The Not-So-Current Year: 2016 In Review

Though the specific demarcation of the passage from one year into another is a rather arbitrary social construct, it does provide a useful annual period for self-examination and remembrance. Now that 2016 has entered the history books, let us take a look back at a year’s worth of essays and review the not-so-current year.

We begin, of course, with last year’s article of the same kind. Some articles in this list are sequels to articles in that list. Aside from that, we may move on.

My first article proper of 2016 was A Case Against the Nineteenth Amendment. It was intended to come out before the New Year, but I was not satisfied with it until January 3. If I were to rewrite this article, I would say more about biological differences between the sexes and why these make the entrance of women into democratic politics a danger to the stability and sustainability of a society. I took down the First Amendment later in the year.

The Bundy standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Preserve began. I made nine observations on the event. Their later acquittal on several felony charges after the standoff ended in what was essentially an instance of jury nullification was cause for celebration.

As usual, leftists called for more gun restrictions and an end to gun violence without seeing that the former would both cause and be enforced by gun violence or the threat thereof. Rather than take the usual path of reductio ad absurdum, I argued the sharper point that gun deaths can be a good thing. This did not sit well with the editors at Examiner.com, who pulled the article. Given a long and contentious history with the site, I decided to part ways with them and start my own site. This proved to be a wise choice, as Examiner gave up the ghost less than six months later, with all content disappearing into the aether. My next task was to choose a name for the site and explain its meaning.

Christopher Cantwell argued the libertarian case for Donald Trump, and I gave him some pushback. Shortly afterward, Rand Paul suspended his campaign, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

‘No victim means no crime’ is a common saying among libertarians, but an altogether too reductionist one. I explained why.

A Russian film crew flew a drone over the city of Homs and recorded the aftermath of Assad’s forces besieging the city. I rarely get emotional, but seeing the wanton destruction was quite triggering for me. Aleppo was conquered later in the year, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

I decided to take an educated guess at whether Ron Paul could have defeated Barack Obama if he had been the Republican nominee in 2012. I believe he would have done so easily.

Twitter decided to give in to government and social justice warrior requests to censor their enemies. Unsurprisingly, this tanked their stock prices. I proposed several remedies for the situation, and Twitter has of course used none of them.

Jason Brennan published an article arguing that arguments made by libertarians against open borders have disturbing implications that said libertarians almost never address, so I addressed them and showed on a point-by-point basis that some such implications are not only not so scary, but are actually vitally important to the maintenance of a libertarian social order.

Charlotte City Council approved an expansion of its anti-discrimination ordinance to include transgender people, which I denounced as a violation of private property, freedom of association, public safety, and freedom of religion. Governor Pat McCrory and the state legislature responded with House Bill 2, and the controversy has brewed for almost a year.

An author known as Mr. Underhill published an article arguing that violent revolution is not the appropriate method for achieving liberty. I took the opposite view, which led to a lengthy exchange of four more articles on my part and four more on his part. Following this exchange, I decided to write about how I choose who to debate and for how long, which made me realize that I had entertained Mr. Underhill for far too long. Later in the year, I covered political violence more generally to argue that we need more of it as well.

When examining the intellectual foundation for private property rights, I noticed an unexplored quirk which turned into an original proviso. A critique in the comments section led to another article defending the proviso.

Islamic terrorists attacked the airport and a subway station in Brussels, killing 31 people and injuring 300 others. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Social justice warriors seem to have their own language which is distinct from both the dictionary definitions and the common understanding of words by most of the general population. I created a glossary to help normal people better understand SJW rhetoric.

Donald Trump suggested that women could be punished for getting an abortion, which outraged both sides of the mainstream abortion debate. I weighed in with a view which did the same.

Having addressed water ownership and pollution in two articles in 2015, I decided to lay out a libertarian theory on air ownership and pollution.

Puerto Rico reached new lows of fiscal irresponsibility, and I explained why it is best to cut them loose from the United States to become an independent country.

