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

Book Review: In Our Own Image

In Our Own Image is a book about the prospects of creating artificial intelligence as well as the cultural, economic, historical, philosophical, and political concerns about it by Greek author and scientist George Zarkadakis. The book considers the problem of AI from the perspectives of human evolution, cybernetics, neuroscience, programming, and computing power.

Zarkadakis begins by briefly speaking of his early years and doctoral research, then spends the rest of the introduction outlining what he will discuss in the rest of the book. The book proper is divided into three parts, each with five or six chapters. The first part covers the evolution of the human brain from the primate brain, especially the most recent 40,000 years. The role of language in accelerating human progress is discussed, as well as the effects of totemic thinking, story-telling, philosophical dualism, and theory of mind. The use of metaphor and narrative to understand the world is examined, along with the inaccuracies inherent in them. The invention, uses, and limitations of the Turing test are explored, as are Asimov’s laws of robotics and the role of AI in fictional stories throughout history.

The second part is about the nature of the mind. The differences in approach between dualism versus monism, rationalism versus empiricism, and materialism versus Platonism are discussed. The thought experiment of the philosophical zombie and the possibility of digital immortality are explained. On the matter of why there appears to be no other intelligent life in the cosmos, Zarkadakis shares an interesting hypothesis: science is an unnatural idea at odds with our cognitive architecture, and an intelligent alien species would be unlikely to widely adopt it. This means that the universe is likely full of Platos, as well as Ancient Greeces, Romes, Indias, Chinas, and Mayas, but is perhaps devoid of Aristotles and societies advanced beyond that of humanity in the early eighteenth century. Daniel Dennett’s explanation of consciousness is overviewed, as well as the contributions of a great number of scientists to the field of cognitive psychology. Finally, the field of cybernetics and its offshoots are examined, showing that the hard problem of consciousness is actually solved with ease. The brain-in-a-vat paradigm of consciousness is shown to be insufficient by applying cybernetic theory.

Everything up to this point lays the foundation for understanding the last part of the book. The third part details the history of computers and programming, from ancient theorists to more recent mathematicians, and from punched cards to modern electronics. The limitations of symbolic logic and the implications thereof against AI in conventional computers are explored, and possible solutions in the form of new electronic components and computer architectures are explained. Charles Babbage’s inventions are discussed, as well as the lost potential of their lack of adoption in their own time. The role of computational technology during World War II is considered, along with the results of government spending on computer research at the time. The development of supercomputers, including IBM’s Deep Blue and Watson, is outlined. The ‘Internet of things’ is compared and contrasted with true AI, and the possible societal impact of large-scale automation of jobs is considered. The possibility of evolving rather than creating AI is examined, as are the possible dispositions of an AI; friendly, malevolent, or apathetic. Interestingly, Zarkadakis shows that there is good reason to believe that a strong AI may exhibit autism spectrum disorders. A short epilogue that begins with a summary and then considers possible economic, political, and social implications of strong AI completes the book.

The book is well-researched and impeccably sourced, at least in its core subject matter. That being said, the book struggles to find an audience, as it can be a bit too technical for the average layperson, but does not venture deeply enough into the subjects it covers to interest a professional in AI-related fields. In other words, it is lukewarm where being either cold or hot is best. Zarkadakis also commits some ultracrepidarianism, particularly in the fields of economics and politics. He seems to believe that AI will overcome the limitations described by Hayek’s knowledge problem and Mises’s economic calculation problem, but unless AI can get inside of our heads and know us better than we know ourselves, this is impossible. In politics, he briefly mentions the possibilities of AI leading to anarchism or to neoreactionary-style absolute monarchies with computerized philosopher-kings, but does not give these possibilities the amount of consideration that they warrant. Finally, the book contains more typographical errors and grammatical abnormalities than a competent editor should fail to correct, though we may grant Zarkadakis some leeway because English is not his first language.

Overall, In Our Own Image is worth reading for those who already have some knowledge of the subject matter but would like to fill gaps in their understanding, but there is room for improvement and expansion.

Rating: 4/5

Read the entire article at ZerothPosition.com

A Comprehensive Strategy Against Antifa

In recent months, the violent far-left group known as Antifa has grown from an occasional nuisance that rarely affected anyone other than neo-Nazis into a serious threat to anyone who is politically right of center and/or libertarian who wishes to speak in a public venue. Their tactics have escalated from peaceful counter-demonstrations to violent attacks upon people and property. The latest incidents at the presidential inauguration, University of California-Berkeley, and New York University clearly show that this trend cannot be allowed to continue.

As such, it is necessary to create a comprehensive strategy to defeat this group. This plan contains eighteen measures, some of which can be used by ordinary citizens, some of which involve the state, and some of which can be used by either. If these suggestions are implemented, then the Antifa threat should be dealt with and eliminated in short order. Without further ado, let us begin.

