The 100 and a libertarian perspective on innocent shields

The 100 recently wrapped up its second season. The show is based on a book of the same name, but only loosely follows it. The show is set about a century after a nuclear war occurred on Earth. There are three major types of survivors: those who lived on space stations (Sky People), those who remained on the ground (Grounders), and those who took over a military installation at Mount Weather and have lived inside the mountain (Mountain Men). The Grounders are adapted to the higher radiation levels, and so are the Sky People due to exposure to radiation in space. The Mountain People, however, are not adapted and will die almost instantly upon exposure to the outside world. The show mainly focuses on the Sky People, beginning with their struggles in space which force them to return to the surface and continuing with their interactions with the other two types of survivors that they find there.

The finale, “Blood Must Have Blood, Part 2,” contained an interesting moral dilemma. The Mountain People are led by Cage, a tyrant who is willing to use any means necessary to make his people capable of living on the surface. He has captured about 40 Sky People and his underlings are forcibly extracting their bone marrow for transplants into his people so that they can have resistance to the radiation. Cage intends to exterminate the captives in the process. Clarke, the leader of a small strike force of Sky People, only has one way to stop him: reverse the air filtration of Mount Weather to flood it with radiation, thereby killing all of the Mountain People, including hundreds of innocent civilians who are not involved with or even supportive of Cage’s actions. She struggles with this decision, but ultimately chooses to flip the switch and kill the Mountain People to save her people. From a libertarian perspective, was Clarke’s decision justified? Let us see.

Essentially, this is a more complicated version of the problem of innocent shields. The Mountain People other than Cage and his underlings are innocents, but so are the captured Sky People. Clarke effectively kills the aggressors (except for Cage, who has already made himself resistant to radiation but is killed by a Grounder shortly after escaping Mount Weather) but wipes out the innocent Mountain People to save the captured Sky People. Unquestionably, Clarke was justified in killing Cage’s underlings and trying to kill Cage. They were committing acts of murder and were therefore estopped from complaining about violations of their own rights to life. But what of the innocents among the Mountain People? To answer this, we need to consider two libertarian theories on the matter of innocent shields: that of strict non-aggression and that of negative homesteading.

Strict adherence to the non-aggression principle would suggest that the Mountain People civilians are non-aggressors and that harming them is immoral. But if this is true, then the captured Sky People are doomed. If Clarke cannot kill the Mountain People, then Cage and his underlings will murder the captured Sky People. But the non-aggression principle is not an axiom; it is a logical corollary of the right to exclusive control over one’s physical body, which is the starting point for any logically rigorous moral theory. (To argue against this right would result in a performative contradiction.) To have another theory for this situation, we need to find another such logical corollary of bodily ownership and use it. Toward that end, Walter Block introduced the concept of negative homesteading. To quote Block,

“In ordinary homesteading, or what we must now call positive homesteading to distinguish it from this newly introduced variety, it is the first person upon the scene who mixes his labor with the land or natural resource who comes away with the property rights in question. It is the first man who farms a plot of land, who becomes the rightful owner. A similar procedure applies to negative homesteading, only here what gets to be “owned” is a negative, not a positive. This concept refers to some sort of unhappiness, not a benefit such as owning land. The ownership of misery, as it were, must stay with its first victim, according to this principle. He cannot legitimately pass it onto anyone else without the latter’s permission.”

At first glance, the case at hand appears to be more complicated than the case Block discusses first:

“A grabs B to use as a shield; A forces B to stand in front of him, and compels him to walk wherever A wishes. A then hunts C in order to murder the latter by shooting him. C also has a gun. Is it legally permissible for C to shoot at A in self defense under libertarian law?”

Here, there are groups rather than individuals, and A is using B as a shield while killing C that is not armed. D must decide to either kill both A and B or to allow A to kill C. Replacing D with C is functionally equivalent because D (Clarke) is acting as C’s (Sky People’s) agent, and the moral limitations of one’s own actions are identical to the moral limitations of the actions of one’s agent. As groups have no existence apart from the individuals which comprise said groups, this difference may also be discarded. As such, we are back to the original case: C must choose either to allow oneself to be murdered or to kill both the aggressor (A) and the shield (B).

To use the theory of negative homesteading, we must identify the first homesteader of the misery. This is the Mountain People. Cage started this scenario by assuming a leadership position over the Mountain People, to which they did not object even though they were numerous enough to overthrow him. It is impermissible for the Mountain People to transfer this misery to the Sky People. Even in the best case for Cage and his underlings, which is that they would let the Mountain People go free after giving them the Sky People’s bone marrow, the Mountain People will have succeeded in passing off enough misery onto the Sky People to kill them. Thus, the theory of negative homesteading permits Clarke to do what she did even though a strict view of the non-aggression principle would not.

25 statist propaganda phrases and how to rebut them

In the discourse of statists, there is a group of phrases of which one or more tend to be present in nearly every argument. While this is not an exhaustive listing of that group, it does contain twenty-five of the most common phrases that statists use in their arguments. As propaganda has a tendency to be repetitive, some of these phrases contain the same logical fallacies, and will therefore have similar refutations. As such, the phrases are ordered so that earlier rebuttals also apply to some later phrases.

