Building Liberty in Minecraft

The defining feature of this time period is the Internet, which provides unprecedented freedom of speech and access to information. But the more things change, the more they remain the same. Millennials have suffered from the same steady march against economic freedom. We understand much about social media and relatively little about free markets. But a new generation can know about a free society right now, and this led me to build Liberty Minecraft.

Prior Developments

For the past quarter century, the Internet has generated emergent digital economies in which people exchange digital items for analog items, usually fiat currency. These economies offer pay at any rate, avoiding minimum wage laws that remove low rungs on the economic ladder. Digital economies also exist in massively multiplayer online games.

In 2007, more than one hundred thousand people were employed as gold farmers in World of Warcraft for as little as thirty cents per hour.[1] A gold farmer is a person who plays multiplayer games to earn in-game currency for the purpose of selling it for real-world currency. Earning in-game wealth takes time and effort. Because online games can be accessed all over the world, people can earn a competitive wage in relatively low-wage markets by selling in-game currency to players in high-wage markets. Gold farming uses server bandwidth in exchange for money that players wish to spend on the game, and this costs game developers. It was once typical for game developers to ban gold farmers, but in recent years they have turned toward economic freedom as a solution to rising costs due to gold farming.

Today, players of Runescape and Eve Online may exchange in-game wealth for tokens called Bonds or CCP, respectively. These tokens are purchased for cash by one player, traded in game to another player, and may be used to pay for membership services that would otherwise cost $10-$15 per month. Game developers like play-to-pay business models because they can sell membership services for a 30% premium and use their own players to regain market share from gold farmers.[2] For gamers, play-to-pay models can provide dollar-equivalent hourly wages of less than $1, but highly skilled players can earn $5 or more. One may earn a wage during the least productive periods of their daily lives, producing at least some value instead of none.

Transactions are not always small. For example, a player of Entropia Universe spent $2.5 million to purchase virtual real estate in 2012. This was done because in the game, land owners share the revenue generated by player-to-player transactions, and this revenue is directly convertible to US dollars. This speculative bet may have yielded annual returns of 27 percent.[3] By their nature, speculations infrequently generate a profit, but one develops ability by trial and error.

Digital economies make it easier to learn about economics. Many capitalist acts between consenting adults are illegal in the real world,[4] but such barriers are rare in online games. Digital exchanges execute billions of trades per month for any of a thousand virtual commodities. Players of all ages can make thousands of equity decisions in those markets without having to file capital gains taxes. People can lose a digital shirt and learn real economic lessons.

Experiencing economic freedom in games is all well and good. This may partly explain why millennials were so attracted to Ron Paul’s “End the Fed” movement. However, organizing society by libertarian principles is about more than economics. Non-aggression and private property require freedom from the state. No such freedom presently exists in the real world. The lack of such empirical examples may help one understand why those same millennials support Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump just four years later. We do not understand freedom from the state, and this has not changed. Because a libertarian society is foreign to our experience, people ask questions like “who will build the roads?” The answer is actually simple. Without a state, people who want roads and are capable of building them do so. I have seen this in action because of Minecraft.

Original Conditions in the World of Minecraft

Minecraft is a sandbox game. Play is self-organized within a block building, 3D world. Players may select one of three basic game modes. In Creative, one may access a menu with infinite resources. In Survival, one must gather and consume resources to live but will respawn if they die. Hardcore mode is like Survival, but death is final.

Minecraft worlds are large by default. From an origin, a player may travel 30,000 kilometers along any axis and may build 256 meters to the world’s zenith. This is roughly half the size of Neptune by surface area (if it were a terrestrial planet) or seven times the surface area of Earth. Each Minecraft world has three dimensions of this size and depth. Each world is generated algorithmically from an 8-byte seed, a string of numbers. There are 264 possible 8-byte strings, leading to over 18 quadrillion possible Minecraft worlds.

The Virtual State of Nature

Online, Minecraft is lawless. Before modifications of any kind, the only rules which govern player behavior are physical laws. You have exclusive control over your player character but anyone may attack and try to kill you, thereby gaining access to resources that you carry or protect. However, in such large worlds with abundant ‘natural’ resources, violent conflict is relatively rare because it is simply easier to work for what one wants.

Competition among Minecraft servers is unfettered and meritocratic. Engagement is high; Minecraft is the best-selling computer game at present. The barrier to entry is low: a Minecraft server can be created or copied in minutes, deployed online at low cost, and operated by anyone. In less than one minute, a player may select and visit any of thousands of servers. Participation is voluntary; players always have the option to leave a Minecraft server at once.

Minecraft servers have diverse rule sets. An infinite number of server configurations are possible with server plugins that modify the game. Within commercial use guidelines and technical limitations, server operators establish rules according to their preference. These rules need not and often do not conform with existing laws in the real world. These rules can be and are often enforced by computer code. In this way, all Minecraft servers are new principalities which may or may not be governed by smart contracts.

Social orders are spontaneously created within Minecraft. Players develop institutions that are optimized to solve problems. Users build means to produce, distribute, and trade valued goods, especially food and building materials. They create farms, roads and shelters, and also chests to organize and store items for later use. Players create and promote their own social norms. If a player does not fill in potholes or replant trees to replace those that they have felled, other players may try to change their behavior. This may take various forms, from warning them in the game’s chat to attacking problematic players. Those who share values and aesthetics build their own communities and exclude (sometimes by violence) others with opposing values. Spontaneous order thus develops with or without an explicit ethical framework.

In Minecraft, people experience social orders with arbitrary rules. So, what happens if one creates a Minecraft server that defines rules by libertarian ethics and Austrian economics? In my case, the result is Liberty Minecraft.

Long Experience in a New Order

Liberty Minecraft is a sandbox for freedom. The goal was to establish a practice environment where people may test ideas within a digital free society and may learn about freedom by playing it. For over nine months, this goal has been achieved. Play is ordered spontaneously within the physical laws of Survival Minecraft. In a number of other ways Liberty Minecraft is different.

Liberty Minecraft is not as large as a default Minecraft setting. As before, there are three dimensions but their size has changed. The Overworld is seven kilometers on a side; just under nineteen square miles in surface area. This is roughly the size of Manhattan.[4] The Nether, another region, is just as large. The End, a place devoid of most resources, is ten times larger.

Some resources in Liberty Minecraft are renewable, while others are not. Resources must be gathered in order to be used or exchanged. Products are either created by the players or discovered in scarce structures that are native to Minecraft worlds. Liberty Minecraft could someday run out of trees, water, or soil, among other things.

Liberty Minecraft has few rules. Only one rule constrains player behavior; resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. Players of Liberty Minecraft must seek nonviolent solutions to the problem of scarcity. Two other rules further specify conditions that permit a player to use my server: read and understand the rules, and do not hack the server. The fourth rule is followed by myself and by the server itself. This rule does not bind the players, but rather provides them with an option and a promise: everything you claim is yours; if someone else claimed it first, then it is not yours. Private property rights within Liberty Minecraft are enforced by smart contracts.[5]

To claim property, a player may use a claim tool on unclaimed land and must spend claim blocks to create a claim. Claim blocks cost $20 each. A player may also purchase land from an existing claim holder. In both cases, smart contracts are optional and available to execute these transactions. Smart contracts also enforce all other forms of property on the server. This applies to player characters.

One may engage in combat with others provided that each player turns on the ability to do so. In Liberty Minecraft, a player character is protected from other players by default. This protection is optional. A player may disable these protections and enter player-versus-player mode. By entering this game mode, a player consents to be attacked at will by other players. This allows for combat between two or more people to take place, but only if all parties involved agree to enter into mutual combat.

Competition within Liberty Minecraft is unfettered and meritocratic. In under one minute, anyone who owns Minecraft for PC can join the server and begin to act within a libertarian social order. Player interactions are voluntary, with complete freedoms of association and discrimination. No one is required or forbidden to provide for others.

Liberty Minecraft uses Diamonds, one of the in-game commodities, as money.[6] At present, Diamonds are used to create the best tools and armor in Minecraft. They are also scarce, durable, and fungible. Within Survival Minecraft, diamonds cannot be farmed or produced synthetically. To obtain a diamond, one must search for hidden chests in scarce structures or dig underground for diamond ore.

Minecraft players seem to have freely chosen Diamonds as the medium of exchange. Thus, I have chosen Diamonds as money. However, a Diamond is indivisible. This problem was addressed by creating a Diamond Exchange to split a Diamond into $1,000. The value of a dollar is measured to fifteen decimal places, so there is plenty of room for revaluation if money becomes too valuable to perform ordinary transactions.

Engagement is strong so far; since the official launch in March 2017, players have engaged in more than 100,000 trades using our shop system. A single trade may consist of anything from one item to more than a thousand items, all player created. More than 8,000 hours have been logged by the players at the time of this writing. Liberty Minecraft is also cash flow positive and profitable.

Some Problems with Liberty Minecraft

There are four clear problems with Liberty Minecraft. First, the money is inherently disinflationary. Land claims as private property can only be traded when players have a “claim blocks from play” value that is larger than the size of the claim being traded, which is a technical limitation. To provide a real estate market with existing smart contracts, players must somehow accumulate claim blocks from play. To achieve this, players accumulate 20 claim blocks per hour, which is an arbitrary amount. All players receive the same amount per hour of play. Claim blocks are worth $20 each, so players currently receive a universal basic income of $400 per hour of play. Universal basic income is an obviously anti-libertarian element, but it does present the opportunity to solve this problem and observe what happens when a libertarian society eliminates universal basic income.

Second, within Liberty Minecraft, power is centralized in a single, flawed operator. I, Nathan Dempsey, make mistakes and correct them. Both types of actions can cause problems. For instance, when I created the world border in The End, I incorrectly calculated the area. The End was roughly ten times larger than I intended, and if I had left it that way, our world would become far too large for me to economically perform regular backups. I recalculated and changed the world size. This changes the availability of resources that are found in The End. I will make more mistakes as time goes on. However, if any player decides that my choices are intolerable they may (with some work) use software to download the world and their property. Then, they may put their version of the world online with server software and compete with me for players. This functions somewhat like a hard fork of a cryptocurrency. Following a land dispute, a player decided that absolute property rights are intolerable and left after downloading the world, which proves both that new competitors may enter my line of production and that I cannot be an ultimate decision maker.[7][8]

Third, the conditions of the game and server make theft and assault impossible. A player might create a death trap, but these can only be made on one’s own property, on unclaimed land, or on land in which they have been granted permission by the claim owner to create such hazards. Because property claims are impossible to violate (unless I chose to or a hacker managed to alter the server status), Liberty Minecraft does not provide a model for dealing with aggressors against property rights aside from having the server owner (me) remove someone from the server.

Finally, the Terms of Commercial Use prohibit anyone from selling soft currency for hard currency. Therefore, I cannot offer the play-to-pay model described in the opening without violating the Terms of Commercial Use. The terms provide a narrow range of ways that I can provide value to players in exchange for money. This even applies to affiliate marketing (which is not permitted), such as with Amazon. The consequence is that I must innovate within these narrow terms, which creates an interesting problem but deviates from a libertarian order. And ultimately, Mojang, the company that developed Minecraft, is regulated by the state, so Liberty Minecraft still operates within a statist framework to some degree.

