Guns Are The Only Bulwark Against Tyranny

On October 5, the New York Times published an opinion column by Michael Shermer in which he argues that the rule of law is a bulwark against tyranny, but guns are not. In this rebuttal, I will show on a point-by-point basis that he has made an erroneous case while committing numerous logical fallacies, and that the opposing view is correct.

“In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre — the worst in modern American history, with 58 dead and some 500 wounded — the onus falls once again to those against gun control to make their case.”

Shermer uses the qualifier “modern,” but does not bother to define it. It seems that to him, events like the Wounded Knee Massacre, in which agents of the United States government murdered 300 members of the Lakota Sioux tribe, including 200 women and children, do not count because they occurred before some arbitrary cutoff date. Ignoring such events is also convenient for the arguments he will make later. That the onus is on the gun rights side rather than the gun control side is simply asserted and may be simply dismissed.

“The two most common arguments made in defense of broad gun ownership are a) self protection and b) as a bulwark against tyranny. Let’s consider each one.”

Another common argument that Shermer ignores is the right to own property in general, of which the right to keep and bear arms is part and parcel. But that would require him to deal in a priori logic, which does not appear to be his strong suit.

Self-Defense, Crime, and Suicide

“Stories about the use of guns in self-defense — a good guy with a gun dispensing with a bad guy with a gun — are legion among gun enthusiasts and conservative talk radio hosts.”

This is because such events happen regularly, to the tune of at least 338,700 events in America in between 2007 and 2011. As will be explained below, this is a low estimate.

“But a 1998 study in The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, to take one of many examples, found that ‘every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides and 11 attempted or completed suicides.’ That means a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide attempt or a homicide than it is for self-defense.

A 2003 study published in the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine, which examined gun ownership levels among thousands of murder and suicide victims and nonvictims, found that gun-owning households were 41 percent more likely to experience a homicide and 244 percent more likely to experience a suicide.”

It is curious that Shermer could not find and cite any more recent studies to support his case, but let us deal with his evidence, such as it is. All such studies suffer from two fatal flaws; they cannot count the number of crimes which did not occur because a potential criminal either saw a gun or believed a gun was present and chose not to offend, and empiricism cannot provide information about counter-factuals. For instance, criminals who have been killed by defensive uses of guns may have otherwise gone on to commit scores of murders, but they were prevented from doing so in this timeline. Without guns, other weapons would be used to commit homicides and other crimes, such as knives, bombs, and vehicles, as occurs in countries where firearm ownership is rare and difficult. That there is a difference between a legally justifiable shooting and a morally justifiable shooting further complicates matters.

Furthermore, Shermer implies that all suicides and accidents involving guns are bad, which is not the case. A person who has a short amount of time to live and will be in excruciating pain for the entirety of that time may decide that nonexistence (or going to whatever afterlife the person believes in) is better than existence as a terminally ill person. In such a case, a self-inflicted gunshot wound can act as a form of euthanasia compared to the protracted suffering which would otherwise lie ahead. (And because many governments still violate the sovereignty of their citizens over their own bodies by prohibiting physician-assisted suicide, these are cases of bad people with guns being defeated by good people with guns, albethey in a different manner.) The tragedy in such a case is not the gun death, but the terminal illness behind the gun death.

Another case can occur during an armed conflict. A person whose position is being overrun by enemy forces may commit suicide to avoid capture, interrogation, and torture at the hands of the enemy. Historically, many women did this to avoid becoming victims of war rape and many people with valuable knowledge did this to keep themselves from being tortured into divulging important information to the enemy. In such cases, a self-inflicted gun death can be the best of a multitude of bad options. Though these situations are unlikely inside of the United States, they are not impossible.

Third, a person whose brain does not function properly can come to believe that putting a bullet through one’s skull has some effect other than ending one’s life, or that self-preservation is not a worthwhile endeavor. While there are many cases in which intervention is needed and the death of the mentally ill person would be regrettable, there are some people who have a chronic and incurable mental condition. A strong desire to end one’s life in the absence of terminal illness or an impending worse fate is a mechanism of natural selection to eliminate organisms which are not sufficiently fit to reproduce and take care of the next generation.

On the subject of accidental gun deaths, some cases are best prevented by education of gun owners, but others are a mechanism of natural selection. The gun owner who handles his guns haphazardly or maintains them improperly can remove himself from the gene pool when the gun either shoots him or fails catastrophically in his hands. The gun owner who is a parent and fails to secure his guns around young children is less likely to get to be a grandparent, great-grandparent, and so on. At any rate, accidents are the fault of people, not guns.

With regard to the claim that gun-owning households are more likely to experience a homicide or suicide, to say that this is because guns are present is a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Additionally, Shermer neglects to mention studies that show a decrease in violent crime as gun ownership has increased. Perhaps he realizes that such data would undermine his narrative. The aggregate is a wash; there is no clear correlation one way or the other.

“The Second Amendment protects your right to own a gun, but having one in your home involves a risk-benefit calculation you should seriously consider.”

The Second Amendment’s utility in this regard is questionable at best, and Shermer’s empirical arguments are highly suspect, but the idea that the decision to have a firearm in one’s home involves a risk-benefit calculation is technically correct.

Tyranny and Rebellion

“Gun-rights advocates also make the grandiose claim that gun ownership is a deterrent against tyrannical governments. Indeed, the wording of the Second Amendment makes this point explicitly: ‘A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ That may have made sense in the 1770s, when breech-loading flintlock muskets were the primary weapons tyrants used to conquer other peoples and subdue their own citizens who could, in turn, equalize the power equation by arming themselves with equivalent firepower. But that is no longer true.”

Shermer unintentionally makes a strong argument that the right to keep and bear arms should be greatly expanded. In order to “equalize the power equation,” let us repeal the National Firearms Act of 1934 to remove taxes on certain categories of arms, the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 so that private citizens can own a nuclear deterrent, the Gun Control Act of 1968 to eliminate licensing of arms dealers and manufacturers, the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 to decriminalize private ownership of machine guns manufactured after that date, and numerous other federal, state, and local measures that further restrict what kinds of weapons may be owned by private citizens.

“If you think stockpiling firearms from the local Guns and Guitars store, where the Las Vegas shooter purchased some of his many weapons, and dressing up in camouflage and body armor is going to protect you from an American military capable of delivering tanks and armored vehicles full of Navy SEALs to your door, you’re delusional.”

Shermer follows in the pattern of most other leftists in straw-manning the nature of a violent uprising to overthrow the state. No one seriously believes that a single individual is capable of going up against the armed forces of a nation-state and emerging victorious. Instead, such an effort would require a few percent of the civilian population to use self-defense against agents of the state just as they would against common criminals. Nor is it necessary to achieve the sort of victory that one nation-state would enjoy against another in a war in order to succeed in such a revolution. A sustained effort of decentralized, anti-political, guerrilla attacks need only make the prospect of being a government agent within a certain territory too dangerous of an employment option to be worthwhile, thus physically removing the state from that territory without the need to meet the state’s forces in regular warfare. Note that even a single instance of government agents being killed can greatly reduce oppression, at least in the short term.

As Shermer suggests, a state is likely to deploy its military domestically in an effort to put down such a rebellion. If the rebels are competent, they will blend into the general population when they are not actively engaging their opponents. Thus, using military hardware against the revolutionaries would cause many civilian casualties, especially in the case of area-effect weapons. Just as drone strikes that kill innocents overseas cause more people to join terrorist organizations today, the state’s response to the rebels would cause more people to join the rebels to try to avenge their fallen friends and family members. The state would also damage the infrastructure that it needs to operate in order to maintain public support and carry out its functions.

Shermer seems to believe that military vehicles and personnel are invincible juggernauts that the average citizen could not hope to defeat. This is quite false, as many resistance movements have conclusively proven. Military vehicles are quite vulnerable to ambush in close quarters. Improvised explosives can destroy or disable them, as can large amounts of fire, such as from multiple Molotov cocktails. Aircraft are harder to deal with if the rebels present them with a target and cannot keep them grounded, but drones can be hacked and thermal evasion suits are not terribly difficult to build. Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. All vehicles need to be fueled, controlled, and maintained, and all offensive vehicles need to be armed. Someone must perform each of those tasks. Someone must deliver the resources for both those tasks and the personnel involved. Those people are far more vulnerable than the vehicles themselves.

While leftists tend to deride such suggestions as pure fantasy, anyone who has bothered to seriously think through such possibilities knows that they are not, including high-ranking United States military personnel who are responsible for preparing plans for such scenarios.

“The tragic incidents at Ruby Ridge, in Idaho, and Waco, Tex., in the 1990s, in which citizens armed to the teeth collided with government agencies and lost badly, is a case study for what would happen were the citizenry to rise up in violence against the state today.”

That these are not useful case studies for the possibility of rebellion against the United States government has been demonstrated in the previous section. One must also consider the difference made by Timothy McVeigh. Although his actions cannot be defended from a deontological perspective, the Oklahoma City bombing appears to have had positive consequences with regard to how the state handles armed resistance. By the standard of Ruby Ridge and Waco, the Montana Freemen standoff in 1996, the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014, and the Malheur standoff in 2016 all should have ended in mass casualties. But because McVeigh made such massacres costly for the state in terms of blowback, responding to such armed standoffs with overwhelming deadly force has become unpalatable.

Government Failure

“And in any case, if you’re having trouble with the government, a lawyer is a much more potent weapon than a gun. Politicians and police fear citizens armed with legal counsel more than they do a public fortified with guns. The latter they can just shoot. The former means they have to appear before a judge.”

The previous two sections clearly refute the idea that the politicians and their agents can just shoot the public. As for citizens armed with legal counsel, they are going into a government courtroom, of government law enacted by those very politicians, presided over by a government judge, funded by taxes that the government extorted from them via the guns carried by those very police. This is a conflict of interest of astronomical magnitude that would never be tolerated in any situation that does not involve the state. The idea that a lawyer is a much more potent weapon than a gun for resolving trouble with a government is thus risible at best.

“A civil society based on the rule of law with a professional military to protect its citizens from external threats; a police force to protect civilians from internal dangers; a criminal justice system to peacefully settle disputes between the state and its citizenry; and a civil court system to enable individuals to resolve conflicts nonviolently — these institutions have been the primary drivers in the dramatic decline of violence over the past several centuries, not an increasingly well-armed public.”

The correlation between declining violence and the civil society he describes does not establish a causal link, so Shermer commits another cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. He also assumes that the state is necessary to provide these essential services. In fact, the opposite is true. Rule of law is the idea that people should be governed by laws rather than by the arbitrary decisions of rulers. A state is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force in a certain geographical area. People who have a monopoly on initiatory force necessarily have a monopoly on the enforcement of laws. This means that they can choose the nature of the law and the enforcement thereof. Thus, in the presence of a state, those who wield state power rule the law and not vice versa. Therefore, the only possibility for rule of law, as well as the peace and justice that follow from it, is to have no state.

The civil society Shermer describes has its own set of intractable problems. First, the professional military may protect its citizens from external threats, and the police may protect civilians from internal dangers, but this is the security of a farm animal rather than the security of a free person. The state uses its military and police to prevent exploitation of its subjects by other powers only so that it may monopolize their exploitation. And should this monopoly decline and fail, the citizens will be less secure than they were before its inception. The criminal and civil courts cannot perform their functions correctly due to both the conflict of interest explained in the previous section and the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

“States reduce violence by asserting a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, thereby replacing what criminologists call ‘self-help justice,’ in which individuals settle their own scores, often violently, such as drug gangs and the Mafia.”

The goal of those who wish to create a superior form of social order should be a reduction of aggression, which does not necessarily entail a reduction of violence because aggressive violence may be reduced by overwhelming displays of defensive violence. That being said, government agents murdered over 200 million people in the 20th century, which is hardly a reduction in violence compared to pre-modern conditions.

