Agreeing With Statists For The Wrong Reasons: Universal Basic Income

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A Universal Basic Income (UBI), also known as Citizen’s Income, Basic Income Guarantee, or Universal Demogrant, is a proposed social welfare program in which the state pays every legal resident within its territory a periodic sum of money. Most proposals have variations for age, but have no other conditions; people would receive the same amount regardless of their employment status, contributions to society, existing salary, net worth, current expenses, gender, family structures, race, religion, or any other factors.[1] Depending on the amount being paid, a basic income may be full or partial.

Basic income was first proposed by Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century[2], but did not receive much further attention until Thomas Spence, Thomas Paine, and Marquis de Condorcet argued for such a welfare system in the late 18th century.[3] The idea resurfaced again during and after the Progressive Era, but related welfare systems such as means-tested programs, negative income taxes, minimum income guarantees, and family allowances were tried instead.[4] Since the 1980s, policy advocates have given more focus to basic income, especially in Europe.[5,6] The proposal has gained traction in recent years due to concerns over structural unemployment caused by automation and artificial intelligence, and experiments with basic income programs are being proposed and conducted in several countries.[7,8,9]

Supporters of UBI generally believe that the basic means of subsistence should be guaranteed as a positive human right in advanced societies, and that UBI can provide this better than extant welfare programs. But there are reasons to support UBI which are quite different from what most of its proponents believe. Let us explore these and see why one could agree with statists for the wrong reasons.

One criticism of welfare programs is that they are dysgenic; they subsidize the survival and reproduction of the unfit at the expense of their Darwinian betters. But any effort to combat dysgenics must begin with figuring out who the dysgenic people are. UBI does this in a way that no other welfare program does. It gives equal amounts of money to people, and the spending habits of the recipients can be studied. The overall process is the closest thing to a controlled experiment that can be performed in economics. The results will show who is beyond help due to poor decision-making, such as spending their entire basic income payment on vices. From there, the least intelligent members of a society can be dealt with through a variety of means. A 2014 World Bank review of studies shows that relatively few people who receive UBI will squander it in such ways[10], suggesting that only the worst people would be spotlighted as unfit. Of course, this would mean that UBI is only a transitory step toward something else, but so is every other government program on a sufficiently long timescale.

Second, critics of UBI cite the fiscal impracticalities of implementing it. In the United States at the time of this writing, current population figures mean that implementing a proposed[11] $1000 per month UBI would cost almost $4 trillion annually, which is roughly equal to the entire current expenditures of the federal government.[12] Effectively doubling government spending seems illibertarian at face value, but let us examine the matter more closely. Any reduction in government spending will be strongly felt by those who receive the funds, while the expenses of taxation and inflation are diffused throughout a society. This perverse incentive structure produces ever greater rent-seeking behavior on the part of special interest groups. Furthermore, attempting to reduce spending on welfare programs, as libertarians would advise, is politically impossible in a democracy. Such efforts will only get one branded evil, selfish, heartless, racist, sexist, and all the rest of the Great Progressive Litany Of Not An Argument. The alternative course is to accelerate government spending in order to hasten the inevitable collapse. Implementing a generous UBI would accomplish this.

Given economic realities, it is far more practical for UBI to replace some or all of current welfare spending.[13] Again, repealing welfare without replacing it is a political non-starter, so it is necessary to consider replacement. UBI is not means-tested or contingent upon any factors which must be examined, so the need for a bloated welfare administration is eliminated.[14] Lisa Westerveld, a councilor for the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands, estimates that £15 million of their £88 million annual welfare budget could be saved by implementing UBI there.[15] It is important to remember that welfare does not solely consist of handouts, but also of make-work programs and bloated bureaucracies that introduce artificial inefficiency to the state apparatus and the broader economy. Cutting these programs and government jobs should be a welcome development to any libertarian.

Another effect of providing free money unconditionally is that people will have less need to work for a living. Less work means less tax revenue, which in turn means less funding for government programs.[16] This is good because it will force formerly public projects to be created and maintained privately, thus subjecting them to market accountability. Alternatively, the state may run larger deficits or inflate its currency, but these measures will eventually cause it to cut spending out of necessity when interest rates rise and creditors become nervous about a sovereign default. Meanwhile, once people have a basic subsistence without work, many unskilled jobs that are ripe for automation would have to be automated quickly, as businesses and governments would no longer be able to find workers to fill those jobs. This would greatly increase efficiency.

One must also consider who would be impacted by such changes. The government jobs that would be eliminated by UBI implementation in Western countries are disproportionately held by racial minorities, while basic income would give an advantage to poor whites. Because democracies incentivize people to vote themselves money from the public treasury, UBI would reverse the political vote-buying of the current welfare system in the short-term while curbing the practice in the long-term. The anti-white racism of the progressive political establishment would be further exposed when they oppose a transition to UBI, as they would have to go on record as wanting to give handouts to everyone except poor whites. Right-wing parties could therefore expect a boost at the polls if they embrace UBI.

Critics of UBI will point to likely price inflation, as increasing the total amount of money in consumer hands would reduce its unit value by reducing its scarcity. There is also the matter that funding such a program will likely come from raising taxes on businesses[11], which are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices like any other business expense. But this provides an opportunity for people to buy precious metals and cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation. This could help cryptocurrency gain more widespread adoption and further weaken the fiat currency that is used for handing out the UBI, adding to the acceleration effect on government spending and inflation when people advocate for a larger UBI to combat inflation. (This represents the other end of the intelligence spectrum from the dysgenics discussed earlier. UBI also shows us who the smartest people are, as they would use the fiat money to exchange for something more sound.)

Some feminists oppose UBI because it might serve to reinforce traditional gender roles by incentivizing women to stay out of the workforce.[17,18] But this actually leads to a set of reasons to support UBI. If mothers are at home raising their children, then children will receive better care than they would from strangers. Money saved on childcare could be kept within the family to provide for the children or help the family unit in other ways, while those providing childcare would be freed up to do something more directly productive. Renewed dependence on male breadwinners to provide for the family beyond the level that UBI allows would strengthen family cohesion and lessen divorce rates. At work, the restored male super-majority would improve workplace social dynamics.[19] Women cannot be sexually harassed or discriminated against at work if they are not at work, and social justice warriors would have a harder time operating against a revitalized männerbund. The male social bonds that develop at work would soon extend to society at large, helping to restore a proper patriarchy.

UBI can also help to stem the tide of demographic replacement in Western countries. A direct money transfer to poor whites would raise their fertility rates, resulting in less need and room for foreign labor, but it would also encourage a solidarity among all citizens. Let us consider Native American tribes that make money from casinos and other tourist traps. These funds are distributed to tribe members, which gives all recipients a monetary incentive to place strict limitations on tribal membership and reservation residency in order to increase the share for all who remain. Otherwise, people would be incentivized to move to reservations and join tribes in order to receive a handout. Similarly, a national UBI would encourage immigration at first, but would also give every citizen a monetary incentive to close the gates while clearly demarcating in-group versus out-group. This direct skin in the game could counter the elite bribery that mostly prevents effective border controls at present.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, UBI could fuel a surge of anti-establishment activism. Many people who work in menial, low-paying jobs with little hope of advancement would prefer to be professional political activists, and UBI would allow them to do this. Those with careers who fear losing them if they speak out of turn would also have a fallback strategy, if a less luxurious one. This surge would primarily be libertarian and rightist, as leftists have an entrenched establishment to protect their activists from the harms that other activists suffer. UBI would not solve the problems of deplatforming or anarcho-tyranny, but it may make them so onerous that they can no longer go unsolved, which is the general objective of a bootlegger political strategy.

In summary, UBI has effects across the board that are useful and even vital for libertarians and rightists who wish for a freer hand in the political arena and greater realization of their overall visions for society. It is therefore easy to agree with statists for the wrong reasons when they propose a universal basic income.

References:

  1. What Is It? – Citizen’s Income”.
  2. More, Thomas (1516). Utopia, Book 2: Discourse on Utopia.
  3. Nicolas de Condorcet (1794). Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Spirit.
  4. Spicker, Paul (2011, Jan. 19). How Social Security Works. Bristol University Press.
  5. Citizen’s Income – An unconditional, nonwithdrawable income paid to every individual as a right of citizenship”.
  6. Blaschke, Ronald (2012). The basic income debate in Germany and some basic reflections.
  7. Krahe, Dialika (2009, Aug. 10). “How a Basic Income Program Saved a Namibian Village”. Spiegel Online.
  8. Mathews, Dylan (2017, Mar. 6). “This Kenyan village is a laboratory for the biggest basic income experiment ever”. Vox.com.
  9. Monsebraaten, Laurie (2017, Apr. 24). “Ontario launches basic income pilot for 4,000 in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Lindsay”. Toronto Star. Star Media Group.
  10. Evans, David K.; Popova, Anna (2014, May 1). “Cash Transfers and Temptation Goods: A Review of Global Evidence. Policy Research Working Paper 6886”. The World Bank. Office of the Chief Economist.: 1–3.
  11. What is Universal Basic Income?”.Andrew Yang 2020 Presidential Campaign.
  12. Mulvaney, Mick (2017, Mar. 16). “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”. Office of Management and Budget.
  13. Standing, Guy (2017). Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen. Pelican Books. Ch. 7.
  14. Konczal, Mike (2013, May 11). “Thinking Utopian: How about a universal basic income?”. Washington Post.
  15. Boffey, Daniel (2015, Dec. 26). “Dutch city plans to pay citizens a ‘basic income’, and Greens say it could work in the UK”. The Guardian.
  16. Séguin, Gilles (1994). “Improving Social Security in Canada – Guaranteed Annual Income: A Supplementary Paper”. Government of Canada.
  17. Katada, Kaori. “Basic Income and Feminism: in terms of ‘the gender division of labor’”.
  18. McLean, Caitlin (Sept. 2015). “Beyond Care: Expanding the Feminist Debate on Universal Basic Income”. WiSE.
  19. Lambert, Hugh (2017, Mar. 23). “Mannerbund And The Sexual Dynamics Of Coordination”. Social Matter.

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Liberty Minecraft Quarterly: Winter 2019

Introduction

…it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things…” –Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Anarchists and libertarians frequently debate three topics concerning a free society: how to establish a free society, how to prevent its decline, and how to provide infrastructure. One might infer that the goal is to prepare by identifying and overcoming barriers to reduce the probability of failure and minimize start-up costs. These questions are often approached by extrapolating from areas where freedom exists, by engaging in thought experiments, or by trial and error.

When asked how institutions will function, anarchists like Michael Malice and Jeff Berwick often point out that most human interactions already take place in a state of anarchy.[1,2] Austrian economists sometimes explain markets with fictional stories about the island of Robinson Crusoe.[3] While these stories are useful, such thought experiments consider the actions of imaginary people with imaginary preferences. Neither approach can reveal a black swan event, the unexpected extreme consequence.

Rather, ideas must be tested in reality to discover events that appear obvious in hindsight, but here the costs and risks are high. People will make huge and often avoidable mistakes. Changing social and economic systems will risk human lives, freedom, and valuable capital. An opportunity to test ideas at significantly lower cost and risk is a valuable way to protect life, liberty, and property. Virtual worlds provide this opportunity because the people involved and their preferences are real.

Liberty Minecraft is a profit-generating[4] demonstration of a free society, where real people with real preferences act without state intervention. This article is the second in a quarterly series of updates on the Liberty Minecraft project, and it will explore four topics: specialization at the level of town management, developing land conflicts and their origin, the costs and benefits of culture building, innovation and it’s appearance in market prices. The goal is to demonstrate that a digital world is a rich environment for exploring a free society.

The New Stockholm Purchase

On Aug. 31, 2018, a player named Heronproject started to acquire land in the west end of Scar City. If one judges by initial investment, his plan was ambitious. In our first month he accumulated more than 12,000 square meters of high-value property. It was called New Stockholm. One could see in New Stockholm the expression of a preference to organize one’s own affairs in a new way, but development came to a halt just days after it began. Heronproject was and remains a busy Swede. Someone with greater ability, more time, or both would have to take over. To achieve his goal, Heronproject decided to sell New Stockholm.

On Nov. 10, a player named Haksndot purchased this land package for an undisclosed eight-figure sum. Heronproject sold everything except for Ruby Tower, making a tidy fortune and a calculated bet: Haksndot has experience. He is the owner and creator of Hrafnia, the largest estate in the Old World. He is the monopoly owner of Origo Station and The Netherway, the first and largest transit system in the New World. He also founded the Terrain and Agricultural Restoration Project, a free market initiative from the Old World.

By Nov. 12, New Stockholm was gone. In its place, Haksndot has created an opportunity to try again with a few iterations. Unlike other districts in Liberty Minecraft which sell management privileges (where Haksndot would remain the property owner) he has split the land into plots which may be purchased outright. The plots are intersected by privately owned streets and squares.

By Jan. 18, 2019, Haksndot had sold at least seven houses in New Stockholm for a total price of $9.06 million. Of the five players to buy claims, Heronproject was one of the first. Investing in land at a flat rate of $10,000 per square meter represents a considerable challenge for these new buyers. One plot has been converted into a market for trading and producing Nether Wart. Nether Wart is primarily used when brewing potions, but it is inexpensive to produce and represents a small part of our world’s economy. It is hard to imagine how any of these new buyers will return their cost of capital and earn a profit, but one need not imagine. Whether and how these buyers will profit will be discovered in time.

Developing Land Conflicts

Some players of Minecraft engage in an activity called griefing; they join a Minecraft server and damage unprotected property. Liberty Minecraft deals with this in two ways: players may purchase land using Claim Blocks which use computer code to protect the land, or they may invest in land which the rightful owner has intentionally left unprotected. Digital security is necessary to protect digital property because aggressors may use digital means like proxy servers and aliases to rejoin our world after they are banned. With property rights hard coded into the world, our players are free to do everything they are able to do, provided they do not break the server rule.