1. Stop giving in to their demands. When a behavior is rewarded, those who engage in that behavior will do so more frequently, and other people will emulate that behavior in search of their own reward. This means that public universities and other speaking venues which kowtow to pressure from Antifa must stop doing so. If Antifa’s behavior no longer results in platform denial to their political rivals, then they will have less incentive to engage in it. This measure can be aided by making the funding of taxpayer-supported institutions contingent on defying efforts to silence speech in such venues.

2. Fight fire with fire. When a behavior is punished, those who engage in that behavior will do so less frequently, and other people will avoid emulating that behavior for fear of being punished themselves. The reason that Antifa members continue to assault people and destroy property is because they can; they face far too little defensive violence in response to their aggression. This must change. The most effective way to make a bully stop is to bloody his nose. Note that many of their fold are physically small and weak with little or no combat experience. This will make the impact of finally meeting physical resistance all the more effective.

It would be best for right-wing citizens to take to the streets in order to violently suppress and physically remove Antifa themselves, but leaving this to police officers or National Guard troops is better than nothing. It may be necessary to let the state handle this in places where it has legally disarmed good people, but taking an active role wherever one can will defeat Antifa more quickly and help to restore the vital role of the militia in society.

3. Stop discouraging defensive violence. The maintenance of liberty requires the ability to bring overwhelming defensive violence to bear against aggressors. It is time for conservatives, reactionaries, and libertarians to stop denouncing people who state this obvious fact. That such self-defeating behavior has been happening in right-wing circles for years is one reason why Antifa has gotten away with so much of what they have done thus far.

4. Hire private security. This is already being done by some of Antifa’s targets, but it needs to be done by all. Again, many members of Antifa lack the size and strength to engage their opponents in honorable combat. Thus, having private security present to watch for sucker punching cowards and other such vermin can blunt much of Antifa’s ability to project power.

5. Go after members of Antifa by talking to their employers. This is a favorite tactic of Antifa in particular and social justice warriors in general. They will accuse a person of racism, sexism, or some other form of bigotry, often with no regard for merit, then contact their employers to get them in trouble. Their intention is to shame employers into firing their political rivals, or to disrupt businesses that refuse to bow to their pressure. Because they routinely do this to people, they have no right to complain when it is done to them. Turnabout is fair play, and it is time to strike.

6. Hack their websites and other online presences. This is already being done, but more is needed. Their online presence is an important method by which they recruit, organize, and secure funding. This must be shut down to arrest their growth and hinder their operations. Again, turnabout is fair play; Antifa sympathizers regularly try to hack right-wing websites and silence right-wing speech.

7. Infiltrate Antifa to gather intelligence and spread misinformation within. This is standard procedure for government agencies in taking down a criminal organization. The extent to which such operations are underway, if at all, are not publicly known. This needs to be done so that Antifa’s efforts can be blunted and its key personalities arrested. Although this tactic could be used to perpetrate false flag operations in their name, it is best not to do so, as this could backfire. The truth about Antifa is bad enough; there is no need to make up lies about them.

8. Call them what they are: rioters and terrorists, not protesters. The establishment media frequently refers to Antifa as protesters, regardless of their conduct. As Confucius said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names.” We must hold the lying press to account and correct the record whenever and wherever possible. Antifa are not mere protesters; they are rioters and terrorists.

9. Remove and/or punish police commanders who give stand-down orders against Antifa. For the state to monopolize law and order within its territory is a travesty. For it to monopolize these services and then refuse to provide them is far worse. Anyone who is in command of police officers who are supposed to defend the public against Antifa’s crimes and tells those officers to stand down is not only in dereliction of duty, but is actively aiding the enemy. These administrators must be removed, and ideally, subjected to criminal charges as well.

10. Declare Antifa a domestic terrorist organization. The simplest definition of terrorism that covers all instances of it is that it is the use of violence, threats, fear, and intimidation against innocent people for the purpose of achieving political or social goals. Antifa operates by these methods, has various local chapters throughout the United States, and is organized, so the label of domestic terrorist organization clearly fits. This would allow for federal funding to be allocated specifically for combating Antifa, as well as the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and other such agencies.

At this point, libertarians may protest that the United States government also meets the above definition of a terrorist organization, and they are not wrong about that. But they would be well-advised to check their autism and deal with the context of the situation. One can take the view that the state must be eliminated in the long-term while using it for our own purposes now. Setting one enemy of liberty against another is a wise strategy, and as bad as the United States government can be, allowing Antifa to grow and gain political power would be far worse.