Conclusion

Minecraft spontaneously generates social orders. Liberty Minecraft is an effort to create such an order based upon Austrian economics with libertarian ethics. Within Liberty Minecraft, players operate in an unfettered free market and experience social freedoms that are opposed by state aggression. This experience sharpens one’s thinking about economic and social affairs. Experiencing economic freedom online without freedom from the state has led people to reject the Federal Reserve System but favor the state at large. The goal of this project is to test libertarian ideas in a simulated environment and lead people to reject the state in favor of private property rights and non-aggression, which one experiences within Liberty Minecraft. Liberty Minecraft has some important problems that may be solved in future updates, and represents nothing less than a proof-of-concept for exploring social orders in games.

References

  1. Valdes, Giancarlo. “Jagex Wages War against Gold Farming in RuneScape 3 with Bonds” VentureBeat, 25 Sept. 2013. http://venturebeat.com/2013/09/25/jagex-wages-war-against-gold-farming-in-runescape-3-with-bonds/
  2. Dutton, Fred. “Entropia Universe player spends $2.5 million on virtual real estate” Eurogamer.net, 4 Apr. 2012. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-04-04-entropia-universe-player-spends-USD2-5-million-on-virtual-real-estate
  3. Block, Walter. “Fake Economic News | Walter Block” YouTube, Mises Media, 4 Aug. 2017. www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiwhlU4d-nY
  4. Dempsey, Nathan. “How The World Works” Liberty Minecraft, 14 Oct. 2017. www.libertyminecraft.com/how-the-world-works/
  5. Dempsey, Nathan. “How Private Property Works” Liberty Minecraft, 4 June 2017. www.libertyminecraft.com/how-private-property-works
  6. Dempsey, Nathan. “How The Money Works” Liberty Minecraft, 4 June 2017. www.libertyminecraft.com/how-the-money-works/
  7. Dempsey, Nathan. “Free Market Update: Land Disputes” Liberty Minecraft, July 2017. https://www.libertyminecraft.com/free-market-update-land-disputes/
  8. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers. p. 21.

Blame Democracy For Heated Political Rhetoric

In recent times, concern has grown over the increasing hatred between competing political factions. As political rhetoric escalates into political violence, the various agents of the Cathedral have begun asking what may be done to reduce tensions. Naturally, they demonstrate obliviousness to their own culpability in ratcheting up hostilities, and reversing their own behavior would be a significant first step. Their actions are par for the course for leftists, as psychological projection—the act of accusing one’s opponents of whatever wrongdoing one is committing oneself—is an essential part of the leftist mindset. In the same vein, they accuse right-wing activists of causing any political violence that occurs, even when it is clear to any rational observer that rightists are taking action to defend themselves against aggression by radical leftists.

As for the radical leftists, it has long been the case that the right views the left as factually wrong while the left views the right as morally evil. This imbalance could not persist indefinitely, and because the elements of the left which are most vocal at present are pathologically incapable of rational discourse, the only rebalancing that could occur was for elements of the right to begin viewing the left as morally evil. This necessarily escalated matters, but in a manner that was necessary to restore a balance of political terror, which will result in less political violence in the long term by way of peace through mutually assured destruction.

Leftist Strategy

The leftist strategy at work here is that of high-low versus middle, better known by the Van Jones quote “top down, bottom up, inside out.” The academics, politicians, and pundits of the Cathedral are the high, the communist terrorists of Antifa and the minority criminal underclass are the low, and the middle is anyone who is middle-class, working-class, white, right-wing, and/or libertarian. The high-class group uses the privileges of state power to buy the loyalty of the low-class group, which is done by funneling money extorted from the middle-class group to them in addition to giving symbols of higher status to select members of the low-class group. In return, the low-class group is used to intimidate the middle-class group into compliance with this arrangement. The end goal is to transform society by defeating the middle, but in practice the low-class group tends to turn on the high-class group when times become hard and the high-class group can no longer afford to purchase their loyalty. Alternatively, this may end when the middle-class is tired of being abused and decides to violently suppress the low-class, then subject the high-class to vigilante justice.

The Real Culprit

The talking heads, politicians, and left-wing activists all deserve blame for creating a cultural milieu in which the political rhetoric has become increasingly heated and violence has erupted as a result. But as troublesome as these elements are, they are mere symptoms of a much larger and deeper problem. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” The root that must be named and struck is nothing less than democracy itself.

Benjamin Franklin described democracy as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. If Franklin were correct, then democratic impulses would quickly be exhausted, as the lambs would be consumed in short order and society would spiral downward into a Hobbesian nightmare of wolf against wolf, every wolf for himself. But the truth is even worse; who is a wolf and who is a lamb changes depending on the time and the political issue at hand. Over time, majority rule thus “allows for A and B to band together to rip off C, C and A in turn joining to rip off B, and then B and C conspiring against A, and so on.”[1] This allows the democratic state to survive much longer than it would if there were a static majority and a static minority.

In the aggregate, the theoretical Hobbesian war of all against all is replaced by an actual democratic war of half against half. Contrary to popular belief, this is not an improvement; rather, it is an intentional engineering of a particular kind of perpetual conflict for the purpose of diverting the energies of the masses away from revolt against the ruling class. For what exploiter of people would wish all of his victims to unite against him? It is far easier to victimize people who are too busy quarreling with each other to mount an effective resistance against their mutual enemy. Democracy works beautifully toward this end, making human farming not only possible, but highly lucrative.

Returning to the level of interpersonal relationships and conflicts between local groups, a democratic state grants each citizen a small piece of political power. The possession of this power by every person who is eligible to vote means that the political opinions of each such person are a relevant concern, at least to some degree. That each person can—at least theoretically—mobilize other people into a voting bloc to advance a political agenda that would use state power in a manner hostile to another group of people makes each politically active person an unofficial soldier in the aforementioned democratic war, and thus a target for various abuses by the other side. This democratic civil war is a cold one in most cases, but as in many cold wars, both sides engage in rhetoric that denounces the other side in strong terms. It is this dynamic that produces the degeneration of political discourse into insults and vitriol and the replacement of healthy interpersonal relationships with hostility. The escalation into physical violence is an expected outgrowth of this dynamic.

The Solution

If democracy is the root problem, then the abolition of democracy is the solution. The historical methodology of this has been an unelected government, whether a military junta, hereditary monarchy, or some combination thereof. Libertarians propose another methodology; that of a stateless propertarian society in which all property is privately owned and all goods and services are provided by competing firms in a free market. Both of these systems deny the general public—those who do not have an ownership stake in the society—a political voice. The restriction of political power to those who have an ownership stake, or the abolition of political power in the anarcho-capitalist case, means that it makes no sense for most people living in these social orders to insult, bully, and attack one another over political disputes, as the winner of such a dispute has no direct influence over the direction of the society. One may only influence such a society by convincing a mass of people to move elsewhere or by acquiring property in the anarcho-capitalist case. When only the king or dictator can vote, or only the private property owner can make decisions over the property in question, only they and whatever underlings they may have are worth attacking with words or weapons when they say or do something reprehensible. Everyone else is no longer a political target, and thus most people are incentivized to be apolitical (if not anti-political), resolving any disagreements with the established order through the right of exit.

Objections

There are two common objections to such a proposal that must be addressed; first, that it will not solve the problem, and second, that abolishing democracy may cause more violence than it eliminates.

The accusation that abolishing democracy will not eliminate heated rhetoric is true but trivial. There are no perfect solutions; there are only trade-offs. As long as more than one person exists and there is a disagreement about anything, there is the potential for heated rhetoric and physical violence. And although rational actors would not get into political disputes if they lacked political power, assuming rational actors is a folly of any rigorous socioeconomic theory. In the absence of mass-distributed political power, would people still bully other people? Yes. Would people still try to lift themselves up by putting others down? Certainly. Would people still make fun of others for having views that are strongly at odds with their own? Of course. But a major impetus for doing so, namely the quest for political power and dominance, would be removed. Though some people will always rebel against their incentives, most people do not. For these reasons, we may expect that the trade-off would be worthwhile.

The claim that abolishing democracy would cause more violence than it eliminates must be answered with both nuance and depth. Democratic statists will claim that without voting on ballots, people will start voting with bullets and the only real change will be greater bloodshed and destruction. First, democracy does not solve the problem of interpersonal violence; in fact, it does the opposite. Rather than eliminate the crimes that people commit against other people and their property, statists have created and maintained an institution with a monopoly on performing those crimes, giving them different names, and suffering no penalty for committing them. Theft becomes taxation, slavery becomes conscription, kidnapping becomes arrest, murder becomes war, and so on. The removal of the option of voting for politicians and their minions to do to other people what one would never be allowed to do to other people on one’s own will leave everyone with two options: engage in crime directly or live peaceably with others. Those who choose the former would quickly discover that it is far easier to vote for politicians to hire enforcement officers to victimize someone else than to try to commit crimes oneself. Though there would likely be an increase in violence in the short-term, the elimination of hardened criminals by people acting in self-defense would be swift, resulting in both less violence and less crime in the long-term.

Second, the democratic peace theory must be addressed. This theory claims that democracies do not go to war with each other, and thus a democratic world is a world without war. The evidence for these assertions is lacking on all counts. The democratic nation-state is a recent invention in human history, which produces the statistical uncertainties of a small sample size. What reason and evidence we do have is not promising; democratic states are aggressive both internally and externally, particularly toward individuals and states that are anti-democratic. The political power vested in each voter by the democratic state that makes the civilian population unofficial soldiers and targets during peacetime makes them official soldiers and targets during wartime. Whereas the historical wars between monarchs were mostly royal and knightly affairs over border disputes that had little effect on the peasants, the incentive structures of democratic states led to the total warfare of the World Wars. The entire economies of nations were disrupted for the purpose of war production, the civilian populations were militarized, and the mass murder of civilians became an accepted part of military strategy. By abolishing democracy, the perverse incentives that produced such carnage may be eliminated.

Finally, there is the possibility that people who are accustomed to democracy would violently resist an effort to disenfranchise them by returning to unelected government or by creating a stateless propertarian society. Though reactionaries and libertarians alike hope to convince the voting public to use democracy for the purpose of abolishing it, this is almost certainly a false hope. The incentive structure of the democratic state coupled with the institutional power wielded by the progressive left is probably too strong to overcome peacefully. The path from here to a superior form of social order thus becomes a violent one, as the people who wish to establish a new order must respond with force against determined and unrepentant aggressors. This is another sense in which there would be a short-term increase in violence followed by a long-term decrease. As before, there are no ideal solutions; only trade-offs which produce a net benefit.

Conclusion

Democracy is a sanitized, soft variant of civil war. The question is how long it can remain a cold war. For contemporary Western civilization, the answer is no longer. As shown above, the engine that drives heated rhetoric and political violence will keep running as long as democracy persists. Though there will always be some level of societal conflict, removing such a disastrous generator of malignant incentives as the democratic state can only be a net improvement.

References:

  1. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers. p. 104

Book Review: The Science Of Selling

The Science of Selling is a book about how science can improve the field of sales by American sales trainer David Hoffeld. The book explains what research in psychology says about each aspect of the sales process, as well as how to sell in accordance with how the brain makes buying decisions. The book is divided into ten chapters, which comprise three sections that focus on different aspects of the business of sales.

Hoffeld begins by discussing some of his background and what made him decide to use science to improve his sales performance. He then explains why sales is not an obsolete profession and why science works to improve sales performance. The remainder of the introduction lays out the framework of the rest of the book.

