Saturday, July 30, 2005

Keeping us safe from sex offenders

KUTV, the CBS television affiliate in Salt Lake City, reported yesterday that the Salt Lake City District Attorney charged an eight-year-old boy with an act of lewdness with a minor — his 14-year-old female babysitter. The sexual misconduct, it seems, occurred during a game of “truth or dare” initiated by the babysitter, who dared the boy to touch her breasts. Prosecutors said that while the babysitter made the first move toward contact, the boy was a “willing participant.”

The irony is that the boy had told his mother about the incident (“He just came right out as if nothing was awry,” she says), and she’d gone to the police and child protection workers. Shortly after, her son was charged with lewd conduct.

Prosecutors have since dropped the charges against the eight-year-old, but Salt Lake City residents can rest assured that the State remains vigilant for teeny-tiny sex offenders.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Radical Austrianism, Radical Libertarianism

Walter Block, who authored the still-controversial Defending the Undefendable 30 years ago, just wrapped up his weeklong seminar at the Mises Institute, “Radical Austrianism, Radical Libertarianism.” This seminar was podcast live all week and is now available as free MP3 downloads at (look in the Media section). Block offered a great (and very entertaining) overview of both Austrian economics and libertarianism (not the same thing, he stresses, despite what some people think). Subjects included free trade, the homesteading principle, minimum wage laws, environmentalism, abortion, reparations, and much more. Fer chrissakes, it’s FREE. Go hunt it up and listen!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Murray's "left turn"

They say that those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it. So all libertarians hoping for and working toward a Left-Right libertarian coalition should CLICK HERE RIGHT NOW and download a copy of “Rothbard’s Time on the Left,” by John Payne. This 18-page article, which appeared in the Winter 2005 Journal of Libertarian Studies, is the fullest account I’ve read of Murray Rothbard’s strategic alliance with the New Left in the 1960s. Writes Payne:

“[W]hy would the most free market of free-market economists reach out to a gaggle of assorted socialists? ... In the New Left, Rothbard found a group of scholars who opposed the Cold War and political centralization, and possessed a mass following with high growth potential. For this opportunity, Rothbard was willing to set economics somewhat to the side and settle on common ground...”

This is really an exhilarating, inspiring political tale. And although, after four or five years, Murray’s efforts ultimately failed, “a great many libertarians were culled and/or created from the ranks of SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] and unaffiliated Vietnam War protesters.

“Whatever else can be said, Rothbard never backed away from the truth as he saw it, even when it meant the destruction of a political bond he had worked so hard to build; the struggle for liberty always remained paramount.”

What can we learn from Murray’s story? Persistence, determination, and the wisdom in knowing when to cut your losses and shift your tactics.
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The psychologies of Left and Right

Ah, the valuable, long-lost gems I’m finding in the Libertarian Forum archive!

The latest is an article by Jerome Tuccille (he who wrote Radical Libertarianism and It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand). It’s titled “The Psychology of Opposites” and appears in the issue dated February 1, 1970. For those of us who enjoy debating what’s Left and what’s Right, Tuccille offered some interesting thoughts.

“On the rapidly changing American scene,” he wrote shortly before the U.S. broadened its Vietnam War into Cambodia and four Kent State students were killed by National Guard in Ohio, “the distinction between Left and Right is becoming more and more a question of personal psychology.”

At the time of this piece, Tuccille (who for years flip-flopped conservative to libertarian to conservative) obviously thought of himself as a man of the Left. He wrote:

“The New Left — the radicals, the revolutionaries, the students who are turning against their social democratic parents — are driven by outrage; they are obsessed with a mania for justice because other human beings are victimized by racism, because fellow human beings are imprisoned in rotting tenements riddled with filth and rats. They see the injustice that exists around them and they are incensed because they have the capacity to identify with the victims of an unyielding and thoroughly unresponsive superstructure, a system controlled and operated by insatiable racketeers and their political puppets who will never give up power until they are smashed out of existence.

“The Left bleeds for people.

“While the Right — even our anarchist friends recently separated from YAF — concern themselves with abstractions. They are more upset over the fact that their free market principles are not given a chance to operate than they are because fellow humans are trapped in overcrowded schools and ghettos. They seem to be incapable of empathizing with suffering individuals and dismiss all such concern as misguided altruism. Their notion of justice is one which involves only themselves, and they fail to see that they will never enjoy personal freedom until all men are free of injustice.”