11. Ban black bloc tactics. It is already illegal in many places to wear masks in public, but this should be specifically banned everywhere within the context of riots and other violent demonstrations. It is important to be able to identify Antifa activists for the purpose of punishing them properly, and laws against the public wearing of masks can be used to arrest Antifa members who are not violating any other statutes at the time. Perhaps they cannot be held for long or convicted of anything, but it will disrupt their activities.

12. Charge rioters with felonies. This has already happened to many rioters from the presidential inauguration, but felony rioting charges against Antifa and similar groups need to become more widespread. Lengthy prison terms and hefty fines will discourage people from involvement with Antifa while sidelining current activists and confiscating funds which would otherwise be used by Antifa. Ideally, such fines would be payable into a fund that would reimburse private property owners for damages caused by Antifa members.

13. Charge anyone who aids Antifa in any way. With Antifa declared a domestic terrorist organization, giving them aid, funding, and/or training would constitute the criminal offense of providing material support to terrorists. Such charges need not be limited to US residents; for example, George Soros is known to have provided funding to Antifa and other violent groups through his Tides Foundation. Extradition of foreign nationals to the United States to face charges would be a necessary part of this measure.

14. Freeze their funds. With Antifa declared a domestic terrorist organization, freezing Antifa-related bank accounts to shut down their financial resources should be a simple matter. This will not halt local activities, but it will hinder their ability to move professional rioters across the nation and conduct other operations which go beyond the local grassroots.

15. Send illegal aliens involved with Antifa to Guantanamo Bay. This measure is probably not necessary, but it would send a clear message that Antifa will not be allowed to continue its behavior. It could also bring out Antifa sympathizers who are on the fence about whether to actively participate by enraging and triggering them sufficiently to bring them out. Conversely, it could serve as an extreme measure which is used in the short-term in the hope of having to use fewer measures in the long-term. The legal rationale for this measure is that a foreign national who is in the United States and involved in terrorism may be treated as an unlawful combatant.

16. Eliminate gun-free zones. The vast majority of Antifa activity has occurred in gun-free zones or places in which carrying rights are restricted to some degree. By eliminating gun-free zones, the state can ensure that more citizens are capable of defending themselves from aggressors like Antifa. This will also lessen the burden on government security forces.

17. Privatize public property. An underlying problem of which the surge in left-wing political violence is a symptom is the existence of state-occupied property. No one truly owns such property because no person exercises exclusive control over it. This leaves it open not only to use by groups of people who are at cross purposes with each other, but to an occupation by one group for the purpose of denying access to another group. If all property were privately owned, then it would be clear that whenever Antifa attempt to shut down a venue by occupying the premises, they are trespassing. This would make physically removing them a less ambiguous matter.

18. Above all, stop trying to be better than the enemy and focus on defeating the enemy. There is no need to alter strategy, virtue signal, or make any other effort to be better than Antifa. That they are violent criminals and we seek to defend against them means that we already are better than them. Let us do what is necessary to defeat Antifa, as detailed in the previous seventeen measures, and leave worries about improving ourselves until after this is done. Remember, this is a war, and in war, nothing is more honorable than victory.

In Defense of Russian Hacking

One of the most prominent news stories both during and after the 2016 presidential campaign is the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and phishing of then-Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email system, along with the public release of thousands of emails, many of which included damaging revelations about the Democratic Party and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The US government publicly announced on October 7, 2016 that it was “confident” Russia orchestrated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations of the Democratic Party. On December 29, 2016, the FBI and DHS released a report which details evidence that Russia was behind the attacks. President-elect Donald Trump rejects this assessment, pointing to the intelligence community’s numerous failures over recent years as cause to view their conclusions with suspicion. Of course, the establishment media have used this as an opportunity to attack Trump, and Trump’s opponents have used this to try to delegitimize his electoral victory.

Many of the most important facts of the case are dubious and/or classified, so the general public may not have the full details for many years to come. Even though there is no evidence that the actual voting process was hacked, let us assume for the sake of argument that the Russian government was responsible for the most extreme charge made by anyone: that of altering the outcome of the election to hand Trump the Presidency. I will attempt to show that if they did this, they were justified in doing it.

Preventing Nuclear War

Those who believe that the state is a necessary institution almost unanimously take the position that a government’s primary purpose is to defend its subjects from external threats. In the world today, there is no greater potential threat to Russian citizens than a war with the United States. Of the two major presidential candidates, Clinton was the most bellicose toward Russia, and her interventionist position on the Syrian Civil War had great potential to bring American and Russian forces into direct conflict with each other. Once two global powers are at war, developments can quickly spiral out of hand. Given the great advantage that the United States enjoys in conventional military firepower, the Russians could very well escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. Thus, Clinton was more likely to cause World War III and the end of life as we know it than Trump. Therefore, in the estimation of a competent Russian policymaker, it was in the best interest of Russian citizens (and everyone else, for that matter) for Russia to interfere in the US presidential election to help Trump win.