  1. Our government”

“Our” is the possessive form of “we.” This phrase 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. As such, the phrase “our government” is meaningless. 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.

  1. We are the government”

This phrase confuses society with government, which is as serious an error as confusing an entire human body with a malignant tumor growing inside of that body.

  1. The social contract”

A valid contract must be presented honestly and agreed to voluntarily, without duress or fraud. The social contract does not meet this standard because the state will initiate the use of force against anyone who does not voluntarily enter into the social contract. The state is also not automatically dissolved when it fails to uphold its obligations under the social contract, so the presentation is dishonest if it even occurs at all. Therefore, the social contract cannot be considered a legitimate contract.

  1. Our leader”

In the case of the state, we are not speaking of just any kind of leader, but a ruler. No one owns the ruler, and the ruler falsely claims to own those who are ruled, as the ruler claims a right to exclusive control over the ruled and has no logically defensible basis for doing so. Thus the leader is not “ours.”

  1. The leader of the free world”

“The free world” does not exist; each individual person exists. Again, we are speaking of rulers rather than all types of leaders. Free people do not have rulers; they rule themselves.

  1. You don’t have to like our leaders, but you should respect them”

Respect should be a response to virtue. Ordering the use of initiatory force against people to control them is not virtuous behavior, therefore it is unworthy of respect.

  1. You don’t have to like the president, but you should respect the office of the presidency”

The office of the presidency, like any part of any government, is a violent criminal institution. Violent criminality is unworthy of respect.

  1. Our military”

If the military is “ours,” then “we” should be able to exercise exclusive control over it. But “we” neither command the military nor have the freedom to destroy it. Thus it is not “ours”; it is a tool of the ruling classes used to make it very difficult for citizens to violently overthrow the government, provide a last line of defense for the state in the form of martial law should the citizens succeed in violently overthrowing the government, and present a deterrent to other rulers elsewhere in the world who might seek to take over the state and capture the tax base for themselves.

  1. We need to make the world safe for democracy”

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on who gets eaten. This sort of behavior should not be made safe; it should be made dangerous by giving the sheep means to resist the wolves. Some will say that this is what a constitutional republic does, but this is false. A constitutional republic is three wolves and a sheep voting for a representative among them to decide who gets eaten. To claim that establishing a constitutional republic counters the negative aspects of democracy is to claim that simply by making a chocolate cake double-layered, one can magically turn it into something that is not chocolate.

  1. You don’t have to like what the police/military are doing, but you should support them”

Again, respect should be a response to virtue. Just as ordering the use of initiatory force against people to control them is not virtuous behavior, carrying out said orders is also not virtuous. Therefore it is unworthy of respect.

  1. The homeland/Our nation”

As only individuals are capable of action, only individuals may rightly own property. There is no such thing as public property; there is only privately owned property and property which has been stolen or otherwise interfered with by agents of the state. Thus, there is no homeland or nation because these require collective ownership.

  1. National defense/security”

There is no such thing as national security apart from each individual person’s security because there is no such thing as a nation apart from each individual person.

  1. It’s the law”

In a statist society, the laws are a collection of opinions written down by sociopaths who have managed to either win popularity contests or murder their competitors and enforced at gunpoint by thugs in costumes. The implication of the phrase “it’s the law” is that this state of affairs is both necessary and proper, rather than inherently illogical and immoral. Also implied is that the law is somehow sacrosanct and immutable, which is clearly false because the aforementioned sociopaths both frequently alter the laws and routinely disregard the laws they make for everyone else.

  1. Voting is your voice in government”

This statement assumes that there is no voter fraud, that votes are counted correctly, that vote results cannot be altered by courts, and that politicians will do what voters tell them to do. Each of these assumptions has an unfulfilled burden of proof at best, and is demonstrably false on several occasions at worst.

  1. Voting is a civic duty”

A legitimate duty can only come from a legitimate right or contract. There is no such right or contract that could create such a duty. In addition, there can be no legitimate duty to perform an immoral act. Voting is immoral because it helps to impose violent rulers upon peaceful people and gives the appearance of legitimacy to institutions which deserve none.

  1. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”

This is exactly wrong. People who do not vote are the only people who have a right to complain. Those who vote for people who win elections are endorsing politicians and their minions who will engage in activities under color of law that would be punished as crimes if you or I did them. Those who vote for people who lose elections may not be vicariously responsible for the crimes of state agents in the same degree, but participating in the system helps to create the appearance of legitimacy for that which is inherently illegitimate.

  1. The public good/The good of society”

Society, or “the public,” does not exist. Each individual person exists. As such, there is no such thing as the public good or the good of society. There is only what is good for each individual person.

  1. For the children”

Those who wield state power subject children to forced indoctrination that leaves them with few marketable skills and restrict the ability of suitable guardians to serve as their parents. They do not care about children as anything other than a means to shame and guilt people into handing over more liberty and property to the state.

  1. Government is necessary”

This is a positive claim which carries a burden of proof. By itself, this is a claim asserted without logic or evidence and may therefore be dismissed without logic or evidence.

