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A sketch of SEK3: Founder of Agorism

There's been some great discussion on the blog lately about Agorism. I thought I'd share this exerpt about Samuel Edward Konkin III, founder of Agorism, from the book Anarchism: Left, Right, and Green by Ulrike Heider. Her sardonic tone (she is arguing that market anarchy represents a dangerous departure from her true eco-anarchist values) and infamiliarity, as a German social radical, with American libertarianism, combines with the apparent eccentricity of SEK3 and his lifestyle, to make this an entertaining read.

The main figure of the MLL (Movement of the Libertarian Left) is Samuel Edward Konkin III. A "leftist" anarcho-capitalist who lives in Long Beach, California, a city where miles of white sand beaches provide the backdrop for an eerie skyline of innumerable oil rigs and towers--which perhaps explains in part why Konkin III, who is an avid sicence-fiction fan, chose this city as the site for his so-called anarcho-village and his Agorist Institute (from the Greek agora marketplace). I had pictured the anarcho-village as a kind of free-trader colony of young aspiring businessmen. I found Konkin's street in a neigborhood of shabby, flat-roofed houses and rang the bell; the door was opened by a young Latino who showed me into a tiny apartment consiting of a single room. I thought I must be in wrong place-aren't libertarians supposed to be comfortable, if not affluent? A quick phone call revealed that Konkin III lived in a similar hosue next door which was part of the anarcho-village comprising five aprtments in the neigborhood. Konkin III's appearnce was as unconvetional as his dwelling was makeshift. He is a Canadian in his early forties, of stately stature, hair combed back close to his head. Dressed entirely in black, wiht a turtleneck sweater, a metal belt, cowboy boots, and a silver medallion around his neck, he looks like a cross between a leather guy, a catholic priest , and a romantic fascist. He announced proudly that he was preparing "real German coffee" and introduced me to two other inhabitants of the anarcho-village, who tried to speak German with me. A poster of Trotsky adorned a wall. Konkin III explained to me that Murray Rothabard, who likes to think of himself as the Lenin of the libertarians, once comapred him to Trotsky. Despite what I expected from their individualism, as typified, for instance by Ayn Rand's characters, the inhabitants of the anarcho-village apppeared to be as poor as church mice, and as sociable as bohemian collectivists.

Konkin III belives that the black market is the key to abolition of the state and the creation of a pure laissez-faire society. He considers himself a "theoretician and practician of countereconomics" and cultivates the image of a rebel. Any illegal act is sacred to him, evein if it is merely jaywalking. "We break the lawn," he then declared passionately. The Agorist Institute, the headquarters of the MLL, is located in an office buliding in downtown Long Beach, a city whose numerous palm trees lend it a tropical flair. The office consists of two cramped rooms equippped with two computers. Science-fiction posters cover the walls. The institute, I learned, is "technically legal," a non-profit, tax-deductible project "supproted by libertarian business people who feel guilty for being too honest and legal." But the movement publication, the New Libertarian Magazine, is "completely countereconomic," he says. It unequivocally breaks the law, simply by printing the stock market index without being registered wit the state. At the end of the interview, Konkin III presented me with the organization's official brassard: a white cicle on a red background, with a black flag above the letters MLL, encircled by the words "agora," "anarchy," and "action". To me, both the color combination and the design were somewhat reminiscent of fascist emblems, and the movement's acronym could have had a Stalinist model. Konkin III, who hinted that his political beginnings had been in the "far right," studied during the late 1960s in Wisconsin, a state with a strong German heritage. Converted to laissez-faire anarchism by Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and by the expulsion of the YAF's libertarian fraction [sic], he and three yippies founded a libertarian group at the university. He told the yippies thaty they could throw as many rocks as they wanted, as long as they threw them only at government buildings, not at privatete corporations or businesses.

Good news everyone

In a sudden outbreak of common sense, the government is going to give back $800 to every taxpayer... or at least it seems likely.