Ancient Liberty

From ancient times, there has been a sense that at least some of the citizenry should have a voice in determining the nature of governing structures which affect them. If we take this premise to its logical conclusion, one should not only have some means to alter the state in one’s own jurisdiction, but every state which has a measurable effect on one’s life. Being the most powerful and dangerous state apparatus in human history, the United States government affects everyone in the world through its foreign policy. Non-citizens of the United States are legally prohibited from voting in US elections under pain of fines, imprisonment, inadmissibility, and/or deportation. Non-citizens are also legally prohibited from funding political campaigns, parties, or communications. But a foreign national does have the means to alter a US election result by hacking political party servers, emails of campaign staff, and/or voting machines. Though a state does not legitimately act as the agent of its citizens in theory, this is the current way of the world. For the state to monopolize the service of representing an individual’s interests on the global stage is a travesty, but to monopolize this service and then fail to provide it is even worse. So again, if the state is to defend its subjects against external threats and act as their agent in foreign affairs, then a government may interfere with another government’s democratic process to attempt to ensure favorable results for its people.

The Moral Low Ground

The establishment media is attempting to sell outrage over Russian interference in American democracy, but is conveniently omitting the fact that espionage is a nearly universal aspect of statecraft, and cyber-warfare is an essential aspect of this for all states which are capable of it. Even allies spy on each other in the hopes of avoiding being blindsided by a sudden shift in foreign policy. The idea that the Russian government is aggressing against Americans absent any cyber-attacks by the US government against Russia is too naïve to take seriously. Furthermore, as the US has a dark and bloody history of dealing with unfavorable election trends by means of carrying out political assassinations, aiding coups d’état, and militarily invading other countries, American political leaders have no room to talk about another state interfering non-violently in a foreign country’s political processes.

Conclusion

Regardless of the actual facts of the case, the Russian government would have been justified in trying to prevent a war between two nuclear states, as well as in acting on behalf of its citizens rather than failing to do so. Such a sharp line of argumentation has gone completely unexplored by the establishment media, and one may speculate that this is due to a combination of their role as propagandists for the US government, a lack of insightful boldness, and the implications of such reasoning for the status quo global political arrangement.

Are Libertarians A Joke? A Rebuttal to Milo Yiannopoulos

In an October 16 interview with TheNation.com, Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos was asked whether libertarians are an acceptable alternative for right-wing voters who are tired of voting for establishment Republicans who flatter them with words but act the same as always. This led to the following exchange:

What about the Libertarians?

What about them?

Are they not an acceptable alternative?

No. They’re a joke.

Why?

Libertarians are children. Libertarians are people who have given up looking for an answer. This whole “everybody do what they want” is code for “leave me to do what I want.” It’s selfish and childish. It’s an admission that you have given up trying to work out what a good society would look like, how the world should be ordered and instead just retreated back into selfishness. That’s why they’re so obsessed with weed, Bitcoin, and hacking.

I always thought those were the most attractive things about them.

Maybe so, but that’s why you can’t take them seriously. It’s all introspective and insular and selfish.

Is this true, and if so, to what extent? Let us see.

Looking for an Answer

In order to say that libertarians have given up looking for an answer, it is necessary to be either ignorant or dismissive of massive volumes of literature produced by libertarians. But Yiannopoulos has somehow managed to do one or the other, if not both. It is not the case that libertarians have given up trying to work out what a good society would look like and how the world should be ordered, but that many of us are weary of being treated like Cassandra and saying “I told you so” to the mainstream body politic in response. In other words, withdrawing in disgust is not the same as apathy.

Doing What One Wants

Libertarianism is not about doing whatever one wants. One has no right to initiate the use of force against another person or their property. This does not change when people gather together, wear certain costumes, claim certain affiliations or job titles, or hold a vote. Respect for individual liberty is the difference between civilization and barbarism, between progress and subsistence, between peace and destruction.

Selfishness and Childishness

Yiannopoulos, like many critics of libertarianism (and Objectivism) before him, uses the common meaning of selfishness rather than the meaning used by libertarians (and Objectivists), which leads to his confusion. In the interest of avoiding confusion, libertarians commonly speak of rational self-interest and the drive to do what will maximize one’s own happiness and well-being. The freedom to pursue one’s self-interests without interference as long as one does not commit acts of aggression, to the extent that it is present, has led to the innovations that make Yiannopoulos’ life as he knows it possible, so it is rank hypocrisy for him to deride this as childish. In cases in which the pursuit of self-interest by each individual results in adverse outcomes for a group or the self-interest of a person is to game the system to one’s advantage, the state offers no solution and is frequently the cause of the problem. All too often, those who accuse libertarians of selfishness are committing the opposite sin; that of conspicuous compassion. Forced philanthropy is a contradiction of terms, and the result is frequently worse than the result of doing nothing to help those in need, especially when viewed through a Darwinian lens.

