What’s In A Name?

When I launched Zeroth Position in January 2016, I wrote an article explaining the name of the site. What I have not done until now is to write an article explaining the pen name I use here. The practice of writing under a pseudonym has a long history, and has been done by various authors for a wide variety of reasons. The particular name or names that one chooses for this purpose frequently have a degree of significance, either to the personality of the author or the nature of one’s literary works. Let us explore these reasons and contemplate them in relation to my own pseudonym as I explain the meaning and significance of it.

Motivations for Pseudonymity

A pen name is a name other than one’s legal name that an author adopts for use in the by-line of their publications. One reason for doing this is to protect an author from retribution. In many societies, authors of dissident materials could face severe punishments that could deprive not only oneself, but one’s family of life, liberty, and property. For example, this is the motivation for a critic of Islam using the pen name Ibn Warraq. Although states in the modern West usually refrain from such measures, having instead some degree of freedom of speech, the reality is that they have outsourced censorship to the soft power of establishment journalists and the leftist mobs at their command. Whoever wishes to be free from harassment by these types and remain employable while presenting a worldview at odds with the progressive consensus is therefore strongly incentivized to use a pseudonym. In other cases, an author may need a pen name because the terms of one’s other employment disallow publishing under one’s real name. Irish author Brian O’Nolan‘s use of the pen names Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen is explained by laws forbidding Irish civil servants from publicly expressing political views.[1]

Those who are safe from harm may wish to use a pen name in an effort to distinguish themselves or gain more readership. If one’s real name is shared with someone who is already famous, then a pen name may be necessary to avoid confusion. This was necessary for a young Winston Churchill, as the British statesman was once overshadowed by an American novelist of the same name; the former therefore wrote as Winston S. Churchill.[2] Some authors write in several genres and wish to have a separate name for each; the mathematician Charles Dodgson wrote under his own name for non-fiction and as Lewis Carroll for fiction.[3] Highly prolific authors may use multiple names to get more of their content into a given medium, as novelist Stephen King did with the pen name Richard Bachman.[4] Those wishing to experiment with a different writing style or genre may do so under a different name out of concern that failure may impact sales of their other works, as science fiction author Harry Turtledove did with some historical novels under the name H. N. Turteltaub. In cultures that disadvantage female authors, or in genres usually written by men, women may either choose a masculine pen name or use their initials instead of their full name. Famous examples of the former from the 19th century include Mary Ann Evans (as George Eliot)[5] and the Brontë sisters (as Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell). J. K. Rowling is a more recent example of the latter.

Some pen names are used collectively by multiple authors. One use of this is to suggest continuity of authorship over long time periods, much as a corporation suggests continuity of ownership beyond the span of an individual’s involvement in a business. This is also known as a house name. An example is The Saint series; the first books were written by Leslie Charteris, but later books were written by ghost writers under the same name. Collaborative authors may also share a pen name, as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay did when they wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym Publius.[6] One’s ideology may disallow taking credit for one’s work as an individual, so pseudonyms for public use exist for this reason, such as Luther Blissett.[7] The historical practice of pseudepigraphy involved the false attribution of a work, usually to put one’s own ideas into broader circulation that could be achieved under one’s real name by using the name of an established intellectual.[8] Of course, there may be multiple motivations for a pen name, as is the case with the pen name N. B. Pettibone once used by Brittany and Nicole Pettibone. It is both a collaborative name and an initial name by female authors in a male-dominated genre.

Other concerns are purely aesthetic or personal. An author may feel that one’s name does not fit with the genre of one’s writing. Whereas Julie Woodcock’s real name has certain implications in the romance genre, she writes as Angela Knight instead. As a person’s knowledge and experiences alter one’s beliefs over time, one can come to reject some of one’s previous works so strongly as to feel a need to use a different name. The tradition of using a pen name after one’s real name, known as takhallus, has long been practiced by poets and other writers in Persian, Urdu, and some other Indian languages.[9] Japanese poets and artists also use art-names, which they may change several times during their careers. This usually marks significant changes in the artist’s life.[10]

Nullus Maximus

Now that the reasons for an author to choose a pseudonym are clear, let us examine the name I have chosen. Both words come from Latin. As an adjective, “Nullus” is the masculine word for “no, none, not any”. As a noun, it is the masculine second declension of “no one, nobody”. It is also the closest word for the number zero, a foreign concept to the Romans which did not appear explicitly in Latin until medieval times.[11] “Maximus” is the masculine word for “greatest/biggest/largest”, “highest, utmost”, “leading, chief”, “longest”, or “oldest”. Several interpretations of the combination “Nullus Maximus” are meaningful to me, including “no maximum”, “greatest nobody”, “not any chief”, “no leading”, and “largest zero”. The masculine words give away my biological sex and gender identity, but I believe my work already makes this obvious.

“No Maximum” could also be thought of as “No Limit”, and this refers to my willingness to tackle any subject matter that interests me as well as my determination to take an argument to its logical conclusion. Though there are certain viewpoints that I refuse to allow to be advocated here at Zeroth Position, no topic is off-limits for thoughtful exploration. Whether it is the ethics of political assassinations, private ownership of nuclear weapons, the role of conquest and genocide in libertarian theory, slaughtering the most sacred ideological cows of the political establishment, or admonishing those who are nominally on our side (including ourselves), there is no intellectual ground that I and my guest authors dare not traverse.

“Greatest Nobody” is an acknowledgment of my personal status, a rejection of credentialism, and an aspiration to be more than I am. As of this writing, I hold a bachelor’s degree in physics with some graduate study in the subject, but no advanced degree. I wield no power to speak of in the physical world, aside from what following and influence I have earned here. On paper, there is no reason for someone to regard me as an authority on most of the subjects addressed in my political and philosophical writings. But to dismiss my work on this account would be a courtier’s reply fallacy; the truth value of an argument is independent of the expertise (or lack thereof) of any person advocating it. My work should stand or fall on its own merits and demerits, not on my merits or demerits as a person. While I may or may not be the “greatest nobody,” I aspire to be the best that I can be.

“Not Any Chief” is one possible interpretation of my ideal political order, though a great multitude of chiefs, each of whom have far less control than modern nation-states, is a more accurate description. This was initially called anarcho-capitalism, but anarcho-monarchism and anarcho-feudalism are more accurate terms. The former is suggestive of politically autistic hyper-individualism that is incompatible with the fact that humans are social creatures. This interpretation also admits that I am “not any chief”; I do not hold sovereign power and am unlikely to ever do so.

“No Leading” is a statement of purpose. I have always had natural leadership qualities, and many people in my life through the years have granted me perhaps more decision-taking power than I am due, but it is not my goal to convince others to follow me. (That said, subscriptions and donations are much appreciated.) I believe it to be more important to provide logical and strategic blueprints that others may adapt to their own purposes, for achieving a libertarian social order (or any other great accomplishment) will require many independent, decentralized efforts.