Even so, when players invest in land they do not own, this often ends in conflict. This scenario has been playing out underneath New Stockholm. One of the new denizens, named Aewheros, decided to core out the underground and build roads. Colloquially, this new area is being called Underholm. In time, claim owners will extend their land claim and interrupt Aewheros’ plans, settling the conflict over who owns what. The rightful land claim owners retain the option to protect any land beneath their claim. Until their land claim is extended into the ground, the area remains unprotected land which anyone may use.

Aewheros has also permitted a player named illdeletethis to build on his own claim. The plan was for illdeletethis to start building a home and then purchase the land, but now the house appears to be finished and still no sale has been made. illdeletethis has even built a second house which was not part of the initial plan. In this way, Aewheros will experience both sides of a conflict over land by investing in land he does not own and permitting another to invest in land he does own. This produces a remarkable opportunity to see how one person will navigate both sides of a difficult conflict over scarce resources.

The first conflict has already occurred. A visitor named shortanglewinner discovered Underholm on Jan. 9, and immediately started digging up the unprotected roads. Aewheros, who was present at the time had no means to protect his investment. He decided to complain that shortanglewinner was being unfriendly. In time, perhaps Aewheros will be grateful that the flaw in his design was exposed quickly because after his flaw was clearly demonstrated it was quickly solved. Haksndot, the proper land owner, exercised the option to extend his claims. Today, the main roads of Underholm are protected property belonging to Haksndot. He has also granted Aewheros permission to continue building the roads, a privilege which Haksndot is extending to the claim owners of New Stockholm. This demonstrates how exercising exclusive control over private property is a means to end conflict.

Culture Building, Warning Signs, and Dealing with Aggressors

Beginning in 2017, I decided to research and develop a new custom for Liberty Minecraft. This custom was developed with the aid of scientific research on attrition rates as presented by Daniel Coyle in The Culture Code.[5] When players join the New World, I attempt to perform three tasks: 1) bring them food to share, 2) engage with them to learn what they are best and worst at, or what they like about Minecraft, and 3) present them with the symbol of Liberty Minecraft and the tool which players use to claim land, a Golden Axe that bears their name.

When I succeed in performing all three tasks, this custom has produced incredible results which seem wildly out of proportion to their cost. Players who have joined since the launch of our New World and participated in this welcoming custom have been far more content and secure in their social status and more willing and interested to participate in group activities. This success has been encouraging, so I will develop an in-game player networking system which will prompt our community to perform these tasks.

Attempting and failing to perform these three tasks has come to represent a warning that the new player or players may not integrate into our community easily. In December 2018, a group of five new players joined Liberty Minecraft. Within ten days, three of these players rejected my one rule and were banned. A fourth left while being investigated for using hacks. I was unsuccessful in sharing food with this group. Four of the five did not offer an opportunity and the other one walked away when I attempted to share food. None of the five responded when I asked questions about them. None were presented with Golden Axes.

Other warning signs were present. The players were dressed as Klansmen or as Hitler. For completeness, a fifth player wore a Belgium flag, but the significance of this is lost on me. Also, when players asked them to not swear this new group simultaneously claimed that swearing is against the rules (it is not) and continued to swear, choosing to violate a rule which they claim exists. This shows both a denial of reality and a willingness to violate perceived rules.

Liberty Minecraft’s one rule is to resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. Anyone who rejects or violates this rule will be banned. On Dec. 9, one of the group of five advocated that communism is a better way to organize society than anarcho-capitalism, and was banned. Another player rejected my one rule in regard to political matters and was banned. The remaining three players immediately started responding all at once to claim their friend was banned for arbitrary reasons. For nine minutes they spammed the game’s chat with the same inaccurate statement. This group was organized. One hour later, a third player admitted that he would not accept my one rule and was banned from Liberty Minecraft.

Lessons and Observations

Hostile players will use the good will of our community to build up arms. The group asked where they could purchase gunpowder and other materials to create TNT and fire-starters. Unclaimed land was later destroyed or burned with items they purchased. This is not a violation of my rule because there is no dispute. Unclaimed land in Liberty Minecraft is my unprotected property. I permit the players to use it or purchase the land from me.

In my absence, players of Liberty Minecraft will protect the natural landscape and impose social norms by acquiring land and raising prices. Aewheros and a player named K9us teamed up to purchase land surrounding the group’s land claim, protecting it from further damage. A player named Remixster was granted permission to replant the burned forests. K9us granted this permission at no charge and Remixster was given saplings to begin restoring the forest. One of the group who had destroyed land also requested permission. K9us offered to sell them permission for $30,000 per block which is the highest price ever demanded for access to land in Liberty Minecraft.

Rule breakers may be prepared. The group used mass messaging to claim that their group members were banned for arbitrary reasons. They invested at least three days of their time to build up supplies. They may have been using hacked game clients but left before I could make this determination.

Developing Private Health Care

In Survival mode, a Minecraft player will die when their 10 heart icons run out. A Minecraft player can lose health in many ways, for example; when they are struck by a monster, by drowning or falling a great distance, or by walking into a Cactus. Health can be restored by eating food, by consuming Health Potions, or by standing within range of a Regeneration Beacon. Over the last four months, players of Liberty Minecraft have reduced the price of Beacons by 96 percent.

To obtain a Beacon, Minecraft players must find a Nether Fortress and battle tens or hundreds of Wither Skeletons until they recover three skulls. Next they must summon The Wither, a very powerful monster. Players must defeat the monster to recover its Nether Star. Finally, with a Nether Star in hand, they can craft a Beacon. When Liberty Minecraft’s New World opened, there were no Beacons. First players had to remove the greatest obstacle to one’s use of a product: its nonexistence.[6] Haksndot and a player named Cardano_ff were both early developers in The Nether, one of Minecraft’s three dimensions. Each player created a Wither Skeleton farm and each farm made the task of producing skulls more efficient and less hazardous. This demonstrates that capitalists in a digital free market will eliminate hazards as a means to protect their digital capital.

On Oct. 11, Cardano_ff offered a Beacon on the market for $10 million, representing between ten and twenty hours of Diamond mining. The next day Haksndot listed one for $5 million. Cardano_ff matched his price, but it was unclear what price the market would support. The price fell to $3 million, then $2.5 million, then $2 million. At every step Haksndot and Cardano_ff offered the same price. It is unclear how many sales occurred during this time. Haksndot has expressed that most of his early Beacon sales were transacted “off the books.” This occurs whenever players trade without using a ChestShop. This is a common practice when an item is in short supply and/or is traded rarely.

After one week on the market, two Beacons sold for a total of $4 million on Oct. 18. It seems that these trades were enough to produce a shortage because the market price started fluctuating higher. The price rose to $2.5 million, then $3 million, and by Oct. 20 it had reached $5 million. That day, a third supplier entered the market when K9us offered to sell a Beacon, matching Haksndot’s price of $5 million. By Oct. 24, the price had fallen to $2 million, and once again two more Beacons were sold. By Nov. 11, the price had fallen by another 25 percent, and two more buyers purchased three Beacons. The price moved back to $2 million. The market remained shallow and a low volume of trading was causing quite a splash. Whenever new buyers entered at a lower price, the price rebounded.

A Market Shock

On Dec. 1, a fourth supplier appeared. A player named freakdown shocked the market by offering Beacons for $1 million each, cutting the market price in half. Two new buyers appeared. One of them was K9us, a former seller. As before, new buyers appeared at lower prices and the market moved, except this time the price fell. On Dec. 7, freakdown’s price was $600,000, another 40 percent decline. At first it appears to violate the old adage: “this time is [never] different.” In fact this has happened before, a month earlier when a player named Shahayhay cut prices on Blaze rods for the second time. The cause in that case was innovation. What about now?

A significant, unidentified event had occurred, and it was changing player behavior. Players started buying out of convenience, buying in bulk, and buying for the first time. A player named TheScrubJay decided to purchase a Beacon simply because it was easier than going home to fight a Wither. After all, he would want more than one. On Dec. 23, Aewheros bought three more beacons at the bulk rate of $483,333 each. Then on Jan. 7, freakdown cut his price to $400,000 or ten Beacons for $250,000 each, another decline. A player named NorraLigan entered the market to purchase her first Beacon at the new low price. In four months our players have provided over $18 million in value to each other, cutting the price of Beacons by 96 percent. A player named Mr_Digs now provides free health care at Ivory Tower, simply for stopping by.

The Nether Factory

It is clear that Beacon prices have fallen, but at least one big question remains: what was the cause? Our market experienced a spike in demand after an 80 percent decline. Then the price fell by half, and then it fell by half again just for good measure. How did freakdown do it?

Supply increases with falling prices only happen in a couple of ways. Either the cost of materials has dropped, or the process has become more efficient, reducing the time to deliver the end product. For Beacons, the most expensive producer good is a Nether Star, which requires three Wither Skeleton skulls. Obtaining these skulls started as a dangerous and labor-intensive task. Players entered The Nether and traversed an uncharted, inhospitable landscape of lava lakes and strong monsters in search of a Nether Fortress.

The risk of death is rarely higher, and the cost of dying can set players back hundreds of thousands of dollars. Armor, weapons, and tools which players carry and use while exploring The Nether can range in price from $50,000 to over $1 million. Better gear is often more costly. For example, a fully enchanted Diamond Sword is longer lasting, hits harder, and increases the probability of dropping valuable loot. However, in Oct. 2018, this sword was trading for $250,000. On the other hand, a successful return trip may take five hours, resulting in an opportunity cost of $4–5 million. A failed expedition represented millions in losses. Players have to balance risks to maximize their expected return. Both Cardano_ff and Haksndot overcame these obstacles to produce the world’s first Beacons. Today, rail lines connect directly to both farms, and the risk of death is practically zero with a round trip time of less than one hour.

To increase production, freakdown had to do something different. He searched for hours to find and prepare the perfect Nether Fortress, which allows him to spawn monsters in a relatively concentrated area. The farm produces enough Wither Skulls to create more than 200 Beacons per day. The materials used in construction are worth less than $100,000, but his opportunity cost brings the total investment to nearly $25 million. Today, the entire farm can be operated automatically and produces gold, coal, and bones as byproducts.

Conclusion

Liberty Minecraft provides an opportunity to protect life, liberty, and property by examining a free society at low cost and low risk. Players spontaneously organize their affairs to build competing roads and towns. Conflict over unowned land occurs regularly. Innovating in cultural development provides a way to welcome new group members and identify troublemakers at an early stage. When aggressors enter into the community, the members will band together to enforce norms and protect the natural landscape. Finally, the presence of innovation can be observed in prices when a spike in demand is met with a sustained increase in supply and decline in prices. These and many other lessons are experienced in Liberty Minecraft.

References:

  1. Malice, Michael; Rogan, Joe (2017, May 23). “Joe Rogan Experience #963 – Michael Malice.”
  2. Berwick, Jeff (2019, Jan. 15). “Regulation vs Anarchy: A Last Chance to Free Humanity.”
  3. Calton, Chris (2018, Jan. 24). “Minecraft and Crusoe Economics.” Mises Institute.
  4. Dempsey, Nathan. “Fiscal 2017 Donor Report.” libertyminecraft.com.
  5. Coyle, Daniel (2018). The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. New York: Bantam Books.
  6. Mises, Ludwig von (1958, Sept. 9). “Liberty and Property.” Mises Institute.

The Not-So-Current Year: 2018 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 2018 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.

Benjamin Welton and I began 2018 by addressing some leftover matters from the end of 2017. He explored the quick decline of Nepal from monarchy to democracy to communism in less than a generation, while I responded to a thoroughly misguided attack by Bill Wirtz on Hans-Hermann Hoppe and other right-libertarians.

The left’s warfare on language and the dangerous potential thereof is important to understand. I began exploring this phenomenon by examining common shortcomings among leftist popular authors, looking for the origins of their follies, and showing how these factors can cause a civil war if left unaddressed. In a follow-up essay, I contemplated how the innovation of language becomes stunted and weaponized in political struggles, as well as what may be done to counter such tendencies.

Book reviews have long been a part of my intellectual output, and 2018 was no different. I read and reviewed less books than in 2017, which included Robert Taylor’s Reactionary Liberty, Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, Surjit S. Bhalla’s The New Wealth of Nations, James Ledbetter’s One Nation Under Gold, and Insula Qui’s Anarcho-Monarchism.

I began a new series called “Agreeing With Statists For The Wrong Reasons”, in which I consider how government policies which seem terrible at face value can be exploited to achieve liberty and/or undermine statist goals. This was loosely inspired by Morrakiu’s series “Agreeing With Liberals For The Wrong Reasons”, in which he showed how progressives unwittingly help the alt-right. The subjects covered in this series in 2018 included cryptocurrency bans, conscription, anti-discrimination laws, minimum wage, and impeaching Donald Trump. More episodes will come next year.

Insula Qui presented a grand project called “On Libertarianism and Statecraft” to lead into her book Anarcho-Monarchism. The introduction discusses other schools of thought and makes the case for why a libertarian theory of statecraft is necessary. Part I explains the folly of political activism. Part II explores the implications of property rights in a libertarian social order. Part III deals with the differences between states and governments, as well as the basics of private defense. Part IV explains the necessity of governance, what form it might take, and who will govern. Part V considers the effect that trust levels in society may have on the form of a libertarian social order. Part VI explores the relationship between authority and liberty. Part VII uses social contract theory to expand libertarian philosophy. Part VIII considers the nature of the natural elite. Part IX explores the role of trust in society. Part X examines the role of time preference in forming a libertarian social order. Part XI considers the role of externalities that go beyond strictly material concerns. Part XII explains how greed is frequently overrated by libertarians. The series may or may not have more entries.