Finally, in a “call to arms” that speaks as stirringly today as it did 35 years ago to those of us who seek a synthesis of all libertarian factions, whether Left or Right, Tuccille concluded:

“The philosophical division between free market anarchists and voluntary communists is growing less important in light of the current struggle to free the neighborhoods from outside control. The purist ideals of total communal sharing and a totally free market of individual traders are important in themselves as ideals, as logical ends of different though consistent processes of reasoning. But the most important factor in the rough-and-tumble struggle for survival, the war to secure the right of flesh-and-blood people to control their own affairs, is the psychology of comradeship. It is the ability to identify with the actual victims of injustice that cements the bond uniting revolutionaries on the Left, whether they call themselves anarcho-communists, free market anarchists, or just plain radicals.

“Terminology has ceased to be important. As we enter a period of overt repression it is this crucial psychological attitude toward our fellow human beings that will determine on which side of the political fence each one of us will stand.”

I think Karl Hess called this attitude “anarchism without hyphens.” What a concept!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rothbard/Hess: the mutualist perspective

Kevin Carson has spent a good amount of time examining the Mises Institute’s Libertarian Forum archive from a mutualist Left Libertarian perspective. He and others discuss their findings at The Uncapitalist Blog and Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anticapitalism. These posts are well worth your full study, but here’s a bit of what Kevin concludes:

So, it seems to me, we have (in the work of Rothbard and Hess in their leftish phase) the working basis for a revolutionary coalition of free market libertarians and libertarian socialists:

  • Syndicalist seizure of large enterprises (the Fortune 500 might be a useful proxy) by radical industrial unions.
  • The devolution of government services, as quickly as possible, to local, cooperative ownership.
  • The elimination of all corporate welfare and government subsidies, and the provision of roads and utilities on a cost-basis to those who use them (which would of course mean a radical decentralization of the economy, an end to suburban sprawl, and the growth of small-scale production for local markets).
  • The nullification of all property titles based on government grants of large tracts of land, never actually appropriated by the grantee’s direct occupancy and use; and the homesteading of all such unowned land on the basis of “the land to the tiller.”
  • The elimination of all patent laws, which enable large corporations to cartelize their industries by controlling modern production technology among themselves.
  • The treatment of scarce resources like aquifers, fisheries, mines, and old-growth forests as a socially-owned commons, with access regulated by the local community.
  • The replacement of environmental and other regulatory laws with cost-based fees for access to natural resources, and common law tort damages for pollution and other impositions of cost.
  • A totally free and unregulated market between the worker-controlled large enterprises, consumer and producer co-ops, social service mutuals, family farms and small businesses, and the self-employed.

The final goal would be a society in which (in Benjamin Tucker’s words) “the natural wage of labor in a free market is its product,” and all transactions — whether trade or gift — are voluntary exchanges of labor-product between producers.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Get a dose of SERENITY now!

Hey, Browncoats (you diehard fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly TV series)! If you absolutely can't wait for the September 30 theatrical release of Serenity, Whedon's continuation of the Firefly saga, here's some Big News. Now available exclusively at Best Buy as of this morning is the U.K. version of Battlestar Galactica: Season One (the U.S. version, with significantly more bonus content -- featurettes, commentaries, etc. -- will be released widely to all stores in two months). Included in this U.K. package is a bonus disc that features a 13-minute preview of Serenity. I understand the featurette is in full-frame only and doesn't include the theatrical trailer for the film that we Browncoats have all been swooning over. But what the heck. If you absolutely must have the Battlestar Galactica set right now and desire the Serenity bonus disc, you might want to go ahead and spring for this special package at Best Buy immediately. (Dunno how long it'll be available.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

THE TRAVELER: what's it worth?

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from "rooter," prompted by my book review of The Traveler on (and this blog) last week. It read simply:
"Subject book is full of weak sub-plots and improbabilities and not worth a $20 bill. You suckered me once!"
Naturally, I disagree with rooter's assessment of John Twelve Hawks' debut novel. But then, I only spent fourteen bucks on it at Costco. Maybe my expectations were six dollars lower...

Rothbard: the joyful curmudgeon

To fall back on a very old cliché, I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I’ve been paging through old issues of The Libertarian Forum off and on for the past 24 hours. (See yesterday’s post.) Even for someone like me, who was part of the Movement during those Forum years (1969-1984), the experience of skimming through these newsletters (in some cases, for the first time) is staggering. This archive from the Mises Institute is pure gold.

