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Sweet Libertarian Taxonomy

Via Nick Bradley's blog, I came across this list of ten useful libertarian categories. It skillfully breaks the "movement" up along its natural grain and gives the different tendencies a pretty fair shake in my opinion. Unfortunately the links in Nick's post won't take me to the quoted source.

I don't know how many arguments I've gotten into where the participants could have benefited greatly from a common vocabulary based on these groups. They could certainly threaten the strawman industry's profits. A left libertarians might get pissed if you lump him in with the lifestyle libertarians and will probably punch you in the face in you conflate them with dominionists or, heaven forbid, Randians.

The emphasis of my personal ideological progression was roughly 4-5-3-10, presently a mutualist. How about you guys? Do you take exception to any of these descriptions or can you think of any more types that should be added to the list?

1. Randians/Objectivists/Egoists - Meet John or Jane Galt. While most card-carrying Objectivists assert that they are not libertarian in name, the movement started by Ayn Rand (author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) was and is an important influence on the thought of modern American Libertarianism (Cathy Young says that "Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand's ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild."). They imagine an individualist/collectivist and egoist/altruist dichotomy and put it at the heart of their entire worldview as the supreme good vs. evil (along with some peculiar axioms like "A is A" and "existence exists"). According to those influenced by Randian Egoism, greed is a virtue, while compassion is a deadly sin. The word capitalism can stimulate a spontaneous orgasm. They are prone to histrionics and delusions of grandeur.

2. Dominionists - Business giants and empire-builders, moguls, magnates and tycoons who don't want antitrust laws, industry watchdogs, trade unions or environmental, worker, or consumer regulation to get in the way of their ambitions. They often fund libertarian and right-wing think tanks and organizations. Silicon Valley had many Dominionist younglings in the 90's until most of them perished tragically in the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

3. Market Fundamentalists - Focused on libertarian theories of economics/political economy, Market Fundamentalists believe the capitalist free market is best for the common good, and any interference with said market is contrary to the common good. They frequently use concepts like "the wisdom of the market" and "the invisible hand," etc. Austrian and Chicago schools, neoclassical economics, neoliberalism, etc.

4. Naïve Libertarians - This was a hard to name category (I also considered "propagandist libertarians"). Naïve Libertarians are like Market Fundamentalists, except they usually parrot Market Fundamentalist arguments and harp on "how liberals are weakening America" instead of coming up with arguments and ideas of their own. They believe hardship doesn't befall people who do what they should do, the environment isn't in any real trouble and environmental/pollution problems are negligible, and big corporations are really responsible and good on their own ("Greenhouse gas emissions? Those are just 'unrequested carbon surpluses'"). They are likely to listen to/host right-wing talk radio or do/follow right-wing journalism, and usually amount to little more than apologists for the Right.

5. "Liberty" Libertarians - Their libertarianism arises primarily from their ideas on the metaphysics of personal liberty, around concepts like "non-aggression" and "self-ownership." Libertarian philosophers are usually in this category, some of whom were founders of the modern American libertarian movement.

6. Libertarian Republicans - More traditional conservatives; Republicans who are against neoconservative big government and/or the religious right; conservative critics of the Bush administration. They consider themselves the true conservatives, and usually base their libertarian ideas on their perspective on the U.S. Constitution. "Goldwater conservatives;" Republican Liberty Caucus.

7. Crazy Libertarians - Primarily concerned about gun rights and privacy. Many survivalists, conspiracy theorists, tin-foil-hatters, etc. tend to fall into this group. They are likely to live in a rural area, with an impressive arsenal and weeks worth of food stocked up to secure against a New World Order threat.

8. Lifestyle Libertarians - Like the Crazy Libertarians about guns, but also for drugs, sex, alcohol, uncensored material, not having to recycle, driving without a seatbelt, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph while receiving oral sex, etc. They are basically people who want to do whatever they want. If conservatives want government to be your daddy, and liberals want government to be your mommy, Lifestyle Libertarians want to get rid of daddy and mommy and stay up all night eating ice cream and watching after-dark cable.

9. Localist Libertarians - Anti-Federalists, they would rather have autonomy distributed to the community level, like town halls, local school boards and churches, than a strong federal government or any centralized power. More Main Street than Wall Street, they are communitarians and traditionalists, largely Catholic, often Scouting enthusiasts, people with Norman Rockwell paintings throughout their homes, etc. More compassionate and worker-oriented than other libertarians, and more likely to be concerned with local environmental problems.