In 2017, I argued that the United States debt ceiling should be eliminated. However, the debt ceiling is only part of the problem. Another part is the practice known as a government shutdown, and I argued that this practice should also be ended.

On March 9, right-wing activists Martin Sellner and Brittany Pettibone were detained and deported while attempting to enter the United Kingdom to give speeches and interview other rightist personalities. A similar fate also befell Lauren Southern on March 12. I wrote a list of observations about these events.

Following the Parkland shooting, a student movement to restrict access to firearms became prominent. I deconstructed this effort to show how it is orchestrated by the political establishment using tactics common to other such movements.

My glossary of social justice warrior terminology is the most popular article ever posted at Zeroth Position. After two years of continued craziness from radical leftists, I decided to revise and expand it to create a second edition. This is likely to need continual updating, and two years is a proper amount of time between editions, so look for the third edition in 2020.

I began an article series called “The Color Theory of Conflict”, in which I attempted to provide a grand unified theory of conflict. Part I defines the various colors and defends those definitions against likely objections. This was unfortunately put on the back burner, but more parts will come next year.

In human discourse, logical fallacies are quite common. But when opposition to these fallacies goes too far, further fallacies and sub-optimal behaviors can result. I examined the most common examples of this behavior in an effort to counter such second-order problems.

Sometimes, the lens of examination is best turned inward to correct one’s own missteps. Such was the case for an article I wrote in 2017 about the concept of degeneracy, so I published a revision in which I considered the possibility that civilization can be degenerate.

Welton returned with a case that American intervention in Syria is not only not right; it is not even wrong.

My poetic side suddenly came out in May, resulting in song lyrics critical of elected politicians in general. It resurfaced in September with song lyrics about Bitcoin, in November with an anti-election song, and in December with a Bitcoin Christmas song.

Libertarians have mixed views about capital punishment, but no one else seems to have considered the value of forming communal bonds by working together to execute the worst offenders. I did this at great length through the lens of ritual magick. Later, I used the problem of pedophilia among Catholic clergy to consider the limits of capital punishment, and found that there is a strong case for executing child molesters.

Welton offered an excellent history of the rise and fall of the Boy Scouts, along with the characteristics that a replacement organization should have in order to prevent a similar leftist takeover.

Doxxing has long been a problem in political circles, but it became worse in 2018. I reasoned through the limits of its acceptable use, then proposed a comprehensive solution for reining it in to those limits.

Since the beginning of recorded history, a teleological element has been present in historical narratives. I argued against this practice, promoting instead an agnostic historiography.

An incident on cable news over Trump’s immigration policies provided an opportunity for examining useful tactics for making leftists look more unhinged than usual. I showed how Corey Lewandowski’s treatment of Zac Petkanas was a master class in this regard.

I attempted to find the ideal amount of force that a civilization should use to maintain itself, coming to the conclusion that, contrary to mainstream liberalism and libertarianism, the bare minimum is not ideal.

Welton took on an important issue that has long been waiting for a proper reactionary response: the undue reverence given to the Magna Carta by liberals of all stripes.

In 2017, I argued the case for reining in censorious technology giants by threatening the revocation of their incorporation. I followed this up with an argument against the corporate form itself as a creature of statism that would almost certainly not exist in a free society. Continued problems with corporate censorship that touched me personally led me to formulate a holistic approach to solving the problem.

Qui returned with a thorough survey of the producerist school of thought, which has both significant overlap with and significant difference from libertarianism.

On July 23, Social Matter published an article by Mark Christensen in which he argued that conservatives should favor larger government. I welcomed Darien Sumner, the fourth additional writer at Zeroth Position, in August to rebut Christensen’s arguments point-by-point. A September 25 article by Henry Olson that criticized libertarianism from the right merited a more measured response.

Welton and I figured that if libertarians and rightists are going to be slandered as fascists and Nazis no matter what, then we have nothing to lose by examining real Nazis and seeing what can be learned from their example. The result was an excellent piece on the rise and fall of the Sturmabteilung (SA).

The Walking Dead comic series and the television show based on it contain many themes which are of interest to the student of libertarian philosophy and reactionary thought. I explored the many ways in which Negan’s group resembles a state apparatus, as well as what one can learn from those who resist his rule and ultimately overthrow him. The third part was released in 2018, covering the second half of Season 7. The fourth and fifth parts, covering Season 8, were planned for 2018 but will instead appear in early 2019.

In 2016, I wrote a guide to political autism as it pertains to libertarian commentators. I followed up that effort with a similar overview of autistic conservatism.

On September 4–7, the United States Senate held hearings on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to replace outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy. I wrote a list of observations on the events. After Democrats launched an unprecedented smear campaign, I wrote another list of observations.

Nathan Dempsey returned after an 11-month hiatus to begin a quarterly series of updates on his Liberty Minecraft project, the first of which ran on October 24.

Clashes between different strains of political universalism, as well as proselytization into territories ruled by non-universalist governance structures, led to the unprecedented losses of life and property in wars and genocides during the 20th century, and is capable of doing much more damage going forward. I examined the history and practice of universalism, its pathway to genocide, and what libertarians may do about it in a sweeping essay.

Welton offered a history of imperialism and colonialism, considering the bad name it has unjustly acquired, the joint-stock and free state models, and how colonialism might be used to create a libertarian social order.

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

My final think piece of the year will continue into 2019, but the first part offers a detailed explanation of the concept of immaterial technology.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian and reactionary arguments. May 2019 bring more and better!

Book Review: Anarcho-Monarchism

Anarcho-Monarchism is a collection of 30 essays by libertarian author Insula Qui. The book explores various issues from a libertarian reactionary perspective, all of which factor into a synthesis of anarchy and monarchy.

The introduction sets out the purpose of the book, which is to synthesize liberty and authority in such a way as to avoid the apparent contradictions in doing so. According to Qui, this is done through careful nuance. She recommends an alternate order in which one may read the book, but this is only necessary for those unfamiliar with any libertarian reactionary thought. She includes here a disclaimer that the work is not professionally edited, which unfortunately is more glaringly obvious than in her previous book.

In What is Anarcho-Monarchism?, Qui offers an extended introduction. She proposes that the non-aggression principle is necessary but not sufficient, and that property rights will lead to natural hierarchies that culminate in monarchs. These monarchs are different from the absolute rulers of history, in that they rule based on merit and ability rather than coercion.

The Contradiction of Freedom explores the limitations of freedom as pertains to the mutual incompatibility of each person being free to do as one will, which naturally leads to people violating each other’s freedoms. The differing conceptions of freedom offered by competing political ideologies motivate further conflicts in this regard. She summarizes these conditions thus:

“To fight for freedom qua freedom is to fight for other people to be able to impose their vision of freedom onto you. To fight for freedom is simply to fight for the dominance of an unspecified party, and as such if you fight for freedom you fight for subjugation. However, there is still the slight hope that you will be the one doing the subjugating.”[1]

She resolves this problem by advocating as a pragmatic matter that there must be a pursuit of autonomy to avoid needless conflicts in which people seek to impose their vision of freedom upon everyone else. Qui concludes the essay by denouncing the egoism of Max Stirner as the worst combination of freedom and autonomy.

In The Final Arbiter, Qui deals with the problem of final resolution of disputes. She considers various possibilities for how such a final arbiter may exist outside of a monopolistic legal system. Unfortunately, she accepts the opponent’s framing of the question and spends all of her effort in trying to answer it rather than rejecting the concept of a final arbiter as either nonsensical (in that no person or institution can absolutely guarantee that any issue will be resolved forever with no possibility of review) or guaranteed by nature (the dead cannot dispute and every person eventually dies, so the Grim Reaper is the final arbiter).

The fourth essay is The Centralization of Defence, and it argues against the contention of Robert Nozick and others that market anarchy would eventually be undone by centralization of defense agencies leading to the re-establishment of states. Qui admits the advantages of centralizing defense, such as volume discounts and the reduction of transaction costs. But as she explains,

“[P]eople do not constantly need viable alternatives. Rather, what is necessary is the possibility of alternatives emerging.”[2]

In other words, the mere threat of competition can inspire existing companies to provide better service. But more importantly,

“[T]he system of law enforced by the agencies of defence is independent from those agencies that provide physical protection. There is no one agency that should have control over both law and force, and these industries would always be separate. If these industries are not provided by different agencies, the defence agency would become a dictator and would become what it was supposed to defend against.”[3]

The separation of law creation and law enforcement into entities that are not under the same umbrella would be absolutely necessary to avoid the tyranny of modern nation-states. Finally, there is the problem of a powerful defense agency simply conquering a territory and declaring itself a new state. Qui admits that this is possible but not certain, which while less than ideal, is better than the certainty of the current system.

Pro-War, Anti-Nation offers a strong case for the incompatibility of nationalism with warmongering, noting the dysgenic effect of sending the best men to die, the economic ruin brought by wartime destruction and production diversion, and the loss of moral foundation. Qui argues that true nationalism has been corrupted by imperialism, and restoring non-interventionist thinking is the path back to sanity. To her credit, she recognizes the possibility of restoration of martial virtues in a defensive war.

In The Necessity of Force, Qui argues against the utopian ideas of some left-libertarians who advocate a goal of universal nonviolence. She writes,

“ There will always be people who use force and there will always be people who need to respond to force with force to ensure that the original initiator of violence can be brought to justice. …If there are no people who are willing to use force to secure relative peace for people who do not want to use force, then people who are willing to use violence for personal gains would always achieve unjust outcomes for the sake of themselves.”[4]

She also demonstrates that this need not devolve into a state, as the incentive structures involved give advantages to defenders over aggressors.

Qui considers the corruption of libertarian philosophy for the purpose of appealing to leftists in Brutal Freedom. Here, she considers the flip side of full personal responsibility to its logical conclusion of social Darwinism, though she does not use the term in this essay. Though charity may mitigate brutality somewhat, Qui argues that some brutality will remain, as these charities will only help those who are willing to help themselves and just need a temporary step up.

All Men Are Created Equal is a brief essay that addresses that all too common liberal fiction. As usual,

“Definitions change and juxtaposing a modern notion with a classical one results in a misunderstanding of much thought in the classical tradition.”[5]

As such, she compares modern notions of equality with the classical liberal idea of getting rid of titles of nobility and other such birthrights. This classical idea of human biological diversity and meritocracy is contrasted with the modern idea of equality of outcome. But Qui commits an error at the end, arguing for classical equality instead of natural inequality.

Social Darwinism is given direct treatment in the ninth essay. Qui argues that far from trying to deny such an accusation, capitalists should embrace this sort of thinking. She illuminates the difference between actively killing and passively allowing death, showing expectation of survival to be a revolt against nature. But then she makes a dubious assertion:

“If a system allows people to gain unearned advantages, that system ceases to be a social darwinist [sic] one. This is because it starts to encourage parasitism and negative qualities instead of the advancement of all individuals.”[6]

Left unsaid is what constitutes an unearned advantage. There is also the problem that one does not earn one’s own genetic code, and that parasitism and other negative qualities are part of the evolutionary process. However, she correctly recognizes that a Darwinian process applies not just to who can survive, but who will occupy each station in life. She argues that social Darwinism will prevent charity from being wasted on those who will never become productive members of society, with resources instead flowing to those who prove themselves best at managing them.

In The Rule of Law, Qui briefly contemplates the impossibility of any political system securing the rule of law, as any such system places someone above the law. She argues for a separation of law and state:

“The only solution to this is to remove the managerial position when it comes to law from being legitimized by the coercive use of force and to put law on the same level as every other industry. We can have the managerial position of law be put onto the free market where each person is able to patronize the providers of law and where each person is also free to not do so. Thus the people who are in the position that is traditionally one of governance become reduced to the level of every person who is not within the system of governance. In that manner, it is possible to create a situation where there are no privileged positions and there is real equality before the law.”[7]

Of course, this raises the usual objections of the wealthiest patrons ultimately deciding the law by which enforcers they will hire for which purposes, the free rider problem, and the possibility of re-emerging states, none of which are adequately addressed in the essay.

Against Taxes is the first long essay of the book, and approaches the case against taxation in economic terms rather than the usual moral arguments. Qui uses opportunity cost, price mechanisms, the lack of market accountability of the state, the cost of collecting taxes, the cost of prosecuting tax resistance, wealth transfer from competent stewards to incompetent stewards, and the impossibility of creating a taxation scheme that does not disproportionately harm the poor to make this case. She concludes the essay by debunking the idea of public goods.

In High Trust, Qui provides an overview of various types of individualism, settling on ethical individualism as most conducive to a libertarian social order. She also considers the role of homogeneity in strengthening trust. Unlike mainstream libertarians, Qui accepts the impact of genetics:

“Due to evolutionary pressures in different ecosystems and climates, genes change in humans when they are in different areas of the world. [T]hese genes affect the culture and they create the basis for culture. Furthermore, even if a member of a genetic group comes into contact with the culture of another, they still have the genetic incentives of their original culture.”[8]

The essay concludes by explaining why high trust is important. Where Qui goes astray is with her insistence on nonviolent means of enforcing social norms; violence has almost always entered into this process and will likely continue to do so. There is also no mention of the possibility for technology to reduce the need for trust.

In Liberty, Property, Society, Qui argues against critics who accuse libertarians of being anti-social because they reject coercive institutions. Defining liberty as self-determination and explaining property as a rational method for allocating scarce resources, she concludes that this allows for social interaction to be maximized. She explains the difference between capitalism and corporatism, which critics of libertarianism (and many libertarians as well) frequently confuse. The essay concludes by exploring the reversal of the argument, that a lack of liberty and property will undermine society.