The first chapter explores why salespeople are struggling. The suggested remedy is to adjust sales techniques to conform to the manner in which the human brain makes buying decisions. The second chapter covers the functionality of influence. The peripheral route is explained first, in terms of building trust and understanding the heuristics that most people use when making decisions. The central route is explained next, which involves the actual message of the salesperson. What this message should contain is the primary focus of the third chapter. Hoffeld uses a proprietary method called the Six Whys combined with attending to the buyer’s emotional state in order to address a buyer’s questions and get the buyer to feel like buying. These questions allow a salesperson to understand a buyer’s needs and convince a buyer to purchase a good or service now from a particular company. The fourth chapter focuses on the role of emotions in decision making and how salespeople can alter a buyer’s emotional state away from negativity.

The second section, composed of the next five chapters, begins with a study of questions. Many types of questions are analyzed, along with their role in the course of securing a sale. These are used to gain a basic understanding of a subject, then prompt potential buyers to think through an idea, then get potential buyers to disclose their dominant motives. The sixth chapter delves into primary buying motivators to explain why buyers buy from particular providers, then turns to buying requirements. Advice for dealing with decision makers and those who influence them come next, followed by how to learn a buyer’s decision criteria concerning what they need, how soon they need it, and how much they can pay for it.

Hoffeld deals with value creation and countering obstacles to making a sale in the seventh chapter. He uses social exchange theory to explain how a salesperson can help buyers to see value in the product being sold. Next, inoculation theory as a means of neutralizing competitors is discussed. After this, Hoffeld returns to the Six Whys and positive emotional states when considering how to address objections. In the eighth chapter, Hoffeld shares his approach to closing a deal. The Six Whys factor in again, as he views the close as a commitment that follows from a series of commitments throughout the sales process. This is supported by evidence from psychology that shows the power of the desire to be consistent. The use of trial closes to guide buyers into making a decision to purchase are covered next. Hoffeld suggests handling non-commitments by addressing objections and reinforcing the commitments that the potential customer has already made. With that done, the only thing left to do is to make a closing statement or ask a closing question to finish a deal.

The ninth chapter is about the design of sales presentations. The experiment Hoffeld mentions with jam selections in a grocery store to show that more choices can reduce sales is illuminating in the field of sales and far beyond. The strategies of setting anchors that portray one’s product as superior to an alternative, activating a customer’s mirror neurons by exhibiting their body language, using visuals instead of words only, and the use of stories and testimonials are recommended for effective sales presentations.

Hoffeld closes with a final section/chapter concerning the future of sales and what changes he believes will occur in the coming years. The prediction that a scientific approach will take over an anecdotal approach almost has to be correct, as all of the incentives mandate it. This necessarily validates his second prediction, that sales research will blossom. The final prediction that sales hiring practices will improve is probably true, but likely to take longer.

The Science of Selling is an excellent resource for salespeople, as the strategies therein are more effective than the trial-and-error and guesswork that is commonly practiced today. However, I must admit to reading this book at three levels in addition to face value: how a jobseeker may sell oneself to employers, how a philosopher may persuade the public of one’s ideas, and how a political activist may succeed in advancing one’s agendas. At the jobseeker level, this book explains why certain people fail to get job interviews and/or fail in job interviews. At the philosopher and political activist levels, this book explains why certain people are unpersuasive, why certain political systems are constructed as they are, and why logical fallacies seem to work in the real world. Thus, this book is useful not only to its intended audience, but far beyond it as well.

Rating: 5/5

On Sharp Argumentation

In chess, the term ‘sharp’ is used to denote a move, position, game, or style of play that involves highly tactical positions in which there is the potential for great reward and little or no room for error. The term may also refer to a player who regularly plays in such a manner. A sharp position frequently contains a significant amount of asymmetry, meaning that the position has differing goals for each player. Players may use sharp moves in order to take an opponent out of his or her comfort zone and see if this can produce a mistake that one can use to win the game. But this can also backfire; a mistake on one’s own part can lose the game in such positions. The essence of sharp play is to play aggressively, making threats and responding to threats with counter-threats rather than with passive or retreating moves. Common advice to novice players is to practice playing sharp lines, but doing this in tournaments or against stronger players is likely to produce defeats, as one is likely to make a mistake. It is more effective to be a sharp player than to try to find sharp moves here and there.

An analogy may be drawn with a particular style of argumentation. Sharp argumentation aims to step outside the Overton window in order to take an arguer out of their comfort zone and make them defend ideas that they assumed were universally accepted. The goals are different for each participant in sharp argumentation, in that the mainstream commentator is trying to defend the range of allowable opinion while the sharp arguer is trying to challenge and move it in their direction. This tactic has the high risk of making one look foolish if one cannot defend such a position with great skill, and it has the high reward of making an opponent look foolish if they cannot attack the position well. The goal of a debater should not be to seek out particular sharp positions just to troll and trifle with one’s opponents, but to become sharper in a more general sense.

Accepting Absurdity

With the nature of sharp argumentation established, let us now consider a situation in which one might use this tactic. Consider a libertarian who supports the right to keep and bear arms and is going to debate with a progressive who supports greater gun control measures. The progressive says, “The right to keep and bear arms is not absolute. For example, no one thinks private citizens should have nuclear weapons. There are reasonable restrictions that we can all agree upon.” The goal of the progressive here is to define a certain position as out of bounds while stealthily taking ground.

How might the libertarian respond? One could agree that there should be some restrictions, but believe that the state is not the best way to accomplish this. While this is not anathema to libertarian theory, in the sense that the rules of membership in a stateless community may require that one not be in possession of certain weapons if one wishes to remain in that community, it is a dull response because it both accepts the opponent’s framing of the issue and makes a concession where none need be made. Another possible response is to accuse the progressive of throwing out a red herring because the discussion is about guns that are commonly used by individuals, not weapons of mass destruction. This is not as dull of a response because it calls out the tactic that the opponent is using, but it is not sharp because it does not answer the claim in a robust manner.

Now let us consider a sharp response. The libertarian says, “Speak for yourself. I support private ownership of nuclear weapons,” and offers a detailed explanation of why nuclear weapons are better in private hands than under state control. This line is sharp because it rejects the opponent’s framing of the debate, robustly accepts an idea that the opponent regards as absurd, and strongly challenges all mainstream views about nuclear weapon ownership. The progressive may become so flustered as to regard the libertarian as beyond reason, responding with insults, dismissals, and other such non-arguments. Getting an opponent to react in this way does not necessarily mean that one’s reasoning is correct, but it does make one the winner of the argument as long as one remains calm and reasonable while the opponent loses composure. Short of this, the progressive may attempt to pick apart various aspects of the case for private nuclear weapons. In this case, the libertarian must be able to defend against such attempts because a false move can easily lose the battle for public opinion, while a solid defense against every objection will make the progressive look poorly versed in the subject matter.

Discomfort Zone

Some lines of sharp argumentation require an arguer to leave one’s own comfort zone in order to battle the opponent on unfamiliar ground. Consider a Republican who is debating a Democrat concerning the 2016 election. The Democrat says, “The 2016 election result, and thus the presidency of Donald Trump, is illegitimate because of Russian interference during the general election.” Here, the Democrat is making a strong claim backed by what is an unproven accusation at the time of this writing.

How might the Republican respond? One could say that there needs to be a full investigation into connections between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government to find out the extent of any collusion between the two, but stop short of agreeing with the Democrat. While a Republican may have legitimate concerns over foreign meddling in the democratic process, this is a dull response because it accepts the Democrat’s framing of the situation and concedes that the Democrat may be correct. Another possible response is to point out that there is no evidence of tampering with the election process itself, other than the usual questions about turnouts exceeding 100 percent in a few heavily Democratic districts. This response is not dull because it reframes the issue in terms of hacking of email servers belonging to Democrats, as well as in terms of election tampering done by Democrats. But it is not sharp because it fails to challenge the Democrat’s claim that Russia was involved and that this would delegitimize Trump.

In this case, going sharp requires one to depart from Republican orthodoxy and take a libertarian-leaning position that is too extreme for most Republicans to entertain. The Republican says, “There is no evidence that the Russians altered the outcome of the election to hand Trump the Presidency, but if they did, they were justified in doing it,” followed by a case for why they would be justified. This line of argumentation departs quite far from Republican orthodoxy about national security and foreign policy, but is very capable of throwing the Democrat for a loop. As before, the leftist may forfeit the argument by losing composure, hurling insults and dismissals. Otherwise, the Republican would need to defend the positions that Hillary Clinton was more likely to cause a war with Russia, that the Russian people have a right to influence the US election because they are affected by its result, and that the US has no room to talk given its track record of overthrowing governments when its leaders dislike election results. The latter two are certainly not conventional Republican arguments, but they are defensible. Again, failure to defend such bold positions effectively would make the Republican look crazy, but a skilled defense may leave the Democrat speechless.

Enough Versus Too Much

Just as there are problems with being too dull, one can also argue too sharply. Consider a conservative who is debating a social justice warrior on almost any topic that one cares to imagine. At some point, the social justice warrior is likely to resort to calling the conservative and/or the case the conservative is making racist, misogynist, or another such epithet. The SJW is doing this in an effort to cow the conservative into backing down from the case being made.

How might the conservative respond? All too frequently, the conservative will say, “I am not a misogynist/racist/etc.,” or “No, it isn’t,” followed by an apology or rationalization. This is dull because it plays into the SJW’s narrative. When a SJW resorts to name-calling, they are no longer engaged in rational discussion, and attempting to bring the discussion back to rationality once one of the participants has renounced reasoned debate is like administering medicine to the dead. An apology is even worse, as this concedes the point to the opponent and emboldens other SJWs to shut down debate by similar means. A better response is to inform the SJW that name-calling is not an argument and leave it at that, though this lacks the necessary boldness to be a sharp response. It also fails to challenge the frame set by the SJW.

A sharp response by the conservative would look something like this: “Fine, it is misogynist/racist/etc. It also happens to agree with the available facts. Now, make a valid counter-argument.” This response is sharp because it refuses to back down while challenging both the SJW’s framing of the issue and definitions of terms. Many SJWs have no argument beyond calling a person or idea bigoted, so this response is likely to make a SJW lose any sense of composure and fail to say anything else of substance. In the rare instance that one must continue, one must be able to make the case, as failing to do so can get one labeled a misogynist/racist/etc., which can have many adverse consequences.

A response that would be too sharp would be to reply to an accusation of racism or sexism by displaying clearly hateful bigotry toward the SJW. A response along the lines of “Shut up, (insert misogynist/racist/etc. slur here)” may be satisfying in the moment, but this is a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. An impartial observer will view the SJW as the victor for getting the conservative to respond in such a vulgar fashion. Meanwhile, the media career of someone who does this will take a major hit, which is exactly what the SJW wants.

Conclusion

Used properly, sharp arguments can explore new avenues of thought while making inferior debaters look foolish. However, improper usage can be disastrous not only for one’s argument, but for one’s reputation. As always, research and practice are necessary in order to perform properly in an intellectual setting. Sharp argumentation is not for everyone, but it is a useful tactic to know even for someone who is not naturally inclined to argue in such a manner.

Book Review: Come And Take It

Come And Take It is a book about 3D printing of firearms and the implications thereof by American entrepreneur Cody Wilson. The book details Wilson’s experiences over nine months in 2012-13 when he decided to leave law school and figure out how to use a 3D printer to make a functional plastic handgun. It also conveys his thoughts on political events of the time, such as the re-election of President Barack Obama and the Sandy Hook school shooting.