10. Left-Libertarians - A special category. Left Libertarians believe big, powerful government is as oppressive and bad as big, powerful corporations. They are anti-war (including the War on Drugs), pro-choice, and against government favors for corporations (or against large corporations altogether). They usually favor participatory action and mutual aid over government for social justice and environmental causes, as well as smaller, more local businesses and community-centered marketplaces. They may caucus with right-libertarians ("vulgar libertarians" is a commonly used phrase) for strategic purposes, which is the primary reason they are on the list at all. They are also likely to work with Green parties. Often Georgist on physical property and against extensive and restrictive intellectual property (and a major front behind Open Source), they are related to others of the broad libertarian left--agorists, mutualists, libertarian socialists, cyberpunks and anarchists; also "Buddhist Economics."

Panem et circenses: Stimuli, Commodities and the Austrian endgame

Yesterday I had thought nothing of the news that Bernanke was on capitol hill pushing for yet another stimulus package from congress. After all, isn't that the same bill of goods he has been trying to sell the US tax payers all along? Why would this be news worthy? I asked myself this question and came to an interesting conclusion 24 hours later. The news IS the product being sold, not the information that the news was reporting on.

This morning, an excited co-worker informed me that the stimulus package I mentioned yesterday was on the morning edition of the MSM talking head parade. It seems this is one of those things that gets a lot of attention. After all, when your banking overlord speaks, you listen.


When you take into consideration the bottoming out of commodities recently it is easy to see why the price of consumer goods such as bread, cereal, milk and gasoline are dropping. According to a Globe and Mail interview by John Heinzl (no subscription? no problem!), Donald Coxe the chairman and chief strategist of Harris Investment Management in Chicago, tells it like this:

the Fed’s ultimate goal was to trigger a rally in financial stocks, which would, in theory, help banks hammered by the credit crisis raise fresh capital and repair their balance sheets. To accomplish this, the decision to support Fannie and Freddie was deliberately announced on a Sunday, which had the effect of maximizing the reaction from thinly traded financial stocks on overseas markets.

Because many hedge funds were using massive leverage to short financials and go long on commodities, when North American markets opened and banks initially rallied, the funds were forced to cover their short positions.

At the same time, the U.S. dollar was rallying because the risk of holding Fannie and Freddie paper had diminished. The rising dollar, in turn, made commodities less attractive, giving funds that were already scrambling to cover their financial shorts another reason to dump oil, grains and other commodities.

The losses were swift and dramatic. On the Friday before the July 11 announcement, crude oil closed at $145.18 a barrel. Over the following five days, it plunged 11 per cent. “Leverage was being unwound dramatically,” Mr. Coxe said on a conference call last week. “We had a true panic.”

As oil and other commodities were tumbling, fears about the slowing global economy were mounting, giving resources another push downhill. This was also in keeping with the Fed’s wishes, because lower commodity prices would help quell fears about inflation.

Every message on teevee that tells me to "get out and vote" or "rock the vote" just sounds like sheep bleating. In my head I hear what the state preferati are actually saying in their attack ads:

Bread at rock bottom prices, made even easier to purchase with a second stimulus check in your mailbox. Make sure to "vote for state economic tyranny" this year, your partisanship and lack of insight are necessary to continue this charade of democracy.

I am the appointed representative of the state, and I approve this message


End Game:

There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom expansion brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved. - Von Mises

According to the article The Austrian End Game at Taipan Publishing; What Von Mises pointed out is that, if the government throws a drunken free-for-all, at some point the free-for-all must stop. You can’t run the printing presses forever, just as no one can drink an infinite number of vodka tonics. Morning has to come.


The US empire is in decline. It may have lasted as long as the Roman empire if not for the telescoping nature of evolution. The highlights of historical imperial expansion have been contracting in frequency, we are seeing a de-emphasis of counter-intuitive systems.

Empires fall, and as time marches on, they fall faster and faster. Hopefully reaching a crescendo which will result in the banishment of the state from the minds of men.

'That government is best which governs not at all;’ and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

Confirming Satirical Libertarian Stereotypes: Hating on Roads

I'm a big proponent of the theory that publicly subsidized transportation is one of the most important forms of market intervention. For just a partial example of its pernicious effects, public roads are a huge subsidy to large-scale, centralized firms, and a driving force behind urban sprawl,and the destruction of community and family that accompanies this unsustainable and unattractive development and the lifestyles that go with it.