With The Family in Capitalism, Qui begins addressing the relationship between libertarianism and the far-right. She addresses the far-right contention that capitalism is anti-family. Unlike left-libertarians, many of whom view the breakdown of traditional family structures as a positive, Qui argues that the state and the corporatism it enables has done this to everyone’s detriment. She shows that both states and corporations are incentivized to destroy the family as a challenger and impediment to their power. She understands that capitalism is an amoral process; garbage inputs result in garbage production, while good inputs result in the production of virtue. The ending deals with women in the workforce, and bears quoting at length:

“[T]here is the…point that capitalism pushes women into the workforce…so there is a need for fascist economics to avoid this phenomenon. This argument has a compelling point. Capitalists are directly benefited by there being a surplus of labour to make those who own capital able to lower wages in the economy. This would eventually correct itself and, given enough time, the supply of capital would reach the demand for capital. But capitalists hold political power in an unfree market. We can say that when the capitalists hold both political and economic power, capitalism has inherent forces that destroy the family. This cannot be achieved with economic power alone. There would be no way to force women into the workforce and keep profits from increasing the size of the workforce. However, in a free market, the capitalists cannot prevent additional capital from entering the market and cannot alter the amount of labour in the economy by incentive structures.

Furthermore, it is simply profitable due to the division of labour for women to stay home and take care of the children while the father works. This is for multiple reasons, usually men earn more since they are more productive and more willing to work longer hours. Women are more apt at taking care of children and more emotionally attached to the process of child-rearing. Thus, if a couple aims to produce healthy children in a good family with enough wealth, that couple needs a division of labour that would fit the strengths of all people in the family.”[9]

The Case for Tradition argues against “libertine hedonihilism,” as Qui terms it. This is the left-libertarian view of liberty as freedom to engage in any degenerate behavior whatsoever as long as no one else is aggressed against. She argues that the family is the bedrock of society, therefore a stable libertarian order will be undermined by anything that erodes family values. She writes,

“Every society is organized along some lines, even a society with no coercive power system creates a system of exclusion, rules of interaction, and other norms to stabilize social life under the system. These social foundations may be implicit or explicit, however, they will always exist and thus we should make sure that the everpresent [sic] organizational principles result in a society that produces the best quality of life for the people involved. The libertine recoils at this statement as he firmly believes that all people should be left alone to be as degenerate as they want to be and no person should be bothered by any sort of moralism. But even the libertine must function within a society and that society will have organizational principles.”[10]

Qui explains the difference between individualism as isolation and individualism as independence. She then describes tradition thus:

“[T]radition is not to be understood as the corrupted american [sic] concept of tradition. So-called family values, military histories, and constitutions do not constitute a historical basis for organizing society. Rather, tradition is the all-encompassing concept of the cultural heritage and the knowledge of all people involved in those traditions. Tradition is the manifestation of the cultural group that created the traditions. …Simply put, tradition is the spontaneous historical order of a nation and to not respect tradition would be to not respect proper social structures.”[11]

She urges libertarians to appeal to rightists instead of leftists as a more natural fit, much as Murray Rothbard did in his 1992 essay Right-Wing Populism. She finishes the essay by thinking of tradition as a collection of best practices through the ages, which while imperfect, was good enough to bring people this far.

In Community, Tradition, Liberty, the same matters are approached from the angle of community as a mitigating factor for the degeneracy that can result if people regard themselves as atomized individuals. The role of social capital as an economic factor is also discussed, along with lower transaction costs and better economic calculation as people form tight-knit communities. She then considers the problems of implementing traditional values absent liberty.

The Two Laws of Nature begins a streak of five controversial essays, in which Qui attempts to bridge the liberty-authority divide. She describes her undertaking as follows:

“In the niche sphere of radical politics, you find two very contrasting American intellectual traditions with their own notions of what is the natural law. American white nationalists and fascists occasionally claim that the law of nature forms a brutal order of self-defence and racial animosity. Radical libertarians interpret the law of nature as something that guarantees rights to each person. I would propose a synthesis of these two laws of nature to combine them into a proper set of moral values. This could form a social order that is a combination of libertarian and extreme traditionalist-nationalist values. Furthermore, this synthesis is highly similar to classical concepts of natural law which combine both personal morality and rights.”[12]

She considers fascist ethics as being rooted in animal behavior and adapted to take account of the differences between humans and lower animals. This sets up hierarchies as the natural form of organization, while egalitarianism and democracy are revolts against nature. By contrast, Qui views libertarianism as constructed from reason, from which the non-aggression principle and private property rights emerge. But curiously, she refers to libertarian theory as “empty tautologies.” She describes her proposed synthesis thus:

“Each person ought to value their tribe, know their place in society, attempt to form a family, and defend themselves. This is not to say that each person can succeed at all of these, there are certain inherent limitations. [H]owever, these things should be required for living a perfectly moral life. The tribe does not have to be a race or a nation, the tribe would rather be the community in which you find yourself.”[13]

The next essay is National Socialism and Libertarianism, and it deals with common premises shared between libertarians and national socialists, which are commonly believed to be diametrically opposed. Qui believes these to be that society should emerge organically, opposition to parasitism, recognition that the state is an institution of force, and intolerance of communism. The manifestation of each of these differs greatly; is the parasite the state or Jewry, are parasites best removed by the market or the state, and so on. She closes with a warning:

“[I]t is very easy to become disillusioned with freedom when one realizes for which purposes freedom is used. Because there are overlaps in the general worldview of fascists and libertarians, it becomes easy to simply remove the seemingly problematic aspect of freedom that leads to various ills within libertarianism.”[14]

“However, this does not mean that libertarians are similar to fascists or that it is necessarily libertarian to intermingle with fascists.”[15]

Authoritarianism Versus Libertarianism deals head-on with the central issue of the book. Qui argues that liberty and authority are incompatible in the political realm, but can come together outside of politics. Again defining liberty as self-determination, she finds the enemy of liberty to be not authority but coercion. She writes,

“When strong command structures and a social order predicated upon a strong focus on authority can defeat coercion at large in society, then authoritarianism is more libertarian than perceivedly unauthoritarian structures. This may seem impossible. After all, when there are strong structures of command it seems like there could not be any room to exercise liberty. But this ignores human action and psychology. These strong command structures do not liberate people from command structures but rather give them the liberty to decide what they do outside authority.”[16]

This kind of liberty under authority comports well with both traditional and neoreactionary thinking. Qui also has an explanation for why this is poorly understood among libertarians:

“But the people who want to be left alone to practice their liberty are also the people who are viscerally opposed to being constrained by command structures. This means that they often overlook how these seemingly oppressive structures can actually benefit the ability to exercise control over your own life. A government that makes a few demands in a very authoritative manner should always be preferable to a government that makes many demands in a democratic manner.”[17]

She spends the remainder of the essay considering the benefits of non-coercive command structures over coercive ones as well as a lack thereof.

Qui’s flirtation with neoreaction continues in Strong and Small. Here, she argues that an ideal state exercises hegemonic control and strong political authority, but does not needlessly involve itself in every facet of society. She uses public choice theory to show that states are inclined to grow, either by becoming stronger or larger (or both). She contends that a strong state will primarily look after its own interests, while a weak state will do the bidding of various special interests. But this contention is dubious because a strong state can have special interests and factionalism internally rather than externally, leading to similar problems. Her conclusion is that a state can either function as an anarcho-tyranny (as many currently do) or as a liberal autocracy, a strong state that does very little.

Libertarianism and Fascism began as an article here at Zeroth Position, though the version in this book is significantly different. Qui compares the spectrum between libertarianism and neoliberalism that leads to left-libertarianism to the spectrum between libertarianism and fascism that can lead to a type of libertarian reaction. She provides a history of the various fascist movements, though this history is not exhaustive. Next comes an overview of fascist ideology, which Qui explains as placing the advancement of the nation above all else. Of a potential synthesis of libertarianism and fascism, she writes,

“Fascism undoubtedly preserves property more than left-wing socialism does, thus fascist sympathies cannot be construed as completely anti-libertarian. But one cannot take both nation and property as ultimate goals. This is because the conflicts between these goals would have to be solved by means of arbitrary decision. This means that libertarianism and fascism cannot be combined as ideologies because their premises are different. One may combine republicanism, minarchism, monarchism, anarcho-capitalism, etc. into a broad political movement, as the premises of these positions are sufficiently similar. But there is no way to create a big tent movement that can accurately represent the interests of both fascists and libertarians; the premises come into too much conflict.”[18]

She concludes that although fascists and libertarians are incompatible in the long-term, they can work together against common enemies by setting aside their incompatibilities to deal with common enemies.

Conversely, the lengthy essay Producerism was later adapted from this book into a Zeroth Position article. Qui’s contention that efficiency is the base value of libertarianism is questionable at best. She describes producerism (differently from most sources) as trying to increase production in general, both of material and immaterial goods. Her claim that producerism is the only metaphysically consistent form of political philosophy requires more support than is given, as she does not prove uniqueness as needed. Much of the rest of the essay repeats material from earlier in the book. This essay would have benefited greatly from exploring the dangers of overproduction as a source of degeneracy instead of containing so much repetition.

Communitarian Libertarianism deals with yet another possible synthesis between libertarianism and another school of thought. Qui blames the strategic errors of Friedrich Hayek for the top-down focus of political libertarianism, which has so far failed to convince elites to be more libertarian for entirely predictable reasons. Though she correctly notes that warfare against the state would be required for the masses to implement libertarianism, she does not contemplate the possibility of a rogue elite leading the way to liberty, as neoreaction does. Qui instead focuses on building communities as a bulwark against the leviathan state, as this is what worked in pre-modern times.

The provocatively titled The Final Solution to the Banking Question argues for a fundamental reform of banking systems. Qui begins by explaining what is wrong with contemporary banking, which essentially functions as a globalist system of debt slavery. Before proposing a solution, she describes a conflict between two sets of critics of banking:

“Our approach to banking should not be about turning a blind eye to unethical action, rather it should wholly be a method of critique and instituting a market solution to a state problem. And there are plenty of people who critique banks from an anti-market perspective. They propose different solutions as they feel that banks are unethical by nature and not by circumstance.”[19]

She provides a standard free-market defense of interest as a measure of time preference. Her proposed solution is quite similar to the Banking Act of 1933 (better known as Glass-Steagall), in that she would separate savings and loan banks from investment banks, disallowing any institution to practice both. Strangely, there is no mention of cryptocurrency and its potential to eliminate the need for banks as we know them.

Familism refers to primacy of the family rather than the individual or any larger collective. Qui argues that families cannot be separated into discrete sub-units in economic analysis, as the income and spending of the individuals is too intertwined. More broadly,

“In cultures that have not been subject to American cultural imperialism, there is often no such thing as individualism divorced from the family. In most of the world, individualism does not imply that the individual should be independent from the constraints of the family, but rather that individuals should be focused on their own family. However, due to the increasingly westernized [sic] nature of the world, this is not a commonplace meaning.”[20]

She contends that unless families consist of degenerate and/or aggressive people, alienated individualism and non-familial collectivism are less optimal than familism. According to Qui, one redefines one’s family through redefining oneself, and advancing one’s family by giving rise to the next generation is the purpose of economic action.

Neo-Feudalism explores the common ground between libertarianism and feudalism, which is quite rich despite libertarianism’s origins in anti-feudalism. Qui makes the case that a natural landed aristocracy will arise out of libertarian standards for property ownership, but the absence of coercion would allow for more turnover of incompetent landowners. Second, the defense structures of anarcho-capitalism greatly resemble that of feudal lords, but Qui again hand-waves the issue of potential re-establishment of states. Even so, the destruction wrought by modern nation-states dwarfs anything under feudalism. She also notes the benefit of using mercenaries for lessening “my country, right or wrong” sentiments.

The Case for Guilds argues that trade unions are a statist corruption of the older system of guilds, which should be reborn and adapted for the future economy. Qui highlights the issue of guilds being run by the best in their line of work, while unions are run by the best at rent-seeking. The means by which guilds ensure quality in ways that unions, trade schools, and universities do not are also discussed.

In Greatness, Qui contemplates the conflict between modernity and potential for excellence. She blames the Enlightenment for abandoning the virtues of previous eras:

“Rationalism became replaced by populism, religious tolerance became replaced by institutional secularism, human advancement became replaced by anti-traditionalism, and an opposition to absolute and tyrannical monarchs became an opposition to monarchy. This was not helped by the opponents of the enlightenment [sic] as they were not staunch traditionalists, but rather simply anti-rationalists and similarly opposed to greatness. They only helped create the monsters of the enlightenment and the popular philosophy that started the downfall of the world.”[21]

This assessment of the Counter-Enlightenment is only partially accurate; for example, Joseph de Maistre opposed a rational foundation for governance because he believed it would only lead to arguments devolving into violence over whether this or that particular government was legitimate. Qui goes on to expose the contradiction between popular democratic will and eternal values. She then describes the progression from Enlightenment values to progressivism:

“Without equality, liberty, fraternity we would have never reached egality, entitlement, collectivity. It is a logical progression from wanting to abolish institutional privilege to wanting to abolish every kind of privilege. The same is true with wanting the ability to be undisturbed by other people and the ability to be undisturbed by the fundamental realities of the world. Respect for your fellow man can easily lead to demanding that the focus of each person be on their fellow man.”[22]

In Kings by Merit, Qui advocates authority as the means for creating virtue, which she believes liberty cannot do on its own. Why this would involve removing authority from economics or politics is left an open question, as degeneracy is especially prone to manifest there. She describes the libertarian king as a societal patriarch who is followed voluntarily for his leadership skills, which she believes is necessary for most people to avoid being led astray by the various demagogues that arise from time to time. Qui views the king’s function as combating parasitism and embodying virtue. She writes,

“The king would logically then be the person in society who has the highest degree of virtue and the highest degree of merit, voluntary monarchy is the ultimate meritocracy as the most qualified person would have the most power. The…person who is the most righteous and most capable would be the king. …Monarchy in any other way and democracy in all ways results in situations in which the rulers are people who do not embody virtue, although this happens far more with democracy than with monarchy. It does not mean that involuntary rule will always necessarily be against virtue, but we need exemplary kings to embody virtue and we only get exemplary kings through voluntary monarchy”[23]

The final essay, For an Anarchist Monarchy, closes the book on its central theme. Qui discusses the failures of combining monarchy with democracy, then proposes a synthesis of monarchy with anarchy by retaining the best principles of both while mitigating the potentially destructive aspects of both with a voluntary monarchic system.

