Felling The Oak Of Statism

Several years ago, I went on a vacation with my family to the mountains for a week. On the day before we returned home, a line of severe thunderstorms hit back home. We arrived the next day to find that a large oak tree near the house had been struck by lightning. Debris was all over the yard between the woods and the house, and huge chunks of bark that had been blasted off were looped around the branches. The strike killed the massive tree, and its continued presence posed a danger. It was large enough to fall onto the house from where it stood if left to its own devices, so it had to be felled. But due to these circumstances, it could not be cut down haphazardly and without regard for what damage might be done if it were to fall in the wrong direction. We called in professional loggers to remove the tree in such a way as to avoid hurting anyone or damaging anything. The tree was removed properly and all was well.

There is a useful lesson here for those who seek to end the state. The state is like that oak; large, weighty, and with great potential to destroy. A thunderstorm consisting of economic, social, and cultural decay masked by technological progress has come. A lightning strike of discontent with the status quo is charging up, and sooner or later the tree of statism will be fatally struck. But if we leave the tree to die and fall by its own weight and decay, immense and possibly irreparable damage may be done to the social order. Just like the oak, the method used to dismantle the state apparatus cannot be haphazard in nature.

Those who subscribe to ‘No Particular Order-ism’, or the belief that libertarians should take whatever reduction in the size and scope of government they can get, are exhibiting a dangerous myopia that borders on political autism. There are certain aspects of government which, if abolished, would result in a potentially catastrophic outcome if other aspects were not also abolished beforehand or concurrently. There are other aspects of government which, if abolished, would leave people in a dangerous lurch in which they have neither a government monopoly nor a private alternative to provide them with service. There are also forms of privatization of state-controlled assets which could potentially be worse than leaving them in the state’s hands. Let us consider one example of each type to show what can go wrong if certain improper felling techniques are used on the oak of statism.

Improper Order

An example of abolishing government functions in the wrong order is that of open borders before welfare elimination. Many libertarians argue that state immigration controls should be completely lifted because they violate freedom of movement of immigrants, private property rights of residents, and freedom of association of both. But doing this while welfare programs are in place would encourage foreign peoples to flood a nation, displacing the native population while using the state to steal from them en masse. (Note that this also violates the private property rights and freedom of association of the native population.) The people who would be attracted to the country in this scenario would not be people who wish to be productive and make the nation better, but people who seek to exist parasitically upon those who have been forced to pay for the welfare state. Although this is a potential strategy for eliminating both state borders and welfare by using the influx of immigrants to crash the welfare state, this was originally proposed by leftists as a means of expanding the welfare state to the point of a basic income guarantee. (Notably, some people who call themselves libertarians actually want to expand the state in this way.) The likely outcome of all of this is not a freer society, but a loss of culture and identity to demographics which have a less libertarian disposition, the promotion of parasitism as a way of life, and the denigration of meritocracy.

Left in the Lurch

An example of leaving people without any kind of service would be the abolition of government militaries without any private replacement to protect people in their absence. This is the one part of the proverbial oak which is sure to fell the entire tree if it is cut, as a state without a monopoly on military force within its territory is a contradiction of terms. However, it is necessary to account for the Pax Romana problem. Students of history will be familiar with the time of relative peace and stability from the time of Augustus (r. 27 BCE-14 CE) until the time of Commodus (r. 177-192 CE). During this time, the economy, the arts, and agriculture flourished because the tribal battles that predated Roman conquests as well as the rebellions and riots that predated the Pax Romana were largely suppressed. But there was a dark side to this, particularly in parts of the empire which were much closer to the border than to Rome. With Roman forces in charge of law, order, and security, many peoples suffered losses in the ability to provide these services themselves. After all, societal organs tend to decay from disuse just as individual people do. When the Pax Romana ended, these peoples were without the stabilizing forces which they had come to rely upon and were out of practice in providing these services for themselves. The end result was that several of these peoples suffered raids, conquest, and murder at the hands of various barbarians and empires. Returning to our time, the restoration of the role of the militia in society as well as the development of privately owned military hardware (and perhaps a nuclear deterrent) are necessary prerequisites for an orderly elimination of government militaries. The only workable alternative to this (and only possibility before the aforementioned steps are accomplished) is a violent uprising by enough of the population living under a particular state so as to make that population ungovernable.

Soviet Dissolution

An example of improper privatization is that of handing control of state monopolies over to politically connected oligarchs. As Gustave de Molinari writes,

“Private property is redundant. ‘Public property’ is an oxymoron. All legit property is private. If property isn’t private it’s stolen.”

This is true, but the path from here to there matters. There are two proper methods of privatization of state-controlled property. One is to figure out the tax burden levied upon each person and distribute shares of state-controlled property accordingly. This is the most just method, as it attempts to compensate victims of state-sponsored theft for their losses. The other is for private citizens to seize control of whatever state-controlled property they can take and defend. This is not as just as attempting to return property to its rightful owners, but a person who takes property from a thief has a better claim to the property than the thief. For the state to hand over its monopoly over some good, service, or property to a particular private interest contributes to the creation of an oligarchical class which wields informal political power in promotion of its own self-interest to the detriment of everyone else, as happened in Russia during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. These oligarchs can cause more damage than the state in certain situations, particularly if they use their ill-gotten gains to influence who gets to wield state power, as they invariably have throughout history.

Conclusion

As always, it is important to think strategically and play the long game. Enemies of liberty are certainly doing this, and failure to do so by libertarians needlessly puts us at a disadvantage. Considering the likely consequences of cutting one part of government before another, cutting a part of government before a private replacement is viable, or privatizing state-controlled assets in certain ways can help us to fell the oak of statism in such a way as to safeguard essential elements of the social order and avoid needless unrest.

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: The Invention of Russia

The Invention of Russia is a book about the history of the Soviet Union and the formation of modern Russia by Russian journalist Arkady Ostrovsky. The book focuses on the time period of the rule of Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, and Vladimir Putin. Special attention is paid to the role played by the media in shaping narratives and steering the population from the Soviet era to the present.

The prologue deals with the author’s experience during and immediately after the assassination of Boris Nemtsov on February 27, 2015. He briefly overviews events over the past few decades that factored into Nemtsov’s murder, and the author’s experiences through those years are also discussed.