On the other hand I always felt a little twinge of pain at condemning things like car culture and the interstate system. Like a lot of Americans, I get a kick out of being able to whoop it up to 75 miles per hour on artificially cheap gas and free roads and love the feeling of freedom from being able to move quickly and easily all over this bitch.

But I just had a realization that makes me feel a lot better.

While it would presumably be more expensive to move around in a free market (at least until the liberated entrepreneurs and engineers got around to selling us solar powered flying cars), We wouldn't need to travel so far to get what we wanted, and wouldn't have to go so far away to be somewhere very different from where we started.

Right now, I have to drive 20 miles round-trip to get to a library or bookstore that carries books other than quilting guides. On the other hand, a free-market in transportation, with all the costs internalized, would likely bring these sorts of businesses back to my little town's struggling Main Street as the transportation surcharge on any purchase obviated much of the price differential of buying in the city. It wouldn't matter that I couldn't drive as much anymore.

Even though, at present, I can drive from Idaho Falls, ID to Phoenix, AZ in as little as 14 hours on $100 in gas, when I get to my destination I'm still going to be eating dinner at Denny's, the same place I ate breakfast, and I'm going to be shopping for sunglasses to replace the ones I sat on after lunch in Utah at a Walmart identical to the one I bought a road atlas at that morning. The nice Jello Belt Mormon lady who checks me into my hotel will have a lot in common with the woman I bought gas from in Utah. If I made a trip of similar distance in Europe, I could travel from London to Vienna, passing through five countries, each with their own distinct culture, language, and traditions--holdovers from a time when in fact travel was more expensive and qualities that are disappearing as the effects of subsidized gas, roads, jet and car technology, and shipping play themselves out.

In a liberated society, the economy and culture would be much more decentralized and diverse. While meandering toll roads and market priced gas would certainly decrease my objective ability to travel long distances, my subjective ability to get where I wanted to be and experience new things, see new places, and meet interesting people would no doubt increase.

Professors Attack Milton Friedman but Real Enemy is Freedom

In an interview in Reason Magazine Milton Friedman said

"I start from a belief in individual freedom and that derives fundamentally from a belief in the limitations of our knowledge, from a belief—that nobody can be sure that what he believes, is really most attractive position—is putting individual freedom first.

There's a great deal of basis for believing that a free society is fundamentally unstable—we may regret this but we've got to face up to the facts....I think it's the utmost of naiveté to suppose that a free society is somehow the natural order of things.

It's fortunate that the capitalist society is more productive, because if it were not it would never be tolerated. The bias against it is so great that—it's got to have a five-to-one advantage in order to survive.
I think a major reason why intellectuals tend to move towards collectivism is that the collectivist answer is a simple one. If there's something wrong, pass a law and do something about it."

More than 100 faculty at the University of Chicago, where Mr. Friedman won the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics, are trying to stop the university from putting Mr. Friedman's name on a 200-million dollar research center. The institute, which will focus on economic research was officially unveiled last May. A few weeks later, about 100 professors signed a letter calling on the university to reconsider the project. Since then, 172 faculty along with more than 1,000 students and alumni have signed a petition opposing the institute.

“He was the darling of the Reaganite revolution and the American right,” said Bruce Lincoln, a professor of the history of religions who is leading the charge against the institute. “He was a scathing critic of the state playing a role of any importance.” If the institute goes ahead, Prof. Lincoln said it will attract “a certain kind of donor who is a great cheerleader for Friedman's politics,” and that donor will try to “steer research in a direction that's going to advance the cause.” He said the recent economic turmoil has bolstered opponents. “It's now a whole lot more obvious to everyone that [Mr. Friedman] got us into some problems and that he didn't have the final solution to everything that makes an economy work.”

Friedman Attacked

However, Friedman had long warned of the dangers of easy credit backed by the government.

“Therefore active monetary (e.g. easy credit) or fiscal (e.g. tax and spend) policy can have unintended negative effects. In Capitalism and Freedom (1967) Friedman wrote,
"There is likely to be a lag between the need for action and government recognition of the need; a further lag between recognition of the need for action and the taking of action; and a still further lag between the action and its effects.[9]”

Wikipedia on Friedman

A book by Naomi Klein defaming Friedman http://reas
has become popular in leftist circles while fellow economists have both praised and criticized Friedman. Krugman On Friedman.