Form Bloomberg :

The Bush administration is close to completing an economic-
stimulus proposal that will include $800 rebates for individuals
and $1,600 for households as well as tax breaks for businesses,
people familiar with the plan said today. 

On to drink my 267 cups  of coffee.

On a more serious note,for once this is a policy that can actually have a positive effect and that is moral. Yipee.

Should I use consequentialist arguments ?

I've been arguing with many people about politics, and, over the time, my argumentation power has steadily decreased. This may seem paradoxical, as I should be gaining experience but here is what happened.

As David Friedman says, people are generally more convinced by consequentialist arguments. Not all people are though. I was exposed to many consequentialist arguments, stemming from economics for a long time. I even wasconfronted with libertarians arguing this way but I never really espoused their views. And why should I have, there were also convincing arguments from other economists. When I was exposed to libertarianism as a moral theory of right, I became an ancap in a matter of days.

When I first started to argue with people on this topic, I was relying extensively on consequentialist arguments. I would generally start with a moral argument and then end up pointing out the "good" consequences brought by this position. I had some moderate success with that approach, but the more I was  using it, the more I grew disatisfied with it. I realized that all I was achieving - when I was successful- was to convince people that certain policies should be or should not be followed. While a very practical goal, I felt it was not what I was looking for. I wanted to convince people to be moral, to recognize the immorality of agression in all its forms. When presenting  a moral argument tied to a consequentialist argument, I felt I was cheating by providing the consequentialist argument as a carrot. Fiat justitia ruat caelum, but I will only reassure you about the sky once you accept justice.

I don't want people to accept moral ideas because there are good consequences, I want them to recognize that they ought to be respected. Sadly, the only way to do that is to refrain from using any consequentialist argument, which I started  doing. This is when my argumentation started becoming less and less effective. To be sure, if someone claims that anarchy couldn't work, I feel answering the question is not cheating as one cannot claim that morality requires the impossible. The basic requirement of morality is that we can live moraly. I do, however, refrain to try and convince people anarchy would be a merry happy place. This should  be reserved for dessert : they have to eat  the ethical meal first... only once they're done accepting justice can I tell them the sky will not fall.

While my approach may seem a bit quixotic, I believe it is not. One of my goal for example is to encounter someone similar enough to myself so that, when exposed to the same argument, he will become an anarcho-libertarian on the spot. I am really following a very skewed strategy : low success-rate, but total success once in a while. Although these types of strategy may be depressing during long losing streaks, they are useful. There's also an argument, from Rand, to which I agree ... to a certain extent. She somewhat famously opposed Milton Friedman's tract on rent control as it did not rely on property right but on altruistic considerations to attack the policy. While I do believe the net effect of teaching people about the economic problem of rent control was positive, I agree with Rand that it is a dangerous path. (More powerful ? No, quicker, easier, more seductive)

Consequentialists arguments are very efficient because people are generally willing to change their mind easily on those matters... but what make them successful also makes them weak : they can be replaced with other consequentialist arguments. Moral arguments are much tougher to make because people are more reluctant to accept a new moral philosophy, but they are also much more stable, and will likely be successfully passed onto children. Every consequentialist argument however is a step away from freedom as an end instead of freedom as a mean. On the long term, the fate of the new belief is unknown... it may  be replaced with an economic fallacy. It's negative effect on morality will always be damaging though.

To go back to my initial problem, my rate of success has indeed considerably dropped, but I believe I am doing the right thing. While consequentialist arguments may be useful for short term political goals, as long as conquering the noosphere is concerned, I believe they should seriously be avoided.

This Section Needs More Contributions so Here Goes

In 1960 Thomas Szaz wrote The Myth of Mental Illness.

He proposes that the term “mental illness”, unlike a physical illness is a phony term similar in explanatory power to the concept of witches that people use to explain conditions they don’t understand. He says this term is outmoded and he wants to retire this concept since he claims it describes two unrelated conditions, neurologic conditions or ordinary social conflicts inherent in life.