The rise of neoreaction and the alt-right has brought reactionary thought back to the forefront. I deemed my first attempt at examining its relationship to libertarianism to be inadequate, so I took a second stab at it. A Jeffrey Tucker article prompted a third effort, and I made a fourth effort later in the year in response to a pro-Trump neoreactionary article by Michael Perilloux.

Peter Weber published an opinion piece arguing that the institution of the American Presidency is being delegitimized, and that this is a dangerous direction. I argued that this is actually a welcome and even glorious development.

Having already explained my decisions about debating other authors, I wrote two more articles explaining my lack of profanity and lack of satirical content.

Many incorrect arguments concerning libertarianism and punishment began to appear, so I laid out a theory of libertarianism and punishment which utilized heavy doses of Rothbard.

The Libertarian Party held its nominating convention, and it was a disaster from beginning to end. The Republican convention was not much better in terms of substance.

Many people have noticed a correlation between weightlifting and libertarianism. I explored this correlation and found many reasons for it.

A terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. I wrote a list of observations on the event, but missed a major point in doing so. Democracy is partly responsible for terrorism because it gives the common person a political voice, which makes them viable targets in a way that absolute monarchies or stateless societies would not.

When the Supreme Court ruled against Abigail Fisher in her anti-white racism case, the Internet cheered. I did not, realizing that the decision was a rejection of pure meritocracy.

Against all predictions, the vote to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union succeeded. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

In my most controversial article to date, I argued the most extreme position in the gun control debate: a private individual has a right to own nuclear weapons, and this would be beneficial for liberty. The troll brigades were out in force making typical leftist non-arguments, and I thank them for granting me a then-record in daily page views (and thus advertising money). A few did raise legitimate criticisms which will require an addendum to be written in the future.

As the major-party presidential nominations were secured, the establishment media wasted an inordinate amount of time engaging in speculation about who would be the running mate of each candidate. When discussing the potential benefits that each potential vice presidential pick could have, they neglected the aspect of assassination insurance.

Several recent problems with the criminal justice system demonstrated that government will not hold government accountable, and that a market alternative is required.

Five police officers were killed by a sniper in Dallas. I used the event to argue that those who kill government agents now are not cowardly murderers perpetrating senseless violence, but neither are they heroic or helpful to the cause of liberty.

A certain type of policy analysis exhibits many symptoms which are also found in high-functioning autistic people. This is more common among libertarians than among people of other political persuasions, so I decided to address the phenomenon.

A significant portion of the media coverage leading up to the Republican convention focused on the possibility of violence on the streets involving leftist protesters and rightist counter-protesters. This possibility went unrealized for reasons which were covered up by the establishment media.

Hillary Clinton said that she was “adamantly opposed to anyone bringing religion into our political process” and that it is “just absolutely wrong and unacceptable.” I argued the opposite case.

Gardening is an enjoyable hobby and a useful metaphor for many things, a libertarian social order included.

Trump hinted at the assassination of Clinton should she win and threaten gun rights. Predictably, every element of the establishment went apoplectic. I argued that political assassinations are ethically acceptable, though not usually the wisest practical move.

Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, libertarians have had strong differences concerning how to engage with it. I explained the differences between their intentions and libertarian goals.

The 2016 Summer Olympics took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Whenever disasters impact an area in modern times, governments play a large role in the cleanup and recovery efforts. But this causes a behavioral problem in the population, not unlike that caused by the Pax Romana.

The Commission on Presidential Debates decided to exclude third-party candidates yet again. I made cases for peaceful and violent protest of this policy, and longed for a future candidate who might actually motivate people to engage in meaningful resistance.

Liberty Mutual created more advertisements that contain economic fallacies, so I did another round of debunking.

The establishment media tells us that every election is the most important of our lifetime. I proved that this cannot be the case, then psychoanalyzed the establishment media to explain why they keep repeating this, as if to convince themselves.

Argumentation ethics has been controversial since its introduction, but Roderick Long’s criticisms of it had gone unanswered. I remedied this state of affairs.

Rioters plagued Charlotte for three nights in response to a police shooting, which happened to involve a black officer and a black suspect. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that allows relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot. Though some libertarians argued against the bill, I celebrated it for chipping away at the anti-libertarian idea of sovereign immunity, giving victims of American foreign policy a peaceful means of addressing their grievances, and possibly revealing clandestine activities to the American people about which they have a need to know.