The book proper is divided into two parts, each with five chapters. The division between the parts is roughly set at the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis. The first chapter begins with the end of the Soviet Union, then backtracks to give the reader a sense of Soviet history up to Gorbachev’s rise to power, with emphasis on the events that foreshadowed it, such as de-Stalinization and the crushing of the Prague Spring. The second chapter covers the time from Gorbachev’s appointment to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The nature of perestroika and glasnost are discussed, as well as how the Chernobyl incident affected both. Later in the chapter, Ostrovsky details the split between the liberal reformers and the Stalinist hardliners, as well as the beginnings of the privatization of state assets which formed the class of Russian oligarchs. The third chapter explores the final two years of the Soviet Union, including the economic difficulties, the rise of Yeltsin, the worries of the KGB and other elements of the Soviet power structure, the January Events in Lithuania, and the 1991 Soviet coup attempt. The fourth chapter looks at the role played by the media in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and how the generational shift from the shestidesiatniki to their children affected the changes. The Kommersant newspaper is highlighted as an example of the new Russian media, as well as one of several examples of less than honest business practices in the early 1990s, which occurred due to the moral vacuum left by communism. The fifth chapter covers the time from the end of the Soviet Union up to the 1993 crisis, with particular attention to the role of television, radio, and print media in shaping the narrative and saving Russia from another Communist takeover.

The sixth chapter continues the discussion of the 1993 crisis, then moves on to the creation of NTV, Russia’s first Western-style television station. Of course, NTV had to compete with Channel One and other state media, which caused tensions with the state when NTV covered the first Chechnya war from the Chechen point of view. The chapter concludes with the 1996 election, in which the media played an essential role in bringing Yeltsin up from single-digit polling to a victory over Gennady Zyuganov, his Communist challenger. The seventh chapter continues with the events after the election, including a battle between oligarchs that turned into a political crisis, continued troubles with Chechnya, the search for a vision for Russia moving forward, and finally, the 1998 Russian financial crisis.The eighth chapter shows how this milieu combined with NATO airstrikes in Serbia and an overly propagandistic media was able to elevate an obscure KGB agent named Vladimir Putin to the presidency of Russia. The decision of most of NTV’s leadership to side against this was the beginning of the end for the station. The ninth chapter covers the time from the beginning of Putin’s rule to the invasion of Ukraine in 2014, including the ouster of several high-profile opponents of the regime, the bringing of NTV into the control of Gazprom and its gradual turn toward the regime, further trouble with Chechen terrorists, the Russo-Georgian War, and the activities of various media personalities. The tenth chapter looks at Putin’s rule in light of Russian popular culture, the rise of the bureaucrat-entrepreneur, the protests of 2011-13, the military operations in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and the use of propaganda to manufacture support for foreign aggression.

The book is excellent at face value, providing a perspective that can only come from a native person who lived through many of the events described in the book. But it is even more valuable to libertarians and reactionaries for the obvious parallels between Russian history and the current state of affairs in the West, as well as for the warnings concerning the improper dismantling of government monopolies, as happened during the transition from the Soviet Union to modern Russia.

To conclude, the unique explanations of historical events and the focus on the role of the media in steering the ship of state make this book an invaluable addition to the collection of any activist, analyst, historian, strategist, or student.

Rating: 5/5

The Not-So-Current Year: 2016 In Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Strategic Libertarian Case For Supporting Hillary Clinton

The 2016 election season has been a contentious and divisive time for libertarians. Some have decided to side with Republican candidate Donald Trump as the lesser of two evils. Others are supporting Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson despite his long odds and shortcomings as a candidate. A few are turning to Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle, despite his lack of sufficient ballot access to obtain victory. Some who do not understand or care about economic liberty have even suggested Green Party candidate Jill Stein as an option for libertarians. A significant number are disgusted with all of their options and plan to stay home on Election Day. What no one seems to have contemplated is the case for a libertarian to support Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, so let us explore that case.

Clearly, there is no straightforward, face-value libertarian case for supporting someone with the track record of warmongering, corruption, thievery, and deception that Clinton has in their quest to preside over the most powerful and dangerous state apparatus in human history. But almost all libertarians have decided to stop there in their consideration of Clinton and look to the other candidates. What can be argued that has not been argued thus far is a bootlegger’s case for Clinton, in which she is supported not for the ostensible purposes of granting her the Presidency, but because her administration will cause effects that libertarians can exploit for their purposes. The overarching theme is that the leftward drive of statism in general and democracy in particular cannot be forestalled by the means at hand, so the alternative is to push leftism even faster and farther than leftists had planned in order to hasten its collapse. It is this sort of case which will be made here.

The Goal of Libertarians

It may seem odd at first glance to speak of a unifying goal for all libertarians, as libertarians have all sorts of goals, some of which are at cross purposes with each other. However, the root of the word ‘libertarian’ is ‘liberty’, so it is reasonable to conclude that a libertarian has the practical goal of maximizing the amount of liberty present in one’s environment. Liberty is generally defined as 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. But liberty is meaningless without private property in which to enjoy it, insecure without rule of law to defend it, precarious without peace and justice to preserve it, and absent without freedom of association. 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. For these reasons (and many others), the maximization of liberty requires abolition of the state.

Abolition Requires Revolution

Unfortunately, the state will not abolish itself; the control and maintenance of the state apparatus is too valuable to give up for those who benefit from it. Those who bankroll political campaigns receive a far better return on investment than they would receive from any free market use of capital, and if they did not make such donations, their business rivals would. Wielding political power causes the same biochemical responses as drug abuse. There are people who carry weapons in the name of the state for the purpose of enforcing the edicts of politicians because they lack the skills and temperament to be productive members of society. There is a dependent class of people who have become accustomed to existing parasitically upon the productive members of society. All of these people are used to their way of life, and they will not give it up without a fight. Any strategy that does not deal with this fact, as well as the fact that an institution based upon initiatory force will resort to force to counter attempts to remove and/or dismantle it is doomed to failure. There are many other methods that libertarians have proposed and tried to increase the amount of liberty in society, and some have achieved some limited success. But electoral methods, agorism, cryptography, seasteading, civil disobedience, education, and peaceful parenting all fail to address the fundamental problem. Thus, they will fail to defeat the state by themselves at best. At worst, they will ease some of the pain of oppression, which allows people to tolerate more evil before they must take action to end it. Their usefulness, if any, is to push the state toward collapse while growing the population and resources of libertarians to such an extent that revolution becomes feasible.

A Successful Revolution

A revolution to end the state can only be successful if enough people participate. Moving too soon plays into the state’s hands, as it will only give the state more cause to grow and sour the reputation of libertarianism. The personnel and resources necessary to carry out a revolution are not yet assembled, so the task of the libertarian is to figure out how to assemble them. Let us begin by noting what the Declaration of Independence says about the matter:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

This is indeed what history shows us; people tend to overthrow governments only if they believe themselves to lack better options. Regardless of whether war, famine, or pestilence visits a population because of their government or in spite of it, a failure of a state to meet the needs of its people in a crisis has precipitated more revolutions than anything else. Although the tyrannies inflicted upon the American people by the federal government are far greater than those which inspired our forefathers to take up arms, the comforts of modernity and the civic religion of democratic statism have made evils more easily sufferable. That which would once have led people to revolt is now merely a minor inconvenience, to be brushed aside and endured because the next sports game is on. Clearly, conditions must get worse in order to make enough people believe that they must rise up against the system rather than keep trying to play the fool’s game of working within it.