Finally, “Largest Zero” is a reference to my role here at Zeroth Position. As I am the site founder, payroll master, head of IT, chief editor, and the most prolific author, my role here is far larger than anyone else’s. Should this site grow to become far more popular and profitable than it currently is, I will seek to offload some of these responsibilities so that I may focus entirely on thinking and writing, but this interpretation fits for now.

Personal Motivations

I have explained my choice of pen name, but not why I chose to use one, so let us review the motivations from the first section. Agents of the state have only ever been inconvenient to me, but the dissident materials I and my fellows here have authored do not rise to a level that would currently be punishable by law in the United States as of yet. Of course, this may change someday, but no one who lacks sovereign power is truly safe from this.

However, as previously noted, the forces of inquisition are now mostly private and decentralized, with ever-changing standards for what makes them target someone. This is of little concern to me, as traditional employment has long remained elusive for me regardless of whether or what I write, and my audience is not yet large enough to attract much public ire from the Cathedral or its minions. I have very little at present that they could take from me, so this is also not my motivation for having a pseudonym. Furthermore, my legal name is something of an open secret in libertarian circles, in that anyone who needs to know (e.g. for the purpose of inviting me to a speaking engagement) has little difficulty in learning it. An enemy could presumably do so as well.

Several other people share my legal name, and at least one has contributed to scientific research. But no one with my name writes in a similar vein to my own work. Though I had several profiles at the content mill I wrote for prior to launching Zeroth Position, and I chose my pen name partly based on the site name, I did not choose the name to experiment with a different writing style; this simply happened over time as I changed my focus and learned more information. I currently write only for this site (though that may change in the near future) and am not highly prolific, so I do not use multiple pen names. Neither does anyone else write under my pen name.

My motivations for going pseudonymic are purely aesthetic and personal. The aesthetics were described in the previous section. The personal (beyond the personal nature of the aesthetic) is primarily that I wanted a new name to fit with my new website, a venture which marked a change in my life. “Nullus Maximus” thus functions somewhat like an Asian art-name. Another factor is that I noticed the neoreactionary scene a few months after starting Zeroth Position, and almost everyone there has a pen name. While the libertarian reactionary views I espouse are significantly different from neoreaction, there is also significant overlap, with a large number of shared concepts and diagnoses of the modern world. At the time, I thought that I might better fit into their circles if I behaved likewise. In hindsight, their response to me under my real name probably would have been nearly identical.

For now, I intend to keep the pen name and maintain course more generally, but with one major change. In early 2018, I began working on a book, but now I have started devoting more effort to actually doing everything necessary to complete a masterpiece of original thought. This will necessarily mean less articles here until the book is finished. Once the book is ready, I will seriously consider dropping the mask and going for a writing career under my legal name, though the subject matter of the book would fit my pen name very well. I may also write articles for other sites under my legal name or initial name in the near future.

To all who wondered about the meaning of my pen name, both denotatively and personally, now you know.

References:

  1. Curran, Steven (2001). “’Could Paddy Leave off from Copying Just for Five Minutes’: Brian O’Nolan and Eire’s Beveridge Plan”. Irish University Review. 31 (2): 353–375.
  2. Dockter, Warren (Oct. 2011). “The Tale of Two Winstons”. The Historian. 11: 10–12.
  3. Thomas, Donald (1996). Lewis Carroll / A Biography. Barnes and Noble, Inc. p. 129.
  4. “StephenKing.com – Frequently Asked Questions”.
  5. Cross, J. W. (ed.), (1885). George Eliot’s life as related in her letters and journals, 3 vols. London: William Blackwood and Sons. Vol. 1, p. 431.
  6. Furtwangler, Albert (1984). The Authority of Publius: A Reading of the Federalist Papers. Cornell Univ Press. p. 51.
  7. Deseriis, Marco (2010). “’Lots of Money Because I am Many:’ The Luther Blissett Project and the Multiple-Use Name Strategy”. In Cultural Activism: Practices, Dilemmas and Possibilities, edited by Begum O. Firat and Aylin Kuryel. Rodopi, Amsterdam. p. 65–94.
  8. Bauckham, Richard (Sept. 1988). “Pseudo-Apostolic Letters”. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 107, No. 3, p. 469–94.
  9. A Brief History of Persian Literature, by the Iran Chamber Society.
  10. Weston, Mark (1999). Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan’s Most Influential Men and Women. New York: Kodansha International. p. 116.
  11. Durant, Will (1950). The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4, The Age of Faith: Constantine to Dante – A.D. 325–1300. Simon & Schuster. p. 241.

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.

Song Lyrics: SEC Got Run Over By A Bitcoin

To the tune of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” by Randy Brooks.

Chorus:
SEC got run over by a Bitcoin
Walking home from the office Christmas Eve
You can say there’s no such thing as karma
But as for crypto users, we believe

Verse 1:
They did too much regulating
And we tried to tell them so
But they hate all innovation
So they did all that they could to block the road
When we tried to get around them
They made threats to shut us down
But there’s no clear target to strike
For the blockchain is decentralized, you clowns

Chorus

Verse 2:
Now we point and laugh at the Fed
They’re not taking this too well
Wondering how to run their debt scam
If their phony fiat money burns in hell
‘Tis the season for green candles
Hope our trades are in the black
Don’t forget to check the markets
Before you spend Bitcoin that you can’t get back (No charge-backs!)

Chorus

Verse 3:
Now the Lambo’s in the garage
And the pizza’s hot and spiced, ahh!
And the chikun is arising
So the moon is shining brightly through the night
Time to help our friends and neighbors
Get some crypto for themselves
And there should be no BitLicense
That keeps businesses from bringing in the wealth

Chorus

Sing it Satoshi!