Shermer then presents a false dilemma between a state monopoly on criminal justice and a vigilante free-for-all, completely ignoring the possibility of market provision of criminal justice through competing private businesses. He also neglects the fact that drug gangs and other organized crime make much of their income through goods and services which do not involve aggression against people or property but have been outlawed by the state regardless. Without state interference in the economy, much of the economic activity which currently involves violent dispute resolution between criminals would instead involve peaceful dispute resolution between legitimate business interests.

Finally, given that the state monopoly on force creates a system in which justice for the crimes of its agents is functionally impossible coupled with anarcho-tyranny, there are cases in which “self-help justice,” better known as vigilante justice, is superior to no justice at all.

“Homicide rates, for example, have plummeted a hundredfold since 14th-century England, in which there were 110 homicides per 100,000 people a year, compared with less than one per 100,000 today. Similar declines in murder rates have been documented in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. (American homicide rates are around five times higher than in Europe, owing primarily to the deadly combination of guns and gangs.)”

Again, this does not tell us why homicide rates have fallen. Better economic circumstances and declining exposure rates to toxic substances that increase aggressive behavior also contribute to declining violence. That guns and gangs are primarily responsible for the higher homicide rate in America is simply asserted and may thus be simply dismissed.

“There’s no question that tyrannical states have abused the freedom of their citizens. But it is no longer realistic to think that arming citizens to the teeth is going to stop tyranny should it arise. Far superior are nonviolent democratic checks and balances on power, constitutional guardians of civil rights and legal protections of liberties.”

There is indeed no question that tyrannical states have abused the freedom of their citizens. What Shermer fails to understand is that all states are necessarily tyrannical and must abuse the freedom of their citizens in order to perpetuate their operations. The idea that it is no longer realistic to think that arming citizens to the teeth is going to stop tyranny should it arise has been thoroughly refuted above. Nonviolent democracy in the context of statism is a contradiction of terms because the state rests upon a foundation of aggressive violence, and democratic forms only pour gasoline upon the fire by setting part of the citizenry against another part. Checks and balances do not really exist in practice, as the various parts of a state apparatus invariably come to conspire together toward their common goal of dominating the society under the leadership of the most powerful branch of government. The Constitution itself and the laws passed under it are similarly useless as guardians of rights and protections of liberties because the very powers they are supposed to limit (if we ignore the fact that the Constitution expanded state power far beyond what the Articles of Confederation allowed) are in charge of their interpretation, enforcement, and amendment.


Shermer’s case is deeply flawed from beginning to end. His cherry-picked studies fail to demonstrate his case, as studies with opposing findings exist and the aggregate is inconclusive. He makes unfounded assumptions regarding self-defense and suicide, has thoroughly failed to understand the use of self-defense against the state, and presents a view of civil society that is starry-eyed and naive. Contrary to Shermer, the only bulwark against tyranny is the credible threat of forcible removal of tyrants from power, and this requires the possession and use of guns.

Authority, Anarchy, and Libertarian Social Order

On May 8, Fritz Pendleton published an article at Social Matter in which he argues that liberty is best preserved by authority rather than anarchy. He then proceeds to launch a misguided attack against libertarianism, all while misunderstanding authority, anarchy, liberty, and the nature of a libertarian social order. Let us examine what is wrong with Pendleton’s case on a point-by-point basis.

Stateless In Somalia

Pendleton begins with the old canard of Somalia-as-libertarian-utopia, though to his credit, he does not invite all libertarians to emigrate there. His description of the situation is essentially correct:

“It is a patchwork of warlords who have each parceled out a slice of mud to call his own, to rule according to his whims and fetishes. There are the Islamic warlords of al-Shabaab in the south, the government strongmen who collaborate with al-Shabaab when it suits them, the Somaliland separatists who want a separate nation in the north, and a thousand other men of questionable loyalties.”

Pendleton claims that “it takes a certain type of idiot to look at Somalia and see something promising,” then that “it requires an idiot of some erudition to see promise in a failed state like Somalia.” These are not equivalent. To look at Somalia and see something promising is to examine the entirety of their culture and find that there is at least one idea which could be adopted elsewhere to improve another society. To see promise in a failed state like Somalia is to believe that the situation in that particular place can be greatly improved in the foreseeable future. The former endeavor makes far more sense than the latter.

Though he is correct to say that “libertarians are interested in Somalia primarily because its central government is weak and has no effective presence throughout most of the nation,” his assertion that anarchy is not an effective solution to much of anything is confused. An absence of rulers is not meant to be a solution to anything in and of itself; its role in libertarian theory is to remove the statist intervention in the market economy that inhibits and/or prevents individuals from working together to find effective solutions to problems. Pendleton’s passing mention of human biodiversity is also misplaced, as the best means of analyzing anarchy in Somalia is to compare it to statism in Somalia, not to anarchy elsewhere or statism elsewhere. We are thus considering the same thede under different conditions rather than different thedes under the same conditions. His claim that “whatever the merits of decentralization in theory, in practice it mostly involves being subject to the whims of the local warlord and his cadre” is particular to the current cases of failed states. There is good reason to believe that a controlled demolition of a state apparatus by people who wish to impose a libertarian social order would not be like this because the people would have the will and means to disallow it. Even so, a nation-state government is essentially a warlord writ large. Localizing this evil and reducing its strength makes it easier to bribe, escape, or overthrow, which is a definite improvement.

Pendleton claims that a libertarian must search hard to find supporting evidence in Somalia, but the evidence is clear. Before Mohamed Siad Barre’s regime fell in 1991, the annual birth rate was 0.46 percent, the infant mortality rate was 11.6 percent, the life expectancy was 46 years, the annual death rate was 0.19 percent, the GDP per capita was $210, the adult literacy rate was 24 percent, and 35 percent of the people had access to safe water. The most recent measurements are that the annual birth rate is 0.40 percent (2016), the infant mortality rate is 9.66 percent (2016), the life expectancy is 52.4 years (2016), the annual death rate is 0.133 percent (2016), the GDP per capita is $400 (2014), the adult literacy rate is 38 percent (2011), and 45 percent of the people have access to safe water (2016). The telecommunications and money transfer industries have also improved to offer some of the best service in Africa.

It is easy to argue, as Pendleton does, that these improvements are negligible from his relatively cushy first-world environs, where such improvements on either a real or a percentage basis are barely noticeable. But in the third-world hellhole that is Somalia, such improvements can be the difference between life and death, not to mention the difference between having some basic quality of life or not having it. His claim that anarchy is not much different than communism is asserted without evidence and may therefore be dismissed without evidence.

The Case of Tudor England

Pendleton seeks to contrast the anarchy of Somalia with the historical Tudor monarchy of England. His contention that giving people more freedoms is not a prerequisite for a well-run society is technically correct but beside the point. The fact is that a society need not be ‘run’ at all in the sense of top-down management by a ruling class. People can (and in the absence of interference, do) form voluntary associations to solve problems without being ordered around at gunpoint by government minions. That people have flourished in times of gentle oppression, a strange phrase indeed, says more about human resilience than it says about the merits of oppression.

He continues,

“Henry VII and VIII set in motion a series of clever reforms that reached a climax during the rule of Elizabeth I. England had finally found its stride. It must be noted that Elizabethan England, despite its relative freedom, was not keen on handing out legal recognition of liberties to its people. The era was one of unapologetic centralization. The crown’s subjects were given no guarantees of free speech at all; in fact, the censors worked hard and fast to clamp down on anything they perceived as dissent. Freedom of speech was still very far over the political horizon. And yet, despite the book burnings, despite the cages, despite the severed heads around London Tower, the Elizabethan era gave us Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spencer, Jonson, and Bacon. Imagine an era that gave the English language so much genius and not one assurance of free speech to go with it!”

One must ask whether this occurred because of oppression or in spite of it. It is possible, of course, that the great writers of the day produced such memorable works because the adversity of censorship forced them to innovate novel speech patterns in order to evade the censors. In an earlier age, Chaucer gained a lasting place in the canon of English literature for doing just that. But one must wonder, what potential was wasted? What great works were never penned because their would-be-authors feared for their lives? Perhaps the literary marvels of Elizabethan England were due to its relative freedom rather than its censorship, and more liberty would have been better.

Pendleton asks us to consider that the Elizabethan era was when the British Empire began in earnest, but does not explain how this happened. Spain, Portugal, and even France were ahead of England in colonizing the New World and expanding trade routes in the latter half of the 16th century. It was not until Elizabeth died and James VI and I became King of Scotland and England that the English shifted their attention from attacking the colonies of other nations to the business of establishing their own overseas colonies. The burdensome regulations of the day may disappoint a contemporary libertarian, but the English trade policies were about as good as there were at the time.

Chile and Singapore

Next, Pendleton presents Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore as examples of anti-libertarian success stories. Both pursued economic liberty while restricting social and political liberty; as Pendleton says of the left-libertarians, “a libertarian would rather choke on his bow-tie than defend [their political policies].” Though left-libertarians tend to recoil at such measures, a reactionary understanding of libertarianism provides quite a different view. The libertarian reactionary understands that the desired goal of a libertarian social order can only be achieved by physically removing the state from power. Doing this, however, requires a critical mass of the population to use self-defense against the current system. If such a critical mass is absent, then those who seek liberty must turn to other methods. Those libertarians who are capable of checking their autism and doing what is necessary within context may come to support a Pinochet- or Yew-type for the purpose of restoring a balance of political terror. The idea is for libertarians to use a reactionary authoritarian approach in order to suppress leftists and reverse the damage they have done, overthrow the regime once the left is defeated, then maintain the power vacuum by continuous application of defensive force. Furthermore, a libertarian social order will not necessarily offer a great deal of social and political liberty, especially to those who do not hold allodial title over private property and/or disagree with anarcho-capitalism. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains,

“As soon as mature members of society habitually express acceptance or even advocate egalitarian sentiments, whether in the form of democracy (majority rule) or of communism, it becomes essential that other members, and in particular the natural social elites, be prepared to act decisively and, in the case of continued nonconformity, exclude and ultimately expel these members from society. In a covenant concluded among proprietor and community tenants for the purpose of protecting their private property, no such thing as a right to free (unlimited) speech exists, not even to unlimited speech on one’s own tenant-property. One may say innumerable things and promote almost any idea under the sun, but naturally no one is permitted to advocate ideas contrary to the very purpose of the covenant of preserving and protecting private property, such as democracy and communism. There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and expelled from society.”[1]

This is quite similar to the standard of no voice and free exit advocated by Nick Land and some other prominent neoreactionaries. The only real difference is that the libertarian reactionary is especially concerned with making the sovereign units as small as possible. It is worth noting that both proposals blend anarchy with authority, in that there is an irreducible anarchy between sovereigns who have authority within their private properties.

Pendleton wonders how Singapore would have preserved liberty in the midst of conflicts between the various ethnic groups present there without Yew’s rule, and how the various religious groups could have been kept from fighting in England without Elizabeth I’s despotism. The possible answers to such questions are the same in each case. First, groups may hire neutral third parties to resolve disputes. Second, the groups may voluntarily segregate themselves so as to avoid contact with each other. Third, some groups that cannot get along with others may have a mass exodus. Fourth, a troublemaking group may be forcibly exiled by all of the other groups. Fifth, each side may be armed to such an extent as to create peace through mutually assured destruction. Sixth, the groups may simply choose to fight it out, as some hostilities reach a point of no return. In the first five cases, the preservation of liberty is maximized. The sixth case is far more troublesome, but such quarrels can be formalized and separated so as not to catch innocent bystanders in the crossfire. A system of dueling has filled this role in many historical societies. There are thus many options other than authoritarianism for preserving liberty; the only question is whether people care to utilize them.

Libertarianism and Reaction

Pendleton writes,

“The reactionary and libertarian both agree that small governments are good. But the reactionary feels that small governments are made not by relinquishing authority, as the libertarian would do, but by strengthening it. Liberty is too precious to be entrusted to anarchy in the same way that diamonds are too precious to be entrusted to one’s doorstep.”