  1. Anarchy is chaos”

The word “anarchy” comes from Greek αναρχος, meaning “without rulers,” or more accurately, “without beginning to take the lead.” It does not mean an absence of order, rules, or structure. The state, on the other hand, is chaos plus organization.

  1. Taxes are the price for a civilized society”

This is exactly wrong. Taxes are the price for failing to create a civilized society based on voluntary solutions, and the degree of taxation corresponds to the degree of failure.

  1. Paying taxes is a civic duty”

Taxation is immoral because it violates the non-aggression principle, private property rights, and freedom of association. There can be no legitimate duty to comply with immorality.

  1. We owe it to ourselves”

This would make one both a creditor and a debtor in the same transaction. This is a contradiction, therefore it is false.

  1. We’re going to hold them accountable”

This is contrary to the nature of the state. The state apparatus allows some people to do what is ordinarily forbidden for anyone to do. Thus, the objective is to avoid responsibility for the commission of crimes. Avoiding responsibility is the opposite of being held accountable.

  1. Who will build the roads?”

If we free the slaves, who will pick the cotton? It does not matter. What matters is that slavery is morally indefensible. So it is with government and who will provide services in its absence. Also, it is not necessary to know the correct answer to a question in order to know that a particular answer is incorrect. And who will build the death camps? The state also provides intolerable disservices which would almost certainly not occur in its absence.

Five observations on the Department of Homeland Security funding debacle

On Feb. 27, the United States Congress passed a temporary funding resolution to avoid a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. Five observations follow.

1. The repetition of the same action under the same circumstances while expecting different results is a form of insanity. This is not the first time that Republicans have tried to stop President Obama and Congressional Democrats by using the power of the purse. House Republicans have tried to tie spending freezes or cuts to debt ceiling increases on multiple occasions, and have tried to defund Obamacare in a similar fashion. In each case, including the October 2013 government slowdown, the Republicans have ultimately been blamed by the American people for threatening to incite what many of them have been propagandized to believe will be a disaster. (Whether they deserve such blame is another matter, but that they get it is clearly true.) Yet the Republicans continue to threaten to defund various departments and programs without having the courage and determination to hold such a stance long enough to force the changes they are supposedly seeking. And the insanity is set to continue; the current funding resolution is for one week, at which point this is set to happen again.

2. If one is going to talk radical, eventually one must either act radical or lose credibility. The idea of brinkmanship is to push dangerous events to the brink of disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome. But a threat is worthless if it is not credible, and the Democrats had the above cases to suggest that the threat is not credible. As such, they did not budge. This was a strategic victory for them; not only did the Republicans cave on shutting down the Department of Homeland Security, they did not even use the less radical tactic of abolishing the filibuster rules in the US Senate followed by passing the bill they wanted in both houses of Congress.

3. The Republicans are trying to create the appearance of doing something while doing nothing. Given the first and second points above, it is clear that this method of achieving the political goal of stopping President Obama’s executive actions concerning immigration policy will not be successful, and that the Republicans are unwilling to use other methods available to them which are more likely to succeed. This leaves the more cynical, and therefore more likely to be correct, answer that Republicans do not actually want to solve this problem. It is in their rational self-interest, to the detriment of Americans as a whole, to leave this problem unsolved so that it can be used as a political issue to blame Democrats for leaving the Mexican border unsecured and allowing immigrants to enter illegally, which can motivate certain voter demographics to vote Republican. (Again, whether this is a correct stance on immigration is unimportant; for the voters in question, emotions tend to trump reason and reality.)

4. If one believes in free markets and voluntary competition, then having a government monopoly on security is nonsensical. Many Republicans will at least pay lip service to the ideas of free markets and voluntary competition among most providers of goods and services, even if they frequently act in opposition to such ideas once elected. But to quote Gustave de Molinari,

“If there is one well-established truth in political economy, it is this: That in all cases, for all commodities that serve to provide for the tangible or intangible needs of the consumer, it is in the consumer’s best interest that labor and trade remain free, because the freedom of labor and of trade have as their necessary and permanent result the maximum reduction of price. And this: That the interests of the consumer of any commodity whatsoever should always prevail over the interests of the producer. Now in pursuing these principles, one arrives at this rigorous conclusion: That the production of security should, in the interests of the consumers of this intangible commodity, remain subject to the law of free competition. Whence it follows: That no government should have the right to prevent another government from going into competition with it, or to require consumers of security to come exclusively to it for this commodity. …True economists are generally agreed, on the one had, that the government should restrict itself to guaranteeing the security of its citizens, and on the other hand, that the freedom of labor and of trade should otherwise be whole and absolute. But why should there be an exception relative to security? What special reason is there that the production of security cannot be relegated to free competition? Why should it be subjected to a different principle and organized according to a different system? On this point, the masters of the science are silent, and M. Charles Dunoyer, who has clearly noted this exception, does not investigate the grounds on which it is based.”

But one cannot find a Republican in a position of power today who will oppose the Department of Homeland Security, the US military, or any other such agency on logical, free market grounds.

