Thursday, June 30, 2005

"A working class hero is somethin' to be..."

Over coffee yesterday, a new friend told me government is needed “to prevent exploitation and maintain fairness among people.”

I nearly passed a cup of Sumatra Dark Roast through my nose, then tried to briefly, and perhaps not too successfully, explain libertarian class theory to my friend.

Unfortunately, class theory is often forgotten by anti-statists, who’d rather talk about medical marijuana, lower taxes, and the Patriot Act than about the identity of our oppressors. Or maybe “class theory” smacks too much of Marxism for most libertarians. Brad Spangler addressed this on his blog recently. And thank you, Brad, for pointing me toward Rick Tompkins’ article, “Libertarian Class Theory: How the Political Class Exploits the Economic Class.”

Tompkins’ excellent piece first appeared in the Santa Clara Libertarian in May 1996, when he was a candidate for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination. Wrote Tompkins:

“...what is [the libertarian] message? I think the time has come for us to push beyond simply talking about the virtues of free markets and the practical superiority of individual freedom. I think it is time we tell people about the underlying nature of the state.

“A little over 150 years ago, a French writer named Charles Compte had a profound insight. He said the real ‘class struggle’ was not between rich and poor, or capitalists and workers, or nobility and commoners. Compte argued that the real conflict was between the ‘economic class’ and the ‘political class.’

“In his view, the economic class was made up of people who gain wealth through ‘economic means’ — production, work, and trade. By contrast, the political class obtains wealth parasitically, through ‘political means’ — confiscation, taxation, and other forms of coercion.

“Charles Compte argued that these two classes are inevitably in conflict. The political class needs the economic class just as a parasite needs a host. The economic class, however, does not need the political class, and would be better off without it. ...

“Whatever the details, the underlying theory is clear: the political class exploits the economic class through its control of the state.”

The great 19th century German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer defined the State as the “organization of political means.” Murray Rothbard expanded this definition in For a New Liberty (see this blog’s “Essential Agitprop” sidebar for a link to the full text of this book):

“The State provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for predation on the property of the producers; it makes certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the lifeline of the parasitic caste in society.”

Despite my coffee-drinking acquaintance’s belief to the contrary, the State never prevents exploitation. Nor does it ever maintain fairness. Rather, the State is a tool used by political class freeloaders to treat unfairly those of us who obtain wealth through production and voluntary exchange.

As usual, no one explained this process more succinctly than the late Samuel Edward Konkin III. In his “Introduction to Libertarian Ruling Class Theory,” published in New Libertarian Notes #28 (1973), he concluded:

  1. The State is the main means by which people live by plunder; the Market, in contradistinction, is the sum of human action of the productive.
  1. The State, by its existence, divides society into a plundered class and a plundering class.
  1. The State has historically been directed by those who gain most by its existence — the “upper class,” Ruling Class, Higher Circles, or “conspiracy.”
  1. The Higher Circles will fight to keep their privileged status, and have done so, against libertarians seeking their overthrow and the restitution of their plunder to those from whom it was taken.
  1. Politicians operate as “gladiators” in the aptly named Political Arena to settle disputes among the Higher Circles (which are not monolithic).

Like Brad Spangler, I’m anxious to see some tireless libertarian theorists build upon the work of Compte, Oppenheimer, Rothbard, Carl Oglesby, and SEK3 in this area of Libertarian Ruling Class Theory. This is the kind of work that will distinguish us from the political class that now routinely uses freedom rhetoric to further its parasitic plans.

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"Schindler's List" meets the Martians

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the flipside of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET, wasn’t something I was especially looking forward to. The trailers looked like outtakes from Earthquake (in “sensurround”!) and I was horribly disappointed a few years ago by the failure of Independence Day to recapture the great 1950s alien-invasion movies (including George Pal’s 1953 classic War of the Worlds).

But Spielberg’s War of the Worlds is jaw-droppingly great. I was not prepared.

I’m just going to note a few things, and then I’m done. If you’ve seen the film already, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll understand later.

Here we go...

  • Tom Cruise staring into a mirror, then frantically rinsing ash from his face.
  • The “reveal” of the first Martian tripod.
  • The river scene. Oh, God, the river scene.
  • Clothes fluttering through the sky and down city streets.
  • Tom Cruise dealing with the Tim Robbins “situation.” Unforgettable.
  • Spielberg’s done nothing to diminish the greatness of George Pal’s 50-year-old War of the Worlds. In fact, he nods affectionately to it several times.
  • Morgan Freeman’s the man.
  • Little Dakota Fanning needs to get an Oscar.

See the movie for yourself. (But leave the kiddies at home. No kidding.)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"V for Vendetta"

Any libertarian who doesn't get a thrill from this poster needs serious therapy. It promotes the movie adaptation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel (due in theaters November 4).

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A blow against Empire

This is not a joke. It's justice...

From Freestar Media, LLC, issued today:


WEARE, NH — Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter’s land.

Justice Souter’s vote in the “Kelo vs. City of New London” decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday, June 27, Logan Darrow Clements faxed a request to Chip Meany, the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire, seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter’s home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called “The Lost Liberty Hotel,” will feature the “Just Desserts Café” and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon’s Bible, each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.