Chorus

Merry Christmas

Song Lyrics: Election Song

Verse 1:

(E7) Wake up in the morning
Long before first (E9) light
(E7) Smell the coffee (Bm7) brewing in the
(E7) same pot that you didn’t wash last (A) night
(A7)
(E7) Gonna be alright
(E)
(E7) Pull out of the driveway
Head down to the (E9) polls
(E7) Odds are better (Bm7) that you’ll die in
(E7) a car crash than change the way it (A) goes
(A7)
(E7) Oh, don’t you know?
(E)
(Bm7) Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee
(F#m7) whoever wins the system keeps (E) control
(E7) The status quo

Verse 2:

(E7) Stand there in a long line
Wrapped around the (E9) block
(E7) Brave the pouring (Bm7) rain and cold damp
(E7) air so you can say you cast your (A) lot
(A7)
(E7) Wish you forgot?
(E)
(E7) Get inside the polling place
Know just how to (E9) vote
(E7) Gotta do your (Bm7) civic duty
(E7) Mark the ballot for devils you (A) know
(A7)
(E7) Is it all for show?
(E)
(Bm7) After all its in the hands of
(F#m7) whoever is there to count the (E) votes
(E7) What a sick joke

Verse 3:

(E7) Go about your busy day
Gotta work your (E9) job
(E7) That “I voted” (Bm7) sticker is your
(E7) ticket out of lectures from the (A) mob
(A7)
(E7) Their minds are locked
(E) from propaganda slop
(E7) The hours finally pass
Time to go back (E9) home
(E7) Stuck in traffic (Bm7) listening to
(E7) the last ads play on the (A) radio
(A7)
(E7) Glad they’ll be gone
(E) for two years or so
(Bm7) But the next election season
(F#m7) promises another stupid (E) row
(E7) Hackneyed ebb and flow

Verse 4:

(E7) Supper’s done and now its time
To sit down and (E9) rest
(E7) Switch on the (Bm7) idiot box and
(E7) Watch the results come in too (A) fast
(A7)
(E7) Election’s done at last
(E) Glad its in the past
(E7) One seat stays with Team Red
Another flips for (E9) Blue
(E7) Counting votes like (Bm7) counting sheep and
(E7) sheep are those who vote to put them (A) through
(A7)
(E7) Tell me, is that you?
(E) Yeah, is that you?
(Bm7) Wake up the next morning to find
(F#m7) nothing’s getting better; what a (E) ruse
(E7) and you’ve been fooled

Verse 5:

(E7) No matter who you vote for
The system stays in (E9) place
(E7) Ever growing, (Bm7) ever reaching
(E7) ever looking for more things to (A) claim
(A7)
(E7) A monster without face
(E) Liberty erased
(E7) One hand in your wallet
Another ’round your (E9) neck
(E7) Threaten you (Bm7) with prison time
(E7) unless you obey and send that tax (A) check
(A7)
(E7) That’s truth direct
(E)
(Bm7) Starting wars, funding terror,
(F#m7) turning the whole world into a (E) mess
(E7) Its all grotesque

Verse 6:

(E7) Then you start a-thinking
Is this all there (E9) is?
(E7) Can’t we find a (Bm7) way to solve our
(E7) problems that works out better than (A) this?
(A7)
(E7) Or call it quits
(E) and take our own risks
(E7) But they won’t let us do that
They’ve too much at (E9) stake
(E7) Their vested interest (Bm7) is to stand in
(E7) our way until we cause them to (A) break
(A7)
(E7) Make our escape
(E) Freedom retake
(Bm7) But we’ll have to build and plan and
(F#m7) bide our time until they seal their (E) fate
(E7) with a mistake too great

Outro:
(Bm7) Yeah, we’ll have to build and plan and
(F#m7) bide our time until they seal their (E) fate
(E7) Await that day
Await that day
Await that day
(E)

On Universalism, Genocide, and Libertarianism

One element which distinguishes modern political ideologies from their pre-modern counterparts and predecessors is universalism. That is, each of them makes several objective truth claims, and their adherents believe that everyone should convert to their point of view. Most also believe that everyone eventually will. This is due in large part to their Whig historiography, with the dominance of their particular system as the “end of history”. 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. The currently dominant form, which will be examined at length, has the potential to motivate even greater destruction going forward. Let us explore the origins of political universalism, its implications, and what might be done with this knowledge.

Origins: Universalism, Calvinism, Unitarianism

Like most Western political ideas, the dominant strain of universalism in contemporary politics has its roots in Christianity. The doctrine of universal reconciliation says that all humans will eventually be saved and reach Heaven, that no permanent Hell exists, and that the idea of eternal damnation comes from a mistranslation of Scripture.[1] This belief can be found among some of the early church fathers[2], and persists in some sense within Catholicism through the belief in Purgatory. From a Protestant perspective, universalism is perhaps best understood as an extreme form of Calvinism. Calvinists believe that God has predetermined the fate of every soul, with some going to Heaven and others going to Hell.[3] A Christian Universalist believes that all souls are in the former category in the long-term. The Calvinist view of election is in contrast to Arminianism, which holds that election is conditional[4], and to open theism, which claims that God does not know in advance how a person will respond to the Gospel.[5]

The other four points of five-point Calvinism are total depravity, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. Total depravity means that all people are enslaved to sin and cannot by their own faculties choose salvation. Limited atonement means that salvation is intended only for the elect and not for all people. Irresistible grace means that the elect will be saved regardless of their resistance to the Holy Spirit. Perseverance of the saints means that the elect cannot fall out of communion with God; apostates either never had true faith or will be divinely chastened into repentance. All five points have important implications in the political realm which will be discussed in the next section. The teachings of John Calvin eventually led to his own de facto rule in Geneva, the rule of Oliver Cromwell following the English Civil War, and the dominance of the Puritans in New England, the latter of which has never truly lost influence over American politics. Each of these produced its own horrifying and deadly results, from the burning of heretics like Michael Servetus[6] to Cromwell’s massacres of the Irish[7] to the Salem Witch Trials.

Christian Universalism proper can be traced to a liberal denomination formed in 1793 to uphold belief in universal salvation, which would later become known as the Universalist Church of America. This denomination merged with the Unitarians in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association. The early Unitarians rejected several fundamentals of mainstream Christianity, such as the doctrines of the Trinity, the pre-existence of Christ, original sin, and substitutionary atonement. During the 19th century, through the influence of Transcendentalism, they moved away from liberal Protestantism to become more theologically diverse.[8] This trend continued with 20th-century secular theology.

Unitarian Universalists have seven fundamental principles: 1) the inherent worth and dignity of every person; 2) justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; 3) acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; 4) a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; 5) the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; 6) the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and 7) respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles look remarkably similar to secular progressive liberal rhetoric, and for good reason. As Unitarian Universalism became pluralistic and no longer explicitly Christian, it lost whatever minuscule resistance to leftism it once had, and Conquest’s Second Law took effect as usual. Unitarians and Universalists were active in social reform movements during the 19th and 20th centuries, including slavery abolition, alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, feminism, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, environmentalism, and social justice.

As the Unitarians in America became more secular, they formed a bridge between mainline Protestants and various types of radical leftists. The allegiance of these forces took some time, but was finally accomplished during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their takeover of academia and the mainstream media after World War II led to their dominance in political life, so much so that non- or anti-Universalist ideas were steadily pushed outside of polite discourse and into the fever swamps of far-right conspiracy theorists. Only in the age of the Internet is this hegemony beginning to crack, though this may be partly attributable to backlash against the sheer extremity of the leftist vanguard, which is a natural consequence of their dominion.