Having heard libertarians argue in favor of every presidential candidate except Hillary Clinton, I decided to give it a shot. Only a bootlegger’s case was possible, and it was rather grim.

The idea of market failure is a widely believed misconception which has found widespread use in statist propaganda for the purpose of justifying government intervention in the private sector. I gave the idea perhaps its most thorough debunking to date.

In the last quarter of the year, I began reading more books, which resulted in several book reviews. I can strongly recommend The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing and Our Sister Republics; The West Point History of the Civil War somewhat less so. Good Guys With Guns, on the other hand, is a disaster.

The month before the election presented several opportunities for rebuttals. Milo Yiannopoulos demonstrated both a misunderstanding of and an enmity toward libertarianism, and I rebutted his assertions, which gained a surprising amount of attention. Jeffrey Tucker tried to defend democracy as a superior alternative to monarchy or political violence, and I showed why this is misguided. Penn Jillette argued in favor of vote swapping, and I argued against it.

Finally, the 2016 election came and went, which presented many observations to be made.

Black Friday is revered by most libertarians as a celebration of free-market capitalism. I updated my explanation of why this reverence is somewhat misplaced.

Finally, Otto Warmbier spent all of 2016 detained in North Korea. I made the unpopular case that he should be left there.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian arguments. May 2017 bring more of the same. Happy New Year!

On My Lack Of Satire

Longtime readers of my work will notice that unlike the work of many other radical libertarians who produce essays or videos, my content is consistently presented in a straightforward manner. Nowhere to be found in my body of work thus far is a satirical article. As an explanation of this may help the reader of my work to better understand the author, I will take time to inform my readers concerning my lack of use of satire.

Unlike my case against using profanity, this is not simply a matter of personal choice backed by a multitude of reasons. I greatly admire authors who have used satire to make a strong case for liberty, as Frederic Bastiat did in his Candlemaker’s Petition. Unfortunately, this style of writing is not my strong suit. Should I ever gain this strength, I would endeavor to use it, but the best work I can produce at the time of this writing consists of face-value explanations and rebuttals.

This is not to say that I have not tried, however. In fact, I have made several efforts to produce satirical content, all of which have ended in one of three ways. Each of these are best exemplified by a particular article, so I will spend the remainder of this article reviewing those works in light of how my attempts at satire have diverged into other directions.

An Unavoidable Poe

The first example is an article which is unpublished and will almost certainly remain so. I pretended to be a social justice warrior to see if I could criticize them by writing from their perspective and reaching obviously false and absurd conclusions. But there are some people whose views are so outlandish that it is impossible to satirize them. It turns out that Poe’s Law is real and can be unavoidable. I decided not to publish the result for fear that a social justice warrior might take the satire at face value and use it for inspiration and motivation. Although the intent would be clear when nestled among my other works, it could easily be plagiarized and republished elsewhere where this would not be the case. This is the worst of the three possibilities, as it results in a lost article and a waste of the effort expended in writing it. The silver lining from this particular episode is that I turned my attention toward compiling a glossary of social justice warrior terminology, which remains one of my most frequently read works, but this does not usually happen.

A Reasonable Absurdity

The second example is “The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for Nuclear Proliferation.” This was originally going to be a rebuttal to “The Pragmatic Libertarian Case for a Basic Income Guarantee” by Matt Zwolinski. I planned to apply the arguments that Zwolinski used to argue for an alternative to the current welfare state to a different situation in order to reach the conclusion that nuclear weapons should be guaranteed to all nations, or perhaps even to all individuals. Upon further consideration, I realized that this idea is not half as absurd or frightening as it sounds. This resulted in the article changing from a satirical work after Zwolinski’s format into a face-value work in its own format. The subject change resulted in the removal of content concerning redistribution of resources, as the final article is about other nation-states or private actors developing a nuclear deterrent of their own rather than being given one from elsewhere. Eventually, this article led to two more articles in the same vein which apply the case to a particular situation and take it to its logical conclusion, respectively. Thus, what was going to be an April Fools article became a serious case for more nuclear-armed entities in the world. While far better than the first outcome because a useful article (series) was the result, it was taken less seriously than it otherwise would have been due to the publishing date of April 1.