5. The path to liberty is anti-political. Many libertarian-leaning voters continue to support politicians as a means of advancing liberty. But once in office, those politicians are all but unaccountable for their actions until the next election, which they may or may not care about winning. And as shown above, they may engage in insanity, hollow brinkmanship, selfish posturing, and/or unprincipled policies. The solution to the problem of immigration is to have respect for private property rights and freedom of association, both of which require anarchy. Attempting to use the political process to solve a problem that is caused by the very presence of such a process is an exercise in futility.

An open letter against an open letter to Ron Paul

Dear Aarón Shelby Baca, Mackenzie Holst, and Cory Massimino,

I would have liked to have prefaced this letter by pointing out that it is written not to condemn its recipients, but in the hope that its recipients might gain a better understanding of the freedom philosophy and of human liberty. Unfortunately, the numerous misquotations you have made as well as the anti-libertarian positions you have taken in your letter do not allow me to do this.

There is not so much an age gap in the libertarian movement as an ideological gap. This is nothing new; the thick versus thin debate has been going back and forth for decades, as have the debates between a rational versus an empirical understanding of libertarianism and a deontological versus a consequentialist ethical framework. Most recently, there has been a debate between what Jeffrey Tucker has termed humanitarianism versus brutalism. While it is true that “millennial” or “second-wave” libertarianism is not going away, to call “old-guard” or “first-wave” libertarianism obsolete simply because it is older or because it can accommodate viewpoints which are politically incorrect and/or antisocial constitutes a logical fallacy.

Let us examine the accusations you made of “racist, homophobic, and sexist undertones present in [the] writings” of Lew Rockwell, Hans Hermann-Hoppe, Walter Block, and Ron Paul. (I will not defend Gary North, as I agree that he holds many positions which are antithetical to libertarian philosophy and therefore do not consider him to be a libertarian.)

You note that Rockwell has compared the lives of people living under modern nation-states to chattel slavery. Whether this analogy offends anyone has no bearing on its truth value, and a reference to slavery does not have obvious racist undertones because there have been many instances throughout human history of slavery which was not race-based, some instances in the antebellum United States included. As for the truth value of this analogy, human farming theory goes a long way toward confirming it.

Hoppe wrote that “it is societies dominated by white heterosexual males, and in particular by the most successful among them, which have produced and accumulated the greatest amount of capital goods and achieved the highest average living standards.” This is an empirically observable historical fact. Facts are not racist, sexist, or homophobic, even if they concern results which could be partially attributed to such discrimination. After this, you take Hoppe out of context. When he says, “There can be no tolerance toward those habitually promoting lifestyles incompatible with this goal. They-the advocates of alternative, non-family-centered lifestyles such as, for instance, individual hedonism, parasitism, nature-environment worship, homosexuality, or communism-will have to be physically removed from society, too, if one is to maintain a libertarian order,” he is talking about the conditions inside of a covenant community whose residents have decided to use their private property rights and freedom of association to set standards of conduct inside of that community. These are not the conditions which would necessarily prevail throughout the entirety of a libertarian social order. There is no reason why another covenant community made up of individual hedonists, parasites, nature-environment worshipers, homosexuals, or communists would not be able to exclude people who do not agree to their standards of conduct. At issue is not puritanism, homophobia, or religious intolerance, but private property rights and freedom of association, neither of which can be rejected without committing a performative contradiction.

You have also misquoted Block once and taken him out of context twice. First, he did not say, “Feminists and gays aren’t libertarians.” He said, “[M]ost feminists are not libertarians, and neither are most gays,” which implies that some feminists and some gays are libertarians. He goes on to oppose rape and defend the rights of women to be armed so that they can protect themselves from rapists. Then, he defends the Stonewall Riots as gays acting in self-defense against aggressors. This is far from an instance of misogyny and homophobia.

Second, his full context is, with your quote in bold, “Consider a boy aged seventeen or over, where this the statutory cut off point between adults and children. The very idea of him joining the North American Man Boy Love Association, and engaging in sex with adult men, is personally repulsive to me. But as a libertarian, I have to realize that only coercive acts against such a youngster should be punishable. Not non-coercive ones. If a seventeen year old is an adult, and voluntarily wants to have sex with an adult homosexual man, I may not like it. I may be revolted by it. But gays too have rights. They should not be put in jail for consensual behavior with adults of a young age. The exact same situation should obtain for heterosexuals. That is, it should be legal for a 17 year old girl to engage in sexual relations with a male of any age, given this cut off point.” He is not being homophobic at all, but is questioning the wisdom of age-of-consent laws as they currently stand. One could even argue that he is defending gay rights more so than almost anyone else, as NAMBLA is an organization that almost no one else would touch with a ten-foot pole.

Third, his full context is, with your quote in bold, “Here, there is of course no question of legally prohibiting these actions; as we are evaluating them according to a very different standard. But still, it is of great interest how we view them. Just because a libertarian may refuse to incarcerate perverts, it does not mean he must remain morally neutral about such behavior. So, do we favor or oppose? Support or resist? Root for or against? In this dimension, I am a cultural conservative. This means that I abhor homosexuality, bestiality, and sadomasochism, as well as pimping, prostituting, drugging, and other such degenerate behavior. The basic theme…of libertarianism is that all non-aggressive behavior should be legal; people and their legitimately held private property should be sacrosanct. This does not mean that non-aggressive acts such as drug selling, prostitution, etc., are good, nice or moral activities. In my view, they are not. It means only that the forces of law and order should not incarcerate people from indulging in them.” Each person is entitled to an opinion about personal conduct, and one may disagree with Block if one chooses. One may even consider him to be a bigot. But one’s personal views on such behaviors are separate and distinct from libertarianism as long as no force is being used to impose one’s personal views on other people.