The book ends with a single page advocating further reading of her series “On Libertarianism and Statecraft” here at Zeroth Position.

The first word that comes to mind when describing the entire collection is ‘unfinished.’ The grammatical constructions and punctuation are awkward throughout. A book of this many essays should be categorized into sections of similar subject matters, and the table of contents lacks page numbers. Each of the essays would benefit from a much deeper bibliography, as there are many important points which are simply asserted without proper support. The essays are also somewhat disjointed, in that they do not refer to each other to save space. That being said, the thoughts expressed in this book are sufficiently intriguing to merit reading despite these flaws.

Rating: 3.5/5

References:

  1. Qui, Insula (2018). Anarcho-Monarchism. p. 22.
  2. Ibid., p. 38.
  3. Ibid., p. 40.
  4. Ibid., p. 57.
  5. Ibid., p. 66.
  6. Ibid., p. 71.
  7. Ibid., p. 80.
  8. Ibid., p. 104.
  9. Ibid., p. 123–4.
  10. Ibid., p. 127.
  11. Ibid., p. 129.
  12. Ibid., p. 146.
  13. Ibid., p. 153.
  14. Ibid., p. 162.
  15. Ibid., p. 160.
  16. Ibid., p. 168.
  17. Ibid., p. 169.
  18. Ibid., p. 189–90.
  19. Ibid., p. 224–5.
  20. Ibid., p. 232.
  21. Ibid., p. 257.
  22. Ibid., p. 259–60.
  23. Ibid., p. 268–9.

Book Review: One Nation Under Gold

One Nation Under Gold is a book about the role of gold in American economic history by James Ledbetter. The book details how gold has shaped the American psyche and played a role in many debates and power struggles from the founding of the United States until the current age.

At the beginning of the book, there is a helpful timeline of many of the most important events that Ledbetter discusses. A short preface states the case to be made: that monetary gold has many qualities that good money should have, but cannot fulfill the ultimate hopes of its advocates. The introduction begins with both positive and negative contemporary commentary on the California Gold Rush, then briefly discusses the history of gold and the human relationship to it in the New World, particularly the United States.

The first chapter begins with George Washington’s woes with paper money during the American Revolution. Ledbetter uses this example to show how the Founding Fathers came to hate paper money. The role of debt in encouraging states to ratify the Constitution is mentioned. The search for effective currency in the 18th and 19th centuries is discussed at length, which included foreign coins, gold, silver, and paper currencies theoretically (but sometimes fraudulently) backed by metals. The correlation between monetary views and one’s opinion concerning the size and scope of government (which continues to the present day) is noted, with centralized paper money being associated with big government and decentralized metallic money being associated with small government. After discussing Andrew Jackson’s battle to defeat central banking and the Panic of 1837, Ledbetter returns to the California Gold Rush and its implications, including environmental and human exploitation as well as the Panic of 1857. With the Civil War and the issuing of greenbacks to fund it, a great failure of the gold standard is demonstrated that will echo through the rest of the book: it would stop wars and expansive social programs if it were strictly adhered to, but political leaders will always find some workaround.

Chapter 2 covers the time from Reconstruction to the Gilded Age. Ledbetter begins with the market manipulations of Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, alongside President Ulysses Grant’s role in the affair. The differences in opinion between North and South over paper money and compensation for the Civil War are also highlighted. Ledbetter notes an important lesson from these years: a polity that values multiple currencies will create a market of exchange between them, and huge swings in those markets will eventually cause social unrest. The debate over the monetization of silver and its role in financial downturns for the rest of the 19th century are discussed next, but the decade of the 1880s is skipped over. The chapter concludes with the Panic of 1893 and the near-disappearance of US government gold reserves in 1895, which was resolved with the help of J.P. Morgan.

The third chapter deals with the agrarian populist response to these events as well as events up to the Great Depression. The role of William Jennings Bryan and other silver advocates occupies much of the first half, along with their defeat as a result of gold discoveries in Yukon Territory and South Africa. Ledbetter includes the popular but controversial interpretation of The Wizard of Oz (1900) as an allegory for 1890s politics. Next, the lack of monetary liquidity and an attempt to corner the copper market as Fisk and Gould tried to do with gold in 1869 are cited as causes for the Panic of 1907, which was used as a pretext to create the Federal Reserve System in 1913. With World War I and its financial aftermath, Ledbetter again shows that when forced to choose between adherence to sound money or engaging in warfare, politicians abandon the former. The only problem here is his blaming of the gold standard for causing the Great Depression.

The Roosevelt-Truman era is the subject of the next two chapters. Ledbetter details the steps that Roosevelt took to outlaw private gold ownership for Americans and transition to a managed currency, a clear step toward centralization. The ending of Chapter 4 details the coalition against FDR’s actions that persists in some form to the current era; paleoconservatives and some business interests opposed his moves for partisan reasons, pro-gold economists believed that decoupling money from metal would cause economic and political problems, and a fringe of conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites railed against pernicious minority power and influence.

The fifth chapter explores the legal fallout from Roosevelt’s policies, as well as the establishment of Fort Knox as a gold storage facility. The debate over gold clauses, by which creditors sought to hedge against inflation, is highlighted. The argument that devaluing money is a soft form of sovereign default made at this time is still advanced by sound money advocates. The Supreme Court’s ruling on gold clauses in Perry v. United States (1935) is shown to be coerced by the circumstances; any less convoluted ruling would have suffered a run-around by Congress and FDR. The role of gold in World War II is discussed somewhat briefly. The formation of the Bretton Woods system, a quasi-gold standard that lasted until the early 1970s, is covered in greater detail. Ledbetter concludes the chapter with the postwar populism that was in many ways the opposite of 1890s populism in terms of its views on gold and inflation.

Chapters 6–8 take the reader through the Bretton Woods era. This section begins with a description of the balance-of-payments problem, which steadily grew through the postwar era and eventually brought down the Bretton Woods system. That foreign creditors gained the ability to effect a bank run on US gold supplies became increasingly alarming through the 1950s. The crisis in the London gold market in 1960 is discussed next, followed by the closing of loopholes that let Americans own gold overseas. The extent to which Americans disobeyed the law to own gold is explored, including an amusing case of a golden rooster that publicly showcased the ridiculousness of such prohibitions.

The seventh chapter is an in-depth examination of Operation Goldfinger, a set of attempts by the US government to find more gold that would seem like jokes to a reader today. The role of the French government in threatening to destabilize the global monetary system is discussed here as well. Ledbetter mentions the possibilities of cutting spending by withdrawing US forces from Germany and Japan in the 1960s, but once more, gold went up against foreign policy and lost. Another important lesson from this chapter is that price controls, such as that of gold set at $35 per ounce despite rising demand, will always collapse eventually.

The eighth chapter picks up where the sixth chapter left off, with airlifts of gold from America to shore up the British pound. This is followed by the frustrations of the Johnson administration in dealing with Vietnam and gold balances. The end of Bretton Woods is foreshadowed with a 1968 speech from Sen. Jacob Javits (R–NY). Ledbetter explains the two-tiered gold market that was set up for the final few years of Bretton Woods. The final ten pages are devoted to critics of what was happening at the time (Murray Rothbard, Alan Greenspan, Neil McCaffrey, William F. Rickenbacker) as well as those who sought to profit from it (Harry Browne), but Ledbetter annoyingly uses the “goldbug” slur here and for the remainder of the book.

Chapter 9 deals with the birth of the current system of fiat currencies and the end of gold-backed government money. Yet again, Ledbetter shows that there were ideologues and pragmatists in government, and the latter won out. The rivalry between Fed chairman Arthur Burns and the rest of the Nixon administration takes center stage here. The relative aloofness of Nixon himself on monetary policy may surprise a reader unfamiliar with the history. The chapter concludes with the beginnings of the modern precious metals investment market, the legal aspect of which started with silver coins in the 1960s and later expanded into gold. The fraudulent activities of the Pacific Coast Coin Exchange are used as an example of the all-too-common unscrupulousness of precious metal investment companies.

The tenth and eleventh chapters explore the legalization of private ownership of gold in the US and the first years of the legal market. Ledbetter illustrates the backdoor methods by which gold ownership was partially and then fully legalized for Americans. As is typical of American politics, the most consequential legislative changes were ultimately passed as riders on other, more mundane bills. The beginnings of Fort Knox conspiracy theories is mentioned, then the role of the Krugerrand and its eventual banning to pressure South African apartheid is discussed. Chapter 11 begins with the 1970s debate over restoring gold clauses in contracts, which ultimately passed but had no real effect. The middle of the chapter covers the Gold Commission under Reagan, which led to the minting of American gold coins but little else of substance. The damaging environmental impact of new methods of gold extraction are briefly mentioned, then the chapter finishes with more scam gold companies in the International Gold Bullion Exchange and the Bullion Reserve of North America.

The final chapter begins with the Great Recession and the gold investment promotions immediately thereafter. Yet another fraudulent company, Goldline, gets a mention here. A connection is made between current-era gold advocacy and the seemingly insincere gold-standard rhetoric of the Republican Party in the Reagan years, as well as between the groups in coalition against FDR and his gold policies. Though Ledbetter is correct to point out the obstacles to restoring a gold standard and the empirical case that it would not do what its advocates claim it would, the supply objection is not as strong as he seems to believe. Even so, Ledbetter’s stated estimate of a gold price of $10,000 to $50,000 per ounce agrees with my own calculation of $12,616.75 per ounce as of 2015. He mentions E-gold and Bitcoin as technological advances that seek to emulate aspects of the gold standard, but demonstrates a lack of understanding of the latter. Ledbetter claims that no serious politician offers a vision of a world without global financial institutions, failing to realize that any serious movement of that type will be anti-political and/or revolutionary in nature.

Overall, Ledbetter’s history is mostly sound, though a bias against gold advocates that reaches beyond the evidence against them is persistent throughout. The book offers a strong challenge to the idea of a gold standard, not in theory, but in practice. The case is well-made that advocating for governments to institute sound money policies is what this publication would call politically autistic, but the potential of digital currencies to take over the global economy and bring back the good aspects of the gold standard while mitigating the drawbacks thereof is left undiscussed. Details about the monetary policies of the colonial period, the 1880s, the 1990s, and the early-mid 2000s are also noticeably missing. That said, the information that is present and the quality of bibliography makes this book well worth reading.

Rating: 4.5/5

Agreeing With Statists For The Wrong Reasons: Minimum Wage

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Since its first enactment in New Zealand in 1894[1], minimum wage laws have interfered with the market process of determining the price of labor. Such laws now exist in most countries. Proponents claim that a minimum wage improves living standards and worker morale while reducing inequality and poverty.[2] Libertarians and conservatives have tried ad nauseum to oppose the existence or increase of the minimum wage,[3,4] to little avail. It is therefore necessary to try a different approach. Let us see how minimum wage hikes can undermine the legacy economic system, and thus why one might agree with statists for the wrong reasons.

A minimum wage law makes it illegal to hire laborers for less than a specified rate of payment per unit time. In order to justify paying an employee a given amount, the employer must be getting at least that much value from the employee. (In practice, an employee must be more valuable due to the overhead cost of running a business.) Raising the minimum wage thus renders unemployed anyone who cannot be sufficiently productive to be worth paying the higher wage. Laissez-faire advocates tend to consider this effect as a negative, but perhaps it is not. The people left unemployed by a minimum wage hike can be the types of people that statists claim to want to help, but they also can be political enemies of liberty as well as foreign migrants. Raising the minimum wage can protect domestic workers from competition and demographic displacement while depriving leftist activists of their day jobs. This will shift the political landscape away from socialism.

That being said, other humans are not the only competition around. Automation of jobs that were once performed by humans has long been occurring and is poised to continue. Minimum wage laws can give robots an advantage by pricing all humans out of the market in certain occupations. This frees people to engage in more fulfilling activities, at least until the silicon hordes come for those too. Some people may not find another occupation, but this presents its own opportunity for the anti-statist. The lower the percentage of labor force participation, the more people will sign up for state welfare programs. Contrary to mainstream libertarian thinking, this is a good thing. It is politically impossible to reform or abolish such programs because voters will remove from office anyone who tries to keep them from living off of the public treasury. What can be done is to overload and collapse the welfare state, and one method of doing this is to raise the minimum wage high enough to leave vast numbers of people unemployed. Though such an overload was originally a leftist plan to initiate universal basic income, there is reason to believe that such a program would be even worse for society over the long term. The civil unrest that would eventually occur once that program fails as well is an opportunity that libertarians can utilize if they prepare for it properly.

For people who can still find work with a higher minimum wage, there is another effect that harms the establishment. The long march through the institutions performed by leftists, followed by their use of academic power to push their agenda, is recognized as a serious problem by all of their opponents. One way to combat this problem is to present would-be university students with more attractive options. For intelligent people, higher entry-level salaries can make bypassing a degree and going straight into the workforce the best option, which would deprive Marxist professors of young people to indoctrinate. Additionally, the student loan crisis can be mitigated by not creating as much debt in the first place.

Many critics of minimum wage laws point to the price increases that must result, as a price floor on wages is an additional cost of production which must be passed on to the consumer. While this may make life more difficult for the poorest people, it would also discourage degenerate consumerism in favor of low time preference behavior. Production would thus be oriented toward eucivic goods rather than crass desires. The increase in saving could be used to fund investments, and the rising price inflation would encourage this rather than hoarding fiat currency.