Here, he misunderstands what a libertarian would do, at least those who are not leftists. A libertarian reactionary seeks not to relinquish authority, but to make it as absolute as possible in the hands of the private property owner within that person’s private property. And contrary to Pendleton, liberty requires anarchy because the freedom to do as one wishes as long as one respects the right of other people to do likewise and commits no aggression against them is violated by a state apparatus by definition. If a state is present, it will fund its activities through taxation and civil asset forfeiture, take private property through eminent domain, and restrict the use of property through intellectual monopoly, zoning, and environmental regulations. Its officials and agents will choose the nature of the law and the enforcement thereof, meaning that they rule the law and not vice versa. Its enforcers will initiate the use of violence against people who are known to disagree with government statutes and acts upon their disagreements, thus presenting a constant threat to peace. Its agents are allowed to do that which is considered criminal for anyone else to do, and the system is set up to keep them from being held to account. It will force people to associate with it regardless of whether they want to use or pay for its services. Therefore, it is clear that liberty cannot be protected by state authority; such a threatening protector is a contradiction of terms.

Final Arbitration

Next, Pendleton presents a case to make the ‘final arbiter of disputes’ criticism of libertarianism:

“Suppose we have one of those highly attenuated legal battles where the details of the case are complicated and emotionally charged. Let us suppose that a drunk driver crashed into a tree and his passenger was killed when she flew through the windshield; she had not worn her seat belt. The grieving husband of the passenger demanded compensation from the driver to help take care of his kids in place of his now deceased wife. Daycare is expensive these days, after all. The driver apologized profusely but pointed out that the passenger was just as responsible for her death because she was not buckled into her seat. The husband countered by saying that the belt would not have been an issue if the driver had not been drunk and crashed into a tree.

Since these men live in a libertarian utopia, there is no superseding legal authority to arbitrate: a third-party arbitration company will have to be hired. Now let’s suppose that one of these arbitration companies is owned by a brother-in-law of the driver, and not surprisingly, the driver only agrees to hire that company. The husband refuses. The driver in turn refuses to pay any compensation whatsoever. The furious husband now threatens to kill the wife of the driver to make him understand what it feels like to lose a loved one.

How can any libertarian who sings the praises of anarchy not see how this situation will only continue to escalate? How can there be any justice for the woman who lost her life in the original crash and what about the violations of liberty that will ensue when this conflict devolves into a family feud? If there had been one authority to take control of this dispute the liberties of everyone involved would have been much more safely guarded. In a world where emotion forms the greater part of human action, liberty requires authority.”

This situation may be resolved in advance through contracts. The owners of the road set the conditions for operating vehicles on their private property, with violators subject to physical removal not unlike the traffic stops, arrests, and impounding of vehicles today. They may demand that everyone using their roads have arbitration services which do not involve such conflicts of interest, and contrary to some myopic analysis to the contrary, are almost certain to frown upon drunk drivers. They might even have all cars on their roads driven by robots, which nips this scenario in the bud. Failing this, a person who has committed an offense and refuses to make restitution can be ostracized from society until compliance is gained. Furthermore, such a person may rightly be forced to make restitution because an unrepentant aggressor is not subject to the non-aggression principle through his continuing violation of it. The driver’s wife, however, is an innocent bystander unless she was responsible for getting him drunk and/or making him drive while intoxicated. Threatening her absent these conditions makes the widower an aggressor to be subdued. As a libertarian society would have several private defense agencies available to handle such applications of defensive force and almost everyone would have a protection policy with one of these companies, an escalation is quite unlikely. Even if this kind of situation does escalate, it pales in comparison to the carnage wrought by the one authority that Pendleton defends. States were responsible for 203 million democides and war deaths in the 20th century alone. This is hardly a price worth paying to stifle a few family feuds.

More generally, a final arbiter of disputes cannot exist because no person or institution can absolutely guarantee that any issue will be resolved forever with no possibility of review. The way that disputes ultimately end in any social order is that some party finds the dispute to no longer be worth continuing. Everything else, whether statist courts and legislatures or anarchic arbitration services and private defense agencies, is simply window dressing on this immutable truth.

Of Rules and Rulers

Pendleton writes,

“A libertarian who is honest with himself has to ask why even jungle tribes have a chief and why high schools have hall-monitors. Human beings require authority, and if authority is to mean anything at all, it requires the power of compulsion; liberty cannot last long in a nation that thinks of its authority as a polite suggestion.”

It is important to understand the true meaning of anarchy. Anarchy comes from Greek ἀναρχία, which is typically translated as ‘without rulers.’ More precisely, it means ‘without beginning to take the lead.’ This is not the same as ‘without rules’ or ‘without leaders.’ Having a ruler means that there are no rules because the ruler has authority over the rules and not vice versa. That the lead is not taken does not mean that no one can lead because leadership can be freely given. This is well-understood in every aspect of life other than politics. In the words of Mikhail Bakunin,

“Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or engineer. …But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognize no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such an individual, I have no absolute faith in any person. Such a faith would be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave, an instrument of the will and interests of others.”[2]

Additionally, compulsion and initiatory force are not equivalent. This is because compulsion may take the form of defensive force or of less violent means such as shaming and ostracism. Thus, if human beings require authority (and Pendleton does not prove that they do), a libertarian social order is quite capable of compelling people through contract law, ostracism, and private military forces.


Pendleton laments that not many libertarians will be swayed by his arguments, but does not understand why. It is not the case that libertarians are “far too busy sketching intricate political systems on paper to be bothered with considerations of human psychology.” Libertarianism, properly understood, is anti-political; its primary interest in political systems is in finding ways to destroy them without causing unnecessary damage to the social fabric. As for considerations of human psychology, they should lead one to reject the state as an enabler and multiplier of evil in the world. Ultimately, libertarians are not swayed by his arguments because they are easily refuted, as shown both above and below.

The Definition of Liberty

Pendleton writes,

“Liberty, as we now know it, is a set of unquestionable boundaries that are owed to all citizens: the right to peaceable assembly, the right to free speech, the right to a free press, and so on. The problem with these ‘rights’ is that they are very enticing ideas that are very murky in their specifics. They exist in the minds of Americans as a hazy bundle of entitlements, as things that they are owed, rather than things that they must earn.

The greatest problem with this notion of liberty as an entitlement is that once citizens start declaring rights as ‘universal’ and ‘God-given’ there is no mechanism to stop them from continually inventing new ones. The ‘right to privacy’ or the ‘right to universal healthcare’ are muddled ideas that our founding fathers never anticipated. Jefferson and Madison almost certainly would not have approved of them, but they are ideas that have as much legitimacy as America’s own Bill of Rights: if Madison can conjure up new rights with a few quill strokes there is likewise nothing to stop Supreme Court justices from doing the same thing. And so the list of entitlements owed to Americans steadily grows longer as its list of responsibilities dwindles.”

He correctly criticizes the contemporary understanding of liberty in liberal democracies. As I have explained elsewhere, these rights belong to private property owners within the spaces that they own. No one has a right to assemble, speak, print, and so on within private property if the owner disagrees with such activities. Those who would do so are trespassing and thus subject to physical removal. The current problem is that the state has greatly interfered with private property. This is a problem of the commons, and the only solution is to eliminate the commons and return it to private ownership.

From here, as Pendleton realizes, it only gets worse. When people fail to connect rights to logic and ownership of property, or more simply, to thought and action, they confuse negative rights with so-called “positive rights.” These positive rights cannot be valid because their provision violates the negative rights of other people. For instance, a right to healthcare implies that someone must be forced to provide healthcare, even if it against the provider’s wishes to serve that person.

But though he correctly identifies the problem, Pendleton proposes an incorrect solution. He seeks to restore the ancient Roman ideal of liberty rather than to correct the errors in the practice of modern liberty. The Romans viewed liberty in a collective sense, as imposing responsibilities to the state in eschange for individual rights. In truth, liberty is neither a list of entitlements nor a reward for serving society or the state; it is the result of gaining and defending private property. With this understanding, it is not ironic at all that libertarians would condemn a system which subordinates the individual to a collective as fascism (or more appropriately, as communism).

Rationalism and Empiricism

Pendleton claims that the Roman notion of liberty has the example of Singapore while the libertarian has no compelling models; only fantasies and Somalia. Implicit in this claim is a sort of historical determinism that demonstrates a lack of courage and imagination to look beyond what has been and see what is possible but as yet unrealized. As explained above, Somalia has shown improvement without a state. And fortunately, libertarians have more than fantasies; we have a priori theory. In the words of Hoppe, “A priori theory trumps and corrects experience (and logic overrules observation), and not vice-versa.”[3] This is because one may use rationalism without using empiricism, but one cannot use empiricism without using rationalism. That rationalism is independent and empiricism is dependent establishes a clear hierarchy between the two ways of knowing. Of course, this will not convince a strong empiricist of the historical determinist variety, but this has no bearing upon the truth value of the argument.

That being said, it is worth considering why there are no empirical examples of a stateless propertarian society in recent times. The obvious answer is that states initiate violence to sustain their operations, and libertarians have yet to suppress this aggression with enough defensive force to stop it. The other, less obvious explanation is that those who govern in statist systems know at one level or another that their institutions are unnecessary for the functioning of society, but that most people are more empirical than rational in their thinking. It is for this reason that they cannot allow a working example of a stateless society to be created, as this would permanently turn the masses against the state. They thus use force not only to maintain their power, but to ensure that most people never consider alternatives which do not include them.


Pendleton closes by contemplating the issues on the horizon for America, from racial tensions to Islamic terrorists, though he says nothing of the various economic issues. However, the “furious, explosive derailment” he fears is not only unavoidable, but necessary. The current system cannot be fixed; it must end in either a controlled demolition or a chaotic collapse. In any event, the answers are to be found in the restoration and enforcement of private property rights and freedom of association, with physical removal for those who challenge these norms. It is best to work toward emerging from this chaos looking neither like Singapore nor like Somalia, but as something completely novel in time memorial: a functional stateless society of covenant communities.


  1. Hans-Hermann Hoppe (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers. p. 218
  2. Bakunin, Mikhail (1871, 1882). God and the State. Mother Earth Publishing Association. Ch. 2
  3. Hoppe, p. xvi.

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

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Book Review: The Age of Jihad

The Age of Jihad is a book about political unrest in the Middle East by Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn. The book is a compilation of his notes and articles over a 20-year period (1996-2016) while traveling throughout the Middle East. Cockburn did direct reporting where possible, and relied upon first-hand accounts when venturing into certain places was too dangerous.

Cockburn begins with his reporting from Afghanistan in late 2001 as the United States began its intervention to remove the Taliban from power. Next, he shares his experiences of Iraq under sanctions from 1996, 1998, and 2001, followed by his experiences there during the American occupation from 2003 to 2010. This is followed by his next forays into Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012.

The next part of the book focuses on the Arab Spring and the events that followed, with particular emphasis on countries in which the rulers were not quickly deposed. Cockburn begins with the Libyan Civil War of 2011 that removed Muammar Gaddafi from power, along with the difficulties that followed. Sectarian violence in Yemen from 2009 to 2015 and the failed uprising in Bahrain in 2011 each get a chapter.

The last part of the book covers recent developments in Syria and Iraq. First, the Arab Spring in Syria and its development into the Syrian Civil War from 2011 to 2014 is discussed in two chapters. Another two chapters are devoted to the contemporaneous destabilization of Iraq. This culminates in the rise of ISIS and the establishment of the Caliphate, in and near which the final four chapters take place.

The book gives important insight into just how terrible daily life is for people in war-torn lands, including the near-absence of basic utilities, shortages of essential items, rampant unemployment, and fear of mistreatment both from rebel groups and one’s own government. The book is filled with anecdotes of behavior which have not been seen since the Renaissance in the West, and knowledge of this behavior helps to explain animosity toward migrants from that region. The reader may be familiar with some of the events described, but almost anyone would find new information somewhere in the book.