Social Justice as Secular Calvinist Universalism

Taken together, the twelve beliefs listed above explain many facets of contemporary leftist behavior, and the contradictions between them are responsible for much of progressive doublethink. Although progressive liberal ideology claims to advocate for the seven Unitarian Universalist principles, its practice looks more like the five points of Calvinism. Like Calvinists, progressive activists believe that the world is fundamentally unjust, and that people cannot save themselves. But since they generally reject the Christian God, they substitute the secular god of statism and view themselves as its agents and advocates. This also leads them toward total depravity, but their self-righteousness and use of statism to avoid the consequences of bad personal decisions shield them from this understanding.

Unconditional election manifests in the form of oppressor classes and victim classes. For all of their supposed opposition to essentialism, social justice warriors group people into what would in earlier times be called the elect and the damned based on race, sex, orientation, and other biologically immutable characteristics. Since they define bigotry as prejudice plus power, they contend that members of the elect (victims) cannot be bigoted against the damned (oppressors). This paradoxical view echoes the parable of the rich man and Lazarus[9], in that the eternally wealthy are temporally impoverished and vice versa. Just as a Calvinist never is sure of one’s salvation status, so too is a progressive activist never sure of whether one is sufficiently far to the left or whether one has done enough work for the cause.

Limited atonement takes on two forms with the radical left. First, despite their claimed universalism, they do not intend that all people and their descendants should have a long-term part in their planned future society, especially if they are classified as oppressors and prove resistant to social justice ideology. We will return to this later, but let us now consider the second form. Because a progressive activist is never sure of one’s status, one must endlessly engage in ritualistic privilege-checking confessionals and sacrifices, such as ceding platforms and resources to those deemed less privileged and more oppressed. These offer only limited atonement and are never sufficient to resolve one’s “burden of original sin” for being part of an oppressor class.

Irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints manifest together. Members of oppressed classes who reject social justice ideology are said to have “internalized oppression” in general, which includes particulars such as “internalized misogyny”, “internalized homophobia”, “internalized racism”, etc. Universalism rules out the possibility that nonbelievers never had true faith, and secular progressives reject divine chastening, so they themselves must chasten nonbelievers and apostates to repentance. This chastening never ends because of the doctrine of irresistible grace; the elect must be saved regardless of their resistance, and universalism extends this chastening to all of society.

Against Unitarian Universalism

At the surface level, the seven fundamental principles of Unitarian Universalism may seem harmless or even beneficial. Worse still, they may fool one into thinking that they are an antidote to secular progressivism. But the way that these principles are interpreted through a Calvinist lens leads down very dark paths, and has already done so on multiple occasions.

It is possible to have reasonable disagreements with six of these seven principles. First, both the labor and the subjective theories of value reject the idea of inherent value, so taken to their logical conclusions, human life does not have an inherent worth or dignity and can become a negative in some cases. The replacement of the culture of honor with the culture of dignity may also be lamented for its amplification of uncivil conduct and decline of martial virtues. When offensive speech carried the possibility of being challenged to a duel, and either risking one’s life or being branded a coward, it was necessary to engage other people in a more dignified manner. That social justice warriors view only some people as elect seems to conflict with the inherent worth of human life, but this is resolved by dehumanizing their opponents.

Second, the idea of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations may be rejected at a shallow level as an excuse to intervene in affairs that are none of one’s business. All too frequently, social justice warriors will insert themselves into private transactions and relationships which do not concern them, using the promotion of social justice and equality as a pretext. At a deeper level, whereas social justice rarely means the same thing as actual justice, one may dispute the meaning of justice. The ideal of equity may be rejected as a revolt against nature, with the alternative view that human individuals and collectives have differing capabilities as a result of both genetics and environment. Fewer people will argue against compassion, but there are times when rational psychopathy, social Darwinism, and so forth produce superior results.

Third, universal acceptance rejects the idea of discriminating against anyone for any reason. In practice, this is both an assault on private property and on freedom of association. If one cannot exclude people, then it is impossible to have quality control. The result is a predictable decline in quality of human relationships, economic goods, and standards of living. Encouragement to spiritual growth may be rejected by materialists who deny the existence of the spiritual, though some progressive activists will do this as well.

While no one should disagree with the fourth principle, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, such a search has the potential to undermine the entire progressive program. Leftists will instead attempt to create the illusion that this is both occurring and finding results consistent with their ideology, with any discrepancies blamed on lack of funding, poor communication, and any other cause besides the possibility that they might be wrong. Of course, this means that anyone who finds contrary results and publishes them will feel the full force of the establishment machine.

Fifth, the right of conscience can be opposed as an assault on contract law. While conscription by the state should be rejected as a form of slavery (or agreed with for the wrong reasons), it is also a consequence of universalism in the political realm. The democratic process may be rejected as an affront to individual liberty, private property, freedom of association, the iron law of oligarchy, the right of might, and/or the divine right of kings, depending on one’s political views. One may also critique democracy for empowering those who are unworthy of having a voice, creating conflicts of interest, encouraging demagoguery, and perpetuating social unrest.

Sixth, the goal of world community is in opposition to all political ideologies which call for non-globalist, non-universal political organization, such as nationalism, localism, anarchism, and individualism. This point in particular is the path to darkness, and will be addressed at length later.

Seventh, respect for interdependent ecosystems cannot be fully rejected, but can be subordinated to human concerns. Alternatively, one may approach ecology from a reactionary perspective; not as a pretext for state intervention in the economy, a broader social justice movement extended beyond humanity to all living things, or a myopic desire for a nice place to live, but as respect for cosmic order, hierarchy, bravery, harmony, and beauty.

Other Universalist Ideologies

Before we continue, it is necessary to take note of other kinds of universalism. The progressive liberal variety described above at length traces its lineage through the political philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the Young Hegelians in particular. Other Young Hegelians were the forerunners of various socialist and communist ideologies, such as Leninism and Stalinism. Right-Hegelianism, another school of thought founded by Hegel’s disciples, was a contributing factor to fascism and Nazism.

Conflicts involving these schools of thought have provided the philosophical backing for the great wars of the 20th century. In World War I, universalists defeated their non-universalist opposition in the form of the traditional monarchies of Europe and Russia, leading to the rise of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Austria-Hungary. World War II was a victory of Young Hegelians over Right Hegelians in Europe and non-universalists in Japan, respectively. The Cold War was a conflict between two different branches of Young Hegelians, the Soviet communists and the progressive liberal West.