The story of Wilson’s entrepreneurship is not so different from many others; he must decide whether to make his venture be for-profit or non-profit, decide whether to work for the state or the people, figure out how and where to get funding for his operations, find the right people to work with, wrestle with the impulse to continue his schooling versus working on his entrepreneurial idea, and deal with legal challenges and roadblocks thrown his way by established interests. What sets it apart is the unique nature of his work.

Wilson’s story takes some interesting turns, such as trips to Europe and California where he meets with everyone from left-wing anarchists in the Occupy movement to a club of neoreactionaries led by Mencius Moldbug. This shows that the project to allow everyone to be armed regardless of government laws on the matter changes the political calculus across the entire spectrum, thus making him a person of interest to people of a wide range of political views.

The book is a valiant effort in creative writing and storytelling, but its subtitle of “The Gun Printer’s Guide to Thinking Free” is rather misplaced. It is not so much a guide for someone else to follow as an example which future entrepreneurs may study in order to adapt proper elements thereof for their own projects. The technical details that one might hope for in such a book are only partially present, though we may fault the US Department of State for that, as Wilson tried to include details of the production procedure for his plastic handgun but was forced to redact the material with large black blocks in the final chapter.

In a strange way, the book feels both long and short. Though it is just over 300 pages, it takes much less time to read than most books of that size. Come And Take It offers an interesting look into the mind and experiences of a true game-changer in the world of technology and self-defense, though the reader who is looking for thorough details on 3D printed weapons or a general manifesto on liberty must look elsewhere.

Rating: 3.5/5

25 More Statist Propaganda Phrases

In the discourse of statists, there is a group of phrases of which one or more tend to be present in nearly every argument. The previous listing of twenty-five such phrases was a major hit, so here are twenty-five more of the most common phrases that statists use in their arguments. As propaganda has a tendency to be repetitive, some of these phrases contain the same logical fallacies, and will therefore have similar refutations. As such, the phrases are ordered so that earlier rebuttals also apply to some later phrases.

  1. Give back to the community”

This phrase is used by people who want business owners to support local charities or help the needy directly. There is nothing wrong with this sentiment. In fact, it is more likely to be efficient and effective than a government welfare program, and it is certainly morally superior. Private charity operations must compete for donations, which incentivizes them to be more efficient and effective in their efforts. They also have a better sense of who can be helped out of poverty versus who will only exist parasitically upon the good will of others. But the phrase ‘giving back to the community’ is misguided and dangerous.

That one is giving back something to people implies that one has taken away something from those people. This can lead to a perception of legitimate business owners as thieves who do not rightfully own what they have, when the truth is quite the opposite. To the extent that businesses in a free market thrive, they do so by voluntary trade. They give customers what they want at prices they deem reasonable. The customer wants the business owner’s products more than he wants his money, while the business owner wants the customer’s money more than he wants his products. They trade assets and both are improved from their subjective points of view. As such, a business is always giving to the community, and its profits are evidence of the value that its customers have received from the business.

If the charitable nature of business ended there, it would be good enough, but there is more. A successful business will be able to employ people. This allows people to accept a constant rate of payment for work done without having to take on the capital risks of starting and running a business oneself. Additionally, this gives the poor and the mentally deficient, who cannot start their own businesses, a path to prosperity and a sense of dignity.

The idea that such benevolent activity to improve one’s community is somehow exploitative of that community is nothing short of communist propaganda and should be rejected as such. Businesses that donate to charities are not ‘giving back to the community’; they are giving the community even more.

  1. Pay your fair share”

Phrases 2-7 are used by progressives who want to intervene in the market economy and make the wealthy pay more taxes. This is wrong on two counts. First, taxation would be considered robbery, slavery, trespassing, communicating threats, receipt of stolen money, transport of stolen money, extortion, racketeering, and conspiracy if anyone other than government agents behaved identically. An objective moral theory must be consistent, so it can be no respecter of badges, costumes, or affiliations. What is immoral for you and I to do must also be immoral for government revenuers to do. Second, the rich already pay the vast majority of the tax revenue collected, while many poor people pay nothing. If “pay your fair share” is to be logically consistent, then all of the poor should be taxed at least to some extent.

  1. Income inequality”

The income inequality generated by a free market is a feature, not a bug. People have different degrees of expertise, intelligence, and motivation, which results in different ability to earn income. This results in the people with the most resources being the people who are best at acquiring, defending, and properly investing those resources. This ultimately benefits everyone because it allows innovations to move past the initial stage, at which only the rich can afford them, and become inexpensive enough for mass adoption. To the extent that income inequality is a problem, it is due to state interference in the form of currency debasement and regulatory capture.

  1. Society’s lottery winners”

This is an open insult to the hard work that business owners have put into their firms to make them successful. A lottery winner invests money in a manner which one may expect to be wasteful and happens to get unearned wealth. A business owner invests both money and labor in a manner which one may expect to be productive, and some earn wealth.

  1. You didn’t build that”

The idea behind this phrase is that someone else built the infrastructure upon which a business relies in order to interact with its customers and make profits. But those who use this phrase make an unjustifiable logical leap from there to assert that a business owner should pay taxes to the state in return for that infrastructure. The problem is that the state monopolizes the infrastructure and forces people to pay for it, in many cases without regard for how much they use it, if at all. People should pay for what they use, but it is immoral to force people to pay for what they are forced to use. In a free society, the infrastructure would be privately owned and voluntarily funded. Those who say that the state must provide infrastructure, and in turn that people must pay taxes for it, have an unfulfilled burden of proof that they frequently shift, committing a logical fallacy.

  1. Gender pay gap”

Those who obsess over this issue point to an overall disparity in pay between men and women and conclude that some kind of unjustifiable gender discrimination must be occurring. But to some extent, a gender pay gap results from the natural differences between the genders. Intelligence testing shows that while the average intelligence level is almost the same for both genders, the standard deviation is much higher for males. This means that geniuses and dunces are both disproportionately male, which females are more likely to be of average intelligence. This makes sense from an historical perspective; in traditional societies, some men were planners and inventors, other men were manual laborers, and women were the support staff for both groups. (There were occasional deviations from this, but they were the exception and not the rule. The NAXALT objection is a sign of political autism and should be denounced as such.) As the highest-paying jobs tend to require great intelligence, and people with great intelligence tend to be male, it follows that a gender pay gap would result. Males tend to have more strength and toughness than females, and the nature of human procreation makes males more disposable. This grants males an advantage in taking high-risk jobs which have hazard pay bonuses, resulting in a gender pay gap. Behavioral differences between the genders, which are also partly genetic in origin, produce a difference in the ability to negotiate for higher salaries.

Another problem with the progressive narrative on gender and pay is that they look only at the aggregate and do not compare like cases. When two workers in the same profession who are equal in every measurable way except for their genders are compared, such disparities do not appear. In some cases, women even earn a few percent more than men when this is taken into account. Part of the reason for the aggregate pay gap is that women choose to work in different fields from men, and these fields do not pay as much.

Although baseless misogyny (and misandry) do occur, its elimination would only reduce the gender pay gap; it would not result in equal pay.

  1. Social justice”

The idea of social justice is that the state should ensure fair distribution of wealth and social privileges, equal opportunity, and equality of outcome. The implication is always that the current conditions are socially unjust. This idea has several major problems. Who defines what is fair, and why should they be allowed to define it? If opportunities and outcomes should be equal, who must make them equal? If an injustice is present, who is the subject of the injustice?

Fairness is a subjective concern, and should therefore be determined by those who are closest to an interaction, i.e. those who are directly involved or affected. As long as all parties to a interaction participate voluntarily and no external party is aggressed against, all involved may deem the interaction fair and the matter of its fairness should be considered resolved. But in social justice rhetoric, the idea of fairness is an excuse to stick one’s nose in where it does not belong and interfere in matters which are none of one’s business. Because doing this successfully involves initiating the use of force against peaceful people and all wealth and privilege can be traced back to a series of interactions, social justice perverts the idea of fairness into something intrusive and unfair.

Equal opportunity and equal outcome are advocated by right-wing and left-wing ideologues, respectively, but both of these are erroneous. Neither can exist without not only a redistribution of wealth, but a leveling of cultural norms and a medical erasure of genetic differences between people, for all of these give some people advantages over others. The resulting inequality of opportunity will necessarily cause an inequality of outcome. All of these measures require initiating the use of force against people who do not wish to be made equal in these senses. Thus, social justice twists the idea of equality into something which must be imposed by unequal means, as the state and its agents are legally allowed to do that which is disallowed for other people and organizations to do.

Ultimately, social justice is not a form of justice at all because there is no subject by which an injustice can be committed. Proponents of social justice will say that a collective is the victim, but this is impossible because collectives do not exist. To exist is to have a concrete, particular form in physical reality. To say that collectives exist is beg the question of what physical form they take, as all available physical forms are occupied by the individuals which are said to comprise the collective. Thus there is no collective existence apart from the existence of each individual said to comprise the collective. Those who advocate social justice cannot point to an individual victim of social injustice, but they seek to create a multitude of victims of real injustice.

  1. Level playing field”

This phrase is used by regulatory busybodies who see an innovation and decide to stand athwart history yelling “Stop!” In any sort of activity, some people will always have an advantage over others, whether it is a first mover advantage, a better idea, better marketing, greater intelligence, etc. The truth is that there can be no such thing as a level playing field, and that which cannot be done should not be attempted.

  1. Our Constitution”

Phrases 9-14 are used to foster a sense of collective identity. The idea that a constitution is “ours” assumes that a collective exists and has ownership of the constitution. As explained earlier, collectives do not exist apart from the existence of each individual said to comprise the collective. Additionally, to own something is to have a right of exclusive control over it. Part and parcel of this right is the right to physically destroy that which one owns. As governments would use force to stop anyone from attempting to destroy the constitution either literally or figuratively, the citizens are not the de facto owners of a constitution.

  1. Our shared values”

Although any recognizable social group will come together to further a certain set of shared values, this phrase is frequently abused by statist propagandists to create a sense of nationalism. In modern nation-states, there tend to be few (if any) shared values across the entire population. To the contrary, it is usually the case that large subcultures within the nation hold values which are diametrically opposed to each other, as well as to the values which are espoused by the ruling classes. To make matters worse, whatever constitution or other founding documents may be in use are frequently cited by all sides in the cultural conflict as a means to justify their own views and attack their opponents.

  1. Our fellow (insert national identity)”

Much like the previous phrase, this is used to lump together people who may or may not fit together by constructing a common identity around them which may or may not have any basis in reality. The implication is that even if people within a nation have disagreements, they are still part of the same collective. This is not necessarily the case because disagreements between subcultures within a nation can grow to a point at which they are no longer able to peacefully share a system of governance. This necessitates a peaceful parting of ways, and the unwillingness of political leaders to allow this to happen results in political violence and civil wars.

  1. That is un-(insert national identity)”

As sociologists are so fond of telling us, an in-group will attempt to clarify its boundaries by othering some people, i.e. defining them as part of the out-group. This is done for purposes of ideological purity as much as for any other reason. Politicians and pundits use this phrase in an attempt to define certain ideas as being out of bounds of the allowable range of opinions. But just as a nation has no existence apart from the individuals comprising the nation, a nation has no ideals apart from the ideals of the individuals comprising the nation. Thus, to tell a person of national identity X that they hold un-X ideas is a contradiction of terms.

  1. National interest”

There is no such thing as a national interest apart from each individual person’s interests because there is no such thing as a nation apart from each individual person. Because a nation will invariably contain individuals whose interests contradict each other, the idea of a national interest is false by contradiction unless everyone in a nation can agree upon a certain set of core interests.