Pure Poison

Obviously, something had to be done to prevent people from using alcohol in the way that nature (or at least Neolithic Man) originally intended.

But what?

An even better question is this: how many years, or decades, or centuries would it take you or me or any other decent individual to come up with the solution that popped into their twisted minds almost immediately? Their solution? They'd poison the alcohol folks bought to cool their sick kids' bodies, so that if they drank it, they'd go blind.

They called it "denatured alcohol", and that's what should be on the Great Seal of the United States today, as a symbol and warning of what government is really all about: threatening people with injury or death if they fail to comply with the slightest whim of the mentally putrefying scumbags who run it. Today, the stuff is still poisoned, seven decades after Prohibition finally ended, to force you and me to pay religiously based discriminatory "sin" taxes on alcohol made for drinking.

Remember that you heard it here first: taxation is the root of all evil.

Powerful words from a great killer ape. I have read most of his books and essays, great stuff!

Magic Marker Stimulus

I've got it! There's a simple solution to this financial crisis we've found ourselves in - and it's easy to implement. I call it the Magic Marker Stimulus program, and it works like this:

1) open your wallet
2) choose a magic marker
3) add a zero to each bill ($1 becomes $10, $5 becomes $50)
4) go shopping with your newly-found wealth

It's so simple, it can't fail! I wonder why no one's thought of this before? It's even better than my other idea - where you only double the number on each bill.

The last half of the 20th century produced the best working conditions

and economic conditions for the working class since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden, at least since writing was invented and history began. One can't blame the economic system for any person with normal (OK) health and an IQ over 90 for living in real poverty, for not having his own warm, dry, enclosed space with normal utilities that he can call "home," a rented room or whatever. One can't blame the economy for not having sufficient and proper food and clothing.

Further, the economic/political classification has changed, now including anyone in the bottom 20% of the economic food chain. But the nature of poverty has changed. Most poor people have every sort of consumer product that the rich people have, but of a lower quality. The big difference between that the the rich people don't stand in line, can afford servants, and don't worry about job security.

Half the people using food stamps are on the program for less than 2 years - mostly college kids. Yes, some people seem to have extra-ordinary runs of bad luck. (Hard cases make for bad legislation.) But the vast majority of the long term working poor and street people I have talked to - thousands of them - either have mental and socialization problems and/or can't plan ahead . . . can't defer gratification and save for the future.

The End of Libertarianism

No not really, just another announcement of its end. Here is the announcement, and here is a rebuttal (which seems more than adquate).

The new servant class but to ignorant to realize it.

Prior to WW2 maybe 15% of North Americans were middle class. The middle class consisted of doctors, lawyers, small business owners, business managers, engineers . . . and still does. Prior to WW2 the middle class had live-in servants. For example, read the best selling book, "Cheaper By The Dozen." The father of the family, as I recall, was a time and study man, no rocket scientist, and they had servants. Half the people who came through Ellis Island - which is half our relatives - went into "service," became servants.

80% of North Americans prior to WW2 were the working class, the working poor, and still are. Why do most of the people in the working class - the servant class - think they are middle class? Because the politicians tell us we are middle class? Which of this years candidates has addressed a speech to the working class?

Now days Americans have bought into the "anyone can grow up to be president" line of baloney. The "I can be rich" line of baloney. The vast majority of Americans think they are smarter than average. No one thinks of himself as working class except our recent immigrants.

Is it because now days a young person needs two years of junior college to get a high school education? Fifty years ago a kid went to a community college ne junior college because he couldn't afford a real college or didn't have the grades for a real college. These days a kid goes to a community college to learn high school basics and "graduates," thinking that he is a college graduate?

The harm in this, besides the waste of time and money? College graduates deserve to become rich. College graduates don't need a labor union. College graduates - except apparently teachers - are to smart to join a union. Those people who came through Ellis Island, there was two things they knew: they were working class and they needed the protection of a labor union.

What happens when 80% of Americans complete high school and 80% of them are junior college "graduates? Then a garbage truck driver will need a high school diploma, maybe even 2 years of junior college, but the job title will be "Recycle Specialist," not "garbage truck driver." 80% of all Americans will still be the working poor.

My own understanding of words

This captures how I feel much of the time:

There are so many things wrong with the entire statement that I’m about to go all fetal-position and question my own understanding of words.

Here's the particular context, but it doesn't really matter.