The War on Terrorism in the 21st century is a struggle between the ascendant progressive liberals and the forces of political Islam. Some Islamists embrace a universalist ideology, seeking to bring the whole world under the rule of a global caliphate. Others are non-universalist, seeking an exit from and alternative to postwar progressivism. But both of these are rivals of the Western hegemony, except when the establishment sees fit to weaponize them against the remnants of non-universalism in Western countries.

The Path to Genocide

The fundamental characteristic of any universalist ideology is that it posits at least one common factor among all people. Such factors may be formulated as “All people are W”, “All people believe X”, “All people do Y”, “All people require Z”, and so forth. But what shall a universalist do with a person who is not W, or believes the opposite of X, or deliberately avoids doing Y, or has no need of Z? Like a scientist who encounters data which does not comport with the hypothesis being tested, the universalist faces a binary choice: reject the hypothesis and formulate a better one, or alter the data to fit the hypothesis. In science, the latter is (hopefully) condemned as academic fraud, but it is standard practice in the political realm. In other words, because the presence of people who steadfastly reject universalism is an empirical falsification of universalism, a universalist must either renounce one’s ideology or renounce those people, and the latter tends to occur. The method by which this renunciation of people is performed is best known as “no true Scotsman,” and declares them to be less than human.

The path from universalism to genocide is thus clear; dehumanize the inconvenient people, systematically reduce their role in socioeconomic life, then remove them from society. Because it is impossible to remove people to a location outside the Universe, which is what would be necessary to preserve universalism from those who reject it, the universalists are left with the option of murdering the incompatible. Regardless of whether the universal ideal is the Nazi master race, the Soviet industrial worker, the Khmer Rouge agrarian peasant, the Islamic State interpretation of Sharia, or the Calvinist-Unitarian-rooted system of progressive liberal values, any belief system which posits a mold that all people must fit will ultimately dehumanize those who do not fit, often with ghastly results.

But what genocide are progressive liberals carrying out? Surely the United States government is not forcing its own citizens into concentration camps or murdering them en masse, even though it has done both in the memorable past. Merriam-Webster defines genocide as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group”, “the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group”, and “acts committed with intent to partially or wholly destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Note that only one of these three definitions explicitly mentions killing. The other two are far broader in scope, including any acts intended to destroy a group of people. Whereas the size that a group must have in order for its destruction to be considered genocidal is rather arbitrary, this is also absent from the definition. Culture is defined as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group”, “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”, “the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic”, and “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” All four of these definitions denote aspects of traditional Western thought that radical leftists seek to transform and destroy.

Because progressives have acquired such immense cultural power in the West, it is not necessary for them to directly murder their domestic opposition in appreciable numbers at this time. Such treatment is currently reserved for third-world peoples abroad. It currently suffices to use corporate power to censor their opposition, use social shaming to render them unemployable, promote milquetoast moderates as controlled false opposition in the political arena, wield state power to stop open attempts at real opposition, and steadily import migrants who are culturally incompatible with American and European rightists to demographically displace them over the course of generations. But no one should doubt that progressive universalists would resort to shooting like the others if nudging and shoving were to lose their efficacy, and this is beginning to happen throughout the Western world.

Genocide and Libertarianism

At this point, one may wonder what any of this has to do with political libertarianism, the idea that the use of force should only be defensive in nature. It may seem so obvious as to go without saying that genocide is incompatible with libertarianism, but let us take a closer look. By inserting the definition of culture into the definition of genocide, one finds that deliberate action intended to partially or wholly destroy a political or cultural group and eliminate the set of shared attitudes, beliefs, conventions, goals, practices, and values that characterize them is technically a form of genocide. Therefore, if a political or cultural group has a set of shared conventions and practices which are inherently aggressive in nature, then certain forms of genocide against said group would count as defensive uses of force.

That libertarian philosophy does not forbid genocide, but rather provides guidelines for its proper practice is a shocking realization that must be understood correctly, so let us contemplate these guidelines. First, of the four universal factors listed in the previous section, only the behavioral factor can form the basis of a libertarian genocide. It is aggressive action or the threat thereof that merits the use of defensive force. All forms of universalism based on a person’s essence, beliefs, or requirements are enemies of liberty because they lead to violence on the basis of factors which do not involve initiating the use of force against people. Only a group of people who actually behave in an unrepentantly aggressive manner merit partial or whole destruction.

This leads to the second requirement, that collective punishment should be minimized. While it is acceptable and may be necessary to use the authority of private property to censor and exclude those who provide the ideological motivation for criminal behavior, each person has the agency to decide whether or not to attack innocent people and/or their property. Thus, the people who are responsible for crimes are the people who committed the crimes or hired others to commit crimes in their stead, and defensive force should be focused on them. Broader nonviolent measures to suppress cultural norms which are anti-libertarian may be less targeted in application.

Third, a genocidal effort against an anti-libertarian faction should be the culmination of a long train of lesser measures and escalations, all of which have failed. One should not reach for a rocket launcher when a fly swat or a handgun will suffice, and one should not attempt to eliminate an entire political or cultural faction if lesser measures will restore orderly peace. The amount of force which is best for civilization is dictated by the strength and cohesion of the enemies of that civilization, and partial or complete suppression of a political faction is only necessary for ending existential threats to a libertarian social order.

Conclusion

Let us conclude by considering libertarian strategy in light of the points discussed above. There exists an established order that has permeated and controlled established organs of politics, academia, media, business, and finance. This order originated with a heretical Christian sect despite the denials of its membership that this is the case, but has since become almost entirely secular. Examining the tenets of this religion is useful for understanding why progressive liberal activists argue and behave as they do. The practice of this religion has brought unprecedented aggression, destruction, and death to the world, and will continue to do so unless and until it is stopped.

In order for a libertarian social order to succeed, it must stand against this creed with both the might and the willingness to defend itself from the proselytizing acolytes of secular Calvinist universalism. Of course, libertarians will need to make the advocacy of such ideas within their territories punishable by exile and outlawry. But because the establishment is universalist, the very existence of islands of liberty in the ocean of progressive liberal statism refutes their ideology. For the reasons and by the processes enumerated above, peaceful libertarians minding their own business in their own societies can expect to be attacked. This necessitates considerations of robust defense, as failure to do so will result in said libertarians being genocided by statists.

While part of the practical answer to globalism is local governance protected by nuclear deterrence, another part is a counter-universalism that fights fire with fire. A behavioral standard that all people refrain from engaging in the worst forms of criminal activity, with those who do regarded as having forfeited their personhood in an ethical sense, is not only necessary to prevent social order from being disrupted, but is essential for dealing with persistent external threats. Just as an individual need not spend a short life dodging hired assassins instead of stopping the person who hires them, libertarian communities need not live on the precipice of annihilation by an all-consuming global statism. By resorting to the methods discussed in the previous section which happen to fall within the dictionary definition of genocide, a libertarian social order can prevent itself from being defeated by the nation-state system and stand defiant against secular Calvinist universalism.