Clements indicated that the hotel must be built on this particular piece of land because it is a unique site, being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans.

“This is not a prank,” said Clements. “The Towne of Weare has five people on the Board of Selectmen. If three of them vote to use the power of eminent domain to take this land from Mr. Souter, we can begin our hotel development.”

Clements’ plan is to raise investment capital from wealthy pro-liberty investors and draw up architectural plans. These plans would then be used to raise investment capital for the project. Clements hopes that regular customers of the hotel might include supporters of the Institute For Justice and participants in the Free State Project, among others.


Logan Darrow Clements
Freestar Media, LLC

Phone 310-593-4843

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Monday, June 27, 2005

U.S. history, whether you like it or not

The Mises Institute's summer lecture series continued last week with Thomas Woods' five-day, ten-lecture seminar, "The Truth about American History: An Austro-Jeffersonian Perspective." I'd been looking forward to this particular series, since Woods' book The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (which I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend) raised such alarm among court historians and Big Media pundits earlier this year. I wasn't disappointed. Tom Woods is an entertaining speaker and does an exceptional job at organizing his material, all of which is well-documented.

In his seminar, Woods focused on states' rights, nullification, secession, the often troublesome 14th Amendment, the "Great" Depression, FDR, American labor history, and the always-escalating power of the presidency -- all from a very libertarian perspective.

As usual, the entire fascinating series -- 15-plus hours of audio -- is available for FREE download (MP3 files) from You can find it right here.
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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Solving the flag-burning "problem"

The proposed one-line amendment to the U.S. Constitution against flag-burning ("The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States") is now on its way to the Senate. I'm reminded of a simple solution to the flag-burning "problem" offered a few years ago by the late Samuel Edward Konkin III.

"If the statists had any brains (which, as we know, is self-contradictory)," Sam said, "they would make flags out of asbestos."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"The liberated atom spares nothing"

Tuesday, August 9 — about seven weeks from now — will mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki. And only now, after six decades, can we read dispatches by George Weller, the first Western war correspondent to view Nagasaki after the bombing. Weller wrote dozens of stories from the area in late 1945, but all of them were spiked by General Douglas MacArthur’s censorship office in Tokyo and thought lost until Weller’s son Anthony found smudged, mildewed, and crumbling carbon copies in a crate two years ago.

Anthony Weller says he offered to sell his late father’s articles to U.S. magazines but was turned down. The Japanese newspaper Mainichi Daily News finally published excerpts last week. Here are a few selections:

“In swaybacked or flattened skeletons of the Mitsubishi arms plants is revealed what the atomic bomb can do to steel and stone, but what the riven atom can do against human flesh and bone lies hidden in two hospitals of downtown Nagasaki. Look at the pushed-in façade of the American consulate, 3 miles from the blast’s center, or the face of the Catholic cathedral, 1 mile in the other direction, torn down like gingerbread, and you can tell that the liberated atom spares nothing in the way.”

“Several children, some burned, and others unburned but with patches of hair falling out, are sitting with their mothers. Some adults are in pain as they lie on mats. They moan softly. One woman caring for her husband shows eyes dim with tears. Vink (a Dutch medical officer) points out a woman on a yellow mat in hospital. She lies moaning with a blackish mouth stiff as though with lockjaw and unable to utter clear words. Her exposed legs and arms are speckled with tiny red spots in patches. According to Japanese doctors, patients with these late developing symptoms are dying now a month after the bombs fell, at a rate of about 10 daily.”

“The atomic bomb’s peculiar ‘disease,’ uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is still snatching away lives here. Men, women and children with no outward marks of injury are dying daily in hospitals, some after having walked around for three or four weeks thinking they have escaped. The doctors here have every modern medicament, but candidly confessed the answer to the malady is beyond them.”

Of the 286,000 people living in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing, 74,000 were killed and another 75,000 sustained severe injuries. The Japanese estimated that 44% of the city was destroyed.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rediscovering "Left & Right"

In my last post, I referred briefly to the journal Left and Right — subtitled “A Journal of Libertarian Thought” — launched in Spring 1965 by Murray Rothbard, Leonard Liggio, and George Resch. As Justin Raimondo explained in An Enemy of the State, his biography of Rothbard, Left and Right “never had a circulation of more than a few thousand, but its influence on a whole generation of libertarians was to effect an intellectual sea-change. Without funding, or promotion, Left and Right found its way to pockets of libertarian supporters on campuses across the nation. From Berkeley to the University of Kansas to the University of North Carolina, libertarian student organizations inspired by Rothbard’s call to reclaim their legacy as the ‘true’ Left sprang up overnight — and suddenly libertarians were being noticed.”

There’s no question that Left and Right had a tremendous influence on me and on the late Samuel Edward Konkin III, who crafted the Movement of the Libertarian Left to recapture the spirit of that journal. In its mere nine issues, Left and Right presented Rothbard’s manifesto, “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty,” his “Liberty and the New Left,” Liggio’s “Isolationism, Old and New” and “Early Anti-Imperialism,” Harry Elmer Barnes’ “Pearl Harbor After a Quarter of a Century,” and brilliant editorials on everything from the Black Revolution, to SDS, to flag desecration (extremely pertinent right now), to the CIA, to the Ninth Amendment, and to the importance of Che Guevara.