Use It to Destroy It

Given that liberty requires anarchy, anarchy requires abolition of the state, abolition of the state requires revolution, revolution requires a sufficient number of participants, the number of potential participants is lacking, people revolt when they believe themselves to be out of other options, and more people will believe themselves to be out of other options if conditions get worse, the next order of business is to see what can be done to make conditions get worse. In a democratic state, the ballot box is the primary means by which decisions are made. Conditions sometimes change slowly in a nation with a deep state of unelected bureaucrats that is largely impervious to the winds of politics, but conditions do deteriorate when bad rulers are elected. While this is always the case, some candidates for office are clearly worse than others. The obvious strategy, then, is to intentionally vote for the worst candidates in an effort to push the current system toward ruin.

Who Is Worst?

With a strategy discovered, the next question concerns application. Which candidate in the 2016 presidential election would do the most to push the current system toward ruin? In other words, who has no intention or motive to make any significant changes to current policy? Who would amplify and accelerate the current course of the federal government?

We may begin by considering only the candidates who have a chance of winning, as a candidate who cannot get into office in the first place will fail a fortiori at making conditions worse while in office. This reduces our options to Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump. All of the other minor-party candidates lack the ballot access to gain the Presidency, even if everyone voted for a particular one of them. Stein may also be dismissed, as polling has shown her to be in fourth place in nearly every national and state poll that has been conducted. (Though if Stein had a chance, this would be a case for supporting her instead of Clinton, as the implementation of her platform would accelerate the national debt, grow the size and scope of government, and push the nation toward economic ruin faster than the platforms of the other candidates.)

Johnson and Trump offer respites from many of the failed policies of recent administrations, though to varying degrees and for different reasons. While both focus on economic matters, Johnson takes a more libertarian approach while Trump is more nationalist. The practical upshot is that a Johnson presidency would be likely to offer much more relief over the short-term but ignore important demographic concerns, while a Trump presidency would offer much less immediate relief but address concerns over demographic shifts which are hostile to liberty. But the strategy being discussed is to vote for the worst, not the best.

A look at Clinton’s platform reveals that she favors higher taxes, more programs for minorities, more taxpayer funding for college tuition, strengthening of entitlement programs, stricter gun control measures, universal healthcare, ending the sequester for both defense and non-defense spending, amnesty for illegal immigrants, more funding for clean energy, a continuation of unproductive anti-terrorism policies, curtailment of civil liberties, and more government intervention in the workplace. She is also far more likely to start new wars than the other candidates, and this would speed along the decline more than any other policy. In other words, she will amplify and accelerate the current course of the federal government much more than Johnson and somewhat more than Trump.

Resolution in Defeat

It is also necessary to consider the impact that the election is likely to have on the supporters of the losing candidates. If Johnson loses, his supporters will likely get the result that they expect, as third-party candidates have almost no chance in a system rigged to produce a two-party system. Although a Johnson victory is technically possible if everything plays out just right, the more realistic question is whether he can get 5 percent of the vote, which would make the Libertarian Party a more significant election machine going forward. As such, voting for Johnson is more of a punt on 2016 with hopes set on 2020. That said, a disastrous result for Johnson will affirm the need for the LP to stop running the milquetoast candidates they have fielded since 2008 and put forward openly radical, even anarchist, voices.

A Clinton loss will have the effect of opening a pressure valve on populist and nationalist resentment, just as the Brexit victory did in the United Kingdom. If liberty is the goal, then a pressure valve to release steam that is needed for a revolutionary explosion is counterproductive. For as long as Trump remains in office, the right would rally behind him, turn a blind eye to many of his negative tendencies, and forget their anti-state sentiments because their man is in charge. While Trump could cause some disillusionment when many of his lofty campaign promises do not come true, many on the right have some understanding that this will be the case and that he must speak bombastically to keep his base energized and motivated. Trump could also do some good in the form of neutralizing the tactics of social justice warriors, but he has already done this and could likely not do much more in this regard. Of course, the political pendulum will swing again, for Trump is not Pinochet and never will be. Trump has given no indication that he would do anything meaningful to abolish democracy or eliminate the programs which create left-wing moral degeneracy. The left would return to its excesses as soon as it regains the Presidency, using state power to press its thumb on the scale even harder to try to ensure that nothing of the sort can happen again.

With the exception of cuckservative neocons who would count Clinton as one of their own, a Trump loss would further inflame the right and grow the reactionary movement. The right would increasingly come to realize that the democratic process as it currently operates is no longer in their interests, just as many Southerners did after the election of 1860. Due to demographic shifts, a Trumpian candidate will likely never have an easier path than in 2016, and the path is quite difficult now. While a Clinton victory is unlikely to result in a revolt before the 2020 election, it could produce other interesting results, such as renewed interest in the idea of nullification, an Article V convention, or even a serious effort by a state to secede.

Objections

Naturally, a plan to deliberately worsen conditions in one’s own nation will invite sharp criticism. Let us consider some of the most likely objections to such a plan. First, there is the objection that this will harm innocent people. This is not necessarily the case, depending upon how one defines innocence. To return to the Declaration of Independence,

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

In this sense, the American people are in dereliction of their duty to throw off oppressors. While those who say that we get the government we deserve are victim blaming to some extent, they have a point in the sense that revolution is far more practical than most people think, yet the American people have not revolted against the state in a meaningful way since 1794. (The Civil War was a meaningful revolt, but it was not anti-state in nature; the Confederates sought to replace one government with another.) But even if we grant that this will harm innocents, it is not as though innocents will go unharmed otherwise. The state violently victimizes the innocent by its very nature, and other plans for ending the state will not prevent such victimization before the state is abolished. It is thus a question of degree and duration, much like that of ripping off a bandage rather than pulling at it slowly.

Second, there is the possibility that this plan will backfire. We may make conditions worse, but perhaps a sufficient number of people will never decide that they have had enough. This may occur because they blame those who voted us into a crisis and do not wish to fight alongside them, or because they simply lack the fortitude to revolt. This is a legitimate concern, but the possibility that people no longer have the fortitude to forcefully resist the state will be a concern regardless of the method used by libertarians.

Third, Clinton may also make leftists look for more radical methods, as she is likely to further upset the people who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. This is actually a feature in a plan to overload and collapse the system, as it pushes the establishment toward ruin even faster. And if the far-left and the far-right come to blows in America, the rightists have a clear advantage in manpower, firepower, and the concern to target one’s enemies without harming bystanders (although neither side is perfect in the latter regard).