Get Ready for More Taxes, Spending and Regulation

This article in today's Wall St Journal predicts that a big Democrat victory will result in the biggest swing to the left since FDR or LBJ. Massive new programs that will be difficult to reverse will be enacted. Huge new revenues subject to all sorts of political patronage, such as national health and Cap and Trade Carbon credits will flow in. The party will attempt to consolidate power by suppressing dissent through regulation of the internet and radio stations and changing voter laws. Secret ballots for unions will be eliminated, opening the way for union strong arm tactics. I can't believe it when I hear the some "libertarians" actually lean to the Democrat side.
Obama's Super Majority

"We only need to rebuild civilization once"

...a belated report on the First Annual Seasteading Conference.

The key point: the government-doesn't-work problem has remained unsolved for millenia.

The solution - whatever it is - has got to be "big, sneaky, clever, and different." Past results have mostly ranged from disastrous (Marxism) to pointless ("if a different group of people runs stuff, government will work!").

The intuition:
we need a testing ground to try out ideas.

I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the Caltrain to Burlingame from Stanford, where I'm an undergraduate economics major.

Patri Friedman opens with a great presentation. He gives a regression of growth rates - 6 percent for an OECD country with 10% government sector versus 1 percent for a country with 50% gov't sector, ceteris paribus. What that would mean over the next 50 years. And then the kicker:

"Keep in mind, these are numbers about human lives."

He offers a compelling critique of government. Sure, I like libertarian rhetoric, but it's less useful than Patri's incisive industry analysis.

Think of government like a modified car market: 10,000 people band together, pick their favorite car, probably a beige Toyota Corolla, and all buy that car, year after year. Consider the following problems:
- Toyota would keep making the same car, and only one; that is, government can't sell in niche markets.
- Concurrently, it can't try truly different ideas; the last (successful) experiment was the American Revolution.
- Quality might be good in the beginning, but what incentive would Toyota have to improve/maintain its product quality? Little or none. Same with the government.
- Simply put, "the barrier to entry is insane." You have to win a war, an election, or a revolution.
- Now throw in resulting factors like lock-in and switching costs: "you think OS is bad? Most industries can't kill, murder, and steal from their customers and get away with it."

The ultimate problem, Patri argues, is that there is *no frontier*. The solution, then? Re-create one.

"I first looked to the ocean because it was unclaimed. But then I realized, it's better. The bad news: we've built almost all of our civilization in the wrong place. The good news: land-based systems can ossify. But we only need to rebuild civilization once."

One big problem was how to start, so the rest of the conference was dedicated to making seasteading economically viable. The problem was finding ideas that could scale, or help create scale. Business models like medical tourism or factories of Indian programmers, located a short boat ride from a major metropolitan area.

Such models would make seasteading viable for long enough to let the huge long-term structural advantages come into play. Demographic factors are in our favor: the "ocean tax" of building in a hostile environment will decrease with better tech, but the "government tax" of building in a hostile (read: any current) political system is a percentage of national wealth - which is growing.

It's a beautiful vision. A far more productive use of my nights and weekends throughout my working years, than promoting political and economic freedom landside. That's noble, but largely futile and easily repealed.

A leftie conference attendee noted that in the type of small communities made possible by seasteading, different social agenda would start to converge. Social democracy might not be so different than libertarianism.

From the libertarian side, building a new way of life that could generate freedom and prosperity for a vast number of humans, would be wonderful.

But I am especially entranced by "co-housing seasteading": the idea of sometime throwing in my lot with a couple hundred families and helping to make life on a new frontier viable.

For me, this is partly religiously motivated. Latter-day Saints have a rich tradition of migrating to the frontier to create a better society of more virtuous people. We call our goal Zion. But it's only one expression of a striving for the light that seems to be written on the human psyche.

Government as we now know it isn't the only force preventing the realization of this deep-set yearning. But it's one of the main ones, and it's time to change that.

Coming back early to attend a class dinner at a prof's house, I mention the conference to the professor, a director at a consulting firm, and the teaching assistant, an econ Ph.D. student. Though skeptical, they think it's an interesting idea and note that it's easy to criticize ideas. But the TA gets the final word.

What was the male-to-female ratio of people at the conference, he asks. Like most libertarian gatherings, I reply: about ten to one. We laugh together.

Seasteading Business Opportunity?