Last but not least, if people cannot make ends meet in the state-sanctioned economy, then they will look for alternatives. A ban on employing people for less pay than a legal minimum is also a ban on workers selling their labor for less than that amount. But as with any other law that criminalizes a good or service that is in demand, the trade is not stopped but driven underground. This would be a boon to the informal economy in general and the cryptocurrency movement in particular. Raising the minimum wage to push people in this direction would reduce tax revenues, which in turn would increase national debts to the point of forcing spending cuts or hyperinflation. Again, the system is pathologically incapable of being reformed, so change must be imposed by external means of this sort. Either outcome would hasten the demise of the current system and usher in a new economic and social order.

Minimum wage laws are one of the most onerous statist interventions into the market economy, but like many other government programs, they usually achieve the opposite of their stated purpose. However, the aforementioned effects will be more destructive to the establishment than to the cause of liberty, so let us support raising the minimum wage to absurdly high levels for the wrong reasons.

References:

  1. American Academy of Political and Social Science. “The Cost of Living”. Philadelphia, 1913.
  2. “Should We Raise The Minimum Wage?”. The Perspective. Aug. 30, 2017.
  3. Black, John (Sep. 18, 2003). Oxford Dictionary of Economics. Oxford University Press. p. 300.
  4. “The Young and the Jobless.” The Wall Street Journal. Oct. 3, 2009.

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Capital Punishment as Ritual Magick for Social Order

The practice of capital punishment has long been controversial, as it is an ultimate expression of collective power over the individual as well as an irreparable harm if carried out in error. Those who oppose the death penalty may view it as a human rights violation, as unnecessarily cruel and degrading. They may cite the state’s incompetence in actually carrying out executions, the suffering of the condemned person’s family, the decades that many prisoners spend on death row, and the refusal to attempt rehabilitation of the criminal. Those who support it may believe that the worst crimes constitute a forfeiture of one’s human rights. They may argue that keeping someone alive in prison for life is more cruel and costly than a swift execution. Additional arguments in favor include retribution, deterrence, and certainty that the offender will victimize no one else.

In contemporary terms, the above arguments against capital punishment would be considered liberal, while the above arguments for it would be considered conservative. But both sets come from a distinctly modern worldview that is primarily concerned with the condemned individual. From a reactionary perspective, conservatives and liberals frequently appear to be two sides of the same coin, and their views of capital punishment are no exception. Modernism also manifests in the false dilemma between current capital punishment practices and complete abolition. A reactionary approach is more concerned with societal effects, and will broaden the consideration of practices to include pre-modern forms of execution which might be restored in a neo-traditional society. We will take the novel approach of explaining the effects of capital punishment on a social order through the lens of ritual magick.

A Brief History of Capital Punishment

Nearly all societies have put criminals to death, with the practice going back before the beginning of recorded history. While restitution and ostracism were frequently sufficient for punishing criminals, executions occasionally occurred in order to insure incapacitation of the worst criminals and demonstrate to other tribes that a society would defend itself by necessary means. The person executed was not necessarily the person responsible for a crime, as early systems of tribal arbitration were based on collective responsibility. What mattered was that someone pay blood for blood in order to prevent a blood feud from spiraling out of control. As tribes became nations, they expanded and conquered neighboring tribes and nations. Various classes of people emerged in these empires, and arbitration systems became codified and formalized in legal systems. Examples of this include the Code of Hammurabi, Draco’s laws, and the Pentateuch.[1]

Ancient execution methods were deliberately painful in nature, and some were designed to include the community in the killing of the condemned. Most executions took place in public to make an example of the criminals, demonstrate the power of rulers, and provide a spectacle.[2] The Roman crucifixion is the best known of these methods due to its role in the founding of Christianity, but there were many torturous methods of ending a life, such as loosing wild animals upon a person, cooking someone alive, lapidation, and scaphism.

In medieval and early modern times, the death penalty was used for many offenses. For instance, historians estimate that 72,000 people were executed under Henry VIII of England (r. 1509–1547). In his reign, the Buggery Act 1533 made sodomy a capital crime, and it remained so until 1835.[3] A moral panic concerning witchcraft beginning in the 15th century led to many unjust executions. Common methods included the breaking wheel, burning at the stake, and being hanged, drawn, and quartered. Meanwhile, blood feuds continued to occur but were more regulated, as in the Norse althings. Over time, dueling became a refined version of feuding and trial by combat survived as a remnant of the ancient ways.

The number of capital offenses under English law increased to 220 by 1800, and included many types of property crimes which are treated rather leniently in current law, such as cutting down a cherry tree in an orchard, petty theft, shoplifting.[4,5,6] Jurors responded with jury nullification, while judges would value property below the statutory level for capital punishment in order to spare people.[6]

As the modern nation-state took shape, standing police forces and state-run penitentiaries became common, as did the association of justice with theories of rights. Though opposition to the death penalty can be traced at least as far back as the 12th century Jewish legal scholar Moses Maimonides[7], this view became more common in the Enlightenment era. Cesare Beccaria analyzed capital punishment and called for its abolition in his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764).[8] Jeremy Bentham also called for abolition on utilitarian grounds.[9]

The overall trend in the West since the 18th century, and especially since the 20th century, has been toward executions which are less painful for the condemned and less public. This was the reason for the development of the guillotine in France, the abolition of drawing and quartering in Britain, the introduction of gassing and electrocution in the United States, and the replacement of slow suffocation hanging with drop hanging that breaks the spinal cord. American executions would later be performed mostly by lethal injection. Beginning in the 20th century, death in general moved out of public view in the West. While other deaths increasingly occurred inside of hospitals, executions took place inside prisons. The last formal public executions occurred in 1868 in Britain, in 1936 in the US, and in 1939 in France, though small numbers of witnesses are still allowed to voluntarily attend.[10,11]

Many death sentences were carried out in the 20th century for political and martial purposes, such as suppressing dissidents and discouraging lapses in military discipline. For example, during the Great Terror of 1937–38, Joseph Stalin’s regime had more than one million Soviet citizens killed, most by shooting.[12] The number of capital punishments carried out for light or even invented charges bolstered the abolitionist cause.

Since World War II, there has been a trend toward eliminating the death penalty. 102 countries have done so, six only execute under special circumstances, and 32 have not carried out a death sentence in the past decade. As of 2018, the United States is the only Western country to retain the death penalty, with the military, federal government, and 31 states having death penalty statutes.[13]

A Brief History of Witchcraft

Belief in magick is a cultural universal that has been present since prehistory. Modern anthropology postulates a complete continuity between magick and religion, especially before the development of monotheism.[14] However, there are several important differences. First, magick is used to achieve clear, immediate goals, whereas religion has a long-term or even eternal outlook. Second, magick is a spiritual form of direct action, while religion asks for favor from a deity. Third, magick is practiced by skilled and learned professionals, whereas religion is observed by the masses. Fourth, magick is usually intended for personal gain counter to eucivic goods, while religion usually has positive functions for society as a whole.[15]

In Europe, the practice of witchcraft dates at least to classical antiquity and has continued through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and into the present day. Practitioners were frequently persecuted from ancient times until the 18th century. In ancient Greece, Theoris of Lemnos was put to death along with her family for using harmful drugs and casting spells.[16] In the 3rd century AD, Roman law provided for burning at the stake as a punishment for witches who caused another person’s death, and was contemptuous of all witchcraft in general.[17] The Salic Law of the Franks fined those who practiced magic, while the Visigoths essentially continued the prohibitions in Roman law.

The spread of Christianity caused witchcraft to be seen as superstition. St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) taught that witchcraft does not exist and that believing in it is heretical for Christians. In 789, Charlemagne proclaimed to the people of Saxony that anyone who burned someone as a witch would be executed.[18] This changed in the 9th century, as Louis the Pious in France and Cináed mac Ailpin in Scotland took strong measures against witches.

In the Middle Ages, the Church focused on maintaining unity by suppressing heresy, leaving folk magicians relatively unmolested. During that time, magic was conflated with the healing arts as practiced at monasteries. There were also Christianized versions of pagan rituals performed for purposes such as enriching infertile crop fields, which substituted Biblical passages for heathen ones. What few cases of witchcraft were tried were brought before ecclesiastical courts, which were noted for their leniency relative to secular justice systems.[19]

The trials against heretics in the Middle Ages provided the accusations of secret meetings, orgies, necromancy, demon worship, infanticide, and cannibalism that would later be used against witches during the Renaissance.[20] Fear of witches grew through the 14th and 15th centuries into a craze. By the 16th century, Protestants and Catholics alike were trying and killing witches. Henry VIII of England’s Witchcraft Act 1542 penalized its practice, and James I’s Witchcraft Act 1604 was much harsher.[21] In 1692–3, a moral panic known as the Salem Witch Trials occurred in the Massachusetts Colony in which twenty people were killed.[22]

In the 18th century, Enlightenment attitudes mocked belief in witches and magic. Laws were changed to penalize practitioners not as dangerous subversives worthy of death, but as fraudsters making false claims of supernatural powers. This was done in England by the Witchcraft Act 1735.[23]

A Brief History of Western Esotericism

Despite periods of intense persecution as described above, a Western tradition of esotericism and occult practice has persisted since ancient times. The earliest reference to a magical operation is found in the Book X of The Odyssey, written by Homer in the 8th century BC. Circe, taking the form of a beautiful woman, uses a magic wand against Odysseus and his men to turn them into swine. Odysseus defends himself with an herb called moly revealed to him by Hermes.[24,25] These five elements, a temptress, a magical weapon, an act that defies the natural order, a rare magickal herb, and a divine revelator, would be present in most examples of magick from that point forward. Magick was viewed less negatively later in Classical Greece; Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Empedocles all had broad special powers attributed to them, but were associated with good deeds.[26,27,28] After this time, individuals said to be magickally inclined might have one or two specialties, but not a wide range of supernatural gifts.[29]

In the Greco-Roman world, curse tablets (tabellae defixionum) meant to deliver people to the powers of Hades were common, as were amulets to protect against such curses. Magickal tools in general were probably just as important as the various spells and incantations used in rituals.[30,31] These rituals can be grouped into two major categories: theurgy and goetia. Theurgy connoted exalted, high-class magick practiced by philosophers and other professionals. Theurgical rites attempted to either send the theurgist to heaven or bring divinity to earth to visit the theurgist. Goetia was a derogatory term for lower-class practitioners, and meant both magick and the power to sexually attract.[32]

In the milieu of various traditions from Babylon, Egypt, Greece, the Levant, and Persia, the beliefs of modern occult practices began to take shape.[33] One contributor was the Egyptian Hellenistic school of thought called Hermetism, after Hermes Trismegistus. Several texts appeared in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD that were attributed to him. These discuss the transcendence of rational thought and secular desires in order to find salvation and spiritual rebirth.[34] Another tradition of esoteric thought was Neoplatonism, based on the ideas of Plato. This school held that humanity had fallen from divinity but could return there by progressing through several hierarchical levels of being. Later Neoplatonists are known to have performed theurgical rites.[35] A third tradition was Gnosticism, which said that a malevolent entity called the Demiurge and the Archons, its demonic assistants, had imprisoned the divine light within the material world. Humans, who carry this light, should therefore seek to escape the material world and rejoin the divine.[36]

From the fall of Rome until the Middle Ages, little new development of Western esotericism occurred. In the 12th century, cultural contact with Jews and Muslims led to the development of the Jewish Kabbalah and the publication of grimoires. During the Renaissance, several European thinkers synthesized various non-Christian philosophies from Arabic translations with Christianity and Kabbalah. The Byzantine philosopher Gemistus Pletho (1355/60–1452/4) argued that the Chaldean Oracles were a text of superior religion passed down by the Neoplatonists. Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) translated the works of Plato and his followers into Latin, arguing that they were compatible with Christianity.[37] This was in dispute, as Pope Innocent VIII condemned combinations of Christianity with paganism and Judaism.[38] Johannes Hartlieb wrote in 1456 that Catholic law banned the practice of seven forms of magick: nigromancy (black magick), geomancy (earth divination), hydromancy (water divination), aeromancy (air/weather/celestial divination), pyromancy (fire divination), chiromancy (palm reading), and scapulimancy (bone divination).[39] Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494) developed a Christian version of Kabbalah, which was built on by Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522) and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486–1535/6) in De Arte Cabbalistica and De occulta philosophia libri tres, respectively. Agrippa’s work in particular revolutionized magickal procedure and theory. He had misgivings about astrology, alchemy, and natural sciences, but accepted them as “the highest peak of natural philosophy”. He denounced theurgy, goetia, and practices like the above seven forms as impiety.[40] The cosmological theories of Copernicus were adapted into esotericism by Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), who was executed by the Church for heresy for his trouble.[40,41] Bourgeoisie and nobility alike were fascinated by the occult in the 15th and 16th centuries, as people believed that magick could answer questions that science of the time could not.[42]

Naturphilosophie developed in Germany in the early 16th century, which accepted only the Bible and the natural world as authoritative sources. Paracelsus (1493/4–1541) was the primary advocate of this approach, though he was also inspired by traditions from Late Antiquity, Kabbalah, alchemy, and folk magick. He urged doctors to reject ancient theories of medicine and instead learn through observation.[43] This movement was a precursor to more modern empiricist thought. A few decades later, the emergence of initiatory brotherhoods with esoteric knowledge occurred in the form of the Freemasons and Rosicrucians.[44]

The Enlightenment era saw the embrace of reason and science, but this did not eliminate occult studies. Instead, a modernist esotericism emerged that incorporated new ideas to varying degrees. John Dee (1527–1608/9), a student of Ficino’s Neoplatonism, worked in both the mainstream disciplines of mathematics and astronomy as well as the occult studies of astrology, divination, and theurgy. He and Sir Edward Kelley (1555–1597) claimed that angels revealed to them the system of Enochian magick, which focuses on the invocation and command of spirits.[45] Dee also introduced the word thaumaturgy to mean an “art mathematical…which giveth certain order to make strange works, of the sense to be perceived and of men greatly to be wondered at”.[46] Around this time, goetia came to be known as ceremonial magick.

