate run together, and the Electoral College votes for each are separated. It also specifies that if there is no majority in the Electoral College for President or Vice President, then the House of Representatives will choose from the top three electoral vote recipients, with each state getting one vote.

The Tyler Precedent

After only thirty days in office, President William Henry Harrison died on April 4, 1841. Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 is unclear as to whether the Vice President becomes President upon the death of the President or merely Acting President. John Tyler, Harrison’s vice president, asserted that he had become President. He swore the presidential oath, moved into the White House, and assumed all presidential powers. No one legally challenged Tyler’s actions and both houses of Congress passed resolutions agreeing that Tyler was President. This established the precedent which would later be codified in the Twenty-fifth Amendment. This amendment was adopted in response to the Kennedy assassination, which led Congress to act for fear that the United States could be left without a President in a situation in which the Cold War escalated into open warfare.

The Importance of the Vice Presidency

At present, the primary importance of the Vice Presidency is that the officeholder becomes President if the current President dies, resigns, or becomes unable to perform the duties of the office. Thus, it is the primary consideration for a rational presidential candidate when choosing a running mate. For the presidential candidate’s agenda, one would seek to run with someone who shares that agenda and would govern in much the same way if he or she should need to ascend to the Presidency. But in politics, the most cynical view is most likely to be correct. A vice presidential pick is a way for a president to tell the American people, “If you are dissatisfied with me, do not kill me, because if you do, this person will become President, and he or she will be worse!” Considering recent vice presidents and their major challengers certainly makes this appear to be the case. Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, and Dan Quayle have been a heartbeat away from the Presidency in the past 25 years. Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, Jack Kemp, and James Stockdale easily could have been. Whatever one thinks of their accompanying presidents or presidential nominees, it would be difficult to argue that any of these people would have been better presidents than the presidents with whom they served or the nominees with whom they ran.

As such, especially given the increasingly polarized contemporary political environment, a vice presidential candidate is essentially assassination insurance. Little more, and nothing less.