Finally, you accuse Block of racism simply for wondering whether the disparity between blacks and whites were the result of socioeconomic disparities and historical injustices towards blacks or “lower black IQ’s.” To be inquisitive is not racist. And again, facts, whatever they may be, are not racist, even if they concern results which could be partially or fully attributed to racism. I say “whatever they may be” because white slave-owners had a significant amount of power to decide which black slaves were bred together from the beginning of race-based slavery in the colonies in 1662 until the abolition of chattel slavery in 1865, and it was in their self-interest to try to breed physically superior and mentally inferior slaves. It is impossible to know exactly how effective their efforts were because these results cannot be separated out from the results of unequal educational opportunities and socioeconomic disparities.

Finally, there is Ron Paul. There are certainly many contents of the newsletters bearing his name which are indefensible, and allowing such content to go forth with his name on it does not speak well of his judgment, attentiveness, or management skills. But to blame him completely for this rather than whoever wrote the offensive content is tantamount to blaming the owner of a stolen car for a fatal accident caused by the car thief who sped away in it. You incorrectly quote Paul as having told the Dallas Morning News in 1996, “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.” This was an excerpt from the newsletters, not something that he told the Dallas Morning News.

You say, “Liberty cannot exist if individuals of any group are viewed as inferior, whether it is outright, or merely in the connotations of an argument.” The only way for no individuals of any group to be viewed as inferior without such a view being false is for all people to be equal and for all opinions to be equally valid. This is logically impossible. People are not, cannot, and should not be equals. Each of us has our own strengths, weaknesses, interests, and disinterests. These are capable of making one person objectively more capable than another, or people who share a certain characteristic objectively more capable than people who share a different characteristic. This does not mean that such people have more logical rights than others, but it could mean that they are able to acquire more private property rights and thusly have more influence in society. As for the idea that all opinions are equally valid, all one must do to disprove this idea is to have the opinion that all opinions are not equally valid and show the resulting contradiction.

While Mises identified tolerance as a fundamental value of a free society, he was speaking of liberalism, not libertarianism. Libertarianism is a philosophical position on what constitutes the legitimate use of force. It says that initiating the use of force is never acceptable and using force to defend against initiatory force is always acceptable. It must also be noted that there is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Libertarianism does not demand that we must have positive feelings toward every person or group of people (acceptance); it only demands that we never initiate the use of force against them to stop them from living peacefully (tolerance). Pitiful, wasteful, and unpleasant though it may be, people may use liberty “to assert their individual preferences, to form homogeneous tribes, to work out their biases in action, to ostracize people based on politically incorrect standards, to hate to their heart’s content so long as no violence is used as a means, to shout down people based on their demographics or political opinions, to be openly racist and sexist, to exclude and isolate and be generally malcontented with modernity, and to reject civil standards of values and etiquette in favor of antisocial norms,” if they so choose. To call such ideas “evil” is an assertion made without logic or evidence and may therefore be dismissed without logic or evidence.

You say that the purpose of your letter was “never to insult or belittle the influence of leading figures of liberty,” but its content trumps your intent. You say that your goal was “to address issues that push away people who would otherwise support our ideas if it wasn’t for certain people with problematic histories and those who espouse disenfranchising ideologies,” but this is a double-edged sword. There are people who currently support libertarianism who would stop doing so were it to become a logically inconsistent hodge-podge of political correctness rather than a rigorously rational approach to understanding what constitutes preferable behavior. After all, if they may not exercise their private property rights and freedom of association as they choose, then they are the ones who are being disenfranchised. You say you “want to open up the freedom philosophy as an avenue for all marginalized people,” but this should not come at the expense of marginalizing other people. And while it is true that we must allow the most subjugated peoples a voice in order to create a better world, this does not mean that anyone should be forced to listen to that voice.

The positions taken by the three of you are more akin to the anti-propertarian, politically correct collectivism of the statist left than to libertarianism. The misquotations are sufficiently numerous to call your motivations into question. As a principled libertarian, I must therefore denounce the three of you as fake libertarians.

Sincerely and for Liberty and Logic,

Matthew Reece

Special thanks to Lucy Steigerwald, Martin Brock, and Andkon for making my research easier.

Libertarians Must Be Spellwarriors

In a recent video, Stefan Molyneux discussed the reasons for the prevalence of left-leaning political views among history faculty at universities. In so doing, he used an analogy from Dungeons and Dragons-type fantasy environments to explain the two major types of statists. In fantasy settings, there are two major types of combat characters: those who fight with swords, bows, and other such conventional pre-modern weaponry, and those who fight with magic. The warriors are stronger than wizards at lower levels, but peak early due to physical limitations, such as injuries and aging. But wizards continually grow stronger at a rate that outpaces the warriors, eventually becoming very powerful.