What’s particularly wonderful is that most of these issues feature so prominently the irrepressible humor of Murray Rothbard. When Murray was writing political commentary, or his “Old Curmudgeon” or “Mr. First-Nighter” columns, he was a hoot. Here’s a brief bit from a later issue of Libertarian Forum, dated February 1983:

Four Ways to Insure a Very Short Phone Conversation


“Dr. Rothbard?”


“Dr. Murray Rothbard?”


“I’m a libertarian from -------. Do you have time for some constructive criticism?”


“Dr. Rothbard?”


“There’s an inner contradiction on page 856 of your Man, Economy, and State, and I quote...”


“Dr. Rothbard?”


“Dr. Murray Rothbard?”


“We’re calling from this bar in -------. We saw your name on this neat poster. Are you really the ‘greatest living enemy of coercive government’? Hey, that’s great, hey, where do you stand on rent control?”

“I’m against it.”

“You’re against rent control? You must be some kind of nut...”


Murray Rothbard?”


“Why did you write that pack of lies about me in your last issue?”

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A history of modern libertarianism

Want to pursue a (relatively) quick and engrossing study of the modern libertarian movement? Just browse through old issues of The Libertarian Forum, a newsletter edited and (in large part) written by Murray N. Rothbard between 1969 and 1984.

’s Forum reported in “real time” the libertarian break with the conservative Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) in 1969. It presented month-by-month Murray’s flirtation with the New Left and his efforts (and eventual failure), between 1969 and 1971, to build a Left-Right anti-state/anti-war coalition. Shortly after his break with Goldwater Republicans and his union with the New Left, the great Karl Hess wrote some wonderful and highly radical columns for LF in its first two years of publication; Karl’s gradual split with Murray over style and strategy is quietly documented in these early issues. Many philosophical and tactical arguments were fought and documented in the pages of The Libertarian Forum. For example, early battles about launching a "Libertarian Party" vs. non-political libertarian action took place in the Forum. Besides Rothbard and Hess, other celebrated contributors to LF included Leonard Liggio, Jerome Tuccille, Roy Childs, Butler Shaffer, and Walter Block.

During my passage from Young Republican to radical libertarian, beginning in Summer 1970, The Libertarian Forum was my primary lifeline to the movement and a vital educational resource. I stopped subscribing to LF in the mid-’70s, but kept a box of back issues for years until it was lost during one of my moves around the L.A. area. A decade ago, through, I bought a bound volume of issues dated March 1969 to April 1971, which I’ve cherished. But any issues beyond that, including many I’d never seen at all, seemed forever out of reach.

Until now.

Once again, it’s the Mises Institute to the rescue. Buoyed by a generous donation from Walter Block, now offers a near-complete, 1969-1984, downloadable PDF archive of The Libertarian Forum. And, like their online archive of the classic libertarian journal Left and Right, this resource is absolutely free.

I’m in heaven. A longtime dream has become reality. Tons of long-out-of-print Rothbard writings are now available for us to pursue. The entire glorious goddamn history of This Movement of Ours is now at our fingertips! This latest gift from the Mises Institute to radical Rothbardians may be the most valuable treasure we’ll see in another decade or more.
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Friday, July 22, 2005

Shameless plug

"Living 'Off the Grid' With The Traveler" -- my review of John Twelve Hawks' new libertarian-leaning thriller -- appears today on It's an expanded and improved version of the post I wrote about the book a few days ago.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

An open letter to socialists

In his seminal libertarian essay “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty” (see this blog’s Essential Agitprop sidebar), Murray Rothbard defined socialists as those who use conservative (i.e., statist) means to achieve liberal ends. Belgian liberal Gustave de Molinari recognized that truth in an 1848 open letter to socialists, “Utopia of Liberty,” where he encouraged them to shrug off autocratic programs in their efforts to improve the working class’s condition.

Roderick T. Long has provided a tremendous service by translating that essay into English for the very first time. You can find Molinari’s entire essay at the link above, and I urge you to read it, but here’s a sample for the time being:

“Why do you refuse to follow the path of liberty alongside us? Because, you say, this liberty which we so extol is fatal to the labourers; because it has thus far produced only the oppression of the weak by the strong; because it has given birth to disastrous crises in which millions of men have lost in some cases their fortunes and in other cases their lives; because liberty unbridled, unregulated, unlimited — is anarchy!