One comes away from the book with a sense that both Western and regional powers had to be trying to perform so poorly. Western powers sought to punish Saddam Hussein without regard for the Iraqi people who bore the brunt of sanctions. They ignored cultural attitudes and sectarian divisions while turning a blind eye to mass corruption that greatly weakened the nation-building projects in Afghanistan and Iraq. They removed dictators who were stabilizing forces, thus creating power vacuums which were filled by al-Qa’ida and its affiliates. It is difficult to be so maliciously incompetent without intending to do so.

Overall, Cockburn does an excellent job of conveying the reality on the ground in most of the conflicts in the War on Terrorism and the Arab Spring. The only real improvement would be to add sections on recent events in Egypt and Tunisia, which only get passing mentions as sources for jihadists in other places. The Age of Jihad belongs on the bookshelf of any serious student of recent history, the Middle East, revolutions, war, and/or the effects of foreign intervention.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Good Guys With Guns

Good Guys With Guns is a book about concealed firearms and their effects by sociologist Angela Stroud. The book discusses the rise in concealed carry permits, the way armed citizens interpret their environments, and the role of gender, race, class, and culture in firearm ownership through a series of interviews conducted by Stroud.

The interviews illuminate many interesting aspects of firearm ownership which are not adequately discussed elsewhere, and Stroud makes a genuine effort to understand people who disagree with her. But she commits a multitude of errors which are common among leftists and sociologists, and seems to be unable to keep herself from doing so. A survey of these errors will be more edifying than a more typical book review, so let us explore where and how Stroud goes wrong.

In the opening chapter, Stroud claims that gun advocates ignore empirical data which show that women might be more harmed than guns than protected by them, but there is good reason to ignore such data.1 She describes security, family values, individual freedom, and the defense of vulnerable people from criminals as being inherently masculine values rather than healthy values for any person regardless of gender. Later in the chapter, she describes her research methods, detailing the number of interviews, the types of people interviewed, the length and location of the interviews. She concludes the chapter by describing her own views and how they were changed by her research activities.

The second chapter opens with Stroud describing her concealed handgun license (CHL) test experience and criticizing her instructor for calling out incompetence and foolishness in other people during the shooting part of the test. She then argues that gender roles are social constructs while showing little recognition of the biological and environmental realities upon which such constructs are built. This is a recurring error that she makes toward a variety of subjects throughout the book. On the subject of good guys and bad guys, she neglects to mention a third type of character (who might be called an antihero guy) who breaks the rules not to take pleasure in violence for violence’s sake, but due to desperation and/or rules which promote injustice. Like most of her supposed binaries, this is actually a sliding scale between two pure extremes. Her interviews with men reveal some expected results: firearm ownership and use provides a bonding experience for males; men who are vulnerable due to aging or lack of size feel more secure when armed; and men carry guns as part of their traditional role as family protector. But she dismisses the concerns of the men who feel vulnerable as “elaborate fantasies,” seems to have no concept of peace through mutually assured destruction, and presents the vulnerability of women without guns against men as a social construct rather than a frequent empirical fact. She claims that men who want guns to defend their families but are frequently away from home and men who believe it is their job to defend their families because they are physically stronger but want women to have guns as equalizers are in contradiction, but there is nothing contradictory about these positions. Later, she suggests that a response to being robbed is to let the robbers get away with what they want, which shows no understanding of how incentives work.

The third chapter is about Stroud’s interviews with women who carry guns. Again, the interviews reveal what we might expect: women are usually introduced to guns by men instead of other women or their own initiative; many women who carry firearms do so to reject the need for men to protect them; women do not have access to as many institutionalized opportunities to learn about guns as men do; carrying firearms can restore a sense of strength and confidence in women who have been victimized; women can gain a sense of pride from mastering what is thought of as a predominantly male activity; and women with children typically value their children’s lives above their own. Stroud claims that it is paradoxical for women to fear men and rely on them for protection, but this is only true if it is the same men in both cases. Her analysis of women’s vulnerability as a social construction is flawed because it relies too strongly on empiricism; while it is true that men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime, the average woman is more victimizable than the average man due to the difference in size and physical ability. Her claim that arguing against common female perceptions about guns amounts to reinforcing the patriarchal nature of gun culture is an example of kafkatrapping. She continually attributes to patriarchy what is actually the result of male disposability.

The fourth chapter discusses perceptions of good versus evil, and how race and class shape those perceptions. Stroud claims that crime is a social construction, but because crime is defined as violating the law, it follows that the law is also a social construction. This makes the idea of determining good guys versus bad guys with respect to their obedience of the law or lack thereof entirely subjective, making her analysis of people who carry firearms illegally highly questionable. Her discussion of the perception that young black men are viewed as criminals neglects to mention crime statistics which show that they are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime. This is especially interesting given her claim in the next chapter that there is a lack of awareness of data on criminal victimization. Stroud contrasts those who respect a business owner’s right to refuse service to anyone with those who will not support a business that prohibits firearms on its premises, but these positions are mutually consistent as long as one does not violate a property owner’s wishes. She glosses over an instance in which a female demonstrates privilege vis-a-vis males. She speculates about what might have happened to a man who caused an incident if he had been black instead of white as though it were a foregone conclusion that the police would have fired on him rather than restrain themselves and assess the situation. As mentioned earlier, good versus evil is not a binary construct, but a sliding scale with various shades of gray. That said, the reason that women are almost never mentioned as bad guys is partly because men are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime and partly due to the relative disposability of males.

The fifth chapter covers self-defense and personal responsibility, from protection against criminals all the way to doomsday prepping. Again, Stroud seems to have no sense of objective reality, instead referring to threat perception solely as a social construct. The belief that the outcasts of society are necessary to define its boundaries demonstrates an inability to step outside of binary thinking and look at how a society can define itself in terms of what it is for rather than only what it is against. Stroud discusses free markets as though they have existed, and is critical of the supposed result of them, in effect blaming capitalism instead of cronyism or communo-fascism. She claims that white perceptions of the high rate of homicides among blacks can only be viewed as a case of white racial apathy, but it may also be a case of whites expecting blacks to take responsibility for solving their own problems and fixing their own communities instead of expecting the state to do it for them, especially because the state has caused most of their problems. She seems incapable of understanding privilege as something that is earned and inequality as something that is both extant and just, though perhaps not at its current extent. Ultimately, she regards individualism not as an empirically observable fact, but as a fiction of whiteness. That those who have enough wherewithal and firepower to survive would be the only survivors in a complete breakdown of civilization is the result of any logically sound consideration of disasters, with the exact nature of who survives a particular scenario providing the definition of “enough” for that scenario.

The final chapter discusses the social implications of an armed citizenry. Stroud repeats the mistake of viewing the idea of a threatening other as a social construct rather than an empirical reality. She asks how it can be that gun violence is both so common that good people need guns for defense but so uncommon that restrictions on gun purchases are unjustified, without considering that the answer is that the restrictions which do exist have a terrible track record of stopping criminals. For some reason, she believes that criminals will obey gun control laws even though they disobey laws by definition.2 The idea that gun restrictions represent a slippery slope toward confiscation is not a baseless conspiracy theory; it is demonstrated by a multitude of cases. She speaks of the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman incident as though it was black versus white, but it was really black versus Latino. She confuses social responses with state responses, which need not be equivalent. We know how Adam Lanza gained access to guns; he killed his mother and took her guns, meaning that no gun control law that forbade him from owning guns would have worked against him. That government must play a role in creating stronger communities and keeping guns away from violent criminals is asserted without evidence and may therefore be dismissed without evidence. To say that we must refuse to become victims in a democratic society is to ignore the fact that democracy necessarily victimizes people. Finally, she speaks of structural social inequality that perpetuates injustice while seeking more government involvement without realizing that government is inherently a structure that causes social inequality between its agents and the citizenry and perpetuates injustice in favor of its agents against the citizenry.

While there are many insightful points made in the book, Stroud commits far too many fallacies along the way for the book to be enjoyable or read smoothly. What could have been an excellent work on an important topic is instead bogged down by postmodern discourse, social justice rhetoric, and shoddy reasoning.

Rating: 2/5


  1. Empiricism cannot provide a sufficient explanation of a situation in which counterfactuals are important. This is because empirical methods only allow us to look at the choices which were made and the consequences thereof. Examining what would have happened had a different choice been made requires one to use rationalism instead. With regard to gun issues, this means that studies which suggest that being armed could make one more likely to be harmed must be taken with a grain of salt, as there is no way to know what would have happened to armed people in a counterfactual in which they were unarmed, and vice versa.
  2. Also note that the Supreme Court has ruled in Haynes v. United States (1968) that some gun control laws which are supposed to apply to criminals do not because this would violate their Fifth Amendment right not to self-incriminate.

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.

Would Ron Paul Have Defeated Barack Obama? An Educated Guess

On Nov. 6, 2012, President Obama defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney by an Electoral College margin of 332−206, with the following electoral map.


But what if the Republican establishment had not gotten behind Romney from the beginning? What if Ron Paul had been the Republican nominee? Could he have defeated Obama in the general election? Let us look at the available data and attempt to answer this question. Before we begin, we must note that this analysis cannot account for the completely different general election campaign and debates that would have occurred between Obama and Paul, the possibility that an establishment Republican-type candidate would have run on a third-party ticket and gained significant support in the event of a Paul nomination, or the possibility that establishment Republicans could have acted faithlessly in the Electoral College in the event of a Paul nomination.

Let us begin by listing the major considerations of such a calculation. We start with Mitt Romney’s and Barack Obama’s vote totals, and then add or subtract the following factors as follows:

  1. Add the number of voters who cast a write-in vote for Ron Paul to the Republican column. Let us call this V(Paul).
  2. Add the number of voters who chose not to vote because Ron Paul was not on the ballot to the Republican column. Let us call this V(Disaffected).
  3. Add the number of voters who voted for a third party candidate but would have voted for Paul to the Republican column. Let us call this V(Third).
  4. Add the number of voters who voted for Obama over Romney but would have voted for Paul over Obama to the Republican column. Subtract this number from the Democratic column. Let us call this V(Spite).
  5. Subtract the number of voters who voted for Romney over Obama but would have stayed home or voted for a third party candidate in the event of a Paul nomination from the Republican column. Let us call this V(Die-hard Romney).
  6. Add the number of voters who stayed home or voted for a third party candidate but would have voted for Obama to try to defeat Paul to the Democratic column. Let us call this V(Third Anti-Paul).
  7. Subtract the number of voters who voted for Romney over Obama but would have voted for Obama to try to defeat Paul from the Republican column. Add this number to the Democratic column. Let us call this V(Romney Anti-Paul).
  8. Subtract the number of voters who voted for Obama over Romney but would have stayed home or voted for a third party candidate in the event of a Paul nomination from the Democratic column. Let us call this V(Anti-Romney).

The estimated vote for Ron Paul can be expressed as

V'(Paul)=V(Romney)+V(Paul)+V(Disaffected)+V(Third)+V(Spite)−V(Die-hard Romney)−V(Romney Anti-Paul), (1)

and the estimated Obama vote can be expressed as

V'(Obama)=V(Obama)−V(Spite)+V(Third Anti-Paul)+V(Romney Anti-Paul)−V(Anti-Romney). (2)

Now let us attempt to determine the values of the factors. In states with semi-open (independents allowed, members of other parties not allowed) or closed primary processes (only Republicans allowed), it is necessary to multiply by 1.5 or 2, respectively, in order to account for Paul supporters who were unable to vote for him because of their party affiliation. Let us call this constant the C-value.