Fourth, there is no guarantee that Clinton will be worse than Trump. But there is no guarantee of anything promised by politicians to voters; this is the very design of democratic statism, and one of its intractable problems. Both major-party candidates are known to be serial liars, but based on their track records both inside and outside of politics, it is reasonable to conclude that they will at least attempt to advance the agendas in their platforms.

Conclusion

If one understands that the problems with which the democratic state presents us are intractable in its presence, and that the best use of the ballot box is to vote for the worst candidate in order to hasten the demise of this broken system, then supporting Hillary Clinton for liberty makes a great deal of sense. The common objections to such a plan do not withstand scrutiny, as other methods of action or inaction have the same or worse potential shortcomings. The effects of her defeat would only slow the decline rather than reverse it, and the effects of her victory would galvanize the anti-state movement like no other result that can be achieved in 2016.

Why JASTA Is Good

On September 28, Congress voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that allows relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot. The Senate defeated the veto by a 97-1 vote, then the House voted 348-77 to override the veto hours later. Therefore, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, is now a law. The bill passed both houses of Congress without objection earlier in 2016.

It was the first veto override of Obama’s presidency, and the first since 2008. Under Article I, Section 7, Clauses 2-3 of the United States Constitution, Congress may override a presidential veto by a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate.

Although no member of Congress spoke out against JASTA during the override procedure, Obama has argued that the law sets a dangerous precedent. It grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity, which could be a double-edged sword if other countries pass reciprocating legislation. This could expose American corporations, diplomats, politicians, and soldiers to lawsuits for their conduct overseas. This caused CIA Director John Brennan to warn that JASTA had “grave implications” for national security. Additionally, 28 senators signed a letter expressing reservations about the potential that JASTA will cause the United States to be sued in foreign courts “as a result of important military or intelligence activities.”

Why JASTA is Good

While the national security statists are scared of what Pandora’s box might have just been opened, this is excellent news for libertarians. This is because it chips away at the anti-libertarian idea of sovereign immunity, could give victims of American foreign policy a peaceful means of addressing their grievances, and could reveal clandestine activities to the American people about which they have a need to know.

Sovereign immunity is the legal doctrine by which the state can do no wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution. It is the ultimate manifestation of the fact that government will not hold government accountable because it is against the rational self-interest of those who wield state power. With the ability to grant immunity to themselves, government agents can engage with impunity in activities which are criminalized for the commoner, and they do so on an enormous scale. A double standard of this sort could never be tolerated in a libertarian social order. In a free society, the standard would have to be that actions which are criminal for one person are criminal for another. Wearing a costume and claiming affiliation with a government would be meaningless. For example, just as taxation is robbery, slavery, receiving stolen monies, transporting stolen monies, and conspiracy if private citizens behave identically to government tax collectors, so would a libertarian private court prosecute tax collectors. JASTA and potential reciprocating legislation does not go nearly far enough in this sense, but it is a potential first step toward more justice for the crimes of government personnel.

Speaking of crimes of government personnel, the American military and the civilians who preside over it have committed a great number of them. Since the end of World War II, American foreign policy has caused between 20 million and 30 million deaths. Economic sanctions have contributed to this death toll, while impoverishing many people who have survived and generally failing to achieve their stated objectives. These multitudes of victims deserve justice. With sovereign immunity in place, there is no forum in which they may seek judicial relief. Making peaceful dispute resolution impossible makes violent dispute resolution inevitable, so some people wronged by the United States government decide to seek vengeance in the form of joining terrorist groups to attack innocent Americans in retaliation for their losses. While such acts cannot be morally defended, they are certainly understandable. Reciprocation to JASTA provides a pathway to a more peaceful system of addressing grievances caused by American foreign policy. Even the possibility that Americans may be sued for their wrongful deeds overseas would create a chilling effect against bellicosity that libertarians should welcome.

As such cases begin, the discovery process of these lawsuits could make public certain activities being done in the name of all Americans which are currently unknown to the American people. While the civil religion of democratic statism should not be taken at face value, most people do, so it makes sense in context to have an informed electorate. The people cannot judge various military and intelligence operations if they never find out about them. With JASTA and reciprocating legislation, the newly possible lawsuits filed by foreigners victimized by Americans could serve to educate the American people on the nature of what is being done in their names. Even libertarians who oppose democracy should favor this result, as one cannot protest wrongs of which one remains ignorant.

Objections

JASTA could result in lawsuits for vicarious liability against civilian contractors who provide armaments and other equipment to people who are directly involved in foreign atrocities. This is a feature, not a bug. Knowingly providing a violent criminal institution with the means to victimize the innocent should be treated not only as a civil wrong, but as criminal behavior. Lawsuits against such parties could result in a chilling effect against providing the state with the means to perform its pernicious deeds, which would benefit the American people by weakening the state and resulting in less motivation for retaliatory terrorism against innocent Americans.

Because there is a condition of anarchy between sovereigns, there is no higher court whose judgments are binding and enforced across national boundaries. This means that citizens can sue foreign nation-states as they see fit, but winning a judgment offers no guarantee of payment because the foreign nation-state can simply ignore the court’s decision. This is true, but it does not diminish the indirect consequences of JASTA, which are the real reasons to support it.

Should such cases not be summarily dismissed, there is the potential for many thousands of cases to bog down the court system. But this can create a demand to privatize courts, or at least give more business to private arbitrators of disputes. Should the cases remain in government courts, it will take up time and resources which could otherwise be used to cause more harm to innocent Americans.

Finally, there is the concern that allowing such lawsuits will damage foreign relations after such judgments are ignored. This is also a feature rather than a bug, as the possibility of damage to foreign relations for denying claims for wrongdoing in foreign policy provides an incentive for governments to avoid committing so many atrocities overseas. A world in which citizens may sue foreign governments for damages is thus likely to be a more peaceful world.

Conclusion

Although one would be correct to be skeptical of any legislation that passes by such a wide margin, the likely secondary results of JASTA are intriguing and the fears of it are overblown. From a philosophical libertarian perspective, JASTA is clearly a net benefit.

The not-so-scary implications of arguments against open borders

On February 16, Jason Brennan published an article arguing that arguments made by libertarians against open borders have disturbing implications that said libertarians almost never address, such as advocacy of censorship, voting restrictions, eugenics, internal migration restrictions, etc. In this rebuttal, I will address these implications and show on a point-by-point basis that some such implications are not only not so scary, but are actually vitally important to the maintenance of a libertarian social order.

“Closing borders is in the first instance a form of economic protectionism. When we close borders, we forbid people from making willing, mutually-beneficial trades with one another.”

Not necessarily. People can engage in economic activity with one another without crossing a border by either having someone else ship goods between them or having some neutral location in which economic activity may take place.