If he is proposing that attaching labels to things is not the same as understanding them of course he is right. Proposing taxonomy for things that are perplexing is a first step to understanding them. With new observations, theories, advances in pharmacology and neurosciences the classification of mental illness has expanded and changed. No one should assume that these classifications are anything but working diagnoses, anymore than the classification of bacteria. With the advent of DNA probes, PhD microbiologists routinely throw MDs into mass confusion by showing that the previous classification of bacteria was in error and renaming common microorganisms. Likewise, refuting old theories and practices of mental health does not refute the concept of mental health.

The question Szaz asks is “To what use is the concept of mental illness put?”

I have already said it is used in order to construct taxonomy, so as to develop a working understanding of the phenomenon. This is not the answer he wants to hear.
He compares it to witchcraft, for which there is no objective evidence.

As mentioned above he divides mental phenomenon into physical disease such as neurosyphilis or stroke where there is a loss of function and the trials and tribulations of daily life that affect some people and that are often labeled mental illness. Of course we now know that mental phenomenon act within the substrate of the physical brain. It is false that all brain pathology is composed of neurologic deficits. Mania and schizophrenia have positive symptoms that correlate with hyperactivity in areas of the brain. Some psycho-pharmacy relates to suppressing excessive function of neurotransmitters while other drugs boost the production of neurotransmitters, but mostly no one really understands how they work. There is also a borderland between neurology and psychiatry where you have conditions that can simulate mental illness such as psychomotor epilepsy. In other words, things aren’t so simple.

According to Szaz physical symptoms such as pain require no social interpretation in order to register in the diagnosticians mind as being a sign of disease. If a man says “ my abdomen hurts”, the MD thinks that the man has physical disease. Not true. The disease could be “functional”, psychosomatic, or otherwise non diagnosable as physical and hence possibly mental.

If a man reports that he is being persecuted by Communists, or that he is Napoleon, Szaz thinks the situation needs to be weighed against the possibility that he is telling the truth. Thus situational reality, he thinks, is based on the actual sociological fact that he is not Napoleon or those Communists are not really after him. Thus Szaz implies that what differentiates the mental state we call insanity from normal belief in reality is its veracity. But as they say, just because you are paranoid it doesn’t mean people are not after you. Insanity may cause a delusional state. It offers no protection from real Communists nor does really being Napoleon protect you from insanity. He is wrong that there is a simple dichotomy between physical and psychiatric illnesses.

He makes the same logical error when he posits that other psychiatrists claim“ people cannot have troubles -- expressed in what are now called "mental illnesses" -- because of differences in personal needs, opinions, social aspirations, values, and so on. All problems in living are attributed to physicochemical processes --”

No one claims this, or if they do they are wrong but this does not prove the reverse, that all problems experienced in their mind other than simple bodily misery or lack of function are due to personal or interpersonal dysfunction. Some people get elected to suffer serious psychic pain, depression schizophrenia, anxiety and what have you, that other persons in the identical situation would tolerate with less difficulty and it isn’t their fault.

Szaz then proceeds with the now familiar tactic of setting up straw men and making them commit logical errors. For example “the notion of mental illness is used to identify or describe some feature of an individual's so-called personality. Mental illness -- as a deformity of the personality, so to speak -- is then regarded as the cause of the human disharmony. It is implicit in this view that social intercourse between people is regarded as something inherently harmonious, its disturbance being due solely to the presence of "mental illness" in many people. This is obviously fallacious.”

If people say that all social dysfunction is due to mental health problems they are wrong. This does not prove the reverse statement that there are no mental illnesses besides those caused by known brain pathology.

He then goes on to criticize psychiatric ethics for participation in law, social control and other areas and to point out certain abuses. This section I don’t disagree with, except that physiatrists are needed in some forensic application but should not disguise themselves as therapists in this case. If he would confine himself to these points he would not be so controversial. In fact he would not be famous. He probably be like most shrinks sitting listening to boring patients and chain smoking and drinking coffee to stay awake.