I finally made the switch from Windows to Linux. My family's budget eMachine box is woefully underpowered for the Vista it came preloaded with and my Dad hated the OS with a passion. I've also been worried the movement would take away my libertarian decoder ring if they found out I still wasn't taking advantage of the most fleshed out and functional example of real-world anarchism and revolutionary agorist praxis around.

Installing Ubuntu, a popular, user-friendly, Linux distribution, was mostly a breeze. It's still not quite to the point where Grandma can do it no problem but it's getting better. When I tried to install Ubuntu on a computer a few years ago, my computer-savvy friend (who now works for Microsoft) and I had so much trouble with the monitor that we had to give up. I just tried again with the same old desktop and had no trouble at all. I was also impressed with the vast catalog of free software available for the operating system and the intuitiveness and attractiveness of the graphical interface.

If you're a reader or contributor to this blog, you really should consider making the switch. Linux is the product of spontaneous emergent social order. Individuals acting freely, without central direction, harnessing local knowledge and expertise, have created an immense, organic, and eminently functional, system. What's more, intellectual property is everywhere and always a child of the state and completely illegitimate. Why would you support statist corporations and give money to corporatist parasites if you don't have to?

Even if there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with proprietary software, it makes sense, on thickness grounds, to support projects that embody and inculcate values useful for the creation and preservation of free society; values like curiosity, independence, anti-authoritarianism, and creativity--something Linux does with flair. I like the way this software makes me think. Linux lays its guts out for the user and gives her complete control over how it works--even if this means it's possible to really screw things up and the learning curve is steep. When I took a smoke break last night from poring over how-to guides and ham-handedly thrashing about on the command line, I found myself examining a fire hydrant I've always ignored to figure out how its connections work. The broader adoption of free software will definitely have a salutary effect on our politics and culture.

I very highly recommend this nine year old but still awesome essay on operating systems by Neal Stephenson: "In the Beginning was the Command Line"

Statist talking heads change allegiance like underwear

The blue-pill folks are fighting again, this time over Christopher Buckley backing Obama. Turns out he recently left The National Review because the amount of nasty-grams in his inbox regarding this recent flap.

Christopher Buckley calls himself a libertarian, I think he got confused, he meant to say libertine. Much like his father, he cannot tell the two apart. Apparently he has no soul and only wished to be on the "good list" when ordering up some Obama administration White House press credentials. Hedging his bets for what he finds to be a distasteful inevitable; an Obama presidency.

In a Daily Beast article, Buckley pushes the conservative case for Obama. As with other recent converts to the Obama camp, this just goes to show that the modern left vs. right paradigm is a completely false dichotomy. As Morpheus would say, "Freedom is the illusion of choice."

Richard K. Moore lays out his case for this Matrix metaphor in a Summer 2000 article for Whole Earth Review, Escaping the Matrix. Other than a couple of Zaxlebax problems (his definition of capitalism, etc), I find it a good read.

And finally, the Daily Inquisition team at The Exile bashes Buckley somethin' fierce.

From the Exile

Buckley sums it up jauntily... “We are all in this together.” So Buckley is joining us, the little people, down here in the wreckage. There goes the neighborhood!

I may not personally fall victim to party politics because I don't vote, but I do love it when they tear each other to tender little ribbons with such rabid vigor. A chiffonade of state propaganda elitists fighting over the table scraps of power and influence, how fun!

EconTalking about seasteading

The latest EconTalk podcast features me talking about seasteading. It was a fun interview. One of the things I find wonderful about seasteading, and frustrating about libertarian skepticism towards it, is that I see it as a reform that fits much better with libertarian theories than most libertarian reforms. It's all about spontaneous order and about systems and incentives being more important than people. Russell Roberts asked some great questions that helped bring those aspects out, and was open to the answers.

Doctrinaire libertarians (not Russell) amaze me with their blind spots: they point to all the empirical evidence about the power of the free market...and then ignore all the empirical evidence about the instability of economic freedom (especially when combined with political freedom). Yes, free markets are great - the world has made that clear. It has also made it clear that democracy and free markets are incompatible - the world's democracies have far too much economic regulation and taxation to qualify as a free market.

Stability matters - what is the point of a theoretically better system if we can't reach it in practice, and if it would just decay into the same old same old even if we did reach it? Rhetoric and proselytizing are not the answer - we've had amazing people out there conveying libertarian ideas in beautiful ways for decades, and whaddaya know, the population still ain't libertarian. And even if they were, the political process would still distort things in the way that democracy distorts things (which is substantial).