References:

  1. “What Is Christian Universalism?”. Auburn.edu.
  2. Knight, George T. (1953). The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96.
  3. Calvin, John (1994). Institutes of the Christian Religion. Eerdmans. p. 2206.
  4. Allen, R. Michael (2010). Reformed Theology. Doing Theology. New York: T&T Clark. p. 100–1.
  5. Gregory A. Boyd (2001). “The Open Theism View”, in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, ed. James K. Beilby, Paul R. Eddy. InterVarsity. p. 14.
  6. McGrath, Alister E. (1990). A Life of John Calvin. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 118–20.
  7. Breton, Albert (ed. 1995). Nationalism and Rationality. Cambridge University Press. p. 248.
  8. Engaging Our Theodiversity. Unitarian Universalist Association.
  9. Luke 16:19–31.

Liberty Minecraft Quarterly: Autumn 2018

At the end of the 20th century, digital economies emerged on the Internet. Today, they also exist in virtual worlds. These economies offer freedoms which are suppressed by state violence. Virtual worlds can employ arbitrary rule sets which may or may not impose subsidies, taxes, price controls, respect for private property or self-ownership, among other norms. Virtual worlds may be operated as socioeconomic experiments in a cost-effective manner; a few hundred dollars instead of tens or hundreds of thousands. Experiments of this variety may be conducted ethically because participation is voluntary. In a virtual world, participant activity can be recorded easily, which offers a more complete data set for empirical analysis. In this way, virtual worlds offer a means to explore the adverse effect of state policies without risking large amounts of capital or human lives and freedoms.

To achieve this goal, one must first establish a control condition as a baseline for comparison. In December 2015, I decided to create a demonstration of Austrian economics with libertarian ethics using the world’s best-selling computer game, Minecraft. Following two beta tests which failed to generate a profit, Liberty Minecraft’s official launch was in March 2017, and today it is a profit-generating proof of concept. In November 2017, I wrote “Building Liberty in Minecraft” for Zeroth Position in which we explored digital economies, Minecraft, and liberty. September 2018 marked the launch of a new world that offers several technical improvements. This article will be the first in a quarterly series of updates on the Liberty Minecraft project, and will explore three topics: is Liberty Minecraft a valid demonstration of Austrian economics and libertarian ethics, the differences between the Old World and the New World, and what has happened there so far.

Is Liberty Minecraft Valid?

Minecraft is not the real world. Minecraft items have familiar names; “Cooked Chicken” will satisfy “Hunger” and restore “Health,” but these names and their association to objects in the real world is completely illusory. Rather, in-game items offer some utility as a means to achieve goals, and this means that items in Minecraft can produce real incentive systems. Liberty Minecraft is not and is not intended to be a simulation of reality. However, the players involved and their freedom to express preferences are completely real. When real actors compete to acquire scarce means that satisfy ends, a real economy and society develops, even in a digital world. Liberty Minecraft is a game world which implements Austrian economics with libertarian ethics using smart contracts. Self-ownership, private property, commodity money, and trade are offered via computer code which executes on our game servers. The ‘physical laws’ of Liberty Minecraft are also enforced by computer code.[Footnote 1]

The Rule of Liberty Minecraft

A society will enjoy liberty whenever it abides by this rule: resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. This is the primary rule of Liberty Minecraft. Our players “must solve difficult problems without resorting to violence or threats of violence.”[1] I enforce this rule. Here, it is common for people to suggest that I have violently centralized power, that this decision abandons the free market for enforcement services, and therefore that Liberty Minecraft does not represent a libertarian society. Let us see why this is false. First, a person who rejects this rule cannot argue against being banned from Liberty Minecraft without committing a performative contradiction. Second, property owners are free to decide who can use their property, and I have decided that everyone who rejects my rule is not allowed to use my property. Third, I compete with thousands of server operators, and player participation on a Minecraft server is voluntary. Thus, I am accountable in the free market and will put valuable capital at risk by performing my functions poorly. This rule and its enforcement exist in a highly competitive market and are consistent with libertarian ethics and Austrian economics.

In addition, there are two Terms of Use which are implied but stated in answer to common questions. The first term of use is “Read and understand the rules.” No one can abide by a rule which they have not read and do not understand. The second term is “Do not hack the server.” Hackers can change the rules, and permitting hacking would defeat the purpose of setting rules. Here I also list a promise: “Within Liberty Minecraft, I promise to protect land which is claimed using Claim Blocks.” This brings us to a second criticism of Liberty Minecraft.

The Function of Claim Blocks

In Liberty Minecraft, Claim Blocks are applied to the world in order to claim land as property. In the New World, Claim Blocks are available for purchase at a fixed price of 100 Claim Blocks per Diamond, one of the in-game commodities. Here people often argue that I am engaging in arbitrary price-fixing, therefore Liberty Minecraft is not an implementation of Austrian economics. However, unclaimed land within Liberty Minecraft is my property, and I am free to sell it at the price of my choosing. One may respond that I cannot own all the land within the server, as I have not homesteaded it. These people beg the reader to reject reality as a means to produce a more realistic demonstration: because Liberty Minecraft did not exist before I created it, and all land within Liberty Minecraft exists within Liberty Minecraft, its unclaimed land is my property. Furthermore, I work in order to pay for the proper maintenance and service of the server hardware on which Liberty Minecraft exists.

I have decided to sell land protection services within Liberty Minecraft for our in-game currency because the Terms of Commercial use for Minecraft preclude me from using other, more preferable options. I have developed a reputation by protecting the property of individuals, and in their absence for a period of years. Failing to perform this service in a professional way will result in the destruction of my project. The value of my offer is determined in the free market because I compete with other services for the protection of (digital) life, liberty, and property.

Once a player has bought land, they are free to sell it at any mutually agreeable price. Within Liberty Minecraft, all landowners hold an estate in land which is similar to fee simple except that there are no taxes, eminent domain powers, police powers, or escheat. Landowners are free to make their own rules and terms of enforcement. Ownership is conditional because players must follow my rule to play on my game servers. However, players may retain unconditional ownership by using server software to download a copy of their property. Land which is claimed can only be used with the authorization of the owner or a person to whom they have delegated that right. Land claims expire by default if a player leaves for 60 days. In escheat, property without an heir would go to the State. In my case, Claim Blocks are returned to the player and the property becomes unprotected. However, I am now investing to develop a better option: an auction system where the proceeds will go to the departed player. If this causes currency to become more scarce over time, then the remaining supply will have a higher purchasing power which will serve to attract former players, among other benefits.