The key point that may get lost in his thinking is that most psychiatric patients are hurting with a painful condition. If the psychiatrist remains an advocate for the patient who tries to use his powers, if any, to help the patient; he is no different from any other physician or ethical healer. If he deviates from this he is wrong but is no different from any other person who is guilty of a breach of trust. I have personally observed that there are usually a few quacks in every town and at least one of these is a psychiatrist.

This does not mean psychiatry or the concept of mental health is invalid.

Darn! Just changed my mind again!

Okay, I was up this morning at 5:00 pondering your comment, Arthur.

The question of whether we should have gone to war with Iraq is not exactly equivalent to the moral question: "My neighbor appears to be beating his wife--do I intervene with force?" It is equivalent to "My neighbor has beaten his wife. Do I intervene with force to punish him?"

The first question is about stopping an attack in progress. The second question is about retribution, or revenge, or punishment after an attack has finished. But I still don't see an essential difference between individuals joining forces to punish a neighbor and a country going to war to remove a foreign tyrant.

Here are differences I could think of. Are you claiming that one or more of these makes the two questions inherently different?

  1. National war is funded by taxation, which is inherently immoral. I agree completely on the point that taxation is immoral, but I'm not sure that the problem would disappear if different funding were used. If the Iraq war had been directly paid for by private oil conglomerates, do you think it would have been just?
  2. The target of the war was collectively "Iraqis" instead of a specific individual. This isn't the way the war was sold, and this isn't why I think I was wrong to buy it. The objective was to remove Saddam Hussein from power and both overt military power and covert operations were targeted at that objective as specifically as technology could allow.
  3. The guys leading the war were a bunch of morons that made mistakes wiser leaders wouldn't. I don't trust any individual to outsmart reality and avoid unintended consequences. "My gang's smarter than your gang" isn't an effective check against bad decisions.
  4. UN Resolutions and International Law are inherently against our interests. I agree that participating in a crowd encourages you to think you aren't fully responsible for your actions. But this is true both among groups of individuals and groups of nations. And sharing your plans for peer review provides a good check against bad judgment.
  5. No victim raised charges against the aggressor. There were some Iraqis petitioning the US to remove Saddam. It was reasonable to assume that more probably hoped for his removal, but (like an abused wife) were too intimidated to voice their hopes.

I agree that is far safer in the short term and morally unambiguous to never punish an act. Is this the position you hold? Do you hold it on both the personal scale and the national scale? If not, I would be genuinely grateful if someone could show me a way to know when a punitive action (and not just a defensive action) was clearly just and when it wasn't.

Good and evil from self-interest - a recap

Living beings predate on other living beings. Animals are, with narrow exceptions, in the world for themselves, and other animals, again with narrow exceptions, are obstacles and raw materials. Caring even the tiniest little bit about other animals is the rare exception, not the rule. This is true between species and within species. And even that caring is itself merely a ploy that serves either the self interest of the individual animal, or the self interest of its genes.

Human sympathy for other humans seems to spread beyond the merely self-interested. To some extent this appearance is simply a failure to realize how a particular atom of sympathy serves the person sympathising. For instance, we sympathize publicly with strangers. By this I mean, we express our sympathy for strangers to our friends and acquaintances. This functions as a show. People are more comfortable around other people who they feel will not stab them in the back the moment they cease to be of any use or the moment they come into conflict, and one way to seem to be a non-back-stabber is to express sympathy in cases where the sympathy serves no self-interest.

To some extent, non-self-interested human sympathy is doubtless a side-effect. Our instincts are not precisely programmed, so there is bound to be some spill-over of our instincts into areas where the instincts are not adaptive, or even are maladaptive. This situation is exacerbated by the rapid technological changes the human species is experiencing.