There are few more valuable things libertarians can do today than visit those pieces and begin reforming their ideas about classical liberalism, statism, and American history. Lucky for us, all nine issues of Left and Right are available for FREE download as PDF files from the Ludwig von Mises Institute. You’ll find them right here.

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Building a New Libertarian Movement

[The following, which I co-authored with the late Samuel Edward Konkin III, originally appeared in slightly different form under the title “Smashing the State for Fun & Profit!” in Tactics of the Movement of the Libertarian Left (Vol. 5, No. 1), May Day 2001. I offer it here as a clarification of “Libertarian Leftism,” an illuminating piece of political revisionist history, and a contribution to Tom Knapp’s ongoing Symposium on Building a New Libertarian Movement. I apologize for its length.]

Libertarian Left? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

Certainly, those tied to the so-called “Libertarian” Party, that preposterous right-wing oxymoron committed to abolishing rule by the State by accepting rule by a political party (i.e., partyarchy), will insist that Libertarianism is never Left. Likewise, the State’s parasitic class of bureaucrats, politicians, social planners, shrinks, academics, court historians, subsidized businessmen, privileged labor leaders, and military mass murderers who call themselves Leftist will insist that Left is socialist, never Libertarian.

We Left Libertarians say, “A pox on both their houses!”

The Movement of the Libertarian Left is Left both inside and out. We wish to abolish the State. We are uncompromising agorists — those who utilize only peaceful trade and voluntary interactions to attain our goals. We fight for the radicalization of the present Libertarian Movement, much of which is rotten with corruption, compromise, conservatism, co-opting, and cowardice. We expose mercilessly the fraudulent proposals by the “Libertarian” Party to elect politicians to abolish politics, to appoint bureaucrats to abolish bureaucracy, and to govern to abolish government. We fight tooth and nail against those who would attempt to monopolize a free market, create an Establishment in an anarchy, and debilitate our actions with political pseudo-action. This agenda puts us, in most political lexicons, on the Left. Since it is explicitly anarchist, it places us on the Far Left.

“Left,” from earliest political times, has meant “anti-establishment.” Its core meaning is opposition. And since it is opposition in a political context (originally those opposed to the majority government in the French assemblée after the Revolution), it means opposition, at the least, to the current government and the Establishment, and at most, opposition to the State itself. Anarchists, whether collectivists or individualists, communists or agorists (marketeers), have always remained on the furthest Left.

Summarizing volumes of movement and submovement history, what happened to the Left is that it (largely) abandoned the idea that Property was a bulwark against the Establishment (in the 17th and 18th Century, largely landed aristocracy) and a basis for freedom. Instead of defending the property of the poor and disenfranchised, the Left turned to attack the “property” of the rich as the foundation of their oppression.

But in the 19th Century, there was much confusion and debate on the proper definition of property and its moral (and immoral) origins. The second move which divided the Left was that first Liberals and then Socialists (usually Social Democrats) became the Establishment themselves!

The socialists were divided themselves as to whether they should participate as political parties in elections. The majority generally rejected it as counterrevolutionary or a waste of time at best, but with the Establishment rewarding and reinforcing what it considered civilized political behavior, the minority became the majority...and ever more “moderate” or Centrist...and statist. Those who considered themselves socialist but rejected either running moderate socialist states for the benefit of the bourgeoisie, or joining Worker Dictatorships that repressed opposition and took sides in capitalist wars, were driven to the fringes of the Left or out of it entirely by the 1920s — although they were the originals.

In the 1930s, what was originally called “Liberalism” became so alienated from the statism which had usurped the label that it formed a coalition with the remnants of American conservatism against FDR’s New Deal. This became the “Old Right” of the 1940s: individualist, anti-imperialist (“isolationist”), and anti-war. But even this position was betrayed in the 1950s by such young Old Rightists turned New Right Cold Warriors as William F. Buckley, Jr. When the U.S. Right embraced internationalism (imperialism), the Libertarian faction held on to its isolationism and found...

...a New Left arising in 1960. Although much of its vocabulary was formed through the “Old Left” ideological wars of the 1930s, the New Left rejected the totalitarianism of State Communism and the bland statism of social-democratic parliamentary governments. In the U.S., the New Left consciously hearkened to traditions of decentralism and community control, as well as the anti-imperialist movements going back to 1898, in complete opposition to the Establishment heirs of the New Deal. The remains of the Older Left were centrifugally hurled out by the seductive attraction of Left Statism.

What was the New Left in 1965 was conducive to an alliance with Libertarians. Indeed, the New Left and the nascent Libertarian Movement reached out for each other to battle the common enemy, Corporate Liberal Imperial Leviathan. Libertarian Movement founder Murray N. Rothbard traded votes with Maoists at New York Peace & Freedom Party conventions. Rothbard and historian Leonard Liggio started Left and Right: A Journal of Libertarian Thought to help forge a Libertarian alliance with the New Left. Carl Oglesby, 1965 president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), wrote an analysis of the U.S. Empire, Containment and Change, in which his prescription for defeating the Empire called explicitly for a coalition with the Libertarian “Old Right” as led by Rothbard and Liggio. And Karl Hess, speechwriter for the Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964, determined by 1968 that he had more in common with the New Left than Buckley’s Right and penned his stirring “Death of Politics” Libertarian manifesto for Playboy magazine.