V(Paul) can be directly used on a limited basis, as some states do not require a write-in candidate to file a form to be counted as a write-in candidate. In those states, we can simply use the vote count for V(Paul). We can then compare the percentage of the known write-ins to the percentage of votes Paul received in the Republican primaries and caucuses from those states and account for the type of primary or caucus as well as the total number of general election votes to get an average ratio. This ratio is 0.072, and it can be used to estimate V(Paul) for the states that did not count write-in votes for Paul.

V(Disaffected) is impossible to calculate, because there is no way to count a non-vote. This means that an educated guess will have to suffice. Robin Koerner conducted a poll in August 2012 of Paul supporters and found that 12% of Paul supporters intended to do something other than vote for Gary Johnson (66%; this amount is already present in V(Johnson)), write-in Ron Paul (16%), or vote for Mitt Romney (6%; this amount is already present in V(Romney)). As part of this 12% would be supporters of Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode who are accounted for in V(Third), another part would be “spite voters” for Obama who are accounted for in V(Spite), and it is uncharacteristic for Paul supporters to do nothing, it is best to be conservative in our guess of how many Paul supporters decided not to vote at all. A reasonable figure would be 4%. Therefore, V(Disaffected) should be 4% of Paul’s primary vote in states with open primaries or caucuses, where all of Paul’s supporters were free to vote for him. The problem in calculating comes from so-called “Blue Republicans” who were registered Democratic, and were therefore not allowed to vote in closed Republican primaries and caucuses. A survey done in Iowa before the January 3 caucus showed that only 51% of those who supported Ron Paul self-identified as Republicans. In New Hampshire, the figure was 56%. So in semi-open primary and caucus states, V(Disaffected) should be 6% of Paul’s primary vote; and in closed primary and caucus states, V(Disaffected) should be 8% of Paul’s primary vote.

V(Third) mostly consists of Johnson voters, with a few Goode voters mixed in. It is unlikely to include voters who supported Green Party nominee Jill Stein, Peace and Freedom Party nominee Roseanne Barr, or Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson, as they are mostly a far-left element with little interest in an economic and social conservative like Paul. Johnson publicly stated that he would not have continued running if it meant running against Paul as the Republican nominee. Not all Johnson voters would have supported Paul due to a few differences on social issues, but as Paul was the Libertarian nominee in 1988 and is still highly regarded by most people in the Libertarian Party, most of Johnson’s voters would have supported Paul. As for Goode, while Paul did not endorse anyone in 2012, he endorsed Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party nominee, in 2008. Goode received in 2012 about 60% of the votes that Baldwin received in 2008. This appears to indicate that a Paul endorsement can significantly increase a Constitution Party nominee’s turnout. Therefore, let us assign V(Third) a value of 2/3 of Virgil Goode’s vote who are not part of the 12% of Paul supporters mentioned in V(Disaffected), as well as 90% of the Gary Johnson voters who are not part of the 66% of Paul supporters mentioned in V(Disaffected). Perhaps 4% of all Paul supporters would have looked at Goode as the next best option. The final value of V(Third) is then 2/3 of other Goode voters plus 90% of other Johnson voters plus:

70% of Paul’s primary vote in open primary and caucus states;

105% of Paul’s primary vote in semi-closed primary and caucus states; and

140% of Paul’s primary vote in closed primary and caucus states.

Note that in states with a small turnout for Johnson or Goode relative to Paul’s primary vote, one or both of the first two parts of this factor may be negative. In such cases, the negative parts of this factor should be set to zero, as the purpose is to count positive voters for Johnson or Goode who would vote for Paul.

V(Spite) consists of two main groups: voters who are Democrats but would have crossed party lines to vote for Paul, but did not cross party lines to vote for Romney; and so-called “spite voters” who chose to vote for Obama because their candidate (Paul) did not become the Republican nominee. This group of voters is related to the groups of voters who make up V(Disaffected) and V(Third), but these voters decided that sticking it to Romney and the Republican establishment by voting for his major-party opponent was a better option than staying home or casting a third-party protest vote. This amount is probably about 4% of Paul supporters, but there are also “Blue Republicans” in this group. A good estimate is that V(Spite) is roughly equal to V(Disaffected).

V(Die-hard Romney) consists of people who voted for Romney as a vote against Obama, but would have found Paul to be objectionable as well. They would not have voted for Paul as a vote against Obama, choosing to either support a third party candidate or not vote instead. These voters would mostly be those who supported Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries, and could not tolerate Paul’s positions on social issues and/or foreign policy enough to hold their noses and vote for him. The last PPP poll to compare an Obama/Romney race to an Obama/Paul race found that 82% of Republican respondents said they would ultimately be willing to back Romney, while 76% of Republican respondents said they would ultimately be willing to back Paul. Therefore, a reasonable value for V(Die-hard Romney) should not exceed 6% of this 82%, or 7.32% of the Romney vote. Let us assign V(Die-hard Romney) a value of 5% of Romney’s vote total.

V(Third Anti-Paul) consists of left-leaning voters who did not turn out against Romney but would have turned out against Paul. But the Democratic base had an abnormally high turnout like they did in 2008. Any significant value for V(Third Anti-Paul) would probably have to be diverted from the vote totals of left-wing third party candidates, such as Stein, Barr, and Anderson. But the voters who supported these candidates are mostly far-left voters who are disappointed in Obama’s record as President, and are unlikely to vote for him in almost any case. Let us assign V(Third Anti-Paul) a value of 20% of the vote totals of Stein, Barr, and Anderson.

V(Romney Anti-Paul) consists of two main groups: voters who are Democrats but crossed party lines to vote for Mitt Romney, but would not have crossed party lines to vote for Paul; and so-called “spite voters” who would have chosen to vote for Obama because their candidate (Romney) would not have become the Republican nominee. This group of voters is related to the group of voters who make up V(Die-hard Romney), but these voters would have decided that sticking it to Paul and the libertarian wing of the Republican Party by voting for his major-party opponent was a better option than staying home or casting a third-party protest vote. Due to the small number of Democrats who voiced support for Romney, the reluctance of Republicans to back Romney in the primaries, and the nearly universal hatred shown by Republicans toward Obama, this factor is probably rather small. Let us assign V(Romney Anti-Paul) a value of 1% of Romney’s vote total.

V(Anti-Romney) consists of people who voted for Obama in order to vote against Romney, but would not care about an Obama/Paul race. These voters would tend to be progressives who are disappointed enough in Obama to not vote for him on his own merits, but voted for him because they oppose Romney. These voters would be indifferent to Paul, not supporting him enough to vote for him but not opposing him enough to vote against him, so they would vote for Stein, Barr, or Anderson, or stay home. Given Paul’s polarizing nature on issues that are important to progressives, V(Anti-Romney) is probably small enough to be safely assigned a value of zero.

Finally, we must modify the Paul primary vote to account for the difference between primary turnout and general election turnout. This constant, which we will call T, has a different value in each state, and is defined as the number of general election voters in that state divided by twice the number of Republican primary or caucus voters in that state. (The factor of 2 would not apply if there had been a serious primary challenger to Barack Obama. In that case, we could add the Democratic primary figures into the denominator instead.) To avoid anomalous results and keep the modified vote total below the total number of registered voters in each state, let us reduce all T-values greater than 15 to 15. So our final equations are

V'(Paul)=V(Romney)+T*[V(Paul)+2*V(Disaffected)+V(Third)]−V(Die-hard Romney)−V(Romney Anti-Paul), (3)

with the Johnson and/or Goode parts of V(Third) being excluded when they have negative values, and

V'(Obama)=V(Obama)−T*V(Disaffected)+V(Third Anti-Paul)+V(Romney Anti-Paul). (4)

Let us now apply equations (3) and (4) to the national popular vote, as well as to the vote in each state.

Alabama: The general election result was 1,255,925 votes for Mitt Romney, 795,696 votes for Barack Obama, 12,328 votes for Gary Johnson, 3,397 votes for Jill Stein, 2,981 votes for Virgil Goode, and 4,011 votes for other candidates. Alabama has an open primary (C=1), and there were 30,950 primary votes for Ron Paul. Alabama’s T-value is 1.666. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,225,775 votes for Ron Paul and 806,872 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Alabama’s 9 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Alaska: The general election result was 164,676 votes for Mitt Romney, 122,640 votes for Barack Obama, 7,392 votes for Gary Johnson, 2,917 votes for Jill Stein, and 2,870 votes for other candidates. Alaska has an open caucus (C=1), and there were 3,410 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Alaska’s T-value is 11.366. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 237,870 votes for Ron Paul and 123,320 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Alaska’s 3 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Arizona: The general election result was 1,233,654 votes for Mitt Romney, 1,025,232 votes for Barack Obama, 32,100 votes for Gary Johnson, 7,816 votes for Jill Stein, 289 votes for Virgil Goode, 119 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 44 votes for other candidates. Arizona has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 43,952 primary votes for Ron Paul. Arizona’s T-value is 2.253. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,328,462 votes for Ron Paul and 1,031,234 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Arizona’s 11 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Arkansas: The general election result was 647,744 votes for Mitt Romney, 394,409 votes for Barack Obama, 16,276 votes for Gary Johnson, 9,305 votes for Jill Stein, and 1,734 votes for other candidates. Arkansas has an open primary (C=1), and there were 20,399 primary votes for Ron Paul. Arkansas’ T-value is 3.510. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 674,069 votes for Ron Paul and 399,884 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Arkansas’s 6 electoral votes, as Romney did.

California: The general election result was 7,854,285 votes for Barack Obama, 4,839,958 votes for Mitt Romney, 143,221 votes for Gary Johnson, 85,638 votes for Jill Stein, 53,824 votes for Roseanne Barr, 21,461 votes for Ron Paul, 992 votes for Rocky Anderson, 503 votes for Virgil Goode, and 38,665 votes for other candidates. California has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 199,246 primary votes for Ron Paul. California’s T-value is 3.387. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 7,876,793 votes for Barack Obama and 5,699,997 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins California’s 55 electoral votes.

Colorado: The general election result was 1,323,101 votes for Barack Obama, 1,185,243 votes for Mitt Romney, 35,545 votes for Gary Johnson, 7,508 votes for Jill Stein, 6,234 votes for Virgil Goode, 5,059 votes for Roseanne Barr, 1,260 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 5,571 votes for other candidates. Colorado has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 7,759 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Colorado’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,773,281 votes for Ron Paul and 1,328,408 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Colorado’s 9 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Connecticut: The general election result was 905,083 votes for Barack Obama, 634,892 votes for Mitt Romney, 12,580 votes for Gary Johnson, 5,487 votes for Rocky Anderson, 863 votes for Jill Stein, and 55 votes for other candidates. Connecticut has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 8,032 primary votes for Ron Paul. Connecticut’s T-value is 13.083. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 904,295 votes for Barack Obama and 854,732 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Connecticut’s 7 electoral votes.

Delaware: The general election result was 242,584 votes for Barack Obama, 165,484 votes for Mitt Romney, 3,882 votes for Gary Johnson, 1,940 votes for Jill Stein, 23 votes for Virgil Goode, and 8 votes for other candidates. Delaware has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 3,017 primary votes for Ron Paul. Delaware’s T-value is 7.238. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 242,880 votes for Barack Obama and 203,663 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Delaware’s 3 electoral votes.

District of Columbia: The general election result was 267,070 votes for Barack Obama, 21,381 votes for Mitt Romney, 2,458 votes for Jill Stein, 2,083 votes for Gary Johnson, and 772 votes for other candidates. DC has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 621 primary votes for Ron Paul. DC’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 267,030 votes for Barack Obama and 57,952 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins DC’s 3 electoral votes.