  1. Shared sacrifice”

When government and central bankers interfere with the economy and cause a recession, both typically intervene with fiscal and monetary stimulus programs. As Keynesians, they do not understand that they are only sowing the seeds for another boom and bust cycle. When this happens, politicians and their minions will call for “shared sacrifice.” This phrase really means that they wish to pass off the costs for the mistakes of the ruling classes and the politically-connected wealthy onto the entire population rather than let natural selection eliminate the incompetent from the ranks of politicians, central bankers, and speculators. Of course, the people never get a proper return on their forced investment; rather, it is heads they win, tails you lose.

  1. Rights come from the government”

This phrase is used by progressives who wish to justify their view of the role of government, but it is contradictory. If rights are given by the state, then they can also be taken away by the state. But a right is not something which can be taken away by someone else; it can only be forfeited by the right-holder by violating the equivalent right of another person. This contradiction necessitates a different source for rights, such as argumentation ethics.

With the theoretical argument refuted, let us turn to practical concerns. Progressives claim that government is necessary as a defender of our rights, for the most brutish person or gang may rule and violate our rights otherwise. But a government is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force within a geographical area. A government is funded through taxation, which violates private property rights. Its laws are enforced by the threat of arrest, fines, imprisonment, and possibly execution, which violates liberty, property, and possibly life rights. A rights-protecting rights-violator is a contradiction of terms, and the state is just such a brutish person or gang that the progressives say we need safeguards against. Note that although they have a burden to prove that this territorial monopoly is required in order to protect rights, they never do so. At best, they will ask for counterexamples, but this reliance upon historical determinism only shows their lack of courage and imagination to think beyond what has been to see what can be.

  1. We get the government we deserve”

This phrase commonly appears in the media immediately following an election, particularly after a result which entrenches the current system and fails to produce the changes which are invariably promised (which is to say, nearly always). The way that this phrase is used by the media is an example of victim blaming, as the people are going to continue to be violently victimized by agents of the state and the media is saying they deserve to be.

However, one could also interpret this as a call for revolution; in the words of Frederick Douglass, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” There is a case to be made that if people are unwilling to abolish the state by force even though they could, then they deserve to suffer the consequences of their inaction.

  1. Pay your debt to society”

This phrase is used by commentators on criminal justice issues as a euphemism for serving time in prison. The problem with this phrase is that society cannot be a victim because it does not really exist; each individual person exists. A crime must have a definite victim; an individual and/or their property must have been aggressed against. Any debt incurred by a criminal should be payable to that victim, not to all people living within a geographical area.

  1. Rule of law”

This phrase is used by people who try to justify the state by fear-mongering about what could happen without it. But the truth is that rule of law is fundamentally incompatible with a state apparatus. Rule of law is the idea that people should be governed by laws rather than by the arbitrary decisions of rulers. A state is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force in a certain geographical area. People who have a monopoly on initiatory force necessarily have a monopoly on the enforcement of laws. This means that they can choose the nature of the law and the enforcement thereof. Thus, in the presence of a state, those who wield state power rule the law. The law does not rule them. Therefore, the only possibility for rule of law is to have no state.

  1. Law-abiding citizen”

This phrase is frequently uttered by the common person as a sort of virtue signal that one is a good person. But whether abiding the law makes one a good person is dependent upon the nature of the law. In a statist society, the law is a collection of opinions written down by sociopaths who have managed to either win popularity contests or murder their competitors and enforced at gunpoint by thugs in costumes. When most people commit several felonies every day because the laws criminalize a vast array of activities which do not threaten or victimize anyone and purport to legitimize the victimization of the citizen at the hands of the state, a law abiding citizen is not a goal to which people should aspire.

  1. Common sense regulations”

This phrase is used by people who wish to restrict economic and/or personal freedoms on the grounds of some public good. But their proposed regulations often defy common sense, not that common sense provides an accurate understanding of reality. The purpose of this phrase is to demonize opponents of a proposal as lacking good sense without having to make a logical case for the proposal.

  1. Corporate citizen”

This phrase is used by people who wish to hold businesses accountable to various laws and regulations. It has its roots in the idea of corporate personhood, the idea that a corporation has rights and responsibilities similar to those of a person. This is wrong because a corporation is a legal fiction created by the state to shield business executives from liability. It is not an extant being with moral agency, as a real citizen is. If the object is to hold people fully accountable for their actions, then corporations must be abolished and full liability for one’s crimes must be restored.

  1. Don’t waste your vote”

This phrase is used by supporters of major-party candidates who wish to suppress votes for minor parties. However, the definition of a wasted vote is a vote which does not help elect a candidate. In an indirect election, such as the United States presidential election, only electoral votes matter. Therefore, all popular votes in such a contest are wasted unless there is a law which prevents faithless electors. In elections in which popular votes directly determine the outcome, all votes for losing candidates are wasted, as well as all votes for winning candidates which went above the amount necessary to win. Thus, the percentage of wasted votes in a race may be given as

W = 100% − (Second highest vote percentage)% − 1 vote,

which will be at least 50 percent unless only two candidates receive votes and the winner wins by only one vote.

  1. This is the most important election of our lifetime”

This phrase is used by the establishment media in the hopes of increasing voter turnout. It is a combination of pleading, manipulation, and crying wolf that is completely nonsensical. It assumes that elections matter, requires impossible knowledge, and contradicts physics.

For the ruling class in a democratic state, elections are just tools of social control that provide the populace with meaningless participation in a process in order to convince them that criminal conduct performed under color of law is legitimate because “they voted for it.”

In order for the upcoming election to be the most important of our lifetime, it must be more important than every future election in which current voters will vote. But the future is unknown and unknowable until we arrive at it.

It is known that altering a system at an earlier time gives it more time to develop differently, resulting in greater changes. As such, at least in terms of how different a counter-factual world in which a different candidate took office might be, the most important election of any person’s lifetime should be their first one.

  1. Freedom isn’t free”

This phrase is used by supporters of government militaries and their military-industrial complexes to stir up emotional support for soldiers, defense spending, and the occasional foreign invasion. But the fact that freedom must be defended at a cost does not mean that a government monopoly military is necessary or proper for that task. There is a logical gulf between the two that most people cannot even see because governments have monopolized military defense for millennia, but it is there. To simply jump across it without attempting to explain why a private, voluntarily funded, non-monopolized form of military defense would be insufficient is philosophically invalid.

  1. We need to have an honest conversation”

This phrase is used by politicians and their propagandists when dealing with controversial political issues which tend to go unaddressed for long periods of time due to their third rail nature. But politicians have a tendency to either do nothing about such issues or to uniformly disregard the will of the people. The real purpose of this phrase is to set a trap for both the mainstream opposition and political dissidents. Either can be tricked into believing it acceptable to venture opinions which are outside of the Overton window, for which the establishment can then attack them as unreasonable extremists. In some cases, it is a way for authoritarian regimes to find out who to violently suppress. As such, it is best to rebuke those who make such a claim.

Book Review: The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing

The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing is a how-to manual on the subject by author and editor Zachary Petit. The book discusses all of the fundamentals of freelance writing that an aspiring writer needs to know.

Petit begins by discussing full-time versus part-time freelancing, as well as the different venues for which a freelancer can write. He offers the wise advice to avoid content mills and be open to writing for almost every other type of publication, which would have saved me a lot of trouble had this book been published four years earlier. The second chapter is about what to write and how to get ideas for articles. Again, the advice is sound: go out and find stories rather than expecting them to fall into your lap, use your knowledge and expertise from other disciplines, cover events local to you, express yourself, and never stop studying.

The next three chapters discuss the process of getting a freelance assignment. First, there is the matter of one’s online and offline presence, as well as adherence to stylebooks (which felt like it belonged in the fourth chapter rather than the third). Next, Petit takes the reader through the structure of a magazine and the writing opportunities (or lack thereof) presented by each part. The fourth chapter concludes with a brief discussion of what is necessary to write for major publications immediately. The fifth chapter explains in great detail how to (and how not to) query a publication in order to get a freelance assignment and briefly discusses the typical hierarchy of publishers, editors, assistants, and interns.

The sixth chapter covers everything that a novice writer needs to learn about interviewing people, from the pros and cons of in-person, phone, and email interviews to journalistic ethics to dealing with troublesome sources and celebrities (and both). In general, in-person interviews are better than phone interviews are better than email interviews, though one must take what one can get sometimes. The seventh chapter discusses almost every other type of writing available to a freelancer, such as front-of-the-book content, newspaper articles, feature articles, Q&As, and profile pieces. To Petit’s credit, the puff pieces and hit pieces which are far too common in formerly respectable publications are absent, as new writers should make an effort to be better than that.

The eighth chapter deals with a writer’s relationship with editors; how to treat them, how to think of them, and how to make sure that an article is ready to be seen by them. The most important advice here is to take no criticism personally, eliminate as many errors as possible on one’s own, double-check everything before submitting an article, and realize that editors can be busy people with tight schedules that limit their ability to respond promptly. The ninth chapter concerns the business side of being a freelancer, including proper payment, negotiating contracts, dealing with delinquent clients, avoiding shady clients, and navigating the unique tax situation of being an independent contractor. The book ends with a short conclusion of encouraging words and an appendix which mostly contains more information about writing queries.

Overall, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Petit explains the ins and outs of freelancing as only a veteran of the business can, and it can save an aspiring freelance writer a lot of trouble from learning the slow and hard way.

Rating: 5/5

A Campaign Against the Commission on Presidential Debates

This is the third essay in a three-part series. This essay will detail the campaign a hypothetical future third-party presidential candidate who makes use of the tactics described in the first and second essays, which discuss peaceful and forceful tactics, respectively.

In the weeks leading up to every United States presidential election, a series of debates between the candidates are held. When the current series of regular debates began in 1976, this was handled by the League of Women Voters. By 1987, the Republican and Democratic parties decided to take over control of the debates by creating the Commission on Presidential Debates, which was co-chaired by Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul G. Kirk, the Republican and Democratic national chairmen at the time. The CPD has controlled all presidential debates involving Republican and Democratic candidates since 1988. With the sole exception of Ross Perot in 1992, all third-party candidates have been excluded from the debates since its inception, and they have now succeeded in doing so for the 2016 election cycle.

Various efforts to resolve this matter peacefully, such as protests, lawsuits, boycotts of debate sponsors, and the organization of other presidential debates have failed. The use of force to remedy this situation is morally justifiable, but no candidate has yet showed a willingness to resort to such methods. But as this may not always be the case, let us now consider a hypothetical future election in which there is a third-party candidate who decides to use force to either get onto the debate stage or shut down the CPD’s activities.

The Candidate

Let us call our candidate Aurelius. Aurelius is a tall, imposing man of forty. He is well read, both inside and outside of the libertarian philosophical tradition. He has a quick wit, a sharp tongue, and a gift for public oratory. His personal views on issues are rather reactionary, and he distances himself from the hedonism embraced by some libertarians. He is a man who has endured much hardship at the hands of government agents, and he will have his vengeance. But he knows that taking power by force, even if he intends to dismantle that power from the inside out, is a hard sell in a democratic system. He also knows that the Republicans and Democrats want nothing to do with anyone who is as radical and controversial as him, and he is the wrong sort of radical for the Green Party. As such, he decides to run for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. (We will assume that no other right-leaning third party becomes a better avenue for his candidacy in the next eight years.)