“Is this not the reason that you reject liberty? Is this not the reason that you demand the organisation of labour?

“Well then, if we prove to you with sufficient clarity that all the evils which you attribute to liberty — or, to make use of an absolutely equivalent expression, to free competition — have their origin not in liberty but in the absence of liberty, in monopoly, in servitude; if we further prove to you that a society of perfect freedom, a society disencumbered of every restriction, of every fetter, such as has never been seen in history, would be exempted from the greatest part of the miseries of the present régime; if we prove to you that the organisation of such a society would be the best, the most just, the most favourable to advancement in the production and equality in the distribution of wealth; if we should prove all this, I ask, what would be your response? Would you continue to proscribe the freedom of labour and to inveigh against political economy, or would you, rather, rally openly to our banner, and employ all the precious fund of intellectual and moral forces with which nature has endowed you, to speed the triumph of our henceforth common cause, the cause of liberty?”

What follows are Molinari’s proofs for his argument. Then this:

“You will doubtless object that humanity still suffers! Most assuredly. But, and I insist on keeping this fact before your gaze, it suffered before the arrival of liberty upon the earth, and its sufferings then were harsher and more intense than they are today.”

Wonderful. Thanks again, Roderick!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Too much government = anarchy?

Butler Shaffer reported this today on the blog:

“According to a report from the organization Iraq Body Count, an average of 34 civilians per day have been killed since the American invasion of that country began. The report goes on to warn of the ‘anarchy’ arising in Iraq.

“I have never understood how the consequences of an abundance of government can be equated with ‘anarchy.’ The Iraqi people are suffering under the presence — not the absence — of numerous governments, including the United States, Great Britain, and the puppet ‘Iraq’ government itself. Furthermore, there have been some twenty-five non-United States governments participating as ‘coalition forces’ against the Iraqis. The butchery that continues in Iraq is the product of the state, not of free men and women pursuing their respective self-interests.

“What is occurring in Iraq is what was also taking place in Lebanon — where the specter of ‘anarchy’ was also raised — namely, a multitude of political systems or groups competing with one another to become the recognized monopolist on the use of violence in that country. The bloody process by which governments subdue a population is ‘anarchy’? Does such twisted thinking not explain the destructive nature of our world?”

Butler’s post reminds me of the time my friend Zack told a co-worker that he considered himself an anarchist. She was horrified that he associated with “neo-Nazi skinheads.”

I think Noam Chomsky probably said it first: those who control the language control the dialogue. The State and its lapdogs have controlled the language long enough. It's time we took it back.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005


2005 seems to be the Year of the Freedom Novel. While not as explicitly libertarian as Vin Suprynowicz’s powerful The Black Arrow, nor as well written as RebelFire 1.0: Out of the Gray Zone by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman, John Twelve Hawks’ debut novel, The Traveler, is a dandy addition to the growing catalog of liberty fiction.

In quick summary, The Traveler takes place in a post-9/11 future (maybe 15 minutes from now) where there is “the appearance of freedom with the reality of control.” Every person’s actions are tracked by the Vast Machine, a web of computerized info systems accessed constantly by government, large corporations, and even “benign” nonprofits like the Evergreen Foundation, a front for forces interested in world domination. Generally, people surrender to (or choose to ignore) this 24/7 monitoring of their lives in exchange for “safety” from terrorism and crime. But some choose to live “off the Grid,” away from the prying eyes of the Vast Machine. Upon this backdrop is played a “secret history,” a centuries-old battle between those who want to control history (the Tabula, or Brethren) and those who aspire to freedom (the Travelers and their warrior-guards, the Harlequins). As one character in the novel reveals, “The facts you know are mostly an illusion. The real struggle of history is going on beneath the surface.”

The Traveler has an aggressive marketing campaign behind it. I first read about the book in a splashy USA Today article a couple of weeks ago, then checked out its official website, and later came across a big display for it at Borders. Doubleday PR hacks are promoting its author as an “off the Grid” celebrity; John Twelve Hawks is a pseudonym, and the writer talks to his editors only via a satellite phone or through the Internet. I also hear the book’s been optioned by a movie studio already.