But those “Old Left” commune-statists were not, to use that familiar Trotskyist phrase, “decisively defeated on the proletarian terrain.” By the time of its 1969 convention, SDS expelled its anarchists and split between Maoists and WeatherMaoists. After a brief exhibition of street violence, the “vanguard” collapsed underground with an occasional eruption over the years. Also in 1969, Libertarian Rightists, inspired by Rothbard and led by Hess, walked out of the Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) convention to join the New Left. And unfortunately, even the first Libertarian Con that year in New York, which brought together disenfranchised SDS decentralists and YAF free-marketeers, also split — not on Left-Right lines but on revolutionary rage vs. quite academic movement-building lines.

Nonetheless, while the New Left went underground, or was partially co-opted into the university hierarchy, or simply dropped out for a couple of decades, the Libertarian Movement replayed the history that the socialists had suffered through. Although the movement grew from thousands to millions in less than a decade, it faced the same crisis of whether or not to form a political party in 1972 that the socialists had faced in 1900. Again, the majority of Libertarians opposed working within the system they were sworn to abolish. Again, the Establishment rewarded those who played the Establishment game by its rules. That part of the Libertarian Movement which became the so-called “Libertarian” Party became ever-more moderate in its demands for fear of alienating voters. Eventually, faced with a Republican Party tactical shift to the Free-Market Right (at least in rhetoric), starting with the Reagan “revolution,” the “Libertarian” Party found itself indistinguishable and buried under the Republican tide. Many of the LP right-wing correctly asked why they should waste their time in a third party.

What happened then, in both cases, is that the hardcore activists fell aside (or at least out of press coverage) in favor of those arguing for moderation in the pursuit of Power. We are now reaping the results of those choices.

The Radical Remnant of the New Left and of the New Libertarians remained, not all of them on sabbatical or underground. In the press, New Leftists appeared in The Nation, Z, and Britain’s excellent New Left Review, and the New Libertarians had New Libertarian magazine, Wally Conger's out of step, and The Agorist Institute’s The Agorist Quarterly. In 1989, The Agorist Institute specifically launched New Isolationist, a newsletter bringing together anti-imperialist writings from both groups.

Thus, Christopher Hitchens, Carl Oglesby, Alexander Cockburn, Jon Rappoport, and Noam Chomsky from the New Left are aware of and interact with New Libertarians (or Left Libertarians) such as Samuel Edward Konkin III, Jeff Riggenbach, Jeff Hummel, E. Scott Royce, David Rosinger, and, the Daddy of us all, the late Karl Hess.

But why rebuild a Movement of the Libertarian Left now?

Well, what better time than now, when the opportunities for reversing the snowballing statism of the past century is so great? Leviathan is dying, and signs of it are everywhere: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the discrediting of state socialism, the proliferation of both secessionist and anti-tax movements here and abroad, and the destruction wreaked on the credibility of the electoral process and on the credibility of government itself by Election 2000.

Our job now is to hasten the death of the State.

In the short-term, we should work on specific goals in concert with both Left and Libertarian groups. There is no party-line. Disagreement is always “permitted.” Anyone may reject any suggested project or suggest the next. Strategists and tacticians sell their services and are only as good as their last sale. There are no leaders. Freedom in action follows from freedom in theory.

In the medium-range, we should build a New Libertarian Alliance (Revolutionary Agorist Cadre) of defenders of the Counter-Economy (the underground free market, aka “grey” and “black” market). The State “withers away” as each individual secedes from the statist society and goes counter-economic.

In the long-range, the Counter-Economy will overwhelm State Capitalism and State Socialism to produce a society based on voluntary interaction with a minimal amount of self-defense needed, which can be handled by ordinary market facilities. This society of free trade in goods and values is the agora.

The death of politics, heralded by Karl Hess more than 30 years ago and illustrated so beautifully by Election 2000 and the steadily growing nonvoting majority, eliminates the monopoly of legitimized coercion (the State). A stateless society is anarchy.

Our long-term politico-economic goals are summed up in our slogan:

Agora! Anarchy! Action!

We work with everyone who struggles against the State and its privileged class while we maximize our personal freedom. We can smash the State for fun and profit! Join us!
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What is "counter-economics"?

Vache Folle writes, "I would appreciate your expanding on the concept of counter-economics."

Allow me to defer to the late Samuel Edward Konkin III, who first used the term "counter-economics" in his New Libertarian Manifesto:
"The function of the pseudo-science of Establishment economics, even more than making predictions (like the Imperial Roman augurers) for the ruling class, is to mystify and confuse the ruled class as to where their wealth is going and how it is taken. An explanation of how people keep their wealth and property from the State is then Counter-Establishment economics, or Counter-Economics for short. The actual practice of human actions that evade, avoid and defy the State is counter-economic activity..."
In short, a peaceful black market or underground economy is an example of counter-economics in practice.