“At first glance, it looks like we’re violating a right of freedom of movement and a right of freedom of association. Perhaps such restrictions can be justified, but we need a good reason.”

Such restrictions can be justified, and a good reason is that forbidding such restrictions violates private property rights as well as the freedom of association of the property owners who do not wish to associate with immigrants. The only exception is for immigrants or refugees who are going to a place where they are welcome but must pass through territory where they are unwelcome in order to get there. In this case, the right to life must be weighed against the right to property. The right to life is clearly superior to the right to property; the exercise of property rights requires one to be alive, and that which is dependent cannot overrule that upon which it is dependent. The result is that immigrants may travel through territory where they are unwelcome if it is impossible for them to get to the destination where they are welcome without traveling through territory where they are unwelcome. This right of emergency easement is subject to some restrictions which can easily be deduced from the above:

  1. If there is any other path, they must take it and avoid the territory in which they are unwelcome.
  2. While in the property of those who do not welcome them, they must not threaten in any way the ability of the property owner(s) to stay alive, as their rights to life cannot overrule the property owner’s right to life.
  3. The immigrants must show as much respect as possible for private property by moving as fast as possible through territory where they are unwelcome and using no more resources from the property than they must in order to stay alive.

“But now look at the reasons people give, and ask whether these reasons imply not merely that we should close borders, but that we may do a whole host of other illiberal things. Consider:

We need to close borders to maintain a liberal culture. If you think so, then to maintain a liberal culture, you should also in principle be willing to censor certain points of view, or forbid or ban certain religions. You might also favor forced indoctrination into liberal ideas.

We need to maintain our distinctive culture. Again, if that’s a good reason to close borders, why is it not also a good reason to censor certain ideas, ban certain forms of music, or ban certain religions? Why not mandate that people support and participate in certain cultural practices? Why not require people to speak certain languages at home, or read certain books?”

Clearly, using illiberal means to maintain a liberal culture is inherently contradictory. But the goal of a libertarian should be the maintenance of a libertarian social order, not a liberal one. Therefore, let us address the objections with this goal in mind.

Maintaining a distinctive culture is a good reason to restrict immigration. A society does not exist in and of itself; it is a mental abstraction and grammatical shorthand to refer to each person within a certain geographical area. Adding people of a fundamentally different disposition to an area will make the society there have a greater resemblance to the place where the immigrants originated. It is amazing that so many libertarians fail to understand this, given the effort to change the culture of New Hampshire in a libertarian direction by increasing the number of libertarians there. By the same reasoning, importing communists or Islamists will change the culture of a community in those directions, and those directions are anti-libertarian.

The implication that certain ideas should be censored, or that certain cultural practices should be required, is consistent with a libertarian understanding of private property. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe explains in Democracy: The God That Failed, a community established for the protection of libertarian values (self-ownership, liberty, property) cannot abide the promotion of ideas which are fundamentally opposed to these goals. This means that no right to unlimited free speech exists because like other liberty rights, it should not be used to violate private property rights and freedom of association.

We need to prevent domestic wages from falling. If so, would you (if the facts turned out the right way) also forbid women from entering certain jobs?”

There is no need to do this. In a free market, egalitarian nonsense will be defeated by rational incentives which respect inherent biological differences between the genders, such as the greater standard deviation in intelligence test results and the greater average physical strength for males versus females. The result that fields which require high intelligence and/or great physical strength will be male-dominated (though not male-exclusive) will be understood as natural rather than demonized as sexist.

“Immigrants won’t vote the right way. If you find that persuasive, then in principle you should be open to forbidding certain parties, banning certain people from voting, or engaging in political censorship.”

Properly understood, libertarianism is antithetical to any kind of statism, but is particularly opposed to democracy. To quote Hoppe, democracy promotes shortsightedness, capital waste, irresponsibility, and moral relativism. Whereas a monarch (or any other private property owner with allodial title) owns the capital stock of the property, elected officials serve as temporary stewards. This means that while an allodial title holder is incentivized to care for property to preserve it as an inheritance and capital good, an elected official is incentivized to plunder property while he or she can. Democracy encourages moral relativism by replacing objective ethics with an appeal to the masses. A libertarian strategist would be wise to seek to ban certain people from voting, as the perverse incentives of democracy grow as democracy becomes more inclusive. As discussed above, censorship is consistent with a libertarian understanding of private property.

Immigrants will cause crime. Isn’t this also an argument for eugenics or for internal migration restrictions? For instance, should New Hampshire ban young black men from Washington, DC [statistically more likely to commit crime than the average New Hampshirite] from moving there? If banning rap music reduced crime, would you favor that?”

People have a right to defend themselves from aggression, and they may do so by politically incorrect means as long as those means are consistent with libertarianism. Eugenics as historically practiced by states flagrantly violates the non-aggression principle, but passive forms of eugenics (aka allowing people to suffer the consequences of their poor decision-making) are permissible. The state of New Hampshire should not ban people based on race or censor rap music, but a private property owner or covenant community thereof should be free to do so within their private property.

Immigrants will eat up the welfare state or consume too many public goods. Is this not also an argument for restricting births, or forbidding internal migration, or even requiring some people to give birth?”

No, this is an argument for ending the welfare state and privatizing all public goods.

We have a right to self-determination, and we may choose to exclude people. Is this not also an argument that ‘we’ may choose to exclude some people from having children?”

This is only true in a certain sense. The rules of a covenant community may include anything from prohibitions to requirements concerning childbirth. As long as everyone who formed the covenant agreed to it voluntarily, the penalty for violating it could be expulsion from the property or any other punitive measure that does not violate the right to life of the parents or children.

We collectively own our institutions and may exclude people, or dictate the terms on which they associate with us. If so, doesn’t this also license us to do pretty much whatever we want, including censoring people, forbidding some from having children, and so on?”

This argument assumes that a collective exists and has ownership of the government, which is another collective. To exist is to have a concrete, particular form in physical reality. To say that abstract objects exist is to beg the question of where they exist, to which there is no answer because there is no empirically observable entity. To say that collectives exist is beg the question of what physical form they take, as all available physical forms are occupied by the individuals which are said to comprise the collective. Thus, there is no “we”; there is only you, I, and every other individual person. By the same token, the government does not exist; each person, each building, each gun, etc. exists. Additionally, to own something is to have a right of exclusive control over it. Part and parcel of this right is the right to physically destroy that which one owns. As governments use force to stop citizens who attempt to physically destroy the state, the citizens are not the de facto owners of a government.

“Now, perhaps the defender of immigration restrictions can come up with plausible accounts of why immigration restrictions are permissible, but then explain why they are not committed (at least in principle) to these other illiberal policies.”

This is unnecessary because there are good reasons to commit to other illiberal policies, at least within the confines of one’s private property or a covenant community.