To be fair, libertarianism could be considered a childish idea in the sense that “don’t hit people and don’t take what is theirs” is simple enough for a small child to understand. The nuances that arise when responsibility is obfuscated, rights come into conflict, or aggressors must be stopped can be properly deduced by an older child unless adults fill their heads with falsehoods or neglect to educate them in the proper use of logic. But this is not what people generally mean when they call an idea childish.

Weed, Bitcoin, and Hacking

There are some libertarians who promote vices as though they were virtues and believe that decentralization alone can bring down the state apparatus without ever being used for evil purposes, but a significant part of the libertarian movement is not so foolish. While marijuana use tends to result in political cuckoldry, Bitcoin and hacking are causing real inconveniences for the powers that be. Bitcoin (or a superior successor) is capable of destroying the system of central banking and fiat currency that is financially oppressing the average person in order to benefit the politically connected wealthy. With releases that have exposed illegal behaviors by the national security state as well as the Clinton campaign, Wikileaks has proven to be a headache for both sides of mainstream American politics. There is good reason for libertarians to be obsessed with these anti-political methods of action, given that political methods have generally failed them.

Introspection and Insulation

Yiannopoulos seems to believe that introspection and insulation make a philosophy unworthy of being taken seriously. But introspection and insulation are healthy, even essential at times. If adherents of a philosophy do not come together among their own and do this, they cannot refine their beliefs or make important human connections with each other. If individuals do not do this by themselves, they cannot have the necessary focus to examine their lives properly.

There is a certain irony in this view coming from Yiannopoulos. “The unexamined life is not worth living” is a famous quote from Socrates, described by Plato as being uttered as part of his defense when he was tried on the charges of “corrupting the youth” and “not believing in the gods in whom the city [of Athens] believes, but in other daimonia that are novel.” Socrates was ultimately convicted and forced to commit suicide. If such charges still existed today, Yiannopoulos certainly would have been brought up on them by now.

Taking Libertarianism Seriously

In a sense, it is hard to fault Yiannopoulos here, given the cesspool of degeneracy that the Libertarian Party has become. This is a problem caused by leftist infiltration of the libertarian movement and the libertarians who allowed it to occur, and it is a problem with people rather than a problem with libertarian philosophy. Although Yiannopoulos is sufficiently intelligent to figure this out, he seems unwilling to do so. The works of Rothbard, Block, and Hoppe are no less valid just because people call themselves libertarians while doing their best to undermine the practice of libertarian philosophy.

Conclusion

Yiannopoulos calls himself a cultural libertarian, though this seems to be just another attempt to corrupt the message of libertarianism so that people can fake being a libertarian for their own personal gain. The joke is on him for rejecting liberty in favor of right-wing statism. He has shown his true colors, and libertarians should shun him.

Eleven observations on the Orlando shooting

At 2:00 a.m. on June 12, a terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. Police later killed the shooter during a hostage standoff. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Eleven observations on this incident follow.

1. A gun-free zone is a victim disarmament zone. The Pulse nightclub was a gun-free zone. But criminals are defined by the fact that they disregard laws as well as the wishes of private property owners. As such, the only people who would have a gun in a gun-free zone would be government agents and criminals (but I repeat myself). Mass shooters usually choose gun-free zones to attack, as they know that they will almost certainly not be facing citizens who can shoot back.

2. Politicians will never let a crisis go to waste. Before the dead bodies were even cold, leftists predictably began calling for tougher gun control measures. To politicize a tragedy and use it to put emotion above reason and evidence is par from the course for those who seek to expand the power of the state and curtail individual rights. Like other mass shooters before him, this gunman was undeterred by the background checks which are in place, as he had no felony convictions, no domestic violence convictions, no restraining orders against him, no dishonorable discharge from the military, was not a fugitive from justice, was never committed to a mental institution, and was not denied a firearm purchase by mistake. No measures that have been proposed would have disarmed the shooter without also disarming many innocent people.

3. Internal conflicts that are irreconcilable predictably lead to violence. The shooter was both gay and Muslim. The Quran condemns homosexuality, and some schools of Islamic jurisprudence support capital punishment for it, especially those linked to terrorism. As such, the shooter had a belief that an aspect of his being that he could not change made him worthy of death or other severe punishment. Those who think so lowly of themselves are unlikely to think highly of others, especially others who share that aspect of one’s being. Those who think lowly of themselves and others are far more likely to commit violent crimes than those who have a healthy sense of self-respect and respect for others.