Florida: The general election result was 4,237,756 votes for Barack Obama, 4,163,447 votes for Mitt Romney, 44,726 votes for Gary Johnson, 8,947 votes for Jill Stein, 8,154 votes for Roseanne Barr, 2,607 votes for Virgil Goode, 1,754 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 6,788 votes for other candidates. Florida has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 117,461 primary votes for Ron Paul. Florida’s T-value is 2.533. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 4,420,933 votes for Ron Paul and 4,259,357 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Florida’s 29 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Georgia: The general election result was 2,078,688 votes for Mitt Romney, 1,773,827 votes for Barack Obama, 45,324 votes for Gary Johnson, 1,516 votes for Jill Stein, 432 votes for Virgil Goode, 154 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 109 votes for other candidates. Georgia has an open primary (C=1), and there were 59,100 primary votes for Ron Paul. Georgia’s T-value is 2.163. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 2,066,809 votes for Ron Paul and 1,789,834 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Hawaii: The general election result was 306,658 votes for Barack Obama, 121,015 votes for Mitt Romney, 3,840 votes for Gary Johnson, and 3,184 votes for Jill Stein. Hawaii has an open caucus (C=1), and there were 1,975 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Hawaii’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 307,320 votes for Barack Obama and 171,295 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Hawaii’s 4 electoral votes.

Idaho: The general election result was 420,911 votes for Mitt Romney, 212,787 votes for Barack Obama, 9,453 votes for Gary Johnson, 4,402 votes for Jill Stein, 2,499 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 2,222 votes for Virgil Goode. Idaho has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 8,086 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Idaho’s T-value is 7.301. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 527,906 votes for Ron Paul and 213,654 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Idaho’s 4 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Illinois: The general election result was 3,019,512 votes for Barack Obama, 2,135,216 votes for Mitt Romney, 56,229 votes for Gary Johnson, 30,222 votes for Jill Stein, 419 votes for Virgil Goode, 185 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 231 votes for other candidates. Illinois has a semi-closed primary (C=1.5), and there were 87,044 primary votes for Ron Paul. Illinois’ T-value is 2.808. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 3,032,281 votes for Barack Obama and 2,319,620 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Illinois’s 20 electoral votes.

Indiana: The general election result was 1,420,543 votes for Mitt Romney, 1,152,887 votes for Barack Obama, 50,111 votes for Gary Johnson, 625 votes for Jill Stein, 290 votes for Virgil Goode, and 78 votes for other candidates. Indiana has an open primary (C=1), and there were 98,487 primary votes for Ron Paul. Indiana’s T-value is 2.065. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,508,648 votes for Ron Paul and 1,159,084 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Indiana’s 11 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Iowa: The general election result was 822,544 votes for Barack Obama, 730,617 votes for Mitt Romney, 12,926 votes for Gary Johnson, 3,769 votes for Jill Stein, 3,038 votes for Virgil Goode, and 9,286 votes for other candidates. Iowa has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 26,036 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Iowa’s T-value is 6.511. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 982,200 votes for Ron Paul and 817,042 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Iowa’s 6 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Kansas: The general election result was 692,634 votes for Mitt Romney, 440,726 votes for Barack Obama, 20,456 votes for Gary Johnson, 5,204 votes for Chuck Baldwin, 714 votes for Jill Stein, 95 votes for Rocky Anderson, 58 votes for Roseanne Barr, and 84 votes for other candidates. For this analysis, Baldwin’s votes will be counted as though they were Virgil Goode votes because the Kansas Reform Party usually runs the Constitution Party nominee, but it did not update its nominee from 2008. Kansas has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 3,767 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Kansas’ T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 797,191 votes for Ron Paul and 443,305 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Kansas’s 6 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Kentucky: The general election result was 1,087,190 votes for Mitt Romney, 679,370 votes for Barack Obama, 17,063 votes for Gary Johnson, 6,337 votes for Jill Stein, 245 votes for Virgil Goode, 60 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 6,947 votes for other candidates. Kentucky has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 22,074 primary votes for Ron Paul. Kentucky’s T-value is 5.101. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,217,951 votes for Ron Paul and 682,513 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Kentucky’s 8 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Louisiana: The general election result was 1,152,262 votes for Mitt Romney, 809,141 votes for Barack Obama, 18,157 votes for Gary Johnson, 6,978 votes for Jill Stein, 2,508 votes for Virgil Goode, 1,368 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 3,651 votes for other candidates. Louisiana has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 11,467 primary votes for Ron Paul. Louisiana’s T-value is 5.349. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,241,105 votes for Ron Paul and 817,426 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Louisiana’s 8 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Maine: The general election result was 401,306 votes for Barack Obama, 292,276 votes for Mitt Romney, 9,352 votes for Gary Johnson, 8,119 votes for Jill Stein, 2,305 votes for Ron Paul, 62 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 30 votes for other candidates. Maine has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 2,258 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Maine’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 436,382 votes for Ron Paul and 403,155 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Maine’s 4 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Maryland: The general election result was 1,677,844 votes for Barack Obama, 971,869 votes for Mitt Romney, 30,195 votes for Gary Johnson, 17.110 votes for Jill Stein, 453 votes for Virgil Goode, 204 votes for Rocky Anderson, 64 votes for Roseanne Barr, and 9,588 votes for other candidates. Maryland has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 23,609 primary votes for Ron Paul. Maryland’s T-value is 5.242. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,680,748 votes for Barack Obama and 1,196,008 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Maryland’s 10 electoral votes.

Massachusetts: The general election result was 1,921,290 votes for Barack Obama, 1,188,314 votes for Mitt Romney, 30,920 votes for Gary Johnson, 20,691 votes for Jill Stein, and 6,552 votes for other candidates. Massachusetts has a semi-closed primary (C=1.5), and there were 35,219 primary votes for Ron Paul. Massachusetts’s T-value is 4.276. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,928,276 votes for Barack Obama and 1,329,170 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Massachusetts’s 11 electoral votes.

Michigan: The general election result was 2,564,569 votes for Barack Obama, 2,115,256 votes for Mitt Romney, 21,897 votes for Jill Stein, 16,119 votes for Virgil Goode, 7,774 votes against Gary Johnson, 5,147 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 199 votes for other candidates. Michigan has an open primary (C=1), and there were 115,911 primary votes for Ron Paul. Michigan’s T-value is 2.374. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 2,580,124 votes for Barack Obama and 2,237,393 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Michigan’s 16 electoral votes.

Minnesota: The general election result was 1,546,167 votes for Barack Obama, 1,320,225 votes for Mitt Romney, 35,098 votes for Gary Johnson, 13,023 votes for Jill Stein, 3,722 votes for Virgil Goode, 1,996 votes for Rocky Anderson, 46 votes for Roseanne Barr, and 16,284 votes for other candidates. Minnesota has an open caucus (C=1), and there were 13,282 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Minnesota’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,782,427 votes for Ron Paul and 1,554,413 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Minnesota’s 10 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Mississippi: The general election result was 710,746 votes for Mitt Romney, 562,949 votes for Barack Obama, 6,676 votes for Gary Johnson, 2,609 votes for Virgil Goode, 1,588 votes for Jill Stein, and 1,016 votes for other candidates. Mississippi has an open primary (C=1), and there were 12,955 primary votes for Ron Paul. Mississippi’s T-value is 2.186. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 694,906 votes for Ron Paul and 569,242 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Mississippi’s 6 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Missouri: The general election result was 1,482,440 votes for Mitt Romney, 1,223,796 votes for Barack Obama, 43,151 votes for Gary Johnson, and 7,936 votes for Virgil Goode. Missouri has an open caucus (C=1), and there were 30,647 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Missouri’s T-value is 5.467. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,660,269 votes for Ron Paul and 1,231,919 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Missouri’s 10 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Montana: The general election result was 267,928 votes for Mitt Romney, 201,839 votes for Barack Obama, 14,165 votes for Gary Johnson, 59 votes for Rocky Anderson, 39 votes for Virgil Goode, 6 votes for Roseanne Barr, and 12 votes for other candidates. Montana has an open primary (C=1), and there were 20,227 primary votes for Ron Paul. Montana’s T-value is 1.723. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 281,563 votes for Ron Paul and 203,137 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Montana’s 3 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Nebraska: The general election result was 475,064 votes for Mitt Romney, 302,081 votes for Barack Obama, 11,109 votes for Gary Johnson, and 6,125 votes for other candidates. Nebraska has a semi-closed primary (C=1.5), and there were 18,508 primary votes for Ron Paul. Nebraska’s T-value is 2.142. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 497,259 votes for Ron Paul and 304,453 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Nebraska’s 5 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Nevada: The general election result was 531,373 votes for Barack Obama, 463,567 votes for Mitt Romney, 10,968 votes for Gary Johnson, 3,240 votes for Virgil Goode, and 5,770 votes for other candidates. Nevada has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 6,177 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Nevada’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 709,330 votes for Ron Paul and 528,596 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Nevada’s 6 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

New Hampshire: The general election result was 369,561 votes for Barack Obama, 329,918 votes for Mitt Romney, 8,212 votes for Gary Johnson, 1,374 votes for Ron Paul, 708 votes for Virgil Goode, 324 votes for Jill Stein, and 875 votes for other candidates. New Hampshire has a semi-closed primary (C=1.5), and there were 56,872 primary votes for Ron Paul. New Hampshire’s T-value is 1.431. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 414,162 votes for Ron Paul and 368,043 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins New Hampshire’s 4 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

New Jersey: The general election result was 2,125,101 votes for Barack Obama, 1,477,568 votes for Mitt Romney, 21,045 votes for Gary Johnson, 9,888 votes for Jill Stein, 2,064 votes for Virgil Goode, 1,724 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 2,902 votes for other candidates. New Jersey has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 24,017 primary votes for Ron Paul. New Jersey’s T-value is 7.864. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 2,127,090 votes for Barack Obama and 1,738,459 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins New Jersey’s 14 electoral votes.

New Mexico: The general election result was 415,335 votes for Barack Obama, 335,788 votes for Mitt Romney, 27,788 votes for Gary Johnson, 2,691 votes for Jill Stein, 1,174 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 982 votes for Virgil Goode. New Mexico has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 9,363 primary votes for Ron Paul. New Mexico’s T-value is 4.349. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 468,163 votes for Ron Paul and 416,208 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins New Mexico’s 5 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

New York: The general election result was 4,485,781 votes for Barack Obama, 2,490,431 votes for Mitt Romney, 47,256 votes for Gary Johnson, 39,982 votes for Jill Stein, 6,274 votes for Virgil Goode, 217 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 11,258 votes for other candidates. New York has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 27,699 primary votes for Ron Paul. New York’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 4,485,486 votes for Barack Obama and 3,459,220 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins New York’s 29 electoral votes.

North Carolina: The general election result was 2,270,395 votes for Mitt Romney, 2,178,391 votes for Barack Obama, 44,515 votes for Gary Johnson, 534 votes for Virgil Goode, and 11,537 votes for other candidates. North Carolina has a semi-closed primary (C=1.5), and there were 108,217 primary votes for Ron Paul. North Carolina’s T-value is 2.315. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 2,454,467 votes for Ron Paul and 2,186,066 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes, as Romney did.

North Dakota: The general election result was 188,163 votes for Mitt Romney, 124,827 votes for Barack Obama, 5,231 votes for Gary Johnson, 1,361 votes for Jill Stein, 1,185 votes for Virgil Goode, and 1,860 votes for other candidates. North Dakota has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 3,816 caucus votes for Ron Paul. North Dakota’s T-value is 14.214. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 300,527 votes for Ron Paul and 123,358 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins North Dakota’s 3 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Ohio: The general election result was 2,827,710 votes for Barack Obama, 2,661,433 votes for Mitt Romney, 49,493 votes for Gary Johnson, 18,574 votes for Jill Stein, 8,152 votes for Virgil Goode, and 15,483 votes for other candidates. Ohio has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 113,256 primary votes for Ron Paul. Ohio’s T-value is 2.299. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 2,947,694 votes for Ron Paul and 2,837,211 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Oklahoma: The general election result was 891,325 votes for Mitt Romney and 443,547 votes for Barack Obama. Oklahoma has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 27,596 primary votes for Ron Paul. Oklahoma’s T-value is 2.329. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 947,441 votes for Ron Paul and 447,318 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Oklahoma’s 7 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Oregon: The general election result was 970,488 votes for Barack Obama, 754,175 votes for Mitt Romney, 24,089 votes for Gary Johnson, 19,427 votes for Jill Stein, 4,432 votes for Will Christensen, 3,384 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 17,707 votes for other candidates. For this analysis, Christensen’s votes will be counted as though they were Virgil Goode votes because the Oregon Constitution Party chose Christensen as its nominee instead of Goode. Oregon has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 36,810 primary votes for Ron Paul. Oregon’s T-value is 3.115. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 973,420 votes for Barack Obama and 909,002 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Oregon’s 7 electoral votes.