Swedish naturalist Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) taught that the visible material world parallels an invisible spiritual world and tried to reconcile religion with science. The Swedenborgian New Church was founded upon his teachings, which also influenced many other esoteric schools of thought. German physician Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1814) claimed that a universal life force permeated everything and that it must flow freely and undisturbed for a living being to be in good health. He developed techniques which were said to remove blockages in this flow. These ideas became known as Mesmerism. The Marquis de Puységur (1751–1825), a Mesmerist, found a way to induce a sleepwalking trance in which people claimed to communicate with spirits. The New Thought movement of Phineas P. Quimby (1802–1866), another Mesmerist, taught that the power of belief could cure disease. This would lead to the esoteric religion of Spiritualism in the 19th century, which was based on the concept of communication with spirits of the deceased during séances. Andrew Jackson Davis (1826–1910) and Allan Kardec (1804–1869) presented full theologies of Spiritualism, but most practitioners lacked such theoretical depth. Spiritualism influenced the early developments in parapsychology, psychology, and psychiatry, but the latter two became non-esoteric in the 20th century.[47]

European occultism emerged from two groups with different motivations. Libertines in English-speaking countries sought wisdom from pre-Christian pagan sources, while continental Europeans tried to syncretize Christianity, science, and previous esoteric traditions. Spiritualists began to examine pre-Swedenborgian thought. Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891) called for a revival of ancient occultism of both Eastern and Western origin, co-founded the Theosophical Society in 1875, and wrote the influential works Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888). The Anthroposophical Society was founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) as a breakaway from the former group. Meanwhile, an occult school called Traditionalism was developed in France by Éliphas Lévi (1810–1875), Papus (1865–1916), and René Guénon (1886–1951). This tradition was rooted in Catholicism and promoted the idea of an original, universal tradition. Lévi wrote several treatises on magick that influenced the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and solidified the place of Tarot cards in magick paraphernalia.[48]

The modern esoteric understanding of magick was developed in the late 19th century. Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825–1875) advocated for what would later be called sex magick, as well as the use of psychoactive drugs for magickal purposes. Three Freemasons, William Robert Woodman (1828–1891), William Wynn Westcott (1848–1925), and Samuel Liddell Mathers (1854–1918), founded the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1887. Golden Dawn was based on Kabbalah and practiced various forms of occultism and magick.[49] Though it only lasted until 1903 and had perhaps a hundred members, it had strong influence over the practices and beliefs of later magickal orders.[50] Many of its teachings and procedures were utilized by Aleister Crowley (1875–1947), the founder of Thelema who founded A∴A∴ and became a prominent member of Ordo Templi Orientis.[51] He introduced much of the terminology that practitioners of magick still use, including the archaic terminal-k spelling, meant to differentiate “the true science of the Magi from all its counterfeits.” He also renamed theurgy as “high magick” and thaumaturgy as “low magick”.[52] These ideas became increasingly popular in the 20th century, despite suppression under Nazi rule.[53] Even there, the Fraternitas Saturni survived despite being prohibited in 1936.[54]

In postwar Britain, Gerald Gardner drew upon Rosicrucianism, druidism, and Golden Dawn teachings to develop the religion now known as Wicca.[55] Wicca influenced the revival of old Celtic practices, as well as oppositional movements that claim older traditional roots.[56] In the 1960s and 70s, the counter-culture movement became associated with various forms of esotericism. This became known as the New Age movement by the 1980s.[57] Less commercialized forms of the time include the techno-shamanism of Terence McKenna (1946–2000), the Satanism of Anton LaVey (1930–1997), and the chaos magick of the Illuminates of Thanateros.[57,58,59]

Sovereign as Magician

Now that we have explored the relevant historical developments of capital punishment and magickal practices, we can compare and contrast the actions of the sovereign with the actions of the magician in order to explain why witches were persecuted throughout history and why modern capital punishment is less effective than pre-modern forms.

First, let us understand the persecution of magicians. The state is a group of people who exercise a monopoly on force within a geographical area. Before modern times, this was understood not only in a physical, material sense, but also in a spiritual, immaterial sense. The head of state was traditionally responsible not only for his people’s secular defense and prosperity, but also for their religious protection and salvation. A sorcerer who could (or was believed to be able to) work magick against other people posed a direct challenge to the power of the sovereign. Such power could both threaten the sovereign’s health and provide an alternative source of authority that could fuel a secessionist movement, support an antiking, or set up the magician himself as an antiking and/or antipope. This challenge could not go unanswered, and there were only two possible answers. The challenger could be subjugated to the sovereign’s service as an official priest or court magician. Failing this, the magician had to be eliminated through exile or execution.

As previously noted, there is a continuity between magick and religion, and it is in the institution of the sovereign that this bridge exists. This is a major reason why pre-modern societies had no separation of church and state; to separate the two would deprive the sovereign of an important aspect of his purpose. Furthermore, without this continuity, magick loses the low time preference, professional expertise, and eucivic focus provided by religion.

With the sovereign’s monopoly on force secure, let us proceed to its use relative to the prescriptions of Crowley for ceremonial magick in Thelema. The first element is the magick circle, which Crowley describes thus:

“…a Circle is drawn upon the floor for the limitation of [the Magician’s] working. This circle is protected by divine names, the influences on which he relies to keep out hostile thoughts.”[52]

Likewise, when a civilization is founded, statesmen have a city wall, national border, or other analogous structure erected to define the limits of their working. The sovereign cannot settle for divine names to defend his walls, however; he must have guardsmen upon whom he relies to keep out hostile people. Crowley continues:

“…The Circle announces the Nature of the Great Work.”[60]

A border wall announces that a sovereign has claimed the territory inside of it, and while it may not precisely announce the nature of his work, an outsider approaching it will get a general sense that a great work of some kind took place to build the wall and is now taking place inside.

“Though the Magician has been limited in his choice of room, he is more or less able to choose what part of the room he will work in. He will consider convenience and possibility. His circle should not be too small and cramp his movements; it should not be so large that he has long distances to traverse. Once the circle is made and consecrated, the Magician must not leave it, or even lean outside, lest he be destroyed by the hostile forces that are without.”[60]

The statesman cannot operate just anywhere; he is limited by his resources, the strength of supply lines, the presence of trade routes, the terrain, and the locations of hostile forces. But he does have choices within these constraints as to where he will set his borders. In other words, he may choose what part of the region he will work in and will consider convenience and possibility. If he sets his borders too small, he will be cramped. If he sets them too large, he will have logistical problems. The difference is that a competent statesman can lean outside or even leave for a time if he has established proper structures of authority beneath him with loyal underlings managing affairs in his absence. Even so, the border wall “affirms the limitation implied by his devotion” and “he no longer wanders about aimlessly in the world.”[60]

The second element is the altar, “the foundation of all”.[52] Crowley says of it,

“The Altar represents the solid basis of the work, the fixed Will of the Magician; and the law under which he works. Within this altar everything is kept, since everything is subject to law. Except the lamp.

…For this Altar must embody the Magician’s knowledge of the laws of Nature, which are the laws through which he works.”[61]

The great work of the statesman is civilization itself; if he is a virtuous statesman, then to create and sustain civilization is his fixed will. As such, like the magician, he must know the laws of nature, for as Francis Bacon noted, “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”[62] Everything is kept within civilization, except that whatever gods are worshiped by that civilization are considered to be above it, symbolized by Crowley with the lamp.[63] Taken together, this makes sense of the famous quote by Joseph de Maistre, “Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.”[64]

The symbolism of the scourge, dagger, chain, holy oil, wand, cup, pantacle, bell, and lamen may help the sovereign gain self-knowledge, but they do not explain his work. Let us turn next to the sword and the crown. Of the sword, Crowley writes:

“…It is only in the lower forms of Magick, the purely human forms, that the Sword has become so important a weapon. A dagger should be sufficient.

The Sword, necessary as it is to the Beginner, is but a crude weapon. Its function is to keep off the enemy or to force a passage through them — and though it must be wielded to gain admission to the palace, it cannot be worn at the marriage feast.

The Sword, too, is that weapon with which one strikes terror into the demons and dominates them.

…If the Sword is raised towards the Crown, it is no longer really a sword. The Crown cannot be divided.

…The Magician cannot wield the Sword unless the Crown is on his head.

Those Magicians, who have attempted to make the Sword the sole or even the principal weapon, have only destroyed themselves, not by the destruction of combination, but by the destruction of division.”[65]

The word ‘magick’ must be understood in Crowley’s terms; it is “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will”, “the Science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions”, and “the Art of applying that understanding in action”. As such, “Every intentional act is a Magickal act”.[66] By “the lower forms of Magick”, Crowley means the mundane, secular acts that fit his definition but would not be considered magickal by the average person, such as an emperor gaining territory by the sword. In the occult practices Crowley calls ‘high magick’, one does not need a sword of the size that one might use on the battlefield. Just as the magician uses the sword to “strike terror into the demons and dominate them” and “to keep off the enemy or force a passage through them”, the sovereign uses the sword for a similar purpose as he governs in the material realm.

Next, he considers the relationship of force and power. For a magician to raise his sword toward his crown sets his own force against himself and contradicts his nature. Likewise, a sovereign should not stand in his own way, and raising the sword against the crown is a treasonous assault upon civilization so long as the ruler is just. For the magician to wield the sword without wearing his crown is also improper, as it symbolizes the exercise of power either outside of official capacity or by the unworthy. So too should those who lack sovereignty in the material world not act as though they have it, but rather strive to become worthy before accepting power and ruling. Finally, Crowley cautions that violence is not the answer to every problem; a ruler who tries to “make the Sword the sole or even the principal weapon” will only destroy himself and his civilizational project through division. The sword is, after all, “a crude weapon”. Crowley says little of the Crown itself that is useful here; only that “The Crown of the Magician represents the Attainment of his Work.”[67] Likewise, the crown of the sovereign represents the attainment of a civilization that he is charged with maintaining as his work. Just as the magician is a spiritual king, a sovereign is a material king.

The clothing of the magician, the robe, also has parallels with the sovereign. Crowley writes:

“The Robe of the Magician may be varied according to his grade and the nature of his working.

…The Robe is that which conceals, and which protects the Magician from the elements; it is the silence and secrecy with which he works, the hiding of himself in the occult life of Magick and Meditation. This is the “going away into the wilderness” which we find in the lives of all men of the highest types of greatness. And it is also the withdrawing of one’s self from life as such.”[68]

He who would rule in the material world must dress the part in order to be taken seriously. A sovereign’s formal dress will also vary depending on the size of his kingdom, the resources therein, the traditions of his people, and the nature of his rule. While a sovereign need not hide himself, he does require intense study of subjects relevant to his role. Both his study and his work will withdraw him from ordinary life to some extent.

The magician’s grimoire is next for consideration. Crowley says of this book:

“The Book of Spells or of Conjurations is the Record of every thought, word, and deed of the Magician; for everything that he has willed is willed to a purpose. It is the same as if he had taken an oath to perform some achievement.”[69]

This book is analogous to the court records and legal codes of a sovereign. The sovereign’s conjurations and spells are his laws, and if he rules properly, all of his laws will serve a purpose. His oath is taken to his people to perform the achievement of maintaining a stable social order. Crowley continues:

“…Let him then be careful to write nothing therein that is inharmonious or untrue. Nor can he avoid this writing, for this is a Magick Book. If you abandon even for an hour the one purpose of your life, you will find a number of meaningless scratches and scrawls on the white vellum; and these cannot be erased. In such a case, when you come to conjure a demon by the power of the Book, he will mock you; he will point to all this foolish writing, more like his own than yours. In vain will you continue with the subsequent spells; you have broken by your own foolishness the chain which would have bound him.”[69]

A sovereign cannot perform his function without enacting and enforcing laws, and he should be careful that his laws do not stand athwart nature and truth. Discipline in legislation is essential, for even a momentary lapse of judgment by the sovereign may cause irreparable harm to a civilization. Though only a degenerate sovereign would dare to conjure a demon, he must still deal with their material equivalents in the form of domestic criminals, usurpers, and foreign invaders. Just as a demon may mock a errant magician, the criminal element of a society will mock a foolish ruler. Indeed, a sovereign’s foolishness invites crime and rebellion where none would exist otherwise.

Crowley then contemplates the long view:

“…And yet there is no page of this Book on which [the word “failure”] is not written; but so long as it is immediately followed by a new affirmation, all is not lost; and as in this Book the word “failure” is thus made of little account, so also must the word “success” never be employed, for its is the last word that may be written therein, and it is followed by a full stop.

This full stop may never be written anywhere else; for the writing of the Book goes on eternally; there is no way of closing the record until the goal of all has been attained.”[69]

Civilization is not a thing, but a process by which humanity’s baser instincts are partly suppressed and partly channeled toward productive endeavors. No sovereign is perfect; it is guaranteed that some of his policies will fail. When this happens, it is important to correct one’s mistakes and move on with “a new affirmation”. Though perfection is unattainable, improvement is ongoing; while a sovereign is never perfectly successful, each may be better than the last if all follow the proper procedures. Through such successive iterations, case law and common law theoretically improve over time. It is important to note here that while reactionaries oppose progressives, they do not oppose progress in this sense.

The final symbolic object Crowley speaks of is the thurible:

“Into the Magick Fire all things are cast. It symbolizes the final burning up of all things… It is the absolute destruction alike of the Magician and the Universe.

…This fire is blown upon by the Magician; this blaze of destruction has been kindled by his word and by his will.”[70]

Every person eventually dies, every society eventually collapses, and if modern cosmology is correct, even the Universe itself will not last forever. Indeed, every action contributes to the ultimate heat death of the Universe. But with the right actions, at least the former two can be forestalled, and pushing the date of societal collapse well beyond his tenure is the duty of the sovereign.