4. Government has not solved this problem because it cannot. Governments are effective at destroying other centralized entities. If there is a physical target that can be bombed or a living person that can be exterminated, states are usually able to carry out those acts. (Of course, they frequently go overboard with their bombings and killings, which motivates more people to become terrorists, but statists rarely care about this, as prolonged war is prolonged health of the state.) The regimes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein quickly fell after the U.S. military invaded their respective lands. But in their wake came decentralized enemies in the form of anti-occupation insurgents, online jihadist recruitment, and home-grown lone-wolf terrorists. These have proven impossible for governments to stop. After all, governments, with their bureaucratic red tape and intrinsic inefficiencies, must be correct every time in order to prevent all terrorist attacks. Islamic jihadists, with their ability to remotely recruit and train new terrorists anywhere in the world, need only be correct once to carry out each attack. When governments do catch such terrorists, they must do so either through a legally dubious entrapment scheme or by catching the terrorist after an attack has been carried out. Even these arrests sometimes occur after private citizens find terrorists who evade government agents.

5. Even if governments could stop terrorism, it would not be in their interest to do so. If the War on Terrorism were won, then the rationale for police statism and massive military spending would vanish. If the War on Terrorism were lost, then the state would fail at the one job that it is supposedly solely capable of performing, namely keeping its people safe. The ideology of Islamic terrorists disallows a draw, so the only other option is an endless war.

6. Part of the solution is division, not unification. People cannot peacefully coexist with people who want to kill them. If people cannot peacefully coexist, then they need to separate. It makes perfect sense for an LGBT establishment to ban known adherents of a religion that considers LGBT people to be fair targets for killing. But governments interfere with the private property rights and freedom of association of their citizens by enforcing laws against discrimination, thus preventing people from taking necessary and proper measures to ensure their safety.

7. Some religions are more dangerous than others. There are many religions which call for violence against non-believers as well as violence against people who engage in certain sexual practices, even if those practices do no harm to anyone who is not a willing participant. But in the contemporary world, Islam has a disproportionate percentage of followers who believe that such violence is legitimate.

8. In the digital age, dead men can still tell tales. The shooter was radicalized in part by videos made by Anwar al-Awlaki, a pro-terrorism imam. Although Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in September 2011, his videos live on at various locations on the Internet. As such, killing recruiters for terrorism is no longer sufficient to stop them.

9. A backlash is likely to follow. Just as far-right anti-immigrant movements gained ground following the Paris attacks and the Brussels attacks, they are likely to do so again, especially with the rise of Donald Trump. Although the shooter was born in New York and raised in Florida, his parents immigrated from Afghanistan. His father is a well-known Taliban sympathizer who holds anti-American and anti-LGBT views. In a sense, it is worse for a person born and raised in a country to commit a terrorist attack there than for an immigrant to do so, as it suggests a fundamental incompatibility between cultures.

10. The terrorist has blood on his hands, but so does the American government. The American government allowed the shooter’s parents to enter the country despite their own radicalism, banned discrimination, conducted an interventionist foreign policy that motivated terrorists like this one to retaliate, and failed to stop him despite knowing that he was a threat. While the ultimate responsibility for evil acts falls upon those who commit the acts, there is a vicarious responsibility upon the American government for taking actions which made the attacks possible and likely.

11. Terrorism cannot be solved by more terrorism. Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” Oxford defines terrorism as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” A government is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on the initiation of force within a geographical area. In other words, a government uses violence and intimidation to keep its population obedient and manage external threats to its operation. This leads to an important truth that few wish to speak: every government is a terrorist organization. For decades, Western nations have attempted to defeat Islamic terrorism with more terrorism in the form of military interventions, to build Western democracies among populations whose cultures are incompatible with such an apparatus, and to arm one faction against another even though such weapons frequently fall into the hands of the most evil and destructive groups. What Western leaders fail to realize is that in the irrational game of Middle East politics, the only winning moves for them are to withdraw from the game or to knock over the board.

There Is No Such Thing As Security

Every year around September 11, the establishment media dedicates many hours to remembrance of the terrorist attacks of 2001. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but true to form, they never let an opportunity to push statist propaganda go to waste. Interwoven in the memorial shows are calls for continued and expanded measures to combat terrorism (except ceasing to arm, train, fund, and motivate them, of course) and provide national security, all of which can supposedly be done only by the state. As such, it is a good time to discuss not only how the concept of national security is misguided, but why there is really no such thing as security.

National Security

National security is the idea that a state should protect itself and its citizens against all types of dangers through all available power projections. This encompasses cyber security, economic security, energy security, infrastructure security, etc. But the idea of national security implicitly assumes that there exists such a thing as a nation. If existence is correctly understood, this assumption is false. Existence requires a concrete and particular form in physical reality, for without such a constraint, a thing may be said to exist without anything more than a base assertion. As such, a nation does not exist; each person, each building, each trade good, etc. exists. Thus, it makes no sense to speak of national security apart from the security of each person, each building, each trade good, etc. We should therefore individualize the subsets of national security as much as possible and realize that national security is not achieved unless every person, every building, every trade good, etc. is secure.