Only Half Kidding

The third example is “Bring Back the Joust: A Modest Proposal.” In this article, the case is made for the replacement of democratic elections with jousting tournaments in which candidates battle to the death for the right to hold public office. While it is highly unlikely that such a system would ever be tried in the current era, it has several advantages over democracy. This, like the second example, was a joke that turned serious upon further examination. But the format of the piece never changed; it was always going to be a proposal followed by a history lesson, a case for the proposal, likely effects, and a consideration of likely objections. This is the best outcome of the three, in that an article was produced, no rewrite or reorganization was necessary, and the article is both thought-provoking and fun for the reader. Even so, the tone and format are only applicable in some cases.

Conclusion

Each author must write in the manner that works best for them. Unfortunately, as shown above, satire does not appear to be a manner that works for me.

Seven observations on the Rio Olympics

On August 3-21, 2016, the 2016 Summer Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 11,000 athletes from 207 National Olympic Committees took part in 28 different sports across 38 different venues. Seven observations on these events follow.

1. Governments do not care about poor people. In order to build the Olympic venues, government officials in Rio displaced thousands of poor and homeless people, including many children. When affordable housing is demolished, it raises the price of other housing due to smaller supply and a new surge of demand. Food and transportation costs have also risen. The end result is that people are priced out of their own communities by state action. While government officials have claimed that the Olympic construction was done to improve the city, the ends cannot justify the means of eminent domain and forced relocation. Additionally, much of the construction does not address the most pressing concerns of Rio’s citizens, such as connecting more neighborhoods to the sewer system.

Another problem that has increased due to the Olympics is the amount of human rights violations against Brazil’s street children, many of whom are detained arbitrarily and put into an already overcrowded prison system. The government in Rio chose not to try to help the children who eke out a homeless existence on the streets while suffering from drug addiction, but rather to merely sweep them away from the eyes of international tourists. All of this is par for the course for governments. To quote Stefan Molyneux, “The government does not care about the poor as anything other than hostages to shame and capture the guilt of the innocent and force them to hand over additional money, rights, and children to the government.”

2. The Games serve to glorify the state at the expense of the individual. While the competitions are won and lost by individuals or teams thereof, these are almost always tied to a nation-state. It is always said that athletes win medals for their countries, and the award ceremonies always feature the national anthem of the nation that sent the gold medalist athlete, along with the flags of the top three finishers in the event. This amounts not to a celebration of individual achievements, but a garish display of jingoistic nationalism. The host nation-state forces its taxpayers to fund a spectacle in which a sort of cold war is conducted by having each nation-state’s champions vie for supremacy. It would be far better to privatize the entire process so that nation-states are deprived of a propaganda tool.

3. Some activities simply cannot be made safe. Every Olympics features its share of athletes suffering injuries (10-12 percent), and the 2016 Summer Olympics were no exception. Despite all of the precautions taken, athletes who push themselves to the top level of competition in strenuous activities sometimes get injured, especially when going for a medal means exceeding what one has done in training. The only way to prevent all of the injuries would be to eliminate all of the activities, so it is better to leave the athletes to take their own risks, reap their own rewards, and suffer their own consequences.

4. It is important to pace oneself in any task. This is a lesson which is frequently displayed across various athletic events, but it bears repeating. Those who put too much effort into the beginning of a long and/or arduous task will have difficulty in finishing. Many runners exhaust themselves in leading the pack of competitors for most of a race only to lose at the end because a less tired runner who managed to hang back just behind the leader is able to muster a sprint for the finish line to overtake the pace-setter up until that point. This happened in several medium distance races in Rio.

Another example of this phenomenon occurred in men’s weightlifting for the superheavy weight class. Behdad Salimi, the gold medalist from the 2012 Summer Olympics, set a new world record in the snatch only to fail all three of his attempts at the clean and jerk, meaning that he failed to post a total and won no medal.