Currency

Within Liberty Minecraft, Diamonds are used as currency. Minecraft’s Diamonds are durable, portable, fungible, and scarce. Thus, Diamonds have many of the monetary qualities which gold offers in the real world. There is one notable exception: Minecraft’s Diamonds are indivisible. Liberty Minecraft offers a solution where players may subdivide their Diamonds into 10^18 sub-units which may be transferred securely within Liberty Minecraft. One may object that my decision is arbitrary; it prevents the free market from solving this problem, and this abandons Austrian economics. These people seem not to understand that the currency is Diamonds even once they are told, because otherwise such a criticism amounts to the difference between 100,000 centimeters and one kilometer; that is, no difference at all.

Minecraft players have always used Diamonds as a standard of value and medium of exchange, which is why I have selected it as currency. Diamonds are produced by mining or may be discovered in the world’s ‘natural’ structures. In Liberty Minecraft, the supply of Diamonds is finite. Still, this is the only game item for which I am offering money services at our ChestShops. This intervention picks Diamonds as the winner instead of allowing for free market competition among in-game items in Liberty Minecraft, which is the result of an unfortunate technical limitation. At present I cannot offer money services for all game items. However, even if I solve this problem, game items suffer from the same vulnerability: I am an imperfect central point of failure. Therefore, Liberty Minecraft’s Diamond money is a game commodity which must be discovered and produced by mining, which had already been in use as money for many years across Minecraft servers, and which is subdivided in Liberty Minecraft to add an important characteristic of money: divisibility.

Liberty Minecraft is a valid demonstration of Austro-libertarianism for the reasons discussed above. The players of Liberty Minecraft, their preferences, and their freedoms are real. Scarce means may be secured to achieve desirable goals. Our one rule and its enforcement are consistent with libertarian ethics. The sale of land and protection services within Liberty Minecraft are consistent with Austrian economics. Until human incompetence or enmity changes this virtual world, Liberty Minecraft is a valid demonstration of Austrian economics with libertarian ethics.

From Old World to New World

Compared to any other Minecraft server, Liberty Minecraft’s New and Old worlds are nearly identical. Both are played in Survival Mode. They both offer Diamond currency, private property, trade, and self-ownership with smart contracts. They are both exactly the same size, roughly as large as Manhattan. They both subject players to one rule: resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. Differences, which remain to be discussed provide an opportunity to demonstrate by example some of the ways in which a virtual world may be altered to test social and economic policies.

Put simply, Liberty Minecraft’s Old World suffered from arbitrary rewards while the New World does not. (This characterization is rather too simple because Minecraft itself contains some arbitrary rewards, but I will offer it as a general rule which rarely fails.) Over the first 9875 hours played across two years, Old World players received Universal Basic Income which created Diamond money from thin air, because otherwise it was impossible to trade land. This technical limitation was discussed in the previous article published here. I solved the problem at the end of November 2017, and my players experienced what happens when a subsidy program is eliminated. To pay for the money printing in the best way I knew how, I mined an amount of Diamonds somewhat larger than those which were printed and blew them up, returning them to the thin air whence they came.

Following this correction, players spent less time idling on the server. Most players who subsisted on UBI either stopped playing Liberty Minecraft or developed new skills, but over 90 percent of the people who have played Liberty Minecraft have stopped playing; our active population is approximately 60 players but more than 600 players have visited. Therefore, one cannot claim by this evidence alone that ending UBI probably caused players to idle less due to the size of the initial population and proportion of surviving players. Furthermore, I do not presently have a research budget to investigate research questions in a formal way. Nevertheless, players in the New World do not suffer from arbitrary rewards and punishments as a consequence of money printing. All money is earned by providing value in exchange to another player or by discovering and mining ‘naturally’ generated Diamonds.

In the Old World, a player ranking system provides arbitrary rewards in exchange for playing an arbitrary amount of time on the server. This ‘solution’ was selected in an attempt to achieve three instrumental goals: 1) I wanted people to play and enjoy Liberty Minecraft, 2) I wished to offer a secure way for players to trade in-game property of any type, including resources which exist but cannot be extracted in Minecraft, and 3) I intended to do this without a development budget.

Distributing new abilities with player ranks in exchange for an arbitrary amount of play time seemed like a simple and inexpensive way to achieve those three goals. However, this incentive system has the undesirable effect of attracting players who are rewarded without producing anything of value. I expect that this has a negative impact on our digital society in the Old World because the system is not meritocratic. In a sense, the New World is a test of this hypothesis because I have removed the arbitrary ranking system and its rewards. In the New World, all of the value a player accumulates is directly attributable to their merit. The New World now competes in real time with the Old World. If the New World makes significantly more money than the Old World, then it is a better product.

Operational Constraints

Both the New and Old Worlds are subject to the Terms of Commercial Use for Minecraft. Among other things, the terms prohibit me from selling digital items for hard currency. For instance, I cannot offer a secondary market where active players offer real-world value for the assets of inactive players. Without access to the free market, the property of inactive players is left in limbo. In common law, the State takes this property for itself. Liberty Minecraft is building a better option.

When Liberty Minecraft began in 2015, land claims could be configured in two ways which are relevant to this discussion. One could define an arbitrary duration of player inactivity that specifies when a player’s land claims will expire, and an arbitrary amount of wealth invested in Claim Blocks which permanently stops that player’s land claims from expiring. In the Old World, I work within these technical limitations. Niccolo Machiavelli held Cesare Borgia in high regard, and observed that the Romagna waited for more than a month while he was sick and dying.[2] Likewise, I hold my players in high regard, so land claims expire after 60 days. Furthermore, in the Old World, a player who owns 1000 Diamonds worth of Claim Blocks has permanent land claims. This system fails in at least two important ways. First, it punishes value providers who are busy and lose their property. Second, active value providers are punished because I invest resources to maintain the property of people who no longer play Liberty Minecraft.

After three years of operation, I can now turn my attention to these problems. In the New World, I will not work within these technical limitations. First, I wanted the duration of land ownership to be non-arbitrary. Last month, I designed and funded the development of a system which delays claim expiration for Donors and Subscribers. This new option permits an individual to decide how long to hold their property in their absence. By charging donations in exchange for persistent land claims, I may benefit from better earnings, active players may benefit from a server which is better funded, and donors expect to benefit because otherwise they would not donate. The actions of free individuals are a demonstration of their preferences. Second, I wanted a non-arbitrary way of paying the former owner of an expiring Land Claim. This month I created a budget and then designed an automated auction system where expiring land claims are put on auction. The proceeds will go to the former owner and will be available to them if they decide to return.