Pennsylvania: The general election result was 2,990,274 votes for Barack Obama, 2,680,434 votes for Mitt Romney, 49,991 votes for Gary Johnson, 21,341 votes for Jill Stein, 383 votes for Virgil Goode, and 11,247 votes for other candidates. Pennsylvania has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 106,148 primary votes for Ron Paul. Pennsylvania’s T-value is 3.560. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 3,163,854 votes for Ron Paul and 2,991,116 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Rhode Island: The general election result was 279,677 votes for Barack Obama, 157,204 votes for Mitt Romney, 4,388 votes for Gary Johnson, 2,421 votes for Jill Stein, 617 votes for Ron Paul, 430 votes for Virgil Goode, 416 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 896 votes for other candidates. Rhode Island has a semi-closed primary (C=1.5), and there were 3,473 primary votes for Ron Paul. Rhode Island’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 278,691 votes for Barack Obama and 241,456 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Rhode Island’s 4 electoral votes.

South Carolina: The general election result was 1,071,645 votes for Mitt Romney, 865,941 votes for Barack Obama, 16,321 votes for Gary Johnson, 5,446 votes for Jill Stein, and 4,765 votes for Virgil Goode. South Carolina has an open primary (C=1), and there were 78,360 primary votes for Ron Paul. South Carolina’s T-value is 1.627. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,116,065 votes for Ron Paul and 872,648 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins South Carolina’s 9 electoral votes, as Romney did.

South Dakota: The general election result was 210,610 votes for Mitt Romney, 145,039 votes for Barack Obama, 5,795 votes for Gary Johnson, and 2,371 votes for Virgil Goode. South Dakota has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 6,657 primary votes for Ron Paul. South Dakota’s T-value is 3.531. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 245,585 votes for Ron Paul and 145,265 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins South Dakota’s 3 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Tennessee: The general election result was 1,462,330 votes for Mitt Romney, 960,709 votes for Barack Obama, 18,623 votes for Gary Johnson, 6,515 votes for Jill Stein, 6,022 votes for Virgil Goode, 2,639 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 1,739 votes for other candidates. Tennessee has an open primary (C=1), and there were 50,156 primary votes for Ron Paul. Tennessee’s T-value is 2.217. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,473,815 votes for Ron Paul and 972,716 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Texas: The general election result was 4,569,843 votes for Mitt Romney, 3,308,124 votes for Barack Obama, 88,580 votes for Gary Johnson, 24,657 votes for Jill Stein, 1,287 votes for Virgil Goode, 426 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 934 votes for other candidates. Texas has an open primary (C=1), and there were 174,207 primary votes for Ron Paul. Texas’ T-value is 2.757. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 4,705,147 votes for Ron Paul and 3,339,624 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Texas’s 38 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Utah: The general election result was 740,600 votes for Mitt Romney, 251,813 votes for Barack Obama, 12,572 votes for Gary Johnson, 5,335 votes for Rocky Anderson, 3,817 votes for Jill Stein, 2,871 votes for Virgil Goode, 18 for Roseanne Barr, and 414 votes for other candidates. Utah has a closed primary (C=2), and there were 11,520 primary votes for Ron Paul. Utah’s T-value is 2.144. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 741,381 votes for Ron Paul and 259,077 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Utah’s 6 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Vermont: The general election result was 199,239 votes for Barack Obama, 92,698 votes for Mitt Romney, 3,487 votes for Gary Johnson, 1,128 votes for Rocky Anderson, 717 votes for Ron Paul, 594 votes for Jill Stein, 13 votes for Virgil Goode, 9 votes for Roseanne Barr, and 1,405 votes for other candidates. Vermont has an open primary (C=1), and there were 15,391 primary votes for Ron Paul. Vermont’s T-value is 2.459. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 198,998 votes for Barack Obama and 119,401 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Vermont’s 3 electoral votes.

Virginia: The general election result was 1,971,820 votes for Barack Obama, 1,822,522 votes for Mitt Romney, 31,216 votes for Gary Johnson, 13,058 votes for Virgil Goode, 8,627 votes for Jill Stein, 76 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 7,170 votes for other candidates. Virginia has an open primary (C=1), and there were 107,451 primary votes for Ron Paul. Virginia’s T-value is 7.257. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 2,409,871 votes for Ron Paul and 1,960,595 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

Washington: The general election result was 1,755,396 votes for Barack Obama, 1,290,670 votes for Mitt Romney, 42,202 votes for Gary Johnson, 20,928 votes for Jill Stein, 8,851 votes for Virgil Goode, 4,946 votes for Rocky Anderson, and 2,523 votes for other candidates. Washington has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 12,594 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Washington’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 2,061,302 votes for Ron Paul and 1,758,365 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Washington’s 12 electoral votes, which Romney failed to do.

West Virginia: The general election result was 417,655 votes for Mitt Romney, 238,269 votes for Barack Obama, 6,302 votes for Gary Johnson, 4,406 votes for Jill Stein, and 3,806 votes for other candidates. West Virginia has a semi-closed primary (C=2), and there were 12,412 primary votes for Ron Paul. West Virginia’s T-value is 2.982. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 439,922 votes for Ron Paul and 241,106 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins West Virginia’s 5 electoral votes, as Romney did.

Wisconsin: The general election result was 1,620,985 votes for Barack Obama, 1,407,966 votes for Mitt Romney, 20,439 votes for Gary Johnson, 7,665 votes for Jill Stein, 4,930 votes for Virgil Goode, 112 votes for Rocky Anderson, 88 votes for Roseanne Barr, and 6,249 votes for other candidates. Wisconsin has an open primary (C=1), and there were 87,858 primary votes for Ron Paul. Wisconsin’s T-value is 1.947. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 1,629,794 votes for Barack Obama and 1,469,334 votes for Ron Paul. Obama still wins Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.

Wyoming: The general election result was 170,962 votes for Mitt Romney, 69,286 votes for Barack Obama, 5,326 votes for Gary Johnson, 1,452 votes for Virgil Goode, and 2,035 votes for other candidates. Wyoming has a closed caucus (C=2), and there were 439 caucus votes for Ron Paul. Wyoming’s T-value is 15. Applying the equations, the vote becomes 253,743 votes for Ron Paul and 70,469 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins Wyoming’s 3 electoral votes, as Romney did.

National popular vote: The general election result was 65,915,835 votes for Barack Obama, 60,933,500 votes for Mitt Romney, 1,275,971 votes for Gary Johnson, 469,928 votes for Jill Stein, 131,877 votes for Virgil Goode, 67,326 votes for Roseanne Barr, 43,018 votes for Rocky Anderson, 26,204 votes for Ron Paul, and 226,520 votes for other candidates. There were 2,105,358 votes for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries and caucuses. Summing the above results, the vote becomes 70,214,176 votes for Ron Paul and 66,169,260 votes for Barack Obama. Paul wins the popular vote, which Romney failed to do. In all but five states, Paul has a better margin against Obama than Romney did. Romney had a better margin of victory than the estimation for Paul in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Utah. These states are all Republican strongholds at present.

Electoral College: The result of the above analysis is that Paul defeats Obama by a 342196 margin, compared to the 332206 margin by which Obama defeated Romney. The difference is that Paul manages to win Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, all of which were lost by Romney. Also, Paul does not lose any state that Romney won. This is a net gain of 136 electoral votes for the Republican candidate. In terms of states carried, Paul carries 36 and Obama carries 14+DC, while Obama carried 26+DC and Romney carried 24 in the real 2012 race. This produces the following electoral map.


In general, a larger T-value indicates a less reliable figure, as it indicates a very small primary or caucus turnout relative to the general election turnout. For the states that Paul flips into the Republican column, the minimum T-values that allow Paul to win are as follows: Maine 11.968, Washington 9.736, Minnesota 8.775, Nevada 5.352, Colorado 5.018, Iowa 3.031, New Mexico 2.899, Virginia 2.778, Pennsylvania 2.649, Florida 1.763, Ohio 1.755, New Hampshire 0.825. The last elections in which these states went Republican were as follows: Maine 1988, Washington 1984, Minnesota 1972, Nevada 2004, Colorado 2004, Iowa 2004, New Mexico 2004, Virginia 2004, Pennsylvania 1988, Florida 2004, Ohio 2004, New Hampshire 2000. Most of these states were considered by at least some commentators to be swing states, except for Washington. That Paul could have won Washington may seem surprising, but Paul had a strong showing in the caucus there with significant enthusiasm across party lines as well.

Now let us grant Obama some leeway and see what happens. If we exclude states that require a T-value above 8, Paul still wins the Electoral College by a 316−222 margin, with the following electoral map.


If we exclude states that require a T-value above 5, Paul still wins the Electoral College by a 301−237 margin, with the following electoral map.


If we exclude states that Republicans have not won since before 2000, Paul still wins the Electoral College by a 296−242 margin, with the following electoral map.


So, could Ron Paul have defeated Barack Obama? Absolutely. Would Ron Paul have defeated Barack Obama? We will never know.

The Not-So-Current Year: 2015 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 2015 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.

In December 2014, an assassination of two NYPD officers prompted many libertarians to signal hard against the use of force against agents of the state. I decided to argue the opposing case. The harassment of the Meitiv family by Child Protective Services prompted another such article. Julian Adorney resolved that good government police exist, and I responded by explaining why this is impossible. I used another NYPD incident to argue that when government agents and common criminals fight, we should pull for no one. When Tremaine Wilbourn killed a police officer during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tenn, I wrote a list of observations on the event which mostly follow the aforementioned articles.

Many libertarians praise decentralization, and rightly so. But it is neither good nor evil in and of itself. It can be used for good or evil ends, and I explored the latter.

On Burns night, I observed that a proper haggis was unavailable in the United States and found that as usual, the state is to blame. Staying on the subject of food, economically illiterate researchers blamed Walmart for causing obesity, and I explained why this is fallacious.

The 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz gave cause to examine how such an atrocity could be carried out without the state. The answer, of course, is that it would be all but impossible.

Entering February, I allowed my cynicism to wax to the point of formalizing it as a razor. It could use more detailing and strengthening, which is a project for a later time. I used the razor to explain why the Obama administration might want to disarm elderly people.

Alleged Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht was convicted on February 4 and sentenced on May 29. I made lists of observations on both of these occasions. Some people were none too happy with the state’s treatment of Ulbricht, and their displeasure got them in hot water. This occasion also merited a list of observations.

The movie American Sniper did well at the box office, but a metaphor therein was left incomplete. I decided to complete the analogy of sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves by adding farmers of human livestock to the mix.

A video by Stefan Molyneux about two different types of statists compared them to warriors and wizards. I made the case that countering the state requires libertarians to be both character classes at once.

Ron Paul made a video appearance at the International Students For Liberty Conference, but some attendees decided to interrupt this by reading an open letter to him which was filled with leftist entryist nonsense. I wrote an open letter against them which gained wide recognition and helped run some of the people involved out of libertarian circles. It remains one of my proudest moments as a writer.

At the end of February, Republicans tried to use brinkmanship to force spending cuts, which failed miserably due to their track record of caving at the last minute. I wrote a list of observations on the event.