Subsets of National Security

Cyber security is the protection of electronic information systems from damage, theft, and hacking. But any expert in the field knows that cyber security does not really exist; there are only various levels of insecurity. Measures can be taken to encrypt data or make passwords more difficult to hack, but a hacker with enough time, resources, and luck can get into any system. And of course, a system is only as strong as its weakest point of attack, meaning that hackers will always have some way in.

Economic security is the condition of having stable resources to support a standard of living. This requires continued solvency, continued income, and security of resources. But this cannot be guaranteed. A source of income may disappear at any time; a job may be lost, a donor may stop giving, a resource may run out, and so on. There is also no certainty that resources in one’s possession will stay there. Even with the best security measures, thieves and scammers can still find ways to plunder people.

Infrastructure security is the protection of transportation networks, essential services, and utilities from contamination, decay, and sabotage. This is necessary for modern life to continue, as disruptions to critical infrastructure would cut off the flow of goods and services to people who could not easily manage without them due to the effects of interdependence. Yet again, there is no way to prevent all natural disasters, cyber attacks, and terrorism that may threaten the grid.

Personal Security

Each of us is not even secure in our own physical bodies. This fact alone would negate any possible security mentioned above, as security is meaningless to the dead. Speaking of death, there is no guarantee that a reader of this article will survive long enough to finish reading it. Even if one has taken care of one’s health and acquired means of protection, there is no reason why one cannot expire of a medical condition that has gone undetected by doctors, an assassin’s bullet, a wayward car that crashes into one’s room, or even a falling meteor. As none of these are completely preventable, there is no such thing as personal security.

Liberty, Not Security

It is clear that security cannot really exist, and that which cannot be done should not be attempted. But this is not to say that we should leave our doors unlocked, give up our guns, and generally do nothing to defend ourselves. There is no such thing as security, but there is temporary and limited protection from particular dangers. What can be done, and what should be attempted, is to defend people against attacks upon life, liberty, and property without violating said lives, liberties, and properties in the process. (For if they are violated in the process, then the terrorists have achieved an important victory without even lighting a fuse or firing a shot.) To quote Tom Robbins, “There’s no such thing as security in this life sweetheart, and the sooner you accept that fact, the better off you’ll be. The person who strives for security will never be free.”

Six observations on the conviction of Ross Ulbricht

On Feb. 4, Ross Ulbricht was convicted on all counts of the charges he faced for allegedly creating and running Silk Road, a Dark Web marketplace where state-disapproved goods and services were sold. This case has at least six important lessons. Let us examine them.

1. Making and keeping notes of one’s state-disapproved activities in a place where they can be found is unwise. From revealing his real name on an Internet forum using an unencrypted connection, to storing large amounts of incriminating information on his laptop, Ulbricht made many security errors that allowed government investigators to discover his identity and track him down. Those who are engaged in state-disapproved activities must be more careful. They must be correct every time; government agents only need to be correct a few times.

2. A fair trial requires an impartial judge. Unfortunately, Judge Katherine Forrest was anything but impartial, siding with the prosecution at every turn and essentially railroading Ulbricht to a guilty verdict. The simple fact is that having a government judge decide a case prosecuted by government agents is a conflict of interest, and an independent judge who is not in the government’s employ should be used for cases involving the government, as all criminal cases currently do.

3. A fair trial requires an informed jury. Because a jury cannot be punished for its verdict and a defendant found not guilty cannot be tried again, a jury has the power to nullify unjust laws by refusing to convict defendants of breaking them. The prosecution in the Ulbricht case explicitly motioned to prevent the defense from making such an argument. Judge Forrest took measures to prevent potential jurors who read information about jury nullification from being seated on the case, even threatening to sequester the jury.

4. The state will violate its own laws. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures and require a search warrant given upon probable cause describing particular places to be searched and things to be seized. The FBI appears to have disregarded this, and Judge Forrest rejected the defense’s argument that the FBI’s conduct was illegal, thus barring them from raising such an objection at trial.

There is also the matter of the contract killings that Ulbricht allegedly ordered. He was never indicted in New York for any of them, and the FBI has even admitted in a sworn affidavit that there is no evidence that any homicides occurred, yet the prosecution was allowed to mention this allegation to the jury. It was included as a surplusage in the narcotics trafficking charge. A surplusage is essentially an uncharged crime for which the prosecution bears no burden of proof, and can be used to assassinate the character of the defendant.