5. Performance-enhancing drugs will always be one step ahead of detection methods. This is unavoidable, as there is no real incentive to test for a drug before it is known to be manufactured and used. While many users get caught, and punishments are handed out (such as the banning of many Russian athletes from the 2016 Games), many more do not. There are many incentives which create this problem. As Dr. Cayce Onks, a family and sports medicine specialist at Penn State Hershey Medical Group, explains, “Anyone who gets a gold medal has the benefit of TV contracts, announcer gigs, commercials and all the money that comes with it. It’s not just the prestige and satisfaction of competing at that level and winning. Tenths of seconds can mean the difference between a medal and no medal, so whatever they can do to get that extra tenth, they want to try.” As for other incentives…

6. An interesting spectacle is more important to many people than honest competition. While the Olympics are somewhat hit-or-miss in terms of being a financial boost for the places that host them, they are always a cash cow for the television networks that air footage of them. Ratings go up for performances that push the limits of human capability, as well as for athletes who have a reputation for delivering such performances. It was Usain Bolt in the 2016 Summer Olympics, but it is always someone. The advertisers, the International Olympic Committee, the doping testing agencies, and everyone else involved are fully aware of the incentives here, and it would be exceedingly foolish to believe that they never respond to the incentive to let some athletes break doping rules.

7. Human biodiversity clearly exists. Finally, the Summer Olympics should be a quadrennially sounding death knell for the idea of blank-slate egalitarianism. That certain events are almost always won by people with ancestry in particular population groups cannot be explained solely by the sum of culture, training, government funding of sports, and other nurturing elements. Humans will adapt to their environment like any other organism, and those adaptations can give members of a particular population group an advantage in a particular activity. While these adaptations can be noticed in people who move to another place and live as the locals do, the extent of the adaptations which are present in a population group that has inhabited a place for many generations cannot be replicated in one human lifetime. These differences are not nearly large enough at present to categorize humans into different species or subspecies, but they were in the past and very well could be again in the future. While this will not affect the average person’s daily life, it will determine who has the extra performance capacity needed to win Olympic gold when other factors, such as diet, training regimen, and rest, are nearly equal.

Fifteen Life Lessons from Lifting

Libertarians who have experience with weightlifting will know that there appears to be a correlation between having libertarian political views and being an active lifter. This is because the process of pumping iron and increasing one’s physical abilities has an effect on the mind as well. There are lessons that the iron has for those who are willing to listen, and these lessons provide a significant push in a libertarian direction. Let us examine some of these lessons.

1. You are responsible for your own advancement. While other people can give you advice on which exercises to perform, how many repetitions and sets to do, how much weight to use, how much of each food to consume, how much rest to get, and so on, no one can do the work but you. You must figure out how to sift through the available information, motivate yourself, and do the work to get the results you want. This is no different from any other aspect of life.

2. You must put something in to get something out. In the words of Ronnie Coleman, “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder. Nobody wants to lift this heavy-ass weight!” Without proper effort, strength and endurance will not develop, fat will not be burned, and your health will not improve. Elsewhere in life, you cannot learn without listening, reading, watching, or thinking. You cannot start or improve relationships without spending time with people and treating them properly. You cannot maintain skills without practicing them. Results out requires effort in.

3. You cannot compensate for bad (or no) preparation. If you go into the gym after eating junk food (or nothing at all), or after laboring hard the previous day with inadequate rest, you will not lift as much as you could with proper preparation. In other aspects of life, a lack of studying will negatively impact your test scores and a lack of rest will lower your productivity at work. If you want success, prepare for it.

4. Targeting your weaknesses makes other aspects of your performance improve. When you reach your maximum weight for a particular lift, there is usually a particular muscle or group of muscles that is too weak to allow you to lift more. Exercises which isolate those muscles can not only help with that lift, but with other tasks as well. The same reasoning applies to other disciplines; fixing one bad technique while playing an instrument will make other techniques work better, eliminating one bad habit of studying will improve one’s overall learning ability, and so on.