All of this hype may deter you from reading the novel, or from pursuing the two sequels already planned. Don’t let that happen. With its effective warnings about the Security State and its hard-line advocacy of liberty, The Traveler deserves to be a bestseller. Buy a copy for yourself, and then buy copies for your friends. This is the closest we’ve been in a long time to seeing a libertarian-leaning novel break into the mainstream.
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Focusing on anti-militarism

In recent posts about moving toward a “new left-libertarian synthesis” (agorist, georgist, and mutualist), both Freeman and Upaya agree (correctly, I think) that anti-militarism should be front and center in left-libertarian action and alliance-building. As Freeman writes:

“There is no question that war is the health of the state, and some of the most atrocious acts churned out by the federal government in recent years (like PATRIOT and Real ID) are essentially linked to US militarism in one way or another. The fact that reading the opinions of anti-war libertarians is what helped to pull me away from statist leftie thought and towards libertarianism also goes to show how important this issue is to me.”

I’m astonished that this core tenet of libertarianism has to be restated again and again. But I suppose it is necessary, especially at a time when both the Cato Institute and Libertarian Party have in large part backed the State’s global “war on terrorism.” (See my post from last month, “Are Cato and the LP ‘warmongers’?”)

It always pays for us Libertarian Leftists to return occasionally to The Plumb Line, our granddaddy Murray N. Rothbard. To Murray, the war issue was the focus of his libertarian activism.

From his keynote speech at the Mises Institute’s “Costs of War” conference in 1994:

“During my lifetime, my ideological and political activism has been focused on opposition to America’s wars, first because I have believed our waging them to be unjust, and, second, because war, in the penetrating phrase of the libertarian Randolph Bourne in World War I, has always been ‘the health of the state,’ an instrument of the aggrandizement of state power over the health, the lives, and the property of their subject citizens and social institutions.”

And dipping back further, this from “War, Peace, and the State” (1963):

“The great Randolph Bourne realized that ‘war is the health of the State.’ It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society. Society becomes a herd, seeking to kill its alleged enemies, rooting out and suppressing all dissent from the official war effort, happily betraying truth for the supposed public interest. Society becomes an armed camp, with the values and the morale — as Albert Jay Nock once phrased it — of an ‘army on the march.’ ”

And, finally, here’s a bit of libertarian strategy from the December 1969 issue of Murray’s Libertarian Forum newsletter:

“Too many libertarians make various ‘domestic’ questions: the census, taxation, neighborhood control, the central cutting edge of their anti-state concerns. As vitally important as these issues are, they pale into insignificance beside the vital importance of the war and its creator, American imperialism. It is war, losing, perpetual, stalemated war, that will ultimately bring down the American Leviathan.”

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Attention, wannabe Browncoats!

My pal Warren Bluhm has joined the Browncoats, that band of fans dedicated to Joss Whedon's all-too-brief 2002 TV series Firefly. After much prodding by myself and others to watch the DVDs, he finally did so and is now punchdrunk in love with the show.

Now Warren's reminding me to mention that SciFi Channel begins airing the complete 15-episode run of Firefly on Friday, July 22, at 7:00 pm ET/PT.

If you haven't seen the series yet -- and are in the least bit curious why a quickly cancelled TV show has built such a broad "cult" following and is even returning this fall as a full-blown theatrical movie (Serenity) -- here's your chance to catch up. And you can do so without having to either buy or rent the DVDs!
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Defending conspiracy "crackpots"

A few days ago, prompted by last week’s bombings in London and subsequent speculations, Sunni Maravillosa and then James Leroy Wilson launched into discussions of conspiracy theories on their blogs. What makes conspiracies plausible...or implausible? they asked. I recommend both of their posts.

Of course, today’s “conspiracy theory” is very often tomorrow’s historical fact. Two decades ago, if you’d suggested that FDR had prior knowledge of Japan’s plans to bomb Pearl Harbor, most people would have stuck a tinfoil hat on your head. Today, that bit of “crackpot theory” is treated as common knowledge on the History Channel. The Watergate scandals, which dethroned Nixon 30 years ago, were a network of conspiracies. The Third Reich’s Final Solution was a “conspiracy.” (Can you imagine politicians and media pundits, so quick to marginalize revisionist historians as “conspiracy buffs,” using the term “Holocaust buffs” to describe investigators of Hitler’s atrocities?)