2016-2020

Aurelius makes his first attempt as soon as he is old enough to be constitutionally eligible for the Presidency in 2020 and is narrowly defeated, but only on account of shenanigans pulled by the party establishment to deny the nomination to a firebrand revolutionary in favor of yet another milquetoast mediocrity. Not deterred by this disappointment, he strengthens his resolve. His concession speech at the 2020 Libertarian National Convention blasts the party establishment and the nominee, intensifying a rift within the party. This gives him mainstream press coverage for several days for his bold rhetoric and controversial views, but then the press largely moves on.

In mainstream politics, the 2016 election turns out to be not as important as most people thought. Donald Trump has been elected and fails to deliver on his lofty campaign promises, the gridlock in Washington continues, as does the economic stagnation and growing political divide throughout the nation. In the 2020 election, Trump seeks re-election, a radical progressive wins the Democratic nomination, and third parties are denied a fair chance yet again. This also offers no relief, as no one in a position of power understands the problems facing America. As the 2024 campaign season approaches, America is ripe for revolution, and it is only a question of who will begin the revolt, where and when it will happen, why it will be done, and whether the revolution will be political or anti-political.

2021-2023

Aurelius spends most of these years touring the United States, giving speeches, making alliances, performing outreach, training people in electioneering, and doing everything else that is necessary to set up his campaign strategy for 2024.

2023 – Second Half

In September 2023, Aurelius announces that he has formed an exploratory committee for a potential presidential campaign and filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. During the next few months, Aurelius and his surrogates discuss his plans with his SuperPAC as well as with local militia groups all over the nation, many of which he has played some part in establishing or expanding over the past few years. The exploratory committee does not do as much work as many have done historically because Aurelius has spent several years carefully considering campaigns slogans and themes, developing media appeals, and writing position papers and speeches. He realizes that endorsements from powerful individuals and groups would actually harm his cause, as it would diminish his credibility to have their blessing. Aurelius is also quite wary of hiring consultants and pollsters, recalling how the Gary Johnson campaign in 2016 spent entirely too much on consultants who provided far too little service for the pay they received. His exploratory committee does act more normally in hiring staff and in organizing state campaigns. Aurelius focuses on swing states, particularly Ohio, as he is determined to make a difference one way or another.

On September 27, the CPD announces that the presidential debates are scheduled for September 25, October 8, and October 14, 2024, with the vice-presidential debate scheduled for October 3. Five venues are named; one for each of the aforementioned events and one alternate location. These locations are passed on to the militia groups so that they can make strategic assessments.

On October 26, the CPD announces its criteria for inclusion in the debates. As always, they are designed to exclude all non-duopoly candidates, requiring 15 percent across five national polls. Aurelius begins publicly condemning the CPD but does not disclose his eventual plans.

On December 21, Aurelius announces that he is running for the 2024 Libertarian nomination for President of the United States. After this time, Aurelius uses unofficial surrogates and former campaign staff to relay messages to supporting SuperPACs, knowing that his campaign will likely be given more scrutiny by the Federal Election Commission than the major-party campaigns, which regularly violate the ban on SuperPAC coordination with impunity.

2024 – First Quarter

Aurelius spends the first quarter of 2024 raising money, getting his supporters to attend state party conventions and become delegates to the nominating convention, strategizing with liberty groups on college campuses, and debating the other Libertarian candidates. His opponents consist of the usual Libertarian field; several nobodies who run to make a name for themselves with no serious chance at the nomination, a former politician of a major party with non-standard views for that party, a few professionals in non-political fields, and a libertarian activist or two. Their views of Aurelius range from fear of his boldness and disgust at his right-libertarianism to agreement with most of his positions but not with the means he is willing to use. His poll numbers start off somewhat low but steadily rise as he outperforms his challengers in debate after debate.

In early March, Aurelius speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, just as several Libertarian candidates have done before him. He offers himself as an alternative for disaffected conservatives and far-rightists who are disappointed in Trump’s performance and do not like the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 primaries. He uses the opportunity to attack the Republican and Democratic frontrunners as well as the CPD. In late March, the first televised Libertarian primary debate of the season airs, and Aurelius is among the participants. He presents himself and his candidacy well, getting the attention of many voters and pundits for the first time.

2024 – Second Quarter

The Republicans and Democrats have their nominees all but secured by April, and most Americans are none too happy with their choices. Aurelius and the former major-party politician opposing him in the primary gain attention as a result, as the nobodies are forgotten and the other candidates who are invited to primary debates prove no match for the two frontrunners. The campaign between the two gets nastier, and the rift opened at the 2020 convention grows wider.

This comes to a head at the nominating convention in May. Aurelius narrowly manages to secure the nomination after two ballots, but tempers flare during the vice-presidential nomination as the establishment wing of the party tries to saddle Aurelius with the former politician who opposed him rather than give him the running mate of his choice. This vote goes through several ballots, but Aurelius finally manages to win over the room with a rousing speech.

Just as Trump’s candidacy altered the composition of the Republican Party eight years earlier, Aurelius’s nomination alters the composition of the Libertarian Party. The former major-party politician walks out of the convention, several party stalwarts resign their posts, and many left-libertarians either leave the party or decide not to support the nominee in the general election. This has an impact, but many Aurelius supporters have already entered the party and more than outnumber those who leave. Aurelius gives another powerful speech denouncing those who abandoned the Libertarian Party over his candidacy.

The General Campaign Begins

Aurelius does a round of interviews following his nomination, and it quickly becomes clear to everyone that he is not the calm, soft-spoken, non-threat to the establishment that past Libertarian nominees have been. Talk of a three-way race begins, and pollsters being including Aurelius in their surveys. The first surveys show him at a startling 10 percent of the vote, with both major-party candidates near 40 percent and the rest either undecided or supporting other third-party candidates. The establishment becomes nervous to an extent that they have not been since the Trump campaign of 2016, though for different reasons. In June, the CPD names moderators for the debates. Aurelius and his running mate participate in a live town hall on June 26.

In July, the Aurelius SuperPAC begins airing campaign advertisements, but carries out a novel strategy of attacking the CPD as much as promoting the candidate. The reason for this is to vilify the CPD and make the American people hate them in order to make countermeasures against them more palatable. These anti-CPD ads continue airing through the middle of September, with several ads left on the back burner for various possibilities in late September and October. When asked about this in interviews, Aurelius declares that he is come to fight the enemies of the American people, and that the CPD is the first such enemy that he must defeat. He assures the press that he will not allow the CPD to silence him or his supporters, but stands up to media pressure when asked to divulge the full meaning of this, saying that he will not reveal his strategies to his enemies and the establishment press can find out when everyone else does. Most interviewers move on to other topics, but Aurelius does walk out on one interviewer who will not stop trying to discern his plans.

In August, Aurelius supporters on the college campuses chosen by the CPD ally with other third-party and non-partisan liberty groups to acquire as many debate tickets as possible in an effort to disrupt the debate, especially at the campus chosen for the first presidential debate. His poll numbers slowly move upward into the low teens, prompting the establishment press to dig deeper into his background and question him more rigorously in interviews in an effort to derail his candidacy. But unlike many previous third-party candidates, Aurelius does not gaffe or back down, having a strong answer for everything they throw at him. Aurelius and his running mate participate in more live town halls on August 7 and 21. Aurelius finishes getting nationwide ballot access in late August.

Showdown With The CPD

In September, the major-party candidates are worried. The final polls which are used to determine debate access have Aurelius in the neighborhood of 15 percent. The surrogates for both duopoly candidates are scrambling to try to convince voters not to support Aurelius, warning them that “a vote for Aurelius is a vote for the other duopoly candidate” and “electing such an extremist endangers the republic.” He effortlessly slaps down their arguments. Both major-party candidates wish for the CPD to exclude Aurelius despite having poll numbers which could qualify him to debate. The CPD responds by choosing the five polls which have Aurelius at the lowest level of support for its average, giving him 14 percent support and the CPD an excuse to exclude him.

Later that week, the plan to disrupt the debates by filling the audiences with hecklers is discovered. The CPD decides to cancel all of the admission tickets, hold the first debate without an audience, and let Republican and Democratic party officials decide who to let into the audience for the other three debates. Aurelius disavows any direct involvement in this plan, saying that it was the work of his supporters as well as concerned citizens who seek fair debates. However, he expresses sympathy toward the means and the end. Interviewers again pressure him to divulge any more plans for disruption that he might have, but he still refuses.

On September 21, scouts for the militia groups show up to the five debate venues in plain clothing. Some of them enter the venues, hide until late at night, then open the doors to allow a large number of militia members to enter each venue with enough armament and supplies to carry out an occupation for the duration of the scheduled debate season. They allow non-militia members to leave the buildings but not enter, as they do not wish to create a hostage situation. On the morning of September 22, everyone becomes aware of the situation and an armed standoff ensues between the militia groups and federal agents. The militias demand either fair debates or none at all, and inform all concerned parties that more groups are ready to respond to any hastily organized plans to hold CPD events elsewhere or retaliate if federal agents massacre them. Aurelius is contacted by federal agents and the media, and he informs both that he will hold a press conference at noon the next day to discuss the situation and will not discuss the matter with anyone until then. The two major-party candidates give campaign speeches in which they denounce Aurelius and the militia groups.

At noon on September 23, Aurelius delivers a lengthy address explaining the history of the CPD, its role in determining who can become President and who cannot, and the reasons why the tactics used by his supporters are necessary and proper. He answers all of the objections raised by the major-party candidates, the press, and the CPD over the past 36 hours. He leaves enough plausible deniability for himself in order to avoid conspiracy charges, but makes clear that he stands with the militia groups and welcomes their efforts in his fight against the CPD.

Negotiators attempt to dissuade the militias from their occupation, and representatives for the militia groups attempt to dissuade the CPD from its policies, but both sides refuse to budge. The establishment press does its best to vilify Aurelius and the militia groups, but alternative media personalities along with his speeches, supporters, and campaign ads largely blunt their efforts. The desperation of the American people to finally have real change that the Republicans and Democrats have continually failed to bring them makes many of them sympathize with Aurelius and his supporters, even if they view their methods as extreme. The CPD and major-party candidates decide to cancel the first debate on September 25 rather than risk a battle at the debate site, and no press outlets offer to hold a debate elsewhere, heeding the warning from the militias.

Possible Outcomes

At this point, the ball is squarely in the court of the CPD, major-party candidates, and federal agents. How they decide to respond from here on out is difficult to predict, but let us consider some likely possibilities. The best outcome is that the CPD relents and allows Aurelius to debate. However, it is difficult to imagine the major-party candidates agreeing to debate under such circumstances. They would be more likely to deliver some rhetoric about not negotiating with terrorists. Thus, a lack of presidential debates in the 2024 election would likely result. But from Aurelius’s perspective, this is a superior result to one in which they debate and he does not.

Another peaceful resolution would involve working out an agreement with the establishment press, Aurelius and his running mate, the major-party candidates and their running mates, and any other relevant third-party campaigns. In lieu of the CPD events, the networks could air 30-minute segments with each of the candidates. This is more likely than having a multi-candidate debate with the CPD’s involvement, but it is still a somewhat remote possibility.