Sympathy exists because it serves the self. We help others so that we will be seen as helpful and therefore worthwhile helping. We do not harm or threaten others so that they will not feel threatened by us, because if they feel threatened they might attack us. And of course we help family not expecting any quid pro quo because this serves our genetic self interest. However, our instinct to aid to avoid harming others overflows into areas where it is non-adaptive or even maladaptive.

The word "sympathy" is usually reserved for the subjective feeling that accompanies helping and non-harming behavior. But the feeling serves a purpose, and the purpose is to help and to avoid harming others, and this is done for the sake of the self. A feeling of sympathy induces a sympathetic action, which causes others (not just the one helped but observers) to value us more or dis-value us less, which causes them to be more inclined to help us and less inclined to harm us.

The product of all this is society. Society, like the market, is a product of self-interested individual behavior.

So, for the most part, humans do not predate on other humans, and their failure to predate is ultimately self-interested. However, some humans continue to predate, presumably because they believe that the rewards outweigh the risks. Their would-be victims will defend themselves, out of their own self-interest. However, a problem arises:

On the one hand we have a clear interest in defending ourselves against human predators. But on the other hand we do not want to seem threatening (to anyone other than the predators). This requires that we make a firm, and clear, and public, distinction. It must be public because the purpose of the distinction is to appear harmless (to everyone other than the predator) while at the same time harming the predator. So we must make a firm (unvarying), clear (unambiguous), and public (seen by all) distinction between when we will harm someone, and when we will not.

We have many labels that we use for this distinction, but one of them is "evil". Another is "crime". We need to clearly and publicly define what is, and what is not, a crime. We need to publicly distinguish what will trigger a violent and harmful reaction from us from everything else.

Moreover, the category of "crime" should probably not be idiosyncratic, for a variety of reasons. One simple reason is that if it were idiosyncratic, then we would need to do a lot of explaining to keep people up to speed on what we considered a crime. It is much simpler to adopt a ready-made, public concept of crime.

There are many more considerations limiting and shaping the category of "crime". For instance, it would be catastrophic for "crime" to be defined in a way that makes retaliation against a crime itself a "crime". As a self-interested individual, I would avoid adopting such a concept of crime, because it might quickly involve me in a war of all against all.

"Crime" would furthermore tend to be minimized to as small a footprint as possible, because as a self-interested individual I am still highly interested in seeming maximally helpful and minimally harmful. A balance must be struck between these two considerations. Remember that the reason for the category of "crime" is the predatory behavior of some individuals, so that the concept of "crime" would tend to be limited to predatory behavior, and possibly even to some subset of predatory behavior, as I might allow other minor acts of predation to go unanswered in order to seem as nonthreatening as possible.

Please notice one thing that this is not: it is not utilitarian. I (the self-interested individual deciding what to consider a crime) am not trying to maximize global utility. I am trying to optimize my personal outcome. (Well, the actual situation is a bit more complex - my sympathy for others has the biological function of serving myself but I am not necessarily consciously self-interested; the process I am describing need not be entirely or even mainly conscious)

More generally, it is unlike most theorizing about good and evil. Well, me writing this might be just another example of that, but the me-character that I am describing who is weighing (not necessarily consciously) the pros and cons of where to draw the line between "crime" and "non-crime" is not engaging in abstract theory, but is selecting a strategy with the intention of optimizing his own personal outcome, and so is like a businessman who really only cares about the bottom line. (A slight aside: I said earlier that we adopt a public concept of crime, which seems to conflict with the idea that I am deciding where to draw the line. However, this public concept in turn comes from somewhere - it comes from other people like me. It evolves. Individuals are, each in their own way, contributing to the project of deciding where to draw the line between "crime" and "non-crime".)

More Iconoclasm Please!

Given the short span of the history of human civilization, I think it's fair to say that anti-idolatry is one of the most vital and progressive intellectual movements around.