5. Those who focus on appearance will have inferior performance. There are those who lift to look strong, and those who lift to be strong. Training for size involves more repetitions with less weight than training for strength. If one never ventures into one-rep-max loads, then it is possible to build a physique which looks impressive but does not perform as well as that of a smaller person. Outside of the gym, this lesson applies to people whose beauty is skin-deep and whose personality is superficial. They may appear to be attractive and polite, but underneath the surface they are inferior, if not rotten to the core. Which brings us to…

6. Appearances can be deceiving. Most people would look at a skinny person and believe that person to be in better shape than an overweight person. But there is a condition which trainers refer to as “skinny-fat,” which means that a person is thin but weak and deconditioned. Meanwhile, an overweight person may have a large amount of muscle mass in addition to a large amount of fat mass, which can allow them to perform well despite their extra baggage. In every other aspect of life, it is equally important to not judge a book by its cover, so to speak.

7. A positive attitude makes a real difference. In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re right.” This is not entirely true, of course; lifting a weight which is far beyond one’s capabilities will not happen regardless of one’s attitude. But at the edge of what is possible, toughness and endurance are partly mental. A positive attitude can make the difference between making a new personal best lift and having to wait until the next time you perform that movement. This is true of any other activity; believing that you can do something makes it more likely that you will, whether in the moment or long-term.

8. All can boast; few can beast. Anyone can claim to be able to do anything, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Regardless of whether you tell yourself that you can move mountains or nothing at all, the iron is an arbiter of truth. Everyone has their own opinion, but 150 kilograms is 150 kilograms, and it cares not for anyone’s opinion. Elsewhere in life, you will encounter people who make dubious claims. Require evidence for them, and watch the wheat separate from the chaff.

9. There are different kinds of pain, each with a different meaning. The body is capable of experiencing several kinds of pain. Pain can be acute or chronic, caused by tissue damage or nerve damage. Most importantly for the lifter, there is a type of pain that represents weakness leaving the body, and a type of pain that warns you to stop. Failure to decipher which is which can lead to serious injury. This is true of all physical activities, regardless of whether they involve lifting.

10. Those who focus on one aspect of fitness while ignoring others will miss out. Moderation is important for achieving a healthy, well-balanced life. Those who lift heavy but ignore their cardiovascular health will have health problems later in life and a shorter lifespan. Those who never lift heavy will be physically weaker, less capable of dealing with stress, and be at greater risk for osteoporosis and falling as seniors. This is true in mental endeavors as well. Focusing only on mathematics while ignoring language studies will leave one ill-equipped to communicate one’s proofs. Focusing only on history while ignoring science will leave one ill-equipped to understand why certain events happened as they did. Whether physical or mental, do not be a specialist to the exclusion of other disciplines.

11. Actions have equal and opposite reactions. That which you work against will work against you. If you work against heavy weights, they will make you more like them. You will become heavier, larger, and harder to push around. If you work against light weights, these positive changes will happen slower, if at all. In life, this applies to the kind of associates one keeps as well as the larger tides of political change.

12. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going to. Every lifter knows that this one is about steroids. People use steroids because they work; they reduce the amount of recovery time needed before lifting again. But strength can be gained through a proper barbell program without resorting to substances which can cause long-term health problems, as well as land one in jail (although jail for steroid use would not happen in a libertarian society). Outside of the gym, cutting corners is a way to avoid learning needed skills while increasing the risk of an accident, which will eventually come back to haunt you. Shortcuts may seem like a benefit in the moment, but they always cause more trouble than they are worth in the long-term.

13. There are hard limits which cannot be surpassed. Even with the best training, diet, supplements, and rest, you can only do so much. You will not squat, bench, or deadlift 1000 kilograms. The human body is simply not capable of structurally supporting that kind of load. In other aspects of life, there are also hard limits, whether imposed by the laws of physics or the limitations of biology. It is important to recognize such limits and know that that which cannot be done should not be attempted.