5. Dangerous precedents have been set. Under present law, website hosts are not held responsible for illegal actions that occur on their websites unless they are directly involved with those activities. This case brings that standard into question and creates the possibility that those who create a forum where criminal activity occurs may now be held liable.

There is also a risk that the aforementioned questionable behavior regarding the Fourth Amendment will become enshrined in case law, thereby eroding civil liberties in cases involving online activities.

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

Introducing Reece’s Razor

The motivations of those who wield state power can sometimes be difficult to decipher. In some cases, there are multiple plausible explanations for why politicians want to achieve certain goals, why judges make certain decisions, and why the enforcers of state policy behave the way they do. As such, I suggest a heuristic to simplify the matter, which I will name after myself because I have never seen it expressed in the following manner.

Reece’s razor: Whenever there are several possible explanations for a government action or policy, the most cynical explanation is the most likely to be correct.

Here, cynicism is to be understood in its modern sense: a belief that other people are motivated primarily by selfish interests, to the detriment of what is best for society as a whole. It should also be understood that the razor is to be applied in cases where all else is equal; i.e. the available evidence does not clearly favor one explanation over another.

Now, let us see Reece’s razor in action. We will examine five examples of government action or policy, come up with several possible explanations for each, and see which explanations are selected by Reece’s razor.

1. Why do local governments want to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft?

One possibility is that politicians are simply concerned for the safety of those who would use ride-sharing services. Another possibility is that established taxi services do not want to lose their government-protected monopolies and have asked politicians to ban their upstart competitors. Yet another possibility is that ride-sharing services have decreased the number of DUI arrests, each of which puts thousands of dollars into local coffers. The idea that politicians care more about a source of government revenue than about human lives that could be saved by decreasing the number of impaired drivers on the roads is the most cynical explanation, so Reece’s razor selects it.

2. Why is public education of such low and declining quality?

One possibility is that there is not enough money being spent on education. Another possibility is that is that there is no free market competition with education options that have other curricular requirements than those mandated by the state, leading to a curriculum that is of inferior rigor. Yet another possibility is that in an economy where both parents must work to support a family, they cannot spend enough time with their children and teachers cannot compensate for this. Still another possibility is that public education is of low quality because those who wield power do not want an enlightened population who can reason for themselves. The idea that politicians and business leaders care more about having obedient workers who are intelligent enough to perform needed labors but not intelligent enough to realize the extent to which they are being exploited than about giving children a quality education is the most cynical explanation, so Reece’s razor selects it.

3. Why has the War on Terrorism taken so long?

One possibility is that government militaries are ill-designed to fight such a decentralized foe, which makes a war against terrorists take longer to win than a war against another state. Another possibility is that tactical blunders have caused Western powers to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, thereby prolonging a war that should have been won years ago. Yet another possibility is that a refusal to properly identify the enemies as a large number of individual Islamic extremists has prevented a victory, as an enemy must first be identified before it can be defeated. Still another possibility is that a perpetual war is in the rational self-interest of politicians. If the War on Terrorism were won, then the rationale for police statism and massive military spending would vanish. If the War on Terrorism were lost, then the state would fail at the one job that it is supposedly solely capable of performing, namely keeping its people safe. The ideology of Islamic terrorists disallows a draw, so the only other option is an endless war. The idea that politicians care more about expanding state power and getting money into the hands of the defense contractors who fund their campaigns than about the human lives lost on both sides of the conflict is the most cynical explanation, so Reece’s razor selects it.

4. Why is the government going after Ross Ulbricht and others who create drug exchanges?

One possibility is that politicians care about their citizens and want to make it harder for them to obtain substances that will harm or kill them, while drug exchanges like Silk Road make it easier. Another possibility is that such exchanges make it easier to contract other illegal services, such as assassinations, and the state has an interest in protecting its people from such victimization. Yet another possibility is that tales of hidden Internet activities that violate the law are useful propaganda pieces to convince people of a need for government to monitor and spy on Internet use. Still another possibility is that violence in the drug trade provides a rationale for spending on police forces and the prison industrial complex, and sites like Silk Road were making the drug trade less violent. The ideas that politicians value a rationale for government spending and spying on citizens more than the safety of their constituents are the most cynical explanations, so Reece’s razor selects them.

5. Why do war crimes tribunals focus more on those of higher rank who give orders and less on those of lower rank who carry out the orders?

One possibility is that popular views of morality hold those with more authority as being more responsible, and that governments reflect these views. Another possibility is that resources only allow for a certain number of trials, and these resources should be spent to try those with command responsibility. Yet another possibility is that trying those of lower rank for their activities would lead people to question the deeds of their own nation’s soldiers, which is against the interest of the ruling classes. The idea that the ruling classes care more about staying in power than about seeking justice is the most cynical explanation, so Reece’s razor selects it.