On March 9, I published my most popular article to date, which is also one of my most shallow, choir-preaching works. The correlation between the two can be most depressing at times. At any rate, here are 25 statist propaganda phrases and some concise rebuttals.

Several commenters have told me that I am at my best when I provide a sound defense for an idea that most people find to be outrageous. I did this several times in 2015, defending the killing of innocent shields in certain circumstances, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, letting Iran develop a nuclear deterrent, and the replacement of democratic elections with jousts to the death.

I went on a rebuttal streak in the spring of 2015. President Obama proposed that voting be made mandatory, and I argued the case against this. Michael Eliot argued that a violent revolution is not the correct strategy for creating a free society, and that the use of methods such as seasteading will be more successful. I explained why this is false. Walter Block argued in favor of Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, and I demonstrated why he is not a good choice. Austin Petersen effectively made a case against libertarianism itself, and I rebutted it.

Paul Krugman delivered some rather standard talking points about public goods, and I showed why they are wrong. I revisited the subject later in the year.

Rolling Stone decided to go ahead with a completely false story about campus rape, and did nothing beyond wrist-slapping to those involved in creating and editing the story. They also defended the ideas behind the story, with which I took great issue. Another sex-related story occurred on April 21 when the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration resigned due to a prostitution scandal that occurred on her watch. I explained why we should not be surprised, and should actually expect more of such behavior. The purity spiral of campus feminism has grown to such an extent that even left-wing feminist professors are not immune. Rape accusation culture struck once more at Amherst College, and the victim took the university to court.

Baltimore police officers arrested Freddie Gray, who died one week later as a result of injuries sustained during the arrest. Riots ensued, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Charles Murray published a book detailing a novel strategy for fighting the regulatory state: overwhelm it with civil disobedience, create a legal fund to defend victims of regulation, and start treating government fines as an insurable hazard. I argued that this would fail, but that it needs to be tried anyway.

The prohibition of excessive bail and fines, as well as cruel and unusual punishment, is a much-revered part of the United States Constitution. I argued that it should not be.

Dylann Roof carried out a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, and I wrote a list of observations on the event.

Late June is Supreme Court season, and they delivered at least two bad decisions in 2015. First, they ruled very narrowly in favor of raisin farmers, but left the rights-violating practice of eminent domain intact. Then, they crammed same-sex marriage down the throats of all Americans.

Litecoin exchange rates suddenly spiked in early July. I took an educated guess at why, but it ended up being pure speculation.

Turmoil in Greece threatened to boil over into a default or even a Grexit. I took a deep look into the situation and concluded that only anarchy can fix the problems there.

Two seemingly disparate stories concerning Planned Parenthood and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine had a common thread: there is no such thing as non-lethal aid to an organization that conducts lethal operations.

I wrote a three-part series about fascism and communism in America, as well as how a nation can be both. Although I lated discovered that Lawrence Britt does not appear to be a real person, I found the 14-point list of fascist characteristics to be sound, so I did not revise the article.

A problem which is frequently cited as a reason why we must have a state is the problem of pollution. I dealt with the issues of water ownership and pollution in order to show why the state cannot solve the problem of pollution.

In one of my more controversial articles, I argued that Vester Flanagan, the man who murdered a reporter and a cameraman in Roanoke, Va., was a model social justice warrior. Examiner decided to pull it for offending their audience, but you can find it here.

Everyone knows that the Libertarian Party is not exactly a bastion of excellent strategic thinkers. I decided to offer them help, and a response to my essay advocating an alternate strategy is also worth reading.

Liberty Mutual created a series of advertisements that air regularly in my area, and they are full of economic fallacies. They annoyed me enough to dedicate an article to debunking them.

Reservation scalping occurred at Disney World restaurants, which outraged many people. I applied Walter Block’s reasoning for defending ticket scalpers to argue against the outrage.

September 11 always brings about discussions on security. I argued that there can be no such thing; only temporary and imperfect protection from particular dangers.

The term ‘cuckservative’ arose from alt-right circles to describe those who are insufficiently conservative, selling out their constituents, and/or acting against their own rational self-interests. I created the term ‘cuckertarian‘ to describe a similar problem among libertarians. Another problem with the libertarian movement that I addressed is the embrace of hedonism when libertarianism only requires that we not use aggressive violence to stamp out non-violent degeneracy.

After several years in prison for tax resistance, Irwin Schiff passed away. I wrote a list of observations on the event that gained praise from his son Peter.

I belatedly refuted Matt Zwolinski’s six reasons for rejecting the non-aggression principle. I had meant to do so when he published his piece back in April 2013, but other work took precedence and it languished in development hell. Next, I dealt with Youliy Ninov’s arguments against anarcho-capitalism in what is my most verbose article to date.

Islamic terrorists attacked Beirut and Paris on November 12 and 13, respectively. I wrote a list of observations on the events.

Many libertarians misunderstand immigration and borders, so after several pro-open-borders articles published in quick succession by other authors, I tried to set them straight.

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

Robert Dear attacked a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., killing three people and wounding nine others. I made the case that although the use of force against Planned Parenthood is defensive in nature, it is frequently impractical and counterproductive.

The success of the Donald Trump presidential campaign, as well as growing support for it in libertarian and reactionary circles, led me to examine the phenomena. I concluded that Trumpism is not a libertarian form of reaction, though we may have some common enemies.

My final article of 2015 addressed the common phrase ‘give back to the community.’ In short, it is communist nonsense that must be rejected.

I began work on another case against a constitutional amendment, but it was not completed for publishing before the end of 2015, so it will appear first in next year’s review.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian arguments. May 2016 bring more of the same. Happy New Year!

How Rolling Stone Is Advancing Rape Accusation Culture

On Apr. 5, Rolling Stone issued a retraction of an article called “A Rape on Campus” written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely that was featured online and in the print magazine in November. The article alleged that members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity gang raped a female student, referred to as Jackie in the story, on September 28, 2012. After an initial response of outrage in the media and the decision by UVA president Teresa Sullivan to suspend the activities of Greek organizations on campus, questions began to emerge about the details of the story as well as Erdely’s journalistic methods. Over the following weeks, an increasing number of discrepancies emerged, leading Rolling Stone to ask the Columbia Journalism School to review Erdely’s work. A police investigation that concluded in March found no evidence of wrongdoing at any fraternity house on the UVA campus.

While Rolling Stone‘s editors as well as Erdely have apologized, no one involved in the story is going to be fired. They have said that “[s]exual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.” There is certainly nothing wrong with this position, and many others in the media have pointed out the chilling effect that this incident may have on the reporting of authentic rape cases. But let us examine the flip side. This story amounts to a false rape accusation for which no one is being punished. The name of Greek organizations on the UVA campus in general and Phi Kappa Psi in particular have been dragged through the mud for no good reason, and this has resulted in damages for which legal action is pending. But defamation cases are difficult to pursue in cases like this, and monetary relief cannot restore a tarnished public reputation. Regardless of what ultimately becomes of the lawsuit, neither Jackie nor Erdely will face consequences nearly as severe as a convicted rapist or an organization that turns a blind eye to rape would. All of this has the unfortunate effect of telling future false rape accusers that neither they themselves nor those who spread their stories will face any serious punishment for doing so. There is a reinforcement effect as well; if fewer women who have been raped come forward because they believe that they will be demonized as liars, then the percentage of false rape accusations will necessarily rise.

Some people will try to argue that false rape accusations are not a serious problem. The Rolling Stone retraction links to a study claiming that such cases amount to between 2 percent and 10 percent of all rape accusations. This figure could be restated as 6 percent ± 4 percent, and a figure with an error bar almost as large as the figure itself indicates poor methodology, which is exactly what one finds when delving into the details. The sample size of 136 cases is rather small, the false accusations number of 8 is small enough to cause statistical concerns, and the sample was taken at one unnamed university in the Northeastern United States over a 10-year period (1998-2007) rather than in a multitude of places.

Even if there were no methodological problems with the study, its presentation is also problematic. One could infer from the way the media is using this study that rape accusations are provably true in 90 to 98 percent of cases. This is not a correct inference. The breakdown of the study is that 5.9 percent of cases were provably false, 35.3 percent of cases led to criminal charges and/or disciplinary action from the university, 44.9 percent of cases either lacked sufficient evidence, had an uncooperative accuser, or did not meet statutory definitions of rape, and 13.9 percent of cases could not be categorized due to a lack of information. If we apply the rate of false accusations in the cases that are provably true or false to the total number of cases, we get a total rate of false accusations of 5.9*100/(5.9+35.3)=14.3 percent.

There is also a logical case to be made for why false rape accusations are more prevalent than false accusations of other criminal activity. The vast majority of people believe that rape is a special kind of evil, second only to murder in the amount of psychological damage that it does to a victim. (This fact alone is sufficient to debunk the myth of rape culture, but when have radical feminists ever cared about facts?) It follows that a person who wishes to get attention or ruin another person’s reputation would most likely accuse that person of rape, as a murder accusation is much easier to disprove and other accusations are less serious. A false rape accusation is also more useful in certain situations than other false accusations, such as revenge against exes, getting rid of a current romantic partner, or covering up an extramarital affair. Finally, there are radical feminists who view such accusations as a legitimate way to attack men collectively.

To conclude, incidents like the recent debacle at Rolling Stone are not only counterproductive for dealing with the problem of rape, but move us toward a rape accusation culture where a woman can ruin the reputation of men or even send them to prison on baseless charges while suffering no penalty for doing so, all the while empowering the state at the expense of the individual.

The fallacies of blaming Walmart for obesity

A recent study by Charles Courtemonche and Art Carden purports to show that there is a correlation between the presence of Walmart Supercenters and an increase in obesity. Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System matched with Walmart Supercenter entry dates and locations, they found that an additional Supercenter per 100,000 residents is correlated with an average body mass index (BMI) increase of 0.24 points and a 2.3 percent increase in the obesity rate. Based on this result, they claim that Walmart Supercenters are responsible for 10.5 percent of the rise in obesity in the past 25 years.

There are several problems with the methodology and conclusions drawn. Let us examine these.

First, there is the troubling use of BMI as a measure of obesity. While it is the standard in the health profession, it does not account for a large number of important variables, such as age, muscle mass, bone mass, the location of excess body fat, and waist size. There is also the matter that it puts people into starkly delineated categories; e.g. a BMI of 24.9 is healthy, while a BMI of 25.0 is overweight.

Questionable methodology aside, the conclusion that Walmart Supercenters are responsible for increasing obesity rates is a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because there is a correlation between the two does not mean that there is a causal relationship in one specific direction. It is possible that this is just a coincidence. It is also possible that there is a causal relationship in the other direction; namely, that increasing obesity drives the creation of new Walmart Supercenters. This would make sense in terms of a demand for unhealthy foods leading the market to provide a means of creating and distributing a supply to meet that demand. Finally, it is possible that some other factor is responsible for both developments. Government subsidies that make unhealthy foods (such as corn syrup and soybean oil) widely available for an artificially low price could help to grow both the number of Walmart Supercenters and the BMIs of the people who shop at them.

Finally, there are the implicit assumption behind calling out Walmart Supercenters specifically. The authors implicitly assume that if Walmart did not exist, then its market niche would go unfilled. Not only is this an unprovable claim, as alternate realities are unknown and unknowable, but it defies logic. If there is a demand that is possible to meet while making a profit, then someone is going to figure out how to do it. If not Walmart, then Target, Costco, or some other company would be fulfilling the desires of customers currently served by Walmart. The authors also implicitly assume that the customers whose BMIs are increasing are somehow not responsible for making their own decisions. They reason that it is Walmart’s fault for providing the possibility of making unhealthy choices, when as mentioned above, government subsidies create the conditions for an obesity epidemic.

If we wish to be serious about solving the drastic rise in obesity over the past few decades, then we must stop making such illogical attacks upon the market and place blame where blame is due. Those who make unhealthy choices must be personally responsible for their actions, and governments should stop incentivizing people to make unhealthy choices.