14. There is no equality of outcome or opportunity; there can only be equality of freedom. Everyone has equal freedom to lift, in that unless someone has committed a crime and is being punished for it, no one has the right to deprive anyone else of access to gym equipment. But this is no guarantee of opportunity, let alone results. Some people have more opportunity because they have more access to resources which will help them recover from a tough workout. Some people will have better results because they work harder, work smarter, or are naturally inclined to be stronger. In all aspects of life, people have different amounts of potential and various levels of motivation, and will therefore achieve different amounts of success. This is because…

15. All people are not created equal. Each person has the same fundamental rights, but we are not all interchangeable cogs in a machine. There are measurable differences in performance not only between individuals, but between genders and ethnic groups. On average, a woman will lift about 30 percent less than a man of the same size, build, and experience level. Also note that most weightlifting world records are held by people from Asia or eastern Europe. Such differences occur not only with physical strength, but with intelligence and temperament as well. Whether such differences come from nature or nurture, they do exist and are measurable.

Bring Back the Joust: A Modest Proposal

Every election season, people complain about the ineffectiveness of democratic voting as a means of achieving meaningful change. This is because major parties have conspired to keep minor parties from having a chance of success, wealthy donors determine who has enough money to stay in a primary contest long enough to win, and incumbents are able to use the considerable perks and powers of their offices to campaign for re-election. Voting also serves to sanitize statism and hide some of its inherent violence from the population. There must be a better way, and perhaps there is one that does not require a popular uprising or a cultural shift. To improve the future, let us consider something from the past: the joust.

Cavalry games date back to Roman antiquity, as does the idea of chivalry. The dearth of recorded history during the 5th to 8th centuries makes a link between the Roman hippika gymnasia and medieval jousting difficult to establish. What is known is that jousting tournaments were a development of the High Middle Ages and continued through the early Renaissance. Their invention is credited either to Henry the Fowler (876-936, r. 919-936) or Geoffrei de Preulli (d. 1066). The earliest known use of the word ‘tournament’ dates to 1114, and refers to the keepers of the peace in the town leaving it ‘for the purpose of frequenting javelin sports, tournaments and such like.’ Regular events of this type were held during the lifetime of Charles I, Count of Flanders (1084-1127). By the 1160s, the sport of jousting had developed into the form it would maintain into the 14th century.

There were two major types of joust; the joust a plaisance, which used blunted lances and was expected to be non-lethal, and the joust a l’outrance (also called joust à la guerre), which used sharp lances and was fought until surrender or death. Joust a plaisance was used for tournament contests while joust a l’outrance was common during wartime or for dispute resolution.

During the 14th century, jousting became more regulated and less lethal. A barrier between the riders was added and specialized jousting armor was produced which was too heavy for any other practical purpose. The sport declined due to the invention of the musket in 1520, the death of Henry II of France in a joust in 1559, and the rising popularity of the theatre as a form of entertainment. The final jousting tournament was held on March 24, 1624, but revivals of the sport have been attempted since the 1970s.

A combination of joust a plaisance and joust a l’outrance could serve as an alternative to political elections for determining who should hold government office. Rather than have candidates seek ballot access, advertising time, media appearances, campaign contributions, and debate access, all candidates for a particular office could be put into a jousting tournament bracket, much like the joust a plaisance of old. But the contest should be a l’outrance; a candidate must advance through the tournament bracket by either killing one’s opponents or by making them surrender to avoid being killed. The exact nature of this may vary by jurisdiction and office. In some cases, all contests would be to the death, with refusal to deal a coup de grace being punishable by death. In others, surrender would be not only an acceptable alternative, but the encouraged outcome. A surrender might allow one to try again in the next tournament, or perhaps it would bar one from seeking government office again for a number of years or for life, thereby substituting political death for physical death. A case where both contestants in a match either die or forfeit would create a bye for someone in the tournament unless it occurs in the final match. If a double death or forfeit should occur in the final match for an office, then the office may either be filled by another tournament or left vacant until the next political term has ended. A person who declares candidacy and is unopposed may not take office; all who take government office must joust at least once. Incumbents may or may not have to joust at least once per tournament, depending on the jurisdiction and office. A government office which cannot be filled after several tournaments have been held in an effort to fill it should be abolished.