I'm reading a book about the history of Zoroastrianism, which, while it doesn't hold a lot of sway today, really had a huge impact on all the Abrahamic faiths as well as every other religious goings-on in that region for centuries, including Mahayana Buddhism. A recurring theme in the narrative is the problem of idol worship. The ancient faith founded by Zoroaster/Zarathustra was one based around a radical transformation of the taxonomic distinction between the the natural phenomena daeva and social and moral ahura groups of gods of primitive Indo-Iranian mythology into a much more abstract and recognizably modern cosmological struggle between the principals of asha and druj--truth and lies, good and evil—rejecting worship of the daevas and minimizing the importance of all of the later except for Ahura Mazda, the uncreated source of all good in universal struggle with Angra Mainyu, the ignorant and malignant god of evil. While Zoroaster's huge advancement in moral philosophy and metaphysics achieved great popularity and were accepted by many for centuries, the integrity of the beliefs were never completely safe from threat. A major role of conservative and orthodox believers throughout the tradition seems to be resisting the seemingly inevitable human propensity to introduce icons into worship as symbols of the gods, principals, rituals, etc. and thence to inevitably shift worship from the object of these symbols to the symbols themselves. The same process and response is readily apparent in the story of the golden calf and the “graven images” commandment in the Old Testament and Koranic prohibition of shirk, the sin of polytheism, and the prohibition in the Hadith against depicting living creatures.

Moses' response to the calf worship (destroying the commandments he had just received, burning the idol, grinding it up, and force-feeding it to the Israelites, and of course killing 3,000 men) seems weird to us; the Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddha statues at Bamyan strikes us as downright devilish, and we shake our heads or laugh when we hear about things like the recent kerfuffle in Sudan over the English teacher who named a stuff bear Muhammed, but it's important to remember the source of these reactions: the relatively recent response from the intelligent and spiritual turned-on elements of humanity to resist the asinine human tendency to reify, hypostasize, and anthromorphize every abstract concept and process we can get our hands on.

While the yokels in Sudan are a little behind the times, the laudable efforts of the likes of Moses and Muhammad to smash Yellow Pages full of magical circus animal-style polytheism and the worship of handicrafts put them on the same team, in the grand scheme of things, as Darwin rejecting the willed creation of species by a man-like creator, Marx struggle to expose the reification of human relations, and Hayek working to replace the pervasive myths of conscious, planned order, behind law, economics, and other social phenomena, with an understanding of spontaneous emergent cosmos.

The advance of knowledge is marked by this process. A Druid would tell you that trees turn colors in the fall because the spirits in the trees decide they should. A modern biologist can tell you about the chemical sources and evolutionary reasons for this event. Instead of the Helios pulling the sun across the sky, it's now gravity and we realize that the motion is an illusion caused by our point of view. While our understanding is improving, but we're not out of the woods yet. Think about how many people you know who, for instance, confuse flag worship for patriotism or voting with freedom. Belief in false idols is still alive and well in the 21st century.

And don't think that empirical scientific types get off entirely scot-free. There's a tendency to go to far the other way, considering only the external, deterministic characteristics of phenomena and ignoring their internal existence and the aspects of reality that are beyond our standard framework of scientific perception. In our fashionably myopic “flatland” approach to knowledge, we think we have driven the conscious and subjective other back to it's last redoubt, the human mind, and seem on the verge of complete triumph over the uncertain and mysterious, only to find to our puzzlement that things like CAT scans and fMRIs are entirely inadequate to lay bare the complete nature of our thoughts and feelings. For this reason, I would include people like Alfred North Whitehead with his panpsychicprocess philosophy”, Henri Bergson and his “elan vital”, Tim Leary and his “reality tunnels”, and Korzybski and his “map/territory” distinction among the worthies mentioned above and would expect to see more of this sort of thinking in the future.