The most thorough explanation of counter-economics written thus far is in SEK3's New Libertarian Manifesto (link above).
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Are Cato and the LP "warmongers"?

Bill Woolsey and Kevin B. O’Reilly take me to task for my statement yesterday that “the Cato Institute and the so-called ‘Libertarian’ Party and its ‘New Libertarian’ faction, all front groups for the warmongering right-wing, have hammered a wedge into the libertarian movement.”

Woolsey says that both Cato and the LP opposed the war in Iraq and now support an “exit strategy.” He adds: “I have seen no support for an invasion of Iran or Syria [from Cato or the LP].” (Incidentally, Woolsey is an active member of the conservative “New Libertarian,” aka “Libertarian Reform Caucus,” faction of the LP.)

O’Reilly writes: “To call Cato and the LP warmongers is laughable. Is this because both supported the war in Afghanistan?”

Well, yeah...

Both Cato and the LP supported the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan. They may have opposed the war in Iraq and now be calling for exit, but these positions have seemed to me opposition to this particular war. I question their libertarian principles and their antiwar commitment (a major tenet of classical liberalism and libertarianism), and I stand by my assertion that both are warmongers at heart, especially post-9/11. Cato and the LP have both supported Bush’s War on Terror.

In October 2001, Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz offered an outline of “what we should be doing now.” By we, he meant the U.S. government. Here are two of Boaz’s suggestions:

  1. “Go after Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The air strikes are a good beginning, but we must insist that Afghanistan hand Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants over. Failing that, we must go into Afghanistan to find them.”
  2. “Build a new bomber. ... Heavy bombers can carry heavier payloads over much longer ranges than can fighters and can operate from less-vulnerable bases in theaters that are farther away from the fighting or even from bases in the United States. No matter what type of foreign policy the United States adopts in the future, it will need the ability to project power abroad. It’s time to start developing a new bomber.”

Boaz concluded:

“Libertarians usually enter public debates to call for restrictions on government activity. In the wake of September 11, we have all been reminded of the real purpose of government: to protect our life, liberty, and property from violence. This would be a good time for the federal government to do its job with vigor and determination.”

Six months later, Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato’s vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies, wrote a piece for National Review Online titled “Head Straight for Pakistan.” After Afghanistan, Carpenter wrote, “the next stage of the war against terrorism needs to be fought in Pakistan. ...

“The reality is that al Qaeda will never be destroyed as long as it can enjoy a de facto sanctuary in Pakistan. One of the most serious mistakes in the otherwise successful U.S. military operation in Afghanistan was the decision to trust the Pakistani government to seal the border and trap Taliban and al Qaeda troops. It is now clear that Pakistan failed to fulfill that task. ...

Washington should inform Musharraf that we intend to wipe out the al Qaeda sanctuaries in the northwest frontier province, with or without Islamabad’s permission. ...

“But whatever Musharraf’s ultimate decision about granting permission, the United States should not shrink from confronting al Qaeda in its Pakistani lair.”

Likewise, the Libertarian Party National Committee released a statement on the War on Terror and in Afghanistan in October 2001: "It is proper for the government to take forceful action against terrorists. ... Such criminals must be rooted out and destroyed. ... Their training camps and weapons must be eliminated. Their supply infrastructure must be shattered."

For a “party of peace,” the LP has never taken a real leadership role in the antiwar effort. As Justin Raimondo wrote on in April of last year:

“To read the LP News, you’d never know there was a war on. You’d never know that this has been the bloodiest month of the war so far, with the prospect of more looming as an immediate likelihood. In the literature and public pronouncements of the LP there is scant mention of the most important issue we are all facing, and that is the question of war and peace.”

At a time when American liberties are threatened by the Patriot Act and public opposition to the war is running high, Raimondo added, the LP has “given the question of war and peace no more attention than they would the privatization of garbage collection or the abolition of local sales taxes.” As an example of the LP’s lack of antiwar commitment, he cited the party’s decision to invite warmonger and Bush-defending radio personality Neal Boortz to speak at the LP national convention.

So do I think Cato and the LP have become “front groups for the warmongering right-wing”? Yes, in large part. I think antiwar activists and radical libertarians should look elsewhere for building effective alliances.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

What's Left?

“At no time since the Vietnam era,” Tom Knapp wrote recently on his blog, “have we found ourselves more in need of a vital, active Movement of the Libertarian Left — and the intellectual infrastructure that [Samuel Edward Konkin III] worked so hard to create for one is not just disintegrating due to our failure to maintain its currency and relevance, but is under active attack, not least in the form of attempts to expropriate and alter the meaning of the proud title New Libertarian.”

Regularly, I’m asked by readers of this blog and of my essays elsewhere how I — a fierce supporter of laissez-faire and free markets — can call myself a “Left Libertarian, with roots in the liberal tradition.”