One of the best defenses I’ve ever read of conspiracy theorists came from Michael Parenti, a left-wing political analyst, who wrote in his book Dirty Truths:

“Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: ‘Do you actually think there’s a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?’ For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together — on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot — though they call it ‘planning’ and ‘strategizing’ — and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. ...

“Yet there are individuals who ask with patronizing, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond, why would they not?”

I suggest that anyone who offhandedly dismisses conspiracy theories read:

Rick Wall’s “Conspiracy — Fact or Fiction?” series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Butler Shaffer’s “Will the Real Paranoids Please Raise Their Hands?”

Murray Rothbard’s “The Noble Task of Revisionism”

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Confessions of an unbelted driver

On April 18, I was stopped and ticketed by a California Highway Patrol officer for not wearing a seatbelt.

On June 7, on the same stretch of highway, I was stopped and ticketed again by a CHP officer for failure to wear a seatbelt.

That may be a record — two seatbelt tickets in seven weeks — especially since, prior to this, I’d driven 35 years without wearing a seatbelt and without citation for having refused to do so.

Shortly after my second ticket, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ended its annual “Click It or Ticket” seatbelt campaign. Through that program, states get federal subsidies for ticketing drivers if they or their passengers aren’t properly belted into their vehicles. (Some states now equip state troopers with night vision goggles like the military uses in Iraq. That way, they can nab dangerous unbelted drivers under the cloak of darkness.)

I received very little sympathy from friends about my two seatbelt tickets. In fact, they wagged their fingers at me paternalistically. They didn’t give a damn about my freedom to take personal risks and drive without a seatbelt. Rather, they spouted the same argument you hear over and over in favor of repressive helmet laws: “If you don’t wear your seatbelt and you end up debilitated from a car accident, society will end up paying to take care of you!” Well, as columnist Walter Williams wrote not long ago, that’s not a problem of liberty and self-ownership; it’s a problem of socialism.

My harassment by the CHP seems to have stopped for the time being with the end of the seatbelt campaign. Of course, to avoid paying further fines that double with each subsequent citation, I do watch the roads more carefully and even “buckle up” occasionally like a Good Little Citizen, at least while driving along a certain stretch of Hwy 1.

Looks like my libertarian principles are worth about $200 in seatbelt tickets.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Democracy: Succubus of the State

Now that U.S. military intervention has “brought democracy to Iraq” (see this blog by “an Iraqi who is excited about a new democratic Iraq), maybe it’s time for radical libertarians to finally disassociate themselves from democracy (and the Libertarian Party that defends it) once and for all.

The late Edward Abbey once said, “The best cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.” I guess even Abbey, who sits in my pantheon of extraordinary writers and anarchists, talked out of his ass occasionally.

The best cure for the ills of democracy is no democracy, no matter what Ed Abbey or even LP hacks tell you.

The first balls-out libertarian annihilation of the democracy myth I remember came from Samuel Edward Konkin III, long before Hoppe’s great Democracy: The God That Failed. In a piece titled “Democracy: Succubus of the State” (New Libertarian, April-June 1980), Sam wrote that the problem with partyarchs (political, voting libertarians) was their false assertion that democracy is “partially free” and a stepping-stone from greater statism to lesser statism (i.e., lesser freedom to greater freedom). Nothing, Sam said, was further from the truth:

“Regardless of any arguments that a change to democracy increases (or decreases) freedom, the State remains. Thus, the question of who gains (cui bono) by increasing democracy is a question of what statists gain? The small shifts in liberty for the oppressed, productive class are incidental. Of course, the productive class may perceive an illusory gain of freedom by supporting one set of rulers (more democratic) over a second set — and that letting the democratic statists expand liberty is less costly than revolting. ...

“Every increase of suffrage was followed by an extension of State power — not a decline. Most often, the greatest State oppression of all was unleashed: war. Women’s suffrage arose from the need to co-opt women in the service of the State in World War I. Black ‘civil rights’ were expanded as Black Americans became disproportionately numerous in the Imperial forces in Viet Nam; the voting age was lowered then as well. ...

The prime reason for granting of democracy by the State is to maintain the State. As every libertarian knows, to maintain the State is to suppress liberty. ...

“The enemy is within as well as without. Our enemy, the Party. Our enemy, Democracy. Our Enemy, The State.

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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Lovin' the FF

B.K. Marcus has begun referring to me as “Mr. First-Weekender” when it comes to movie releases. And yes, especially during summer, I do tend to check out the Big Releases quickly.