Human beings are depressingly literal-minded, tunnel-visioned, creatures. We think almost entirely in metaphors and concrete nouns—we can't help it—we have limited brain power and information and have to think in abstractions. The best we can do is recognize this tendency and do our best to keep in mind that everything has a context and a genealogy that shape what it is and does and that it is subject to processes that are transforming it into what it will become. We must also keep in mind that our own interpretations of phenomena are informed by our uniquely composed perspective which itself is the creation of time, place, context. We have to walk the thin line between a taoist primitivistic and quietistic rejection of all abstraction and the much more dangerous tendency to apophenically search for imaginary keys, techniques, or perspectives, of universal insight that promise to cut through the web of complexity--what Taleb calls “Platonicity” and Hayek called the “synoptic delusion”--as well as the chauvinistic scientist's tendency to reduce everything to threadbare, mechanistic, atomism and external features.

Dear distributed republicans and catallarchs who actually know something about philosophy, please correct me where I've got things wrong. If you'll excuse me for a bit, I have to go render obeisance to the Ludwig Lachmann statue in my basement. He gets mad if my peanut butter and jelly sacrifice and buga buga dance to subjectivist economics are late.

Anarcho-Christmas Carol

A great, if late, Christmas carol from the immortal SEK3.

Hat tip to Wally Conger.

Joy to the World
(Tune of “Joy to the World”)

Joy to the world,
The State is dead,
Let earth receive no king.
Let every heart, be unrestrained,
At last we’ve broken free!
At last we’ve broken free!
At last, at last, we’ve broken free!

Joy to the earth,
No monarch reigns,
No politician’s left,
We come to burn…the ballot box,
Far as the vote is found,
Far as the vote is found,
Far as, far as, the vote is found.

No rule on earth!
Now truth and grace
Are everyone’s birthright.
The market is free, and anarchy
Is found throughout the land,
Is found throughout the land,
Is found, is found, throughout the land.

No more let tax
Or tariffs vex
The workers or the boss.
Inflation is gone,
Our money is sound,
And freedom is our right,
And freedom is our right,
And freedom, and freedom, is our right!

Burning question of the last two minutes of my life

If you take a snickerdoodle (a kind of cookie), and you modify it by pressing an m&m onto it before baking, is it still a snickerdoodle? My take is that it is still a snickerdoodle.

Ron Paul and the Hope of Winning.

I am a fan of Ron Paul. I was long before he ran for president. Checking out his latest issue or bill via his congressional website was something I liked to do on occasion. Thus seeing him run for president in a campaign that is garnering more and more money and attention is something I find very exciting.

I am one of those weirdos that gets enthralled with 30 second clips of Ron Paul speeches presented on the nightly news. I peruse google regularly for new articles about him and his campaign, and I even have my tivo preset to record shows that list him in their description.

That being said there is quite a bit of lunacy floating in the minds of some of his supporters. (Of course I am not talking about the obvious kooks: conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, people who tivo ron paul etc.).

Just follow any comment thread on just about any article regarding ron paul and you will find individuals who seriously believe that the "scientific" polls are somehow seriously flawed. That there will be this amazing groundswell of supporters in the primaries and that Ron Paul will readily come out the frontrunner in spite of poll numbers.

Its not that I think the polls are perfect or even that accurate. Its that I do not believe they are that wrong. Going from 3-5 percent to winning the primaries is a bit of a leap isn't it?

Its not that I think its impossible for Ron to get the nomination, it is just unlikely. I'll compare it to my predictions for Georgia to be in the national championship game which consisted of something like this:

If X team loses against a team they should easily beat, and Y team also loses in a game they are favored to win and a certain gold and purple team loses the sec championship game and no one pays any attention to what a certain other virginia team is doing... and ::Ta Da:: Georgia is in the championship game... maybe...

Laugh if you like. It came very close to happening.

You have to figure that that is what also-rans like Duncan Hunter and Joe Biden are hoping for. A sudden turn in their favor, a bad gaff by a front runner, combined with a premature exit by a few of those polling slightly better than them, and who knows?