In the real world, the wizards are the politicians, government regulators, and academics, while the warriors are the government police, soldiers, and other armed agents. Just like fantasy wizards, politicians and academics use words and gestures to effect changes in the material world. But unlike their fictional counterparts, the wizards of this world do not have the magical power to force reality to conform to their wills. They must use their words and gestures to convince other people to support their agendas and carry them out. The purpose of universities, then, is to teach the wizards how to use public speaking effectively to cast a sort of spell over the citizenry.

The warriors are not so different from their fantasy counterparts. Police and soldiers grow in effectiveness with training and experience, but will suffer from injuries and aging, eventually to the point of no longer being useful. And just as fantasy warriors protect the wizards in the party from the types of threats that they cannot deal with so easily themselves, the main function of police and soldiers is to protect the ruling classes from a violent rebellion by the citizenry or an invasion by soldiers in the employ of rulers of another country. The only major difference is that police and soldiers carry out the spell effects of politicians, while fantasy wizards need no such help.

Clearly, both the wizards and the warriors present a threat to liberty. One option for dealing with them is the wizard’s approach. We can counter the wizards’ spells by refuting the arguments made by politicians and academics who seek to propose new government policies and justify existing ones. While this is useful for convincing people of the evils of government policies and for educating future generations to be less statist, wizardry alone will not stop the victimization of innocent people. Some of the warriors may be persuaded to drop their arms and discontinue their service to the state, and some of the citizenry will join the ranks of libertarianism. But others will be dismissive or even violent in response to such arguments.

Another option is the warrior’s approach. Violent rebellion has been tried many times throughout history with varying results, but it has never produced a lasting success. One reason for this is that simply overthrowing a state creates a power vacuum, and as no one has ever been able to apply the force necessary to maintain such a vacuum, some ruler fills that vacuum. Another reason is that without a desire for liberty and an understanding of the dangers of statism, people will simply create another government after toppling the established order. There is also the matter that while violence in self-defense against agents of the state is always morally justifiable, it tends to end very badly for those rebels who do not have sufficient manpower and resources to win that conflict.

So, how does a libertarian respond in terms of this analogy? There is a third type of character: the spellwarrior, also known as the mystic warrior or battlemage. In fantasy settings, a spellwarrior is competent with both the sword and the spell. Such a character may not be as good at fighting as a pure warrior or as good at magic as a pure wizard, but is more well-rounded than either and can respond to a wider range of foes. By combining both approaches, a spellwarrior gains the benefits of each character type while blunting some of the drawbacks. This is what libertarians must do in order to be successful against the state. We must counter both the words and the weapons of the enemies of liberty. We must rebut arguments in favor of state power, convince others to join the cause of liberty, and eventually muster both the intellectual prowess and military might to end the state and maintain a free society. Neither the path of a pure wizard nor the path of a pure warrior can be sufficient. Libertarians must be spellwarriors.

On American Sniper And Human Farming

The movie American Sniper, which profiles Chris Kyle, has received a mixed response from critics. Kyle is viewed by various observers as anything between a hero who did what he had to do and a mass murderer who was part of a foreign invasion force. But let us consider something else.

While the public perception of Kyle has gotten the bulk of the attention among libertarians, there is a metaphor in the film that bears further examination. During a scene that occurs in Kyle’s childhood, his father tells him that there are three kinds of people in the world: sheep, who “don’t believe evil exists”; wolves, the evil men who prey upon them; and sheepdogs, men with “the gift of aggression,” a “rare breed that lives to confront the wolf.” Kyle understands that his father means for him to be a sheepdog. But a more insightful boy might have asked, “In this analogy, who are the farmers?”

The analogy, as relevant to Kyle’s life and profession, is that the sheep represent good civilians, the wolves represent criminals and terrorists, and the sheepdogs represent military personnel. Taking this analogy further, the farmers represent the ruling classes of politicians, bureaucrats, and regulators. Now let us examine all of the relationships between the four.

  1. The Sheep and the Wolf – The Quest For Protection

Long ago, sheep were wild animals. They had to find their own food and water, fight their own illnesses, and be subject to killing and eating by wolves and other predators. One view of the origin of farming is that people realized that domesticating and exploiting animals is easier than hunting and killing them. Another view is that the sheep (or natural selection guiding the sheep) made the more clever move. Becoming farmed means that sheep are guaranteed food, water, medicine, and protection.

Long ago, humans had no governments. There were natural leaders who were stronger and/or smarter than other members of one’s tribe, but there was no monopoly on initiatory force. The limited amount of resources available to paleolithic hunters and gatherers simply could not sustain a state apparatus as we know it. One way to look at the evolution of civilization is through the concept of human farming. The idea is that the world has become a series of farms where human farmers own human livestock. Humans perceive a benefit from outsourcing their problems of finding food, water, medicine, and protection, just as sheep do.

  1. The Sheep and the Farmer – The False Refuge

Becoming farmed means that sheep suffer a loss of free mating and a periodic loss of wool and milk. Those with a potentially dangerous set of horns might be stripped of those as well. But sheep do not tend to miss what is taken from them. This is because animals have little concept of the future. Thus, they do not care that the farm is a false refuge and that they will eventually be slaughtered for meat once their usefulness as dairy sheep or wool sheep is outlived, or their farmers have a demand for mutton and haggis.