For many years, I’ve subscribed, as did SEK3, to the notion first suggested in the 1960s by Murray Rothbard in his seminal essay “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty.” Rothbard said libertarians historically belonged not on the Right but on the furthest Left. During the French Revolution, the despotic Old Order sat on the right side of the assembly hall, with classical laissez-faire liberals seated on the left. So from then until the rise of socialism in the mid-19th century, classical liberals were the Left, the party of liberty, peace, and progress. Then liberals allowed socialists to outflank them strategically and pose as “the Left.” Political terminology was turned on its head. Socialists became “liberals.” Liberals became “conservatives.” Rothbard said phooey to all that.

The once “conservative Republican” Rothbard exhorted libertarians to recognize their past and ally themselves with the New Left, from which had sprung the anarchistic, anti-imperialist “Port Huron Statement.” He and other libertarians shared podiums with Leftists like Paul Goodman and Carl Oglesby. At the end of the ’60s, many libertarians — most of them, like me, student members of the Young Americans for Freedom — followed Rothbard and former Goldwater speechwriter Karl Hess out of the right wing to build coalitions with the Left. An exchange of interesting strategic and tactical ideas ensued, but the fusion didn’t hold ultimately.

The Movement of the Libertarian Left (MLL) worked to lay the groundwork for a day of reconciliation with the Left from 1978 until Sam’s sudden death last year. And they made inroads. MLL had this goal: to develop a coherent, long-term, non-political, anti-party strategy consistent with hard-core Rothbardian theory. Sam and other New Libertarians (aka Libertarian Leftists) interacted regularly with New Leftists like Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens, Carl Oglesby, Jon Rappoport, and Noam Chomsky. And many libertarians continue to forge alliances with the Left. Take a look at MLL’s busy e-list and at Doug Fuda’s efforts to build a new Antiwar League.

As Knapp says, principled libertarians now stand at a crossroads. Both the Cato Institute and the so-called “Libertarian” Party and its “New Libertarian” faction, all front groups for the warmongering right-wing, have hammered a wedge into the libertarian movement. There is no better time than now for a libertarian rapprochement with not the “leftists” of the Democratic Party but the vital, rebellious, antiwar, anti-state Left of CounterPunch and other radical journals. We have a lot to talk about, and I look forward to the dialogue.

In the meantime, those afraid to make a sharp left turn and join us should heed SEK3’s suggestion to “wake up and smell the tear gas!” And to those courageous enough to shrug off the right-wing, unite with other staunch enemies of the State, and reclaim the Left for libertarians, I say, “Forward to liberty!”

Our politics? Anarchy!
Our economics? Counter-Economics!
Our style? Action!
Our flag? Black!
Our slogan? Agora, Anarchy, Action!

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The economics of Batman

B.K. Marcus has put the ol' Austrian spin on this past weekend's #1 movie, Batman Begins. It is, he says on his blog, "the most self-consciously economically minded comic book movie" he's ever seen. Says B.K.:

"Many libertarians celebrated The Incredibles for its Randian individualism and bourgeois family values, and I can join them in much of that... But for my money, the more interesting questions are asked by Batman Begins -- even if the answers it hints at are sometimes less than satisfactory."

Check out B.K.'s blog for his thorough analysis.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dark Knight over Gotham

I’m a fan of Tim Burton’s two Batman movies. They worked for me 15 years ago, and they still work for me. But they weren’t about Batman. They were about Nicholson’s Joker, and DeVito’s Penguin, and Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Batman was backdrop to big name stars taking their turns as Gotham City villains.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins is the first film to focus on Batman. The story, which does include some very effective villains, revolves around Bruce Wayne and his transformation into the Batman. Despite a terrific supporting cast, Christian Bale is the star here. It’s his movie. He’s central to everything. Three cheers to Nolan for relaunching this new Batman franchise into previously untested waters. And for his conviction that Batman is even more interesting than the bad guys he confronts.

Here are a few things I loved about Batman Begins:

  • The relationship between Batman and (future police commissioner) Jim Gordon is obviously central to this new series, as it should be. One of the striking things about the comic book Batman (at least in the past two or more decades) has been his treatment as an honest-to-god vigilante, not an arm of the police force, and Gordon’s often uncomfortable alliance with the Dark Knight. Gary Oldman — for my money, the best film actor around today — plays Gordon perfectly. Every scene between him and Bale is spot-on.
  • This Batman is scary. He treats criminals badly. You can understand why they fear him. Hell, what’s scarier than hanging off a building by your feet, 200 feet above the street, while some kook in a bat mask yells into your face? Granted, the movie’s Scarecrow (played by Cillian Murphy) is scary, too. But Batman is really wet-your-pants scary.
  • This Batman is realistic. His “gadgets,” none of them too outrageous, were all developed by Wayne Enterprises for a U.S. military too bureaucratic to know what to do with them. Nolan shows us a “bat cave” that makes sense. The “batmobile” is a friggin’ high-velocity tank; what better means of transportation when you’re negotiating through a Gotham City that’s part New York, part Beirut? And sure, Batman is athletically fit and well trained, but he can’t scamper up walls without breaking a sweat. He grunts. He groans. When he slowly, achingly pulls himself up and over a ledge, you feel it.
  • Nolan is allowed to fully tell his story. This is a longer-than-usual “superhero” movie, well over two hours. All the pieces seem to be there, and several distinct story threads all weave together beautifully by the movie’s end. I can’t imagine that too much was left in the cutting room, although I’m sure there are lots of deleted scenes left for the DVD this next Christmas.