This system presents several advantages over contemporary democracy. The joust severely curtails the influence of money in politics. The difference in electability between a candidate of a major party and a candidate of a minor party is usually far greater than the difference in jousting ability between the equivalents. A great expense on riding lessons, quality horses, and quality equipment will certainly bestow an advantage, but not as much as the advantages that establishment candidates currently have over outsiders or minor party candidates. The influence of money could be diminished further by standardizing the horses and equipment used for the joust.

Second, the jousting system eliminates two problematic types of politician in the current system: the chicken hawk and the oathbreaker. A chicken hawk is a politician who advocates for wars and other military actions while having refused to enter the military oneself and/or acting to keep one’s children out of military service. The jousting system ensures that no one can get into a position of power to be able to declare, fund, or carry out a war without risking one’s own life in combat. Thus, all who would vote to declare war would have at least some degree of combat veterancy, even if with antiquated weapons. Some oathbreakers could be weeded out in the tournament, as they display cowardice when faced with mortal combat and are punished accordingly. Other oathbreakers could be challenged in a recall joust, which would function as an analogue of contemporary recall elections.

Third, the jousting system channels political violence into a more controlled format. Assassination attempts should be far less common, as one may legally kill an unpopular politician by entering a jousting tournament against that person and winning. Even the threat that this may happen should make politicians treat their constituents with far more dignity and respect than they do now, and could lead unpopular politicians to resign more frequently.

Fourth, the jousting system would disabuse everyone of the notion that government is anything other than an institution of violence. Seeing their would-be leaders careening at each other on horseback while aiming sharp lances at each other would make clear to everyone that these people are intent on exercising a monopoly on initiatory force against the civilian population, to the point of being willing to kill people for the opportunity. The reaction of people to staring this reality in the face is likely to change the political climate for the better, toward less of a belief in a role for the state in society.

Fifth, the jousting system would essentially create term limits, as it is a very dangerous activity that leads to many injuries. After a certain number of jousts, a competitor will be sufficiently injured as to be ineffective. This would spell the end of the era of career politicians who stay in office for decades until dying of natural causes. While term limits can create perverse incentives in an electoral system, the joust mitigates those incentives as discussed above.

The joust would also have some non-political benefits. The code of chivalry developed alongside the joust, and the return of jousting could lead to a resurgence of chivalric values, such as courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and charity. The sport would also be a great source of entertainment, especially if a plaisance tournaments for fun and profit were held in addition to the political contests. Sports gamblers would have yet another subject for betting, and sports bars would have another subject to bring in customers. Merchandise could be made not only for those who joust, but for fans of jousting in general or champion jousters in particular.

Of course, we may anticipate some criticisms. One is that by abolishing voting, the joust takes us back to a time when the common person had even less power. The truth is that a voter has very little power; in some cases, the odds of deciding an election are less than the odds of being killed in a car accident on one’s way to the polling place. Unlike the historical jousts, this proposal allows anyone to seek office by entering. After all, titles of nobility, entry fees, and other such historical and contemporary encumbrances are rather petty in light of volunteering to fight to the death in order to hold government office. Another related criticism is that women and racial minorities may be disempowered by the change from elections to jousts. This is truly meritless; most of the energy delivered by a jousting lance in a collision ultimately comes from the horse, and any woman or person of color may enter the joust, just as a white man may enter. It may be that there would still be a minority of women in government office, but this should be expected regardless of the methods used to choose rulers simply as a matter of biology. There is also the matter that a highly skilled jouster may be nearly impossible for an ordinary person to challenge and defeat, but this is still more likely than an ordinary person with ordinary means challenging and defeating an establishment politician. Finally, one may wonder why all of the effort should be made to re-establish jousting when firearm duels could achieve many of the same objectives. The answer is that the joust provides a lengthier entertainment, requires more skill, and (most importantly) involves less luck.

Admittedly, it is unlikely that this method of choosing politicians will ever be implemented, and it is not the answer for creating a libertarian society. But as shown above, replacing elections with jousts could do far more good than harm. Bring back the joust!

Defending Panthers Ticket Scalpers