As useful as animal farming is to its practitioners, human farming is far more useful. Unlike any other species on this planet, humans are capable of perceiving future loss and our own mortality. This means that humans have innate aspects that make us easier to control, as we interpret threats differently than members of other species. One cannot get more milk or wool by threatening a sheep, but one can get a man to give one milk and wool from a sheep he farms by threatening him. Moreover, there is the possibility to take some of the products of human labor, which can grant far more wealth to a farmer than the products animal labor.

  1. The Sheep and the Sheepdog – Livestock Management

There are two basic kinds of sheepdogs that manage sheep. Livestock guardian dogs protect the flock from wolves and other predators, while herding dogs direct the flock as an extension of the farmers and enforcer of their will. Notably, these tend to be different breeds of dog, and very few dogs perform well at both tasks. Of course, these dogs are never intended to protect the sheep in an objective sense, as this would entail preventing humans from exploiting them, which is the whole point of the operation. They are only there to make farming less difficult and more profitable for humans.

The sheepdogs of human livestock management are the enforcement classes of the state, consisting mainly of the police and military. The division between the two varies from farm to farm, but one can make the analogy that livestock guardian dogs are to military personnel as herding dogs are to police officers. Just as with sheep dogs, the purpose of the police and military is not the objective protection of the civilian population, as starry-eyed state propagandists would have us believe. The true purpose is threefold: protect the human farmers from the human livestock by making it very difficult for citizens to violently overthrow the government, provide a last line of defense for the institution of human farming in the form of martial law should the citizens succeed in violently overthrowing the government, and present a deterrent to other human farmers elsewhere in the world who might seek to take over the farm and capture the human livestock for themselves.

  1. The Wolf and the Farmer – Not So Different

A pack of wolves simply seek to hunt and kill a sheep for a satisfying meal. The behavior of a farmer is more complex; a farmer protects sheep from wolves and other predators while providing for their needs. But the endgame is the same; the farmer will eventually slaughter a sheep for meat, just as a wolf will. The farmer is simply less direct and timely about it, a wolf in sheep’s clothing (in more ways than one, as the farmer has likely dressed himself in wool).

Long ago, cannibalism was rather common among humans. This is analogous to wolves eating sheep in the case of animal farming. But while this was effective in the short-term, it was vastly inferior to various forms of slavery practiced by human farmers over their human livestock. After all, humans take a long time to develop, and their uniquely exploitable nature makes it far more profitable to control their muscles and minds than to consume them. Over time, those who preferred to merely exploit their fellow human beings won out over those who preferred to eat them.

Today, wolves are more analogous to non-government criminals while farmers are analogous to politicians. And still, they are not so different. One could even argue that they need each other; the politicians need there to be non-government criminals to convince the population of the necessity of state power, and non-government criminals need politicians to create a monopoly on criminal justice which they can then pervert for their benefit.

  1. The Wolf and the Sheepdog – Evolution of Evil

The sheepdog, like all domesticated dogs, is a descendant of the wolf. Over the course of millennia, humans have modified the behavior of sheepdogs to be beneficial to farmers rather than fatal to sheep. Rather than use lethal aggression against the flock, the sheepdogs will use toned-down aggressive behaviors to make the sheep move where the farmer wants them to go. Livestock guardian dogs are even able to blend into the flock and be perceived by the sheep as one of them.

The police officer or soldier, like all government agents, is a criminal in a costume. If anyone who is not a government agent committed the same actions as government agents, such a person would face a lengthy prison term and hefty fine. But rather than modify the behavior of policemen or soldiers in a significant way, the human farmers have forcibly indoctrinated their human livestock over the course of millennia to accept that it is not only moral, but necessary for certain people in the employ of the state to do what no one else is allowed to do. While police officers and soldiers will kill civilians who resist them, they typically use toned-down aggressive behaviors to make citizens obey their political masters. In most settings, few people think anything is amiss about a police officer or soldier being present.

  1. The Farmer and the Sheepdog – Partners in Crime

From a young age, trainers prepare sheepdogs to work with farmers in their efforts to control flocks of sheep. A farmer takes good care of his sheepdogs, as they are the means by which he can control large numbers of sheep. A number of sheepdogs would also be capable of inflicting great harm upon a farmer if they were to attack him as a pack, so abuse of sheepdogs by farmers is disincentivized. The sheepdogs likewise perform their duties for the farmer, as the farmer maintains them even more so than the sheep, who find most of their own food. A sheepdog that is unreliable or mean to the farmer will be expelled from the farm or even killed, so abuse of farmers by sheepdogs is disincentivized. Thus a symbiotic relationship emerges.