As we are dealing with an armed standoff, it will not do to leave the possibility of violence unexamined. There are five major concerns in this regard; a medical issue, a surrender, a move against Aurelius, a false move, and a move-in order. Given the duration of the occupation from several days before the first scheduled debate until at least one day after the last scheduled debate, it is quite possible for someone to have a medical issue of some kind that must be addressed. If this happens, then a militia member will need to leave the premises. It is almost certain that the person will be placed under arrest, and the person would do well to accept this and be transported to a local hospital. A surrender by some members of a militia group would function almost identically, except that they would be transported to a police station rather than a hospital. The issue here is that government agents have been known to exact a blood price against a resistance movement by killing a member who is surrendering. While this in isolation could create sympathy for the militia groups and by extension, the Aurelius campaign, shots being fired in response by the militia members could needlessly escalate the matter into a pitched battle. The militia members would certainly have difficulty in holding their fire in such a case, but they would need to do so.

Given the entirety of the situation, it is quite likely that the government would attempt to break the occupation by neutralizing the person(s) on whose behalf they are acting. It would not be difficult for prosecutors to trump up charges upon which to arrest Aurelius (and any other third-party candidates who may stand to benefit from the occupation). Given the history of candidates continuing to run for office while in jail, this is unlikely to have a major effect, except that Aurelius would be hindered in his ability to deliver speeches. There is a chance that an unstable member of a militia could use this as an excuse to start shooting, and the other militia members would need to be prepared for this possibility and contain that individual. An assassination attempt against Aurelius by the establishment cannot be ruled out, but this would signal desperation and inspire a more direct revolution than that proposed by Aurelius, as it would make a martyr of a person who has 15 percent support to become President.

Much like the first two concerns, a false move by either side could have disastrous results, and it is imperative for the militia members and the Aurelius campaign that any such flinch occur on the part of the federal agents and not the militia groups. It is standard procedure for governments to provoke armed resistance movements into firing a first shot so that they have justification to respond with overwhelming force. The occupiers must not fall for any such provocations if they are to maintain proper public perception.

Finally, it is possible that the state may allow the occupations to go on for a time, but finally decide to move in and crush the militia groups. If this happens, then a battle with hundreds of casualties on both sides is probably unavoidable. Fortunately, recent history suggests that this is unlikely, given the results of the Bundy standoffs as well as the blowback and negative press that resulted from more aggressive postures in previous standoffs.

Conclusion

It is impossible to predict the outcome of the 2024 election without knowing how the standoff is resolved. One could not even say for certain that there would be an election if battles occur at the debate sites and unrest grows to the point of civil war. After all, history shows us that great wars can be started by a single shot, and that shot may occur at any place and time. But as the most likely result is a campaign season without presidential debates, a peaceful end to the occupations, and efforts to bring the militia members to trial stretching several years into the future, let us assume that the election does go forward and that Aurelius performs much better than most third-party candidates due to his oratory skills, level playing field with respect to presidential debates, and increased exposure due to the armed standoffs.

A victory for Aurelius would have the political establishment scared for their lives, and they may lash out violently against the American people. He could use the presidential pardon to immunize the militia members as well as himself against any charges related to the occupations, effectively normalizing armed resistance. This would represent a massive cultural shift in a pro-liberty direction unlike anything in time memorial, although it may lead to a civil war between the political establishment and Aurelius’s supporters. This would also have the effect of keeping Aurelius from becoming tyrannical, as armed resistance could turn on him if he did. A narrow defeat may have similar cultural effects, though the boot of state power would aim to crush the Aurelius faction instead of being worn by it.

A massive defeat for Aurelius would indicate a complete failure in messaging or tactics, and would be the likely result of the militias firing first or Aurelius going too far with his rhetoric. This might speed up the efforts to subject the militia members to the criminal punishment system, as the election result would make clear that popular opinion is against them. This result would indicate that no remedy is to be found through political means, so the options for those who desire liberty are to continue suffering or revolt.

Whatever the final result may be, one thing is certain: a campaign against the Commission on Presidential Debates would change the political landscape forever.

On the Use of Force Against the Commission on Presidential Debates

This is the second essay in a three-part series. In this essay, we will consider the philosophical case for using forceful means to protest the policies of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which are geared toward ensuring that the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates do not have to debate anyone else. The first essay discussed a peaceful method of protesting the policies of the CPD, and the third essay will detail the campaign of a hypothetical future third-party presidential candidate who makes use of the tactics described in the first and second essays.

History

In the weeks leading up to every United States presidential election, a series of debates between the candidates are held. When the current series of regular debates began in 1976, this was handled by the League of Women Voters. By 1987, the Republican and Democratic parties decided to take over control of the debates by creating the Commission on Presidential Debates, which was co-chaired by Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul G. Kirk, the Republican and Democratic national chairmen at the time. In 1988, the League of Women Voters announced their withdrawal from debate sponsorship, saying in a statement that

“…the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

The CPD has controlled all presidential debates involving Republican and Democratic candidates since 1988. At a 1987 press conference announcing the commission’s creation, Fahrenkopf said that the commission was not likely to include third-party candidates in debates. Kirk said that third-party candidates should be excluded. A third-party candidate has only been invited once; Ross Perot was allowed to debate in 1992 because both major-party candidates believed that his presence was in their self-interest and would help to draw support away from their major-party opponent. Perot was excluded when he ran again in 1996, and finished with less than half of the votes he earned in 1992. In 2000, the CPD established a rule that for a candidate to be included in the national debates he or she must garner at least 15 percent support across five national polls. This arbitrary and capricious standard has kept all third-party candidates from debating since its inception.

Peaceful Efforts

There have been many efforts by third-party candidates to gain access to the debate stage. The direct approach of trying to reach 15 percent in national polls has obviously been tried by all, with universal failure. The American election system encourages two parties, the media enables the exclusion of alternative voices, campaign financiers donate to the two major parties to maintain their corrupt bargains with the state, ballot access laws are rigged against third parties, and the pollsters either exclude the names of third-party candidates or ask about them after focusing on a two-candidate match-up which will not appear on the ballot. This creates an uphill battle to reach 15 percent which has proven too difficult for any third-party candidate since Perot, and it likely requires the billions of dollars that he had available. These factors together create a Catch-22: A third-party candidate needs to be in the debates to get the polling numbers needed to be in the debates.

Some candidates have realized the absurdity of this setup and tried to fight against it. In 2000, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that corporate contributions to the CPD violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. The FEC ruled that they do not, and the D.C. Circuit Court declined to overrule the FEC. In 2004, Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik and Green Party candidate David Cobb were arrested in St. Louis, Mo. when they attempted to enter a debate to serve an order to show cause to the CPD. In 2012, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the CPD, the Democratic National Committee, and the Republican National Committee in D.C. Circuit Court, citing the Sherman Act and claiming “illegal conspiracy or contract in restraint of trade.” The injuctive relief was denied, and the case was eventually dismissed in 2014 due to lack of jurisdiction. Also in 2012, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested by Hofstra University campus security when they attempted to enter the debate site. They were handcuffed and detained in a warehouse for eight hours before being released. In 2015, Johnson, Stein, the Libertarian Party, and the Green Party filed suit against the CPD, DNC, RNC, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney, claiming violation of anti-trust laws. The case was dismissed in August 2016 on spurious reasoning, leaving an insufficient amount of time for an appeal.

Efforts to bring down the CPD by going after its sponsors have been similarly fruitless. While such efforts did lead to BBH New York, YWCA USA, and Philips Electronics withdrawing their sponsorship of the 2012 debates, no meaningful impact was made. As the CPD is only important every four years, it is difficult to maintain public engagement long enough to organize an economically significant boycott of the CPD’s corporate sponsors. Even if it were possible to effect such a boycott, the CPD is mostly funded by a small number of private donors who would be unaffected by a boycott in any meaningful way because their identities are hidden.

There have also been debates organized by Free and Equal which invite the most prominent third-party candidates along with the major-party candidates. But as part of the memoranda of understanding that major-party candidates make with each other, they have always agreed not to engage in non-CPD debates with other candidates. All non-CPD debates since the CPD was founded have featured third-party candidates only, and accordingly receive almost no press coverage.

Resorting To Force

It is clear that this problem is not going to be solved in a passive and peaceful manner. Just as government will not hold government accountable because it not in their self-interest to do so, government will not hold accountable a non-profit organization that serves the interest of those who control the government. If the CPD is to be brought down and its sorry excuses for debates either opened to third parties or shut down, a more active and forceful response is required. An active but peaceful method of filling the live audience with anti-duopoly hecklers was detailed in the first essay and is certainly worth attempting, but it is the sort of protest which the CPD could easily prevent in the future by further restricting the audience or holding its events without an audience. As such, let us make a philosophical case for a protest which resorts to force.

In order to justify the use of force within a libertarian moral framework, it is necessary to show that an act of aggression is being perpetrated and that the use of force in question defends against that act of aggression. Let us begin by laying out the facts of the case:

  • The CPD holds debates between presidential candidates.
  • Its criteria are clearly designed to exclude third-party candidates and produce a head-to-head presentation of the two major-party candidates.
  • All available evidence shows that a candidate must appear in these debates in order to win a presidential election.
  • Peaceful efforts to include third-party candidates have been stopped by force.
  • The President is the chief executive of the United States government, wielding immense power and influence over both the American people and the rest of the world.
  • The United States government, like any government, is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force within a geographical area.

From these facts, it is clear that the CPD controls who gets to give orders to those who initiate force in American society, as well as who does not. Namely, only Republicans, Democrats, and those with enough money to run without either of the two parties gets a chance to do this. All others are excluded, and history shows that this exclusion is backed by violence. Involving oneself in third-party politics for the purpose of electing a president who will lessen the acts of aggression that government agents commit against people is unlikely to be the most effective method of defending oneself against the state, but it is a legitimate pragmatic option in a democratic statist system with a population that is unwilling to revolt. These defensive efforts are met with force by government agents who enforce the will of the CPD, DNC, and RNC. Further, the CPD and those who enforce their will act to silence the political speech of some people while amplifying the political speech of other people within a system in which there is no legitimate justification for doing so. Because such force is levied against defensive efforts, it is aggressive in nature, meaning that defensive force used against it is morally justified.

Next, we must consider which targets for this defensive force are legitimate and proper, concerns about organization, tactics and likely responses, and some potential objections.

Legitimate and Proper Targets

This is a case in which some legitimate targets for defensive force are not proper targets. This is because using force against them is within the bounds of the non-aggression principle, but doing so would not accomplish the goal. For example, using force against major-party presidential candidates is certainly justified as self-defense for other reasons, but doing so would be counterproductive in this case. The primary objective is to put third-party candidates on the debate stage for a proper discussion that informs the American people about all of their options, and this objective would be undermined by using violence against any presidential candidate. Neither would the secondary objective of shutting down CPD events be served by using force against the major-party nominees, as the DNC and/or RNC could simply substitute a new candidate and continue as before.

Likewise, using force against debate moderators, establishment press members covering the debate, or administrators of the hosting university would harm the cause. Even though they are complicit in acts of aggression against third-party candidates and their supporters, using force against them would make the protesters appear far less sympathetic to the American people. The legitimate and proper targets are the CPD board members, the debates themselves, and those who use force to protect them. The use of defensive force should be limited to them if at all possible. This would only become difficult in the event of a counter-offensive against the protesters in which major-party candidates, debate moderators, establishment press members, or university faculty decided to participate. Government agents are almost certain to disallow them from doing so, making this a dismissible concern.