OK, I’ve said enough. Everybody’s gonna be talking about Batman Begins this weekend, so I won’t ramble further. Let me end with this wonderful summation of the film from one of my fellow online critics: “Basically, this movie rounds up the last four Batman movies, chain-whips them, and then kicks their balls into a sissy-forest.”


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Monday, June 13, 2005

Flag Day 2005

Hey, kids, tomorrow is Flag Day, the birthday of the flag of the United States. While everybody else is worshipping the Stars 'n Stripes, keep in mind what Murray Rothbard wrote several years ago:
"Everyone has the right to buy or weave and therefore own a piece of cloth in the shape and design of an American flag (or in any other design) and to do with it what he will: fly it, burn it, defile it, bury it, put it in the closet, wear it, etc. Flag laws are unjustifiable laws in the violation of the rights of private property."
Anyway, I'll be flying the Gadsden flag tomorrow. It's even older than the American flag and is much truer to the spirit of Jefferson and Paine. And it drives the neighbors bonkers.

The Empire Strikes Back...

Nah. It's just the Monday morning meeting of Maryland's transportation department...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Austrian School in a nutshell

The greatest resource on the Internet for market anarchists/education junkies is the Mises Institute’s website. Joseph Salerno hadn’t even finished the first day of his five-day, ten-lecture seminar at Auburn University this past week, and the site was already offering free, downloadable MP3 files from it. The entire seminar, The Austrian School of Economics: Revisionist History and Contemporary Theory, is now available.

Salerno, professor of economics at Pace University and editor of The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, discusses the French Liberal School, Menger, Böhm-Bawerk, Mises, Rothbard, monopoly price theory, Keynes and the “new economics” of fascism, the Chicago School’s failings, the gold standard, and everything in between. This seminar is more than two centuries of meaty free market theory and history stuffed into about 15 hours. I’ve only listened to the first two lectures so far, but I can attest it’s terrific.

You can find the free downloads right here.

Back in the USSR

Who says good ideas didn't come out of the old Soviet Union? Certainly not the transit authorities in Maryland, USA, who now display this poster in their rail stations. In case you can't read it, the message is: "Report any unusual activities or packages to the nearest conductor. Watch, Ride and Report."

Baltimore or Leningrad? Who can tell the difference? (Thanks to Gene Callahan.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

"Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal"

I was a 16-year-old Young Republican in summer 1970. "I believed in God and Senator Dodd and keepin' old Castro down," as Phil Ochs used to sing.

Then I bumped into a kid waving an enormous black flag outside a Young Americans for Freedom leadership conference in Glendale, California. He pressed into my hands a photocopy of Murray Rothbard's article "Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal," from Ramparts magazine. I read it right there on the front steps of that auditorium. And it shook my conservative political beliefs to their roots. Here's how Murray opened the essay:
"Twenty years ago I was an extreme right-wing Republican, a young and lone 'Neanderthal' (as the liberals used to call us) who believed, as one friend pungently put it, that 'Senator Taft had sold out to the socialists.' Today, I am most likely to be called an extreme leftist, since I favor immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, denounce U.S. imperialism, advocate Black Power and have just joined the new Peace and Freedom Party. And yet my basic political views have not changed by a single iota in these two decades!"
Within days, I was calling myself a libertarian. Within weeks, I was calling myself an anarchist.

I held onto that old Xerox for a decade, then lost it somewhere during a move. I've looked for another copy of "Confessions of a Right-Wing Liberal" for a quarter-century, with no luck. So my heart almost jumped out of my chest when I saw that the Mises Institute had reprinted it this morning on their website. Here it is.

How cool is that?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Is anarchism "feasible"?

On his blog yesterday, Tom Knapp offered one of the best responses I've ever heard to the frequent (and tiring) charge that anarchists "have not articulated a feasible alternative" to the State. In response to limited-government advocate Robert Bell, Tom writes:

"If the state had to pass the same test for 'feasibility' as anarchism, Bell would find it a failure as well. In case nobody's noticed, the state hasn't eliminated violations of rights -- or proven equitable in remedying them. It hasn't eliminated crime, it hasn't eliminated poverty, it hasn't eliminated inequality, it hasn't eliminated war, it hasn't eliminated violence, it hasn't eliminated any social problem, and in many cases it has exacerbated or even embodied those problems. So to object to anarchism on the basis that it can't wave some sort of magic black flag and make all the bad things go away does not constitute a reasonable argument in favor of the state. It's not like anarchists are asking people to give up something that's been successful in favor of something that hasn't been tested. The whole point of anarchism is that the state hasn't succeeded in addressing human problems and that it has often been the cause, or at least a cause, of those problems."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Laughing the Blues Away"

Posts Butler Shaffer this afternoon on the blog:
"A news story advises us that the Chinese government will hold a laughing contest in Hong Kong to help people deal with depression. Another bold, new program by the state to address human problems. That personal depression might be brought about by a system that dehumanizes people into a common pulp -- void of any individuality and autonomy -- will not figure into statist calculations, however. This competition could become quite energized by a general awareness of its innate absurdity."