From a young age, many children are raised in a violent manner that makes them more likely to initiate the use of force as adults. While some of these people do not join the state and end up in prison, others are found to have the sort of upbringing that human farmers find useful in a human sheepdog. Just like farmers and sheepdogs, politicians and their enforcers have a symbiotic relationship. Politicians are always quick to defend police and military spending, as the enforcement classes are the means by which they can control large numbers of civilians. The enforcement classes would also be capable of carrying out a coup d’état if the politicians presented them with sufficient cause for doing so. The members of the enforcement classes likewise perform their duties for the ruling classes, as the ruling classes maintain them even more so than the civilians, who mostly make their own livelihoods. Police and soldiers who are unreliable or defiant will lose their jobs, face jail time, or even die suspiciously in the field, so compliance with the system is encouraged.

  1. Conclusion

So, what is a sheep to do? Not much. Sheep lack the intelligence and physical implements necessary to free themselves from the condition of being farmed. But what is a human to do? Unlike sheep, we have options. We are facing other members of our own species, not alien-looking predators or even more alien-looking super-intelligent masters. We can outsmart them through technological innovation that frees us from the ability of human farmers to exploit us and our resources. We can outrun them by finding ways over, under, around, and through the fences they build for us. We can out-breed them by raising children peacefully and teaching them to reason objectively, thereby draining the pool of aggressors that human farmers can hire to be their sheepdogs. We can out-debate them by convincing people of the immorality of treating fellow human beings like livestock. And someday, we will be able to outgun them as well by using force to defend ourselves from them and their minions. The future is bright for us human livestock; unlike the sheep, many of us will soon leave the farm alive.

Six observations on the conviction of Ross Ulbricht

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing Reece’s Razor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Who Will Build The Death Camps?

This week marks the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. A group of about 300 survivors revisited the camp where 1.1 million people were murdered by agents of the German state. The general feeling among many of them was a need to ensure that future generations do not forget the lessons of the Holocaust after those who experienced it first-hand, most of whom are now at least in their 80s, have left us.

But what are the lessons of the Holocaust? There are several which are commonly discussed; that hatred based on ethnic or religious affiliation can lead people to commit atrocities, that active euthanasia programs victimize innocent people, that being obedient to authority can psychologically allow people to do that which they would never do on their own. But there is one that does not receive the discussion that it deserves.

When libertarians have discussions with statists, we are frequently asked questions such “But without government, who will build the roads? Who will provide military defense? How will criminals be stopped and punished?” Then we are asked for empirical examples of these ideas in action. Such questions have been dealt with by many writers, myself included. But sometimes it is best to answer a question with a question. Without government, who will build the death camps?

Of course, there are no examples of anarchist death camps or anarchist genocides. Let us examine why this is the case. The absence of a state within a geographical area means that there is no group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force within that area. This has many important implications.

No monopoly on initiatory force means that no one has the ability to impose laws upon everyone. This means that no centralized force would be making people discriminate against a particular minority group. Therefore, anyone who wants to do business with members of a particular minority group can do so. This helps members of that group remain economically connected to the rest of society, giving other people less cause to view them as evil aliens worthy of violent opposition and more cause to view them as partners in trade. As Bastiat said, when goods cross borders, armies do not.

No monopoly on initiatory force also means that there is no government monopoly on education. Thus, there would be no single curriculum which could be corrupted by racists to create a generation of people who hate a particular minority group. Some curricula might still contain racist elements, but other curricula would not, and competition in education has a tendency to eliminate falsehoods. Therefore, less children would be taught to be racist than in a statist society where racists control the curriculum.

But suppose that trade and proper education are insufficient and someone still proposes to build and operate an extermination camp for members of a particular minority group. That camp must be located on some piece of physical property. Everyone who opposed such an operation could simply buy up any land considered by those who wish to build an extermination camp and refuse to sell it. Without a state and its powers of eminent domain, there would be no entity that could legally make them sell.

Now let us dispense with any naïveté. Those who are so evil as to want to start exterminating members of a particular minority group are not going to be deterred by oppositional public opinion or peaceful measures of resistance like occupying and refusing to sell land. Such people will necessarily resort to force to achieve their goals. Without a government monopoly on military services, such services would be open to free market competition. This means that those who wish to commit genocide would not have the entire military might of a statist society where they wield power. They would only have whatever military might that they could pay for. It also means that another private defense force, quite possibly larger, would be standing in their way, as those who are targets for extermination would be looking for protection and quite willing to spend money for it. The lack of monopolized laws also means that there would be no gun control (or more appropriately, victim disarmament) laws, so the targeted minorities would be much better able to take matters into their own hands than they would be in the presence of a state.

Finally, suppose that the worst happens. Education fails to produce a less racist society, trade does not lead to tolerance, property rights are trampled, and defensive violence fails to stop the aggressors. The only thing left to do is to flee. No government means no immigration policy or national borders. Thus, the minority group members can escape to other lands much easier than they could in a statist society. Historically, those who commit genocide are seeking to remove people of a certain group from a certain geographical area and will settle for a mass exodus if they cannot carry out an extermination.

To conclude, there are so many factors weighing against the possibility of genocide in an anarchist society that it is a virtual certainty that without government, no one will build the death camps. As such, the most important lesson of the Holocaust is that the state is an enabler of the worst kinds of evil. It is imperative that the state be abolished so that the occurrence of another genocide of that magnitude is made impossible.

The fallacies of blaming Walmart for obesity

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

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

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

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

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

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