Organization

A third-party candidate who has been excluded from the debates by the 15 percent rule but has enough ballot access to win the election and is constitutionally eligible to serve as President would have to be involved in any successful plan for forceful action. This is because it would be all but pointless to hear from a candidate who cannot win and serve, and fruitless to use force to place a candidate in the debates if the candidate does not wish to be so placed. An effort independent from any campaign to organize such an effort would be unlikely to result in anything other than a visit from federal agents to the organizers of said effort. But the candidate cannot be too involved. The candidate needs plausible deniability in order to avoid criminal charges, disavow anyone who goes off script, and be able to become President without having to worry about immediate impeachment.

A forceful protest would have to be organized outside of publicly available channels such as social media platforms, as using non-clandestine communications would alert government agents and result in the protesters being raided and arrested before they could begin. Plans would need to rely primarily upon existing groups near the area of a protest (such as local militia organizations) as well as campaign activists who are not officially connected to a campaign. This is because bringing in large numbers of armed people to a location from elsewhere would arouse suspicion, and involving official campaign staff is likely to get the candidate charged with crimes. Finally, such an effort would need to be planned several months in advance in order to get participants organized, mobilized, and familiarized with the specifics of the operation.

Tactics and Responses

A forceful protest against the CPD could take several forms. The most direct approach would be for a third-party candidate to march on a debate site with a group of armed supporters, declare that they are entering the debate site to place the candidate on stage, and indicate a willingness to escalate the use of force as far as necessary to accomplish this goal. The two most likely responses to this approach would be a violent skirmish in which the third-party candidate and many other people are injured or killed, or the cancellation of the debate due to the security risk being presented. Which one of the two occurred would depend on whether the security forces believed they could win a battle with the protesters. Further debates would be under much heavier guard to make sure that no other candidate attempts such an effort. As such, the direct approach strategy may be crossed off the list.

A second strategy would be to occupy the CPD offices in Washington, D.C. for the purpose of shutting down the CPD at the source. This would involve holding CPD personnel captive inside their headquarters and demanding open debates as the condition for their release. This approach is also very likely to go awry. Resistance on the part of the CPD personnel could very easily result in bloodshed, as could ignoring the protesters’ demands. If this were the only activity undertaken by protesters, then the debates could proceed as planned, putting the protesters in a position of either having to back down or escalate to harming the CPD personnel. This method would also be a public relations nightmare, as no one likes people who take hostages. The most likely response would be a SWAT raid that exterminates the protesters, followed by an establishment media demonization of all third-party candidates. As such, the office takeover strategy is also unviable.

A third method would be to occupy debate venues in advance for the purpose of shutting down CPD events unless they abolish the 15 percent rule and open the debates to all candidates who meet the constitutional eligibility and ballot access requirements. The CPD typically chooses three presidential debate sites, one vice presidential debate site, and an alternate site to use in case one of the former four becomes unusable for some reason. An armed occupation of all five sites for the duration of the debate season would require a few hundred people at each site and provisions to last three to four weeks. More protesters would need to be ready nationwide in order to prevent any hastily scheduled alternatives from having a venue, but given the amount of planning that is required for construction and security, these are not events which could be moved easily. Unlike the former two methods, the protesters would be in a defensive rather than an offensive posture once in position. This method also does far more to stop CPD activities because it targets said activities directly.

While it is true that government agents could overpower the protesters, doing so would needlessly spill a great amount of blood and give them some very negative press. Given the history of standoff incidents and the retaliations which have resulted from them, government agents tend to be more reserved about such confrontations than they once were. Thus, the most likely response by the CPD would be to cancel the debates for the election cycle, with the next most likely response being to give in to the protesters’ demands. Of course, the establishment media would have every reason to demonize the protesters, so there would have to be eloquent and reasonable public speakers among the protesters who could clearly articulate their objectives, why they are resorting to forceful means, and refute establishment media lies and fallacies. The rise of alternative media is certain to make a positive narrative easier to craft.

Objections

The first objection which may be raised is that the CPD is a private organization, and therefore its members have the right to admit or exclude whomever they want. This is an autistic response, as it completely denies the context of the situation. Neither the CPD, the DNC, nor the RNC are free market entities that operate by providing goods and services through voluntary means. These are organizations that are used by the elite to maintain their stranglehold on state power and the unfair advantages that they gain therefrom. While the CPD is considered a private, non-profit organization for legal purposes, it should not be regarded as a private organization for the purpose of determining what its members should be allowed to do because it is an instrument used by those who control the government as a means of perpetuating that control.

Second, some will argue that using force against the CPD violates the non-aggression principle. This stems from the proportionality of force doctrine and the immediate danger doctrine, two perversions of libertarian theory which were introduced by leftist entryists. If a defender may not use any amount of force necessary to stop an aggressor, then all an aggressor need do to get away with immoral behavior is to use force in such a way that the defender cannot use enough force to stop 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. With these fake libertarian theories rebutted, the facts of the case discussed earlier clearly demonstrate that the CPD is an aggressor.

A third objection is that all of the above uses of force described in the previous section can result in multiple felony charges for each protester. This is true, but it is no argument against such strategies. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

“One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”

Just as government will not hold accountable itself or a non-profit organization that serves the interest of those who control the government because it is against their rational self-interest to do so, it is also in their self-interest to criminalize methods of protest which are capable of meaningfully challenging the establishment. Note that should a third-party candidate win a presidential election because his or her supporters resorted to force to stop the CPD from hosting exclusionary debates, the powers of the Presidency could be used to grant a full pardon to everyone involved. The only caveat is that the candidate must maintain a degree of distance from the protesters, as failure to do so could lead to impeachment proceedings.

A fourth concern is that presidential elections do not seem to change the course of the nation very much. Regardless of who wins, the deep state continues as before because there is no rational incentive for a politician to rein it in. In the current framework, this is true. But political campaigns can function as an outreach method for anti-establishment movements of all types because people give more weight to someone who is in the running to have a position of political authority over them. People who would normally never be listened to can gain a platform for their messages by running for office. That being said, it is likely that altering or abolishing the presidential debate structure would allow for different kinds of presidential candidates to win elections, some of whom may eschew realpolitik to rein in the deep state for ideological reasons.

Fifth, one may wonder why we should go after the presidential debates when there are bigger fish to fry. After all, liberty requires revolution, so why not try to end the state now? The answer is that the manpower and resources to succeed in such an endeavor are not yet available. The number of people required to stop the CPD would probably be a thousandfold less than the number of people required to abolish the United States government, and we must work within our means if we wish to be successful. That being said, a large conflagration begins with a single spark, and using force to attempt to stop the CPD could achieve this regardless of the end result. If the protest is successful, then those who would address their grievances by direct action will be emboldened. If government agents crush the protest, then many people will be angry and willing to seek retribution. Either outcome is favorable for a more broad revolutionary movement.

Conclusion

Finally, there is the objection that the use of force to gain debate access does not bear thinking about because no candidate is willing to do it. Unfortunately, this is true at the time of this writing. There are only two third parties of significance in 2016; the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. Addressing a grievance by force of arms is not the style of the Green Party. The 2016 Libertarian ticket consists of moderate ex-Republican governors, not revolutionaries who would be willing to resort to forceful tactics. The Constitution Party and other small third parties lack the voter base and popular support to mount such an effort, even if they were willing. It is thus clear that we should expect to see no armed protests in 2016, and the CPD will get away with their shenanigans once again. But as this may not always be the case, the third essay will consider a hypothetical future election in which there is a third-party candidate who decides to force his way onto the debate stage.

The Case For Bringing Religion Into Politics

In a July 23 interview with Scott Pelley of CBS, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was asked about internal Democratic National Committee emails which had been released recently. One of the email chains included a staffer’s suggestion that they ask questions about Sanders’ religion in an attempt to undermine him with religious voters. Clinton said in response, “I am adamantly opposed to anyone bringing religion into our political process. …That is just absolutely wrong and unacceptable.” But is it? Let us make the contrary case that the religious beliefs of a candidate should be part of the political process.

In the philosophical sense, a religion is a set of principles by which an adherent is supposed to live. As these principles are supposed to be the guiding precepts by which a believer makes decisions, it is especially important for people who are going to choose who will wield state power to know about the stated religious views of each candidate. Knowing this will allow voters and rival candidates to detect hypocrisy, anti-empiricism, and aggressive tendencies, none of which are desirable in a person who wields state power. It also allows people to consider whether any heretical views held by a candidate are for good or ill.

Hypocrisy

It is in the nature of politicians to say one thing and do another, or to espouse contrary principles when pandering to special interest groups or demographics which are at cross purposes. This is understandable, given the perverse incentive structures which are invariably present in democracies. But some engage in more blatant hypocrisy than others, doing so out of internal corruption rather than merely as a reaction to the prevailing political system. One indication of this is for a politician to claim a certain religious affiliation while acting in contradiction to the teachings of that religion. This can be a sign that the candidate will flip-flop on important issues, as those who lie to voters about one thing will be more likely to lie to them about something else.

Anti-Empiricism

Religions are frequently a source of anti-empirical beliefs, as most prominent religions were founded long ago when current scientific knowledge was unavailable. In the absence of reason and science, religion offered people what they thought were answers for phenomena which eluded their understanding. But accepting answers on faith is dangerous on two counts; they are probably incorrect, and it keeps people from searching for a proper understanding of the correct answer. When politicians take answers on faith rather than seeking rational, scientific explanations, the policy results can be disastrous. As such, it is important for a voter or rival candidate to know whether a candidate believes, for instance, that the Earth is flat and/or less than 10,000 years old just because an ancient text tells them so. This is an important indication that the candidate can be made to believe almost anything without asking for proper evidence.

It must be noted that not all anti-empiricism is undesirable. There is nothing wrong with opposing the entry of empiricism into fields of study in which it does not belong, such as mathematics or economics. And because empiricism requires rationalism in order to be used, it cannot overrule pure reason. As such, logic overrules experience and a priori truths are not subject to empirical study. But religions do not generally offer such strongly rational truth; instead, they rely upon divine revelation, which believers are taught to accept without evidence.

Aggressive Tendencies

When most prominent religions were founded, the world was a more violent place. Punishments for behaviors which aggressed against no person or property were commonplace, as was genocidal behavior toward neighboring people of different faiths as well as conquered peoples. But understanding of moral principles (if not their practice) has advanced since then, and most people have come to rightly condemn such behavior. When a candidate espouses a fundamentalist or literalist interpretation of a religious text which calls for such behavior to be practiced throughout the society, it should give voters pause. This can require some study on the part of voters and other candidates to detect, as openly supporting wars on religious grounds is no longer fashionable in the West, but such tendencies can still be observed among religious neoconservatives.

Many religions also include content which is opposed to free markets, private property, and freedoms of thought and association. If such content influences a candidate to support such policies as high taxes on the wealthy, expansion of common spaces and/or welfare statism, restrictions on activities which do not aggress against any person or property, or policies which discriminate in favor one’s own religion and/or against other religions, voters and rival candidates should be aware of this.

Heresy

Some people claim to be an adherent of a particular religion but have a different understanding from most people of the meaning of the teachings of that religion. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if such heretical beliefs lead a religious person away from hypocrisy, truth denial, or aggression. But those who define terms differently in one aspect of life will almost certainly do so in other aspects, and this is important information for voters and rival candidates to know. Whether this is for good or ill depends upon the particulars of each case, but it is an indicator that a candidate must be given more than a cursory examination in order to be properly understood.

Conclusion

For the above reasons, it is entirely appropriate to bring religion into the political process. It is a tool that voters can use to examine a candidate for flaws, as well as legitimate grounds for one candidate to attack another for character traits unbecoming of a person who would wield state power.