“But one thing I’ve noticed, when reading the various arguments philosophers and others have put forward for immigration restrictions, is that they almost never bother to explain why not. They make broad arguments that have scary implications, arguments that do not specifically show that we may close borders, but arguments that, if sound, imply all sorts of illiberal things. But the authors of these arguments just don’t notice where their arguments lead.”

To conclude, such implications are not only not so scary, but are actually vitally important to the maintenance of a libertarian social order. Libertarianism requires borders, as private property cannot exist without them. Private property may be used in an illiberal or even tyrannical way by its owners, but the alternative of embracing open borders is not freedom; it is totalitarian statism.

The Decline Of Twitter (And What To Do About It)

Since its launch in July 2006, Twitter has become the go-to online short message service and has broken into the top ten websites by traffic amount. The site grew rapidly over the next five years, going from 5,000 tweets per day in 2007 to 140 million tweets per day in 2011. But the growth would not last. The company reached a peak of around 300 million users in early 2015 and has failed to grow past that point. The company fired its chief executive, Dick Costolo, in June 2015 and replaced him with Jack Dorsey, its founding chief executive who had himself been fired in 2008. Its share price has tumbled from $44.90 at its IPO in 2013 to $15.89 on Feb. 12, 2016.

Several incidents have occurred recently that are clearly harming Twitter’s reputation. Censorship of content that is inconvenient for government officials has long been a problem on Twitter. With the migrant crisis in Europe, Twitter policies against hate speech have been used to censor reports of sexual assaults by migrants against European women. In 2015, Twitter installed content filters that censor the news feeds of users without their consent. More has been done to protect social justice warriors than to keep terrorists from using Twitter as a recruitment tool. More recently, Twitter has targeted conservatives by unverifying Milo Yiannapoulos and locking Adam Baldwin’s account for what are apparently political motivations. Finally, the new Trust and Safety Council contains many of the prominent leftist enemies of free speech and full rational discussion, along with a few promoters of general discord and derangement. Among them are the Anti-Defamation League, Beyond Blue, the Dangerous Speech Project, Feminist Frequency, GLAAD, Hollaback, and the Wahid Institute. Notably absent are any conservative, pro-white, pro-Christian, or pro-male groups.

Many of these problems are not unique to Twitter, but are merely examples of the rise of the social justice warrior and the inevitable reaction to them. The persecution complex, lack of social skills, sense of entitlement, desire to engage in counter-oppression, and desire to avoid responsibility for one’s actions that social justice warriors typically exhibit has manifested on Twitter through the equivocation of simple disagreement with threatening harassment; the positive expression of personal preferences and identities as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism; and the statement of uncomfortable truths as all of the above. The Twitter Rules are written in a such a sufficiently vague way as to allow their interpretation to further the aforementioned actions. In sum, what has happened is in accordance with Robert Conquest’s three laws of politics, specifically the second; any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing. The result is such an obviously contradictory position as was enunciated by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, for which most commenters correctly castigated him:

“Twitter stands for freedom of expression, speaking truth to power, and empowering dialogue. That starts with safety.”

This brings to mind Conquest’s third law; the simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of the enemies of the stated purpose of that organization.

Before discussing what to do about this problem, there are some objections worth addressing. First, although Twitter is a private corporation, it is not a free market institution. Free markets require anarchy, and we are far from that. Second, like all other companies at present, Twitter is mostly operated, used, and financed by people who have been indoctrinated in government weekday prisons to believe in statism and leftism. As a publicly traded company, Twitter is subject to a multitude of regulations that do not affect privately owned companies and is influenced by investors. For example, Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal owns over 5 percent of Twitter, and his influence increases the likelihood that criticism of Islam or Muslims will subject a Twitter user to disciplinary action, even if unwarranted by the rules. Third, within a libertarian framework, Twitter has the right to engage in censorship, but people are free to take action against it that is within the non-aggression principle, such as criticism and ostracism.

With the problem described and the caveats addressed, let us examine some possible solutions. The first and most obvious solution can be implemented by Twitter itself. As Bretigne Shaffer notes, there is no singular proper balance between free expression and protection from abuse. As such, multiple balances must be made available. This would involve having several modes of interactions, ranging from a mode that is safe even for young children all the way up to a mode that only excludes clearly illegal behavior. A user would choose which mode in which to operate and posting content beyond that mode would get that user pushed into a more mature mode, perhaps permanently. This is how a free market institution with rational actors would work to solve the legitimate issues on Twitter. Unfortunately, as described above, this is not what we have. Therefore, let us consider some other options.

The next three options can be carried out by Twitter’s users. The alt-right community on Twitter has had success in its efforts to flood the platform with politically incorrect hashtags, to the extent that #ISaluteWhitePeople, #BringBackThePatriarchy, #AbolishDemocracy, and #FeminismIsCancer all trended in the second half of 2015. A mass revolt by Twitter users could keep content of this nature (or any other politically incorrect nature) atop the trends faster than Twitter staff could react. Another option is to use the cashtag $TWTR in such a manner, which can put such activity in front of investors who use the tag to look for news about the site and its stock price. A large enough action of this type could even have the same effect as a denial-of-service attack. Of course, these methods are likely to get many users banned, but this is not much of a problem. The prevalence of Islamic State-affiliated accounts on Twitter shows that it is also possible to create new accounts faster than Twitter staff can ban them.

Investors can play a role in fixing Twitter as well. As the stock prices fall, people are necessarily buying and selling stock. This provides an opportunity for investors who oppose leftism in general and social justice warriors in particular to gain influence in the company, and perhaps even seats on the board of directors. This influence could be wielded to reverse the recent disturbing changes in policy, or even to oust Jack Dorsey (again).

If all else fails, there is always the option to create a rival platform and drive Twitter out of business. If Twitter’s leadership is intent on turning the platform into a safe space, then other platforms will be available to cater to the castoffs from this policy. If this happens, then Twitter’s stock will continue to plummet and its user base as well as its value to advertisers will continue to decline. To quote Shaffer,

“The company does not have to decide whether all of its users get chocolate or whether they all get vanilla. It can allow users to choose their own flavors. And if it’s going to survive, it’s going to have to.”

The Libertarian Case Against Trump

On Jan. 24, Christopher Cantwell published an article arguing that libertarians should support Donald Trump in the 2016 election. In this rebuttal, I will show on a point-by-point basis how the case for supporting Trump is flawed.