Likewise Paul's campaign will likely benefit by sheer stubborness. Its one of those advantages of being a long shot candidate: there is no reason to drop out when it becomes evident that you are not likely to get the nomination. As you were never likely, there is no reason not to stick around and pick up supporters of also-rans, and hope the party has a change of heart.




2007 Tea Party

Looks like Ron Paul raised some money this weekend:

Called a "Money Bomb," the goal was to raise as much money as possible on the Internet in one day. The campaign’s previous fundraiser brought in $4.2 million.

At midnight EST, donations were over $6 million, according to the campaign Web site. Those donations are processed credit card receipts, said Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton.

Tax Plans and Planetary Plans of the Altruistic Elite

“Our defense of luxury consumption is not, of course, the argument that one occasionally hears, that is, that it spreads money among the people. If the rich did not indulge themselves in luxuries, it is said, the poor would have no income. This is simply nonsense.”

In reality it is not. Highly selective tax increases can give rise to severe local economic hardship by making gainfully employed people poor. When this is done in the name of “fairness”, simply put it is the Robin Hood theory of governance. It would be one thing if a job was lost because of market forces but it is a farce when it is eliminated in the name redistributing wealth. This is not to argue that taxes are not necessary for the functioning of government or that the wealthy should not pay a disproportionate share of taxes. I do not even object to the use of taxes foreign aid even if it mostly goes to waste and doesn’t bring countries out of poverty.

The thing that makes people mad is a constantly changing the playing field, caused when taxes are raised and lowered primarily as a coercive social tool aimed at punishing or controlling the behavior of one group at the behest of another group.

Suppose that next year someone, (that someone will not be a yacht owner) says “Let’s stick it to those rich yacht owners. How can they live with themselves when the poor are starving in Africa.” If the tax causes people to significantly reduce yacht purchases, the really rich are not hurt. The truly rich, the Kennedys, the Gores, the Kerrys, already have their yachts. They also have lawyers who can get their expensive toys counted as business expenses or register their yachts offshore. In any case the additional taxes would not dent the multi- billion dollar Kerry fortune.

The people who would be hurt are the upper middle class barely rich whose lifestyle would be diminished by targeting them because of envy. Is it an accident that most of the people affected by these type taxes are highly productive affluent white males who just want to enjoy the rewards of their success? These guys are the backbone of the economy, providing huge numbers of jobs both as employers and by spending their income. I heard on NPR yesterday that 70% of the US economy depends on consumer spending. In this country everybody is rich and this generates the jobs and tax revenues that fund all government functions including welfare and foreign aid. The consumer marine industry is a part of this.

The boating industry is especially significant in some relatively unpopulated costal areas. The ways of sticking it to the rich are always devised by urban leftist cosmopolitans who dedicate their lives to altruism and global fairness, not at their expense but to be paid for by others.

It is true that the unemployed mechanics, boat captains and mates could move away from the coast and find jobs elsewhere. Also since the revenues generated by the new taxes would be used to feed the starving masses in Africa, there will be plenty of jobs available as stevedores loading shiploads of foreign aid. The lefties can even come down from their posh Colorado ski resorts and ecotourism sites and help if they don’t mind soiling their hands, but they probably won’t.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry

Is this hilarious or tragic? A reviewer describes the message:

Kao's prescription is exactly right--creating innovation hubs around the country. His estimated cost, $20 billion for 20 innovation hubs, is cheap compared to the cost of continuing to lose ground in innovation to emerging regions like Asia and Eastern Europe. Witness successful U.S. examples, such as Silicon Valley and San Diego, which Kao writes about at length.

Kao points out that achieving this audacious goal will require setting a national innovation agenda and appointing a national leader to champion the cause (á la Jim Webb with NASA and Apollo). Challenging? Yes, particularly given the current political environment. But, as Kao states, "We have no alternative but to try...We must the face the future." Agreed.

I'm not even going to comment on this. I think what I would say about it is too predictable to actually bother saying.


Micha wants proof? Here's proof

Proof of what, you ask? Who cares?