A credible vision of a better future must include a reason why things suck now, and why it will change so that things can be better. Seasteading has such a reason. No other libertarian reform I've seen does - the Libertarian Party, the Ron Paul Revolution, the Free State Project, Agorism, whatever. Thus, they are pipe dreams.

Settling the oceans is hard. But not as hard as changing human nature. Or wishing away the incentives of democracy.

Expanding the Draft?

I'm a touch conflicted about the latest from Obama:

Even as the U.S. confronts two long wars, neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama believes the country should take the politically perilous step of reviving the military draft.

But the two presidential candidates disagree on a key foundation of any future draft: Mr. Obama supports a requirement for both men and women to register with the Selective Service, while Mr. McCain doesn't think women should have to register.

Now, I'm opposed to the draft and to Selective Service registration. But I cannot deny that a part of me has always been perturbed at the injustice of males being required to register while women do not. So in that very limited sense, I admire this, even though it's an expansion of a loathsome program.

The real question is why on Earth Obama would bring this up. I think the answer can be found here:

"And I think that if women are registered for service -- not necessarily in combat roles, and I don't agree with the draft -- I think it will help to send a message to my two daughters that they've got obligations to this great country as well as boys do."

That (like much of political talk) is sufficiently vague as to admit multiple interpretations. I fear, though, that female draft registration is a backdoor way to promote universal service by decoupling the connection between the draft and military service. And that frightens me.


Instapunk on Obama good parts version.

Obama's following approaches cult status. He is the kind of political figure who can do absolutely everything wrong, fail at every task to which he puts his hand, and still retain the devotion of those who have projected onto him their wildest utopian fantasies. [...] Obama is a symbol. [...] The optimistic right fears him too little. So does the pessimistic right.


Obama is a one-man Trojan Horse, an apparent peace offering filled with implacable instruments of vengeance. Nothing could be clearer than that the Democrats and all their allies hate their Republican and conservative opposition. They will not be content with electoral victory. They need annihilation. [...] After Bush, they were no longer interested in governing. They wanted revenge.


His major acts as an independent adult were to form alliances with a racist black nationalist preacher tied to Louis Ferrakhan, join the inveterately corrupt Chicago Democratic political machine, intimidate his electoral opponents into quitting the race before election day, ally himself with a radical sixties political terrorist for the purpose of funnelling money to 1) educational programs designed to radicalize minority students and 2) a renegade national organization in the business of promoting minority voter fraud and minority access to fraudulent mortgage contracts.


His internet-based campaign finance "bundling" operation has devised ways of receiving foreign moneys, even from places like Iran, which cannot be called to account. He has succeeded in demonizing all who question his negligible qualifications and dubious political partners as racists. He has been ruthless in using left-wing tactics to suppress and/or libel specific accusers and accusations, including mass phone and email attacks undertaken by his own campaign managers -- and ambiguously sponsored groups whose more extreme statements can be disavowed if necessary.


So the man who has, apparently, convinced a majority of us that he is the only one capable of bringing us all together is, in reality, the one who has the best possible training in eliminating all his -- and his sponsors' -- political enemies. He will have the full support of a veto-proof Congress as he sets about the task of denying free speech (on "hate" grounds) to his enemies [...]


No wonder high-profile conservatives are scrambling for cover. It won't be pretty when the Obama DOJ starts investigating Sarah Palin for malfeasance in office as Governor of Alaska.


Four years of this will not be undone by any congressional electoral rebellion. Pbama's legacy will make Carter's look like the first attempts of an amateur graffiti vandal.

Apocalyptic stuff. We will almost certainly get the opportunity to see how well this prediction pans out.

Well, Arafat got the peace prize after all

And now Krugman has the Nobel in economics.

Who's the Terrorist?

Make no mistake, the Weathermen were SDS-hijacking, dirty, statist, communists, and Bill Ayers is a sell-out hack, but things need to be put in prospective.

People seem to forget that the Weathermen NEVER KILLED A SINGLE CIVILIAN, SOLDIER, OR POLICE OFFICER. The only people their bombs ever killed were some of the Weathermen themselves.

Keep in mind also what the Weathermen were fighting against. The the United States government was engaged in a bloody, immoral, and idiotic war of imperialism. Before the Weathermen started blowing up unoccupied buildings, American pilots like John McCain were slaughtering scores of women and children with bombs of their own.

"Pallin' around with terrorists" my ass. Sarah Palin's the one associating with a known terrorist.