It is true that democracy is a terrible system of governance. To quote Hans-Hermann Hoppe, it is a soft variant of communism, and only rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else. But because this system is almost certainly not going to be abolished before November 2016, someone will almost certainly be elected President of the United States. According to Cantwell, this leaves a libertarian with four options:

  1. Support a candidate who will do things which are unlibertarian, but is less harmful than the other candidates.
  2. Support a candidate who will do things which are so unlibertarian that society will be irreparably harmed and the government will collapse that we might rule the wasteland.
  3. Support a libertarian candidate who has absolutely no chance of winning.
  4. Renounce elections as unprincipled, wield zero influence, and remain in a powerless echo chamber of libertarian autism.

Cantwell argues for the first option, and expresses contempt for the latter three. There is another option, but let us deal with these four first by exploring the problems with the first option and the benefits of the next three. By engaging in the political process to support a candidate, one helps to legitimize the political system in the eyes of onlookers as a means of affecting libertarian change. Supporting Trump as the best of a bunch of bad candidates, or as the best candidate with a reasonable chance of winning a presidential election, is just typical “lesser of two evils” nonsense extended to a larger number of candidates. Also, any money donated to or effort expended for Trump’s political candidacy is money and effort that cannot be put to another use. In other words, focus put on politics is focus lost to anti-politics. Who knows what innovations that increase liberty by creating a way to ignore or fight the state will be lost because the efforts needed for those innovations were instead put toward the Trump campaign?

On the other hand, supporting a candidate whose policies are so bad that they will collapse the system could make the necessary revolution more likely. To quote from the Declaration of Independence, mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. While this may seem to be a pernicious deed in the moment, electing the worst candidates over a period of time could be the best long-term use of the political system by libertarians if it makes the revolution occur sooner. There is also the matter that states always collapse in time because people inevitably fall victim to their perverse incentives and steer the system toward ruin, so this outcome will occur eventually regardless of election results absent a libertarian revolution.

Supporting the Libertarian Party candidate in 2016 is not necessarily a worthless endeavor, especially if the election results are favorable enough to ease ballot access efforts in 2020, when a well-known anarchist activist plans to run. Even though victory would still be nearly impossible, such a campaign has the potential to convert more people to libertarian thought than even the Ron Paul presidential campaigns, and that is the most useful role that the Libertarian Party can play.

When one votes, one is helping to impose violent rulers upon peaceful people and give the appearance of legitimacy to institutions which deserve none. Voters are effectively asking a particular person who seeks to violently dominate society to command government agents to commit actions on their behalf which would be considered criminal by any objective standard, and which are considered criminal if an ordinary person commits them. The idea that voting can be an act of self-defense is false because voting harms bystanders who are not innocent shields. Also, renouncing elections as unprincipled need not result in wielding zero influence and remaining in a powerless echo chamber of libertarian autism. It depends upon what one does instead of voting on Election Day. If one sits at home and rants online in a libertarian chat room, then this will occur. But if one goes out to the polls not to participate in the election, but to protest against statism in general and democracy in particular, then there is an opportunity to engage with and convert new people to libertarian thought.

Finally, there is one more basic option to consider:

  1. Use force to shut down polling places and repel voters from them.

Because voting is an aggressive act, using force to stop it is morally justifiable. But it is tactically unwise on three counts. First, given the number of polling places, the manpower and resources needed to shut down each one, the possibility of alternative polling places, the length of early voting periods, and the possibility of voting by mail, it is safe to say that the election will continue despite any such efforts. Second, if libertarians actually had the means to stop a presidential election by force in just some parts of the nation, then it would be far more effective to use force to expel government agents from our lands and continue to use force to resist any government agents, terrorists, warlords, mafiosos, or common criminals that attempt to cause trouble afterward. Third, using force against voters and election personnel is likely to bring people into the fight between anarchists and statists on the statist side, as they will view the revolutionaries as an existential threat which must be quashed rather than a movement which they could join.

On the issue of dealing with aggressors, it is necessary to use both force and reason. One has a right to defend oneself by escalating the use of force as far as necessary to subdue the aggressors. After this is done, one should ready one’s argumentation ethics and denounce the aggressors as moral criminals in order to justify one’s use of force to one’s peers. The same must be done regardless of whether the aggressors consist of a lone common criminal, all government agents in a geographical area, or anything in between.

The crux of Cantwell’s argument for supporting Donald Trump is that years of arguing for revolution have proven fruitless because there are prerequisites for revolution which have yet to be met, and Trump will help to meet those prerequisites, the most important of which is the suppression of the political left. While it is true that left-wing influence is threatening the very survival of humanity, we must not be blind to threats to liberty from the right-wing. Ludwig von Mises wrote of European fascism in 1927, “It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history.” Immediately afterward, he wrote, “But though its policy has brought salvation for the moment, it is not of the kind which could promise continued success. Fascism was an emergency makeshift. To view it as something more would be a fatal error.” Mises would learn the hard way just what a fatal error this was, as it was ultimately fascists who forced him out of his academic position in Vienna and away to America to basically start over at the age of 60. He would go on to write Omnipotent Government in 1944, which remains one of the best anti-authoritarian works ever penned.

While the desire to do something besides making calls for revolution that land on deaf ears is certainly understandable, the installation of reactionary figures atop the democratic statist apparatus has been similarly fruitless. All historical examples have ended in failure for a variety of reasons. The reactionaries can over-correct, taking society backward beyond the point at which they believe mistakes were made, causing needless damage in the process; they can take society off of one wrong path and put it onto another, even worse path; or they can make changes only to lose power and see their changes reversed by a counter-reactionary movement. Most importantly, as Cantwell correctly recognizes, democracies inherently move leftward over time. The deep state is generally impervious to elections. Never has there been a reactionary movement that could achieve its goals and maintain them against attempts at reversal. The aforementioned failures also suggest that supporting Trump could be the second option listed above rather than the first one.

A useful metaphor for the appeal of a figure like Trump among anarcho-capitalists may be found in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. While Tolkien always strongly held that his works should not be seen as a metaphor for anything, there is scarcely a better metaphor in all of literature for state power than The One Ring, and Tolkien self-identifies as an anarchist in his letters. What Sauron expected was for a champion of men to wear the Ring in battle against him, and he knew that his vast military might could overwhelm the forces of men, take the Ring, and restore his full power to him. He could not foresee that the forces of good would have Frodo Baggins to sneak the Ring into Mount Doom to destroy it there until it was too late. But this almost did not happen. Had Faramir chosen to take the Ring from Frodo when they met in Osgiliath, the former outcome would have eventually occurred. Those who seek to wield state power against the leftist enemy through Trump are playing the part of Faramir, and they risk making the terrible mistake that Faramir avoided. The state itself is the primary problem; to instead try to use its power against the leftists who currently use it does nothing to prevent its power from eventually falling back into their hands, as it always has.