Hillary: the pot calling the kettle...

Thanks to Brad Spangler for alerting me to this hypocritical nonsense from yesterday's New York Times, in a story by Patrick D. Healy:
"Senator Hillary Clinton castigated President Bush and Washington Republicans today as mad with power and bent on marginalizing Democrats during a speech to 1,000 supporters at her first major re-election fund-raiser, which netted about $250,000.

"Mrs. Clinton, who is running for a second term in 2006 and is widely described as a possible Democratic nominee for the presidency in 2008, said that her party is hamstrung because Republicans dissemble and smear without shame and the news media has lost its investigatory zeal for exposing misdeeds. ...

" 'There has never been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda,' Mrs. Clinton told the audience at a 'Women for Hillary' gathering in Midtown Manhattan this morning."
Meanwhile, Hillary and her cohorts push forward their "progressive" agenda to further micro-manage all of our lives.

Sure, Hillary, Bush and the Republicans suck. But so do you.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Let Brother Grim handle it

Today's Supreme Court ruling on state medical marijuana laws put me in a pissy mood this morning. So rather than spend my time here, I logged in at another semi-regular haunt of mine, Tom Novak's The Sudden Curve, to talk about Brother Grim. As modern fictional crimefighters go, Grim comes from the old pulp school of The Shadow, The Spider, and The Avenger. And he's as cool and deadly as they come...for a cadaver. I'd love to see Brother Grim take on some Washington despots.

You'll find my review of Brother Grim, by Ron Fortier, right here.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

RebelFire 1.0

Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman are doing something quite wonderful. They’re talking to kids. And what they’re talking about is freedom, determination, and self-reliance.

Out of the Gray Zone is the first in a projected series of “young adult” novels, a category of fiction dominated until now by adolescent warlocks, happy dragons, and high school girls angst-ridden over their latest crushes. You won’t find any of that crap in this initial RebelFire book. This is the story of teenaged Jeremy, whose rock ’n roll inspired dreams are being quashed by CentGov-sanctioned spycams, sensors, monitors, permits, and doses of dope — “all for his own good.” In the Gray Zone of America’s Pacific Northwest, even his favorite rock band, RebelFire, has been silenced and replaced by “a cheerful bleat of very bad march music” on the satellite link. Jeremy’s always lived under the control of CentGov and its Departments of Firearms Elimination, Drug Enforcement, Homeland Serenity, ad nauseum, but he’s become increasingly dissatisfied. And now that they’ve taken RebelFire away...

I confess that Out of the Gray Zone didn’t grab me right away. Hell, I’m a middle-aged guy, not a 16-year-old anymore. So Jeremy’s whining early on left me cold. I didn’t really care about his dream of becoming a “lightmaker” for RebelFire. But I know Claire Wolfe — and to a lesser extent, I know Aaron Zelman — and I patiently pushed on through the first 30 or so pages. I wasn’t let down. Once Jeremy launches an escape from the Gray Zone and begins hiking to Tacoma in search of RebelFire, things really take off. His adventures are exciting, sometimes shocking, often violent. The characters he meets will stir you. And if you don’t fall in love with Hero, the furry mutt who joins Jeremy along the way, you’ve got a heart made of steel wool. Shame on you.

This new RebelFire series is just what the Freedom Movement ordered. I can’t recall a libertarian novel as truly perfect for teenagers (yet entertaining for adults) since J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night, and that was 25 years ago. If you have a kid, or even know a kid, who enjoys reading, drop Out of the Gray Zone into their hands. It’s a terrific tale of despair, perseverance and, ultimately, hope. It may turn their heads around. And you’ll like it, too.

You can buy Out of the Gray Zone right here. The site even offers sample chapters to read.

(Final note: RebelFire 1.0: Out of the Gray Zone comes with a nifty CD that contains two distinct versions of the RebelFire anthem “Justice Day.” The first, by Rockne Van Meter, is classic rock and very good. The other, by Opium War, is labeled “heavy metal” but reminds me of X, the greatest punk band I ever heard or saw in the early ’80s. I can imagine John Doe and Exene cranking out this song on a tiny stage in West L.A. Chinga, it sounds good!)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Shut up and drink your latte

I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. A lot of time. An inordinate amount of time. And if for some reason I miss an afternoon visit, people start to worry. I love Starbucks. Sure, it's a corporate giant, but it's my corporate giant. And Starbucks does almost everything right.


On his blog this morning, Gene Healy mentions the one pet peeve I do have about Starbucks right now -- those damn "The Way I See It" comments that grace the side of each and every cup:
"I don't know why people complain about secondhand smoke (actually, I do: because they're wankers) when secondhand political opinions are far more annoying and damaging to my fragile serenity. Just when I discover a Starbucks drink I actually like (grande Cafe Americano with an extra shot), I discover that it's been given to me in a cup with a pious little harangue from Julian Bond, head of the NAACP."
This reminds me of something I heard years ago that I also fully agree with:

"If I don't care to hear your opinions, what makes you think I wanna hear anything from your t-shirt?"

Or your coffee cup?