Capital Punishment as Ritual Magick

At long last, we have established the context for considering the practice of capital punishment in terms of ritual magick. The closest magickal equivalent of a judicial execution is the banishing ritual. Crowley says of these:

“That first task of the Magician in every ceremony is therefore to render his Circle absolutely impregnable.”[71]

Magicians perform banishing rituals of varying complexity and purpose in order to purify a room or magick circle before performing more elaborate ceremonies. The idea is to remove from the magickal workspace all elements that might interfere with the magician’s work so that the area may be consecrated to a purpose and only the relevant elements for an operation may be invoked. For example, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn used the Lesser and Greater Banishing Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram. Crowley innovated the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire from the Pentagram and Hexagram rituals, respectively. Banishings may also be done as standalone practices.

It is the task of the sovereign to do the same with his civilization. A stable social order cannot exist if criminal and invasive elements are allowed to run amok. Thus, it is necessary to banish them. Like the magician, the sovereign also has lesser and greater banishing rituals available for dealing with various types of undesirables. For a lesser banishing, he may exile them temporarily. Permanently exiling a criminal and declaring him to be an outlaw is a more severe form of this. Capital punishment is the greater banishing ritual against the criminal. The death penalty may be carried out humanely or brutally, privately or publicly, by agents of the sovereign or by private citizens. Whatever the precise form, the goal is the same: remove from the physical workspace all elements that interfere with the sovereign’s work so that the geographical area occupied by the nation may be consecrated to the purpose of creating and maintaining civilization.

In considering capital punishment, it is necessary to avoid the dilemma of abolition versus the sanitized, delayed, and shuttered executions of today. Brutal, humiliating executions in full view of the community, such as being hanged, drawn, and quartered, provide a deterrence against the worst crimes that lethal injections behind prison walls simply cannot. The end result of making such an example, if done properly, is that cruel punishments will only be necessary on rare occasions. Having such options available also provides the sovereign the ability to offer plea deals that still result in capital punishment instead of costing the crown the expense of keeping someone as a prisoner for life.

It is also important to consider the advantages of community participation, in which many people strike blows against the condemned until death occurs. Lapidation (stoning) is the best known method, though other methods such as lingchi (slow slicing) have been used. The obvious benefit is that no individual can have the feelings of guilt associated with being sure of striking the deathblow, an advantage preserved in more modern firing squad executions. But there are other benefits as well, such as the bonding experience for the community as it puts evil away from itself, the identification of the community with the sovereign as administrators of justice, and the ability for aggrieved family members to gain retribution. Though these events may serve as a spectacle for plebeians, the point is neither to provide grotesque entertainment nor to stimulate blood-lust. Measures should be taken to ensure that this does not happen, such as only letting surviving family and friends of a murder victim stone the murderer, removing spectators who do not show proper discipline for the proceedings, and suppressing any societal currents that would bring about moral panics such as the witch hunts discussed earlier.

It will not do to leave unexplored the aspect of sacrifice. From a certain point of view, capital punishment is a human sacrifice of those who have committed some offense that merits loss of personhood. This sacrifice of humans not fit for civilization is a potent example of what Georges Bataille called the principle of loss: that the greater the material sacrifice, the greater the immaterial gain. He believed that this was necessary for “the production of sacred things”.[72] To make sacred is to consecrate, which plays an important part in the practice of magick. Following a banishing ritual, in which unwanted influences are removed, a magician may consecrate a space as holy or dedicate an object to a particular work or goal. As Crowley writes,

“Consecration is the active dedication of a thing to a single purpose. Banishing prevents its use for any other purpose, but it remains inert until consecrated.”[73]

The negative of banishing and the positive of consecration work harmoniously to establish and maintain the magician’s purpose, and so it is for the sovereign’s purpose of creating and maintaining a social order within his borders, the place made sacred.

What Modernists Get Wrong

To conclude, let us consider the mistakes of modernists as they consider the issue of capital punishment. The modernist tends to be more concerned with effects on the individual who dies than the collective that survives. While this does have a role in making sure that necessary precautions are in place to prevent the execution of people who are not guilty of capital crimes, it should not be overemphasized, nor should it lead to minimization of the societal effects discussed above. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the modernist mind, if not bogey.

The modernist obsession with materialism and economic utility leads them to focus on the potential of rehabilitating criminals into productive members of society, even when no such potential exists. The notion of sacrificing criminals for the production of immaterial gains that sustain civilization completely escapes them; they interpret this only as a simple waste of human resources. Furthermore, while modern sociologists are fond of pointing out that any standards that define an in-group also define an out-group, they view this as a negative. That discrimination and exclusion are necessary in order to have standards and maintain social cohesion is lost to the modernist.

Modernity wishes to push unpleasantness out of sight and out of mind. They have forgotten the wisdom in choosing function over form, in dealing with ugliness and brutality for the building of character. Like a child covering her eyes and believing that her inability to see other people keeps them from seeing her, the modernist has a vain hope that the worst aspects of life can be made to disappear if they can be put behind the walls of one building or another. This is quite interesting given that modernists not only disbelieve in magick but ridicule the very concept, even as they attempt to practice a crude form of it in pursuit of their misguided will. It is thus no surprise that they cast spells incorrectly, when they even bother to do so at all.

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On Libertarianism and Statecraft, Part X: Time Preference

<<<Part IX                                                                                                Part XI>>>

Author’s note: The main themes of this series are further expounded upon in my book Anarcho-Monarchism, which you can buy here.

Introduction

Time preference is a measure of valuing present goods versus future goods. High time preference (hereafter HTP) is a condition of preferring present goods, of being unable or unwilling to wait before engaging in consumption. Low time preference (hereafter LTP) is an ability and willingness to save for the future. LTP requires both that the cost of waiting is sufficiently low and that one have the self-discipline to avoid the temptation of HTP. Note that if all else is equal, the value of a good is inversely proportional to the time that one must wait before making use of it. For practical purposes, people with LTP are able to invest more aptly than those with HTP, as they can put off their present wants more easily for the sake of their future wants.

LTP in Economics

Murray Rothbard claimed that there is no ethical or economic value which would place LTP above HTP, nothing that makes one inherently better than the other. He even criticized conservatives for favoring LTP as it is supposedly equivalent to HTP, at least in economic terms. When people derive more value from the present than from the future, then the total value in the economy is the same. LTP is only relevant insofar as an individual with LTP is able to have more value in the future while a person with HTP will have more value in the present, though at the cost of less in the future.

This is an extremely hedonic view of economics. Total value may be same in both cases, but people with HTP will still have less quantifiable wealth. In other words, any sane person with HTP would rather have LTP, as this would make them better able to accumulate wealth. The higher the time preference of a civilization, the more there is capital consumption at the cost of capital creation. As time preference approaches infinity, wealth creation halts and the economy will be on a downward trend, even under a completely free market system. The hedonistic HTP cannot be valued on the same level as the civilization-producing LTP in economic analysis.

But why is creating wealth objectively better than consuming wealth? Why should we inherently value civilization over decivilization? The answer to this is simple: we do so because that is the purpose of economics. We do not engage in economics simply to be a value-neutral observer treating all possibilities as having the same worth. Rather, we engage in economics to find the best way of organizing the economy. To say that HTP is equivalent to LTP as both produce the same amount of value is to say that communism is equal to capitalism, provided that equality is more valuable than food. It may be true that some people view the world in such a warped manner that they would rather not eat than have a boss, but this does not make their view of the world economically correct.

If our goal is to create civilization and prosperity, then it is necessary to embrace LTP in economics, as not doing so would ultimately lead us to ruin. This is done not to worship economic growth for the sake of economic growth, but for the sake of future generations and human development. The more capital is consumed, the less the next generation will have capital. The more the economy is developed, the fewer people have to live in misery and poverty. Growing the economy is a way in which we grow civilization, though it is not the entirety of creating civilization.

LTP and Civilization

LTP is vital in social organization; there can be no valuable social organization that is built around HTP. Social organization inherently means that each person puts aside their own goals and desires to some extent in order to cater to that which others want. For example, in the division of labor, people relegate themselves to the most important tasks, as they are the most profitable. These tasks are both the most socially important and the ones the person is most apt to undertake. When an occupation is highly priced on the market, it must also be in high demand and there must be large amounts of social gain from that occupation.

Furthermore, each person has to do the occupation they are the most capable of in order to maximize their potential on the market. This includes both professional training and natural proclivities. Thus, people put aside their own preferences to do work which will aid the community the most and thus benefit proportionally. The many people choose different work point is accounted for in the following sentence. In simpler terms, is that 90 IQ people do not become neurosurgeons and most choose to work in the highest paid occupation in which they are competent. (This is only false insofar as personal values and ethical principles become involved and price out some occupations on purely moral terms.) Accountability is required for social organization, and this is impossible to manifest with HTP. Though libertarians may turn their noses at the idea of being accountable to a society, it is a vital concept which needs swift integration to distinguish between aristocratic libertarianism and libertine individualism.

Social accountability, simply put, is the notion that people ought to do that which is in accordance with the norms of the wider society. It goes contrary to the libertine principle that all actions are acceptable as long as no force is initiated, provided that the wider society is in ignorance of them. Social accountability consists of trusting people with their privacy and trusting that they are good people even behind closed doors. This does not mean that we should break peoples’ doors in to guarantee that they are not engaging in degenerate behavior. Rather, this means that people ought to hold themselves accountable to the wider society and live up to the expectation that they are conducive to morality. We do not need to defend the undefendable, but focus on that which is moral and desirable.

HTP and Society

Social accountability is the direct counter-force to hedonism and degeneracy; it makes libertarianism compatible with morality. It is a civilizing force which, when coupled with individual liberty, creates the greatest form of society. This is a society in which the actions of all people are not only accountable to themselves, but where all people need to be accountable for their actions to the wider community. This does not mean that the collective is the base view of society; only that societies are generally better off when norms are respected. For example, one of the most vital norms for libertarians is the contract, which is ultimately a promise that should be kept. Promises are kept when people feel responsible to other people and feel that they need to take accountability of their actions in a social context.

However, when people have HTP, they are unable to be socially accountable because they are unable to see how their behavior impacts their society and their future. People cannot put aside their hedonistic desires unless they have LTP. Furthermore, the effects of LTP do not simply stop at social accountability. While social accountability is immensely important for aristocratic libertarianism, it is also true that LTP is conducive to other great virtues within a libertarian society. For example, if we are to have a libertarian society organized in such a manner that would be conducive to family, it must be a society that is LTP. Family is an extremely intensive endeavor without any material value in the present, at least in a society that does not use child labor. The only time when raising a family will be materially useful is in old age, when one needs their care. Having a family is a great drain on resources and as such, people with HTP will easily abandon all notions of a family. This is because they cannot put aside their present desire to consume over the future benefit of creation. Having a HTP society would not only result in capital consumption, but also in the non-replenishment of the foundation of a society; its people.

Creating LTP

Creating LTP can be done in a few select ways, all of which can be understood best within the framework of interest rates. The goal is to create LTP in governance by organically causing interest rates to decline. When people place less value on the present over the future, they will settle with having a lesser premium for future goods. When people have a lesser premium for future goods, it means that they are willing to wait longer for goods and that they are willing to engage in civilizing production. Thus, when interest rates lower organically, people will move in the direction of LTP. If we lower interest rates inorganically, it does not change the fundamental society; it only creates a false sense of security.

Security is the first component to creating an LTP society. When a society is insecure, time preference is bound to increase. Conversely, the more security there is, the more LTP a society will be. When people can make plans and be sure that their capital will not be destroyed, they are able to delegate tasks and consumption to the future. When people are unsure whether or not they will even be able to consume in the future, they must have a higher time preference. This does not mean that security forces are inherently good. Both insurance and defense against aggression, the two services that provide material security, require upkeep. This means that the security provided must be valued against the costs of maintaining the systems of insurance and defense against aggression. Thus, a well-ordered defense force is integral to any form of civilization or social organization. But this is not an argument for the state; far from it. The state does not retain a well-ordered police, militia, or military. State-provided defense tends to have a negative impact on a society, as the state is a distinctly anti-social force. We need libertarianism precisely so that we can leave defense to the free market and not suffer state abuses.

Community itself also fosters LTP. When people are isolated, they default to HTP because there is no future for them. A community can provide this future as well as a sense of belonging and meaning. This allows LTP to form organically. Libertarians need to provide a future instead of submitting to the disheartening realities of the current condition. This is even more true with family itself, although incentivizing the most HTP people to raise a family is too dangerous to view as a desirable goal. A person who consumes too much in the present is incapable of providing for children, and even though having a child would lower one’s time preference, it might be insufficient for raising the child in a proper environment. Parents with HTP may also lack the necessary patience for raising a child.

Another way of creating LTP is to create prosperity. The more people have in the present, the more likely they are to put aside for the future. When people have their wants satisfied, they are less likely to consume and are thus more likely to invest. Investing into the future is facilitated by having past investment and current prosperity. In a situation of war rationing or otherwise general poverty, there will be a general sense of HTP because surviving the present becomes enough of an ordeal by itself.

Conclusion

The three best ways to create LTP are to create security, community, and prosperity. All of these go against the sort of libertine individualism that is prevalent in libertarian circles, and all of these are necessary to have a moral form of libertarianism. The need to integrate ethics beyond self-ownership, non-aggression, and private property into libertarianism is debatable, but if this is accepted, then LTP must be encouraged for all of the above reasons. We cannot benefit from an HTP libertarian society. The biggest problem in developing libertarianism is that it might result in a large-scale ghetto and create an undesirable social order; this must be avoided at all costs. Part XI will tackle the issue of immaterial externalities and the complicated situations therein.

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