Cantwell mentions several behaviors as social negatives; drug use, sexual promiscuity, feminism, homosexuality, and racial and cultural diversity. But for many centuries, these behaviors were discouraged not by the market, but by theocratic states and the religions enforced by them. There are many examples of other societies throughout history where such behaviors were common, although one could argue that such societies experienced turmoil more frequently on average. Free markets would not necessarily discourage such behaviors; they would only prevent them from running rampant, as there would be no entity that could force people to associate or integrate against their wills or force the economic consequences of unbridled degeneracy onto the rest of society, as states do. This would mean that people would either have to learn to handle their vices or be destroyed by them, which would have a positive effect on a civilization.

While Donald Trump does offset leftist influence to a greater extent than anyone else in recent memory, this has been accomplished solely by his presence as a presidential candidate and public figure. He need not win the presidency in order to do this. Now that he has proven that the politically correct media machine is a paper tiger and the cuckservative and cuckertarian establishment has been repeatedly discredited, other candidates and public figures can and do speak uncomfortable truths without fear.

It is true that absent a democracy, we are left with a choice between anarchism and unelected government. But as Cantwell previously recognized, “A 17th century British monarchy may seem preferable by comparison (to democracy), but we can look at countries like North Korea to get our measure of liberty in a modern dictatorship, and cross that option off of our list.” This is because there are two factors of importance in citizen response to government: voice and exit. The reactionary seeks a system of no voice and free exit, and a world full of micro-nations operating in this manner would certainly be preferable to the current system of democratic nation-states, which offers only an illusion of voice coupled with significant barriers to exit. But this is not the likely outcome of a collapse of democracy that does not also collapse the statist system. The likely result of no voice and no exit is the worst of all possible worlds. At least in a stateless world guided by the likes of Cato, Reason, and C4SS, the market could sort out their nonsense and return us to better practices. To quote Cantwell, “Anarcho-capitalism does not require any number of people to agree with it, only that the system of coercion impeding it be rendered ineffective. Remove the systemic coercion, and economics will take care of the rest.”

The idea that the left should face political opposition from a true right-wing movement is appealing on its face, as this would make leftists deal with a political threat rather than focus their attacks solely upon libertarianism. But state power need not be used for this. A resurgence of right-wing libertarianism would be sufficient to repel the toxic influence of the new crop of left-libertarians, and Cantwell’s own efforts on this front have been quite valuable. Also, the danger of the right-wing movement coming to power and inflicting its own brand of statism upon us cannot be ignored.

To conclude, the struggle for liberty is a local, anti-political effort. Looking for a strongman to save us will only lead to further ruin, even if that ruin is of a different sort. Bleak though the outlook is at this point, the path to a free society is revolution or bust.

The Free Rider Benefit

A common defense of the state made by statists is the public goods argument; that there are certain non-excludable and non-rivalrous goods and services that a person can consume without reducing their availability to others, and that these must be provided by the state. Examples include military defense, infrastructure, and legal systems. The obvious retort is to ask a statist to prove that a certain good or service must be public and monopolized by the state, as this amounts to an inexhaustible proof by exhaustion; every other possible method must be examined and proven not to work. The usual method of demonstrating uniqueness, that of positing a second solution and showing that it equals the first, does not work in this case because a government monopoly is unlike any other arrangement.

But suppose we do not make this move. What argument will the statist make next? If there must be public goods, then there is a possibility for a tragedy of the commons. A person acting on rational self-interest will realize that one can benefit from a public good without contributing to its provision. This leads to what is called the free rider problem, where some people either consume more than or pay for less than their fair share of a public good. This situation is frequently taken to provide a rationale for government intervention, but the case for this is fallacious. Let us examine why.

If we wish to have a rational discussion, it is essential to define terms. A problem is an undesirable situation which can be remedied. This is because a situation which is not undesirable presents no problem to solve, and an undesirable situation which has no remedy is just a fact which must be tolerated. The free rider “problem” is a situation of the latter type, as it is impractical to make sure that everyone pays exactly what they should pay for the amount of public goods that they consume. That government monopolies destroy competition, and thus the market price system, makes the free rider “problem” impossible to solve, as the information needed to determine how much each person should pay for the amount of public goods that they consume is destroyed beyond repair.

The concept of the free rider problem also proves too much. If taken to its logical conclusion, the idea that no one should be able to consume more than or pay for less than their fair share of a public good means that the state should be eliminated, as the very presence of a state means that some people are consuming more than and paying for less than their fair share of the total wealth in the economy, as states are funded by coercive means which violate private property rights. Those who receive government welfare payments, bailouts, grants, or any other form of government funding are free riding upon the backs of taxpayers and anyone else who uses currency printed by a government’s central bank. The latter group of people are forced riders who are required to pay for public goods from which they receive insufficient benefit. Charity would also be unjustifiable if the concept of the free rider problem is taken to its logical conclusion, as those who receive charity are not paying the full cost for what they are using.

But suppose we ignore this as well. If we accept for the sake of argument that there are public goods and that no one should be able to consume more than or pay for less than their fair share of a public good, then the result will be a massive distortion of the economy, as both the state and private charity must go. While the demise of statism is nothing to lament, the absence of any form of private charity would lead to the very sort of Hobbesian war that statists fear and think that they are preventing. It must also be noted that the money for payments for public goods which are now being made was once being put toward another purpose. Whether that purpose was spending on other goods and services or investment (which is really just another form of spending), the diversion of spending away from these purposes and toward public goods will eliminate some other economic activities that were occurring. To ignore this, as most people who argue for the free rider problem do, is to commit the broken window fallacy.

It is clear that the idea that free riders are a problem is fallacious at every level. But how can free riders be beneficial? There are two ways in which free riders can be beneficial. Some people will argue that free riders are responsible for higher costs, but they are actually signalling that a good or service is overpriced. While degenerate freeloaders do exist, most free riders who are aware of their free riding are willing to pay for what they are receiving but believe that said goods or services are overpriced. In the state-enforced absence of another provider, they choose to “pirate” the public goods rather than pay the cost which they believe to be too expensive. If there are rational, knowledgeable people in charge of a public good that has many free riders, then they will respond by lowering the cost to convince more people to contribute, which can actually raise the total contribution.

The above result is rare, of course, as rational, knowledgeable people tend to be productive rather than become part of the state apparatus. The more useful role of free riders is to crash government programs which cannot be ended by normal political means. Most government programs help a few people by a large magnitude while harming a much larger number of people by a much smaller amount. This means that an irate and tireless minority will work to keep their sacred cow from being gored, while the majority is not being harmed enough to take action to end the harm. Thus, there is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program, and it is politically impossible to abolish entitlement and welfare programs. While the strategy of overloading such programs was first proposed by leftists who wished to replace them with far more expansive redistributions of wealth, it could also be used by libertarian-minded people who wish to replace such programs with nothing. The potential to roll back or even eliminate state power by causing a hard crash and reset is the free rider benefit.