One Month of Freedom

The New World launched on August 31, 2018. At the time of this writing, Liberty Minecraft’s New World has already earned more than one year of operating expenses. 115 players have logged over 7700 man-hours within Liberty Minecraft’s New World. For comparison, my goal in the first year (beginning March 2017) was to provide 10,000 hours of experience in free markets and liberty. Roughly 13,000 hours were played that year. At the present rate, the New World will reach 10,000 hours by the end of our second month.

Liberty Minecraft’s players have engaged in more than 25,500 free market exchanges using our ChestShop system. More than 2200 shops have been created by the players. Roughly 500 of them exist at present. The money supply is completely unregulated, and has been expanded from $0 to more than $281 million (28,135 player-produced Diamonds exist as cash or claim blocks). Roughly 85 percent of that money is invested in Claim Blocks. More than 940 parcels of land are privately owned by the players. The market price for a number of items was recorded by me after one month of economic activity to be compared with market prices in one year hence.

In addition to this explosion in economic activity, a number of landmarks were established before the first month of play had ended. The players commissioned, designed, and built a house to surprise me with a wonderful gift for operating Liberty Minecraft. Also, a player named __Wildfire_ has constructed a city-wide rail system with lines that pass through the property of at least seven different land owners. The mine cart rail includes terminals in at least five different locations which provide no-fee access to three shopping districts and more than one hundred land claims. Two other owner/operators have agreed to connect their private rail lines to produce a transportation network which is both operated and owned by a distributed network of players.

Another player named Haksndot has become the monopoly owner of a no-fee railway system that spans the world using “The Nether”, one of the game’s three dimensions. Origo Station, which lies in the center of his rail system, includes roughly twenty ‘Portals’ that are native to Minecraft and which connect all around the world’s first populated area, sometimes called Spawn Town or Scar City. Origo also has the world’s second most active shop district called Hellmart. There, Haksndot is crowdsourcing the construction of materials for building his Netherway rail system by purchasing raw materials, automatically processing these materials, selling their products, and buying back the blocks which players may produce for profit and which are used in the construction of The Netherway. These places and many others may be visited by joining Liberty Minecraft which is free to anyone who owns Minecraft for their home computer.

Two clans have established themselves as significant social and economic forces in Liberty Minecraft: the Emerald Clan and Mein Kraft. While each one has their own story to tell, one cannot avoid discussing them by contrast. Emerald Clan has been with Liberty Minecraft for nearly one year and are a cornerstone of our community, but the name ‘Emerald Clan’ did not arise until last month, after Mein Kraft established themselves as a Clan. Mein Kraft joined at the launch of our New World and are still being integrated into our community. Machiavelli observed that there are difficulties when groups differ in language and customs, but the greatest help is if one resides there and sends colonies.[3] Emerald Clan and Mein Kraft differ in language and customs, but they share a love of freedom which is respected in Liberty Minecraft.

At present, the Emerald Clan is mainly involved in the production of goods that are obtained by trading Emeralds with villagers (which is an arbitrary trading feature native to Minecraft). Sharonclaws, who leads the Emerald Clan, is the operator of Emerald Tower, located in Scar City near Spawn. Spawn is the location where players first appear when they arrive in Liberty Minecraft. Mein Kraft is led by K9us, who owns $tore, which is primarily involved in the sale of goods obtained by ‘auto-fishing’ or by raiding End Cities (naturally generated structures that contain valuable goods). Another member, Frozenhammerz, owns Ivory Tower, which is also located in Scar City.

Emerald Clan is more socially invested and less hostile than Mein Kraft because they do not swear in conversations and communicate the purpose of their actions. For instance, they offer to use their property as a means to develop communities based on mutual trust. Mein Kraft has logged more man-hours, and is more productive and collectivistic; at the time of this writing, they have more shops offering items for sale and their clan’s members are trusted on all of the most valuable property owned by their members. Price wars between these two clans have reduced the price of tools and other high value goods by 50–90 percent over the course of one month despite the extraordinary growth in our free market money supply.

Conclusion

Liberty Minecraft’s New World is a technical improvement on my original offering. It is a valid demonstration of Austrian economics with libertarian ethics. The New World is actively testing a hypothesis that abandoning arbitrary rewards and subsidies will create a more profitable world. Since the launch of the New World, more things have happened than I can possibly describe. Our players build transportation infrastructure, establish communities according to their own customs, and have improved the standard of living among our players by direct competition among producers.

Footnote

1. One qualification must be added in every case because the game’s servers are not hardened against hacking or human fallibility. While I do perform regular backups to prepare for inevitable failures, I will ask that the reader mentally append all game rules and ‘physical’ laws with the qualification “…unless a hacker, operator incompetence, operator malice, or any combination of the above causes this to change.” I am the server operator.

References:

  1. Woods, Tom (2018, June 26). “Ep. 1187: Private Property vs. No Private Property: The Results”. The Tom Woods Show.
  2. Machiavelli, Niccolo, and W. K. Marriott. The Prince (ch. 7). Project Gutenberg, 2017.
  3. Ibid, ch. 3.

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

Song Lyrics: Bitcoiner Blues

The chord progression is the same for all parts: C, Am(add11), G7, C7, C, Dm, Em, C.

The acoustic guitar solo also follows these chords. The tempo is such that performing the entire song takes 3:45–4:00.

Verse 1:
Sometimes buy high
Sometimes sell low
Never quite know
Where the market winds blow
But one man’s loss
Is another man’s gain
Here in cyberspace
Liberty shall reign

Verse 2:
The mining is hard
And it takes lots of juice
But that’s to make sure
That the spending’s no deuce
Once it’s in hand
They can’t steal away
The wealth is all yours
Just keep your private keys safe

Chorus:
Bitcoiner Blues
The song of the hour
Sing along and
Fight the legacy power
Buildin’ from scratch
A new paradigm
Savin’ the world from
The state and its crimes

Verse 3:
Roads made of silk
And markets for death
That’s the landscape
In this new Wild West
The first they took down
But they’ve been replaced
Thank Dread Pirate Roberts
For leading the way

Verse 4:
As for exchanges
Only trust if you dare
Your coins aren’t safe there
Let the user beware
Decentralize transactions
You’ll be better off
Or HODL your coins
And play some rounds of golf

Chorus

Acoustic Guitar Solo

Verse 5:
Investors are coming
With new ideas to try
Driving their Lambos
The limit’s the sky
SEC may stop some
IRS may stop more
But someday we’ll stop them
And show them the door

Verse 6:
New coins are programmed
And old coins bite dust
Let markets decide which
Currency to trust
Maybe someday
Bitcoin will fade away too
But ’till then I’ll sing
These Bitcoiner Blues

Chorus

Outro:
Bitcoiner Blues
The song of the hour
Sing along and
Fight the legacy power
Maybe someday
Bitcoin will fade away too
(But ’till then I’ll sing
These Bitcoiner Blues)x2