So B.K.'s already asking me what I thought of Fantastic Four, the latest movie adaptation of a Marvel comic book, which opened this weekend.

Well, it ain’t the X-Men or Spider-Man franchises. But it’s awfully good. The tone is spot-on, right down to the comedic bickering between Ben Grimm (aka the Thing) and Johnny Storm (aka the Human Torch). The public’s adoration of the FF comes right out of the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby playbook. And despite the considerable tinkering they did with Dr. Doom (one of the greatest comic book villains of all time), the film’s nod to his Latverian roots brought an appreciative smile to my face (fans of the comic will know what I’m talking about). I think the special effects are top-notch, and the cast looks like the friggin' Fantastic Four. (Jessica Alba looks particularly stunning in spandex.) I’m satisfied, and I recommend Fantastic Four to most anyone, especially those who enjoyed the old Lee-Kirby days.
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Selling liberty

James Leroy Wilson brainstormed on his blog last Thursday about methods of freeing yourself...and the country. His entire post is valuable and worth contemplating — even the stuff about political involvement — but his advice to libertarian bloggers is particularly good (and good for non-blogging libs, too):

“Give up on the idea of ‘persuasion.’ Gary North has a rule — I’m not sure where he got it or if it’s true, but it sounds accurate. If what you have to offer is any good, 20% will actually listen to you, and even like what you say. But only 20% of that, or 4% of the whole, will follow through. There is no ‘art’ in persuasion, especially in persuasion to the libertarian philosophy. Just tell the truth as you see it, or link to others with whom you agree.

“Don’t be discouraged, and don’t waste time on arguing with people. The real blessing of the libertarian philosophy is the moral and psychological benefit of how you treat others and how you view yourself. Freedom is really a state of mind, more than a political condition. Be happy that minds are opened, and that some minds are changed, don’t remain bitter, angry, and frustrated because great masses don’t listen. Read ‘Isaiah’s Job’ [by Albert Jay Nock]. Other people’s problems and character defects are not yours, and you — and no one else, let alone great masses of people — are responsible for your own happiness.”

Gary North’s “rule,” by the way, is an old rule of sales and marketing. And being an excellent direct marketer himself, Gary knows the rule better than most. If you “cast a wide net” to bring in buyers (converts) to your product (libertarianism), you can expect, at best, a 2-4% return. Focus on a smaller, niche market, and your numbers go up...sometimes WAY up.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Dispatch from London

Being a Sherlockian (i.e., student of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories), I subscribe to the Hounds of the Internet e-list. And, quite naturally, quite a few of the list's subscribers live in London. This morning, while American media shake the story of yesterday's bombings like a neocon with a new war toy, this email arrived via the Hounds list:
"London is calm and sober this morning, with an air of determined normality. The police issued a warning this morning that the 'cell' responsible for the bombing may be planning similar attacks in London or elsewhere, so there is an air of watchfulness. But, generally, life goes on as normal, with most of the buses, trains and even some tubes running. Commuter numbers are down only about 5%.

"My wife walked up Baker St last night on her way to Marylebone railway station and said that the crowds of walkers had a real sense of friendly community and shared purpose. Thus from evil comes forth good."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Brits to terrorists: "Bugger off!"

Andrew Sullivan offers some remarkable British responses to this morning’s bombings in London. First this, from a British blogger named Tim Worstall:

“I have a prediction to make, that tomorrow we’ll find out whether Britons are, still, in fact, Britons. Many years ago I was working in The City and there were two events that made travel into work almost impossible.

“The first was a series of storms that brought down power lines, blocked train routes and so on. Not surprisingly, the place was empty the next day. Why bother to struggle through?

“The other event was an IRA bomb which caused massive damage and loss of life. Trains were disrupted, travel to work the next day was horribly difficult and yet there were more people at work than on a normal day. There was no co-ordination to this, no instructions went out, but it appeared that people were crawling off their sick beds in order to be there at work the next day, thrusting their mewling and pewling infants into the arms of anyone at all so that they could be there.

“Yes, we’ll take an excuse for a day off, throw a sickie. But you threaten us, try to kill us? Kill and injure some of us?

“Fuck you, sunshine.

“We’ll not be having that.

“No grand demonstrations, few warlike chants, a desire for revenge, of course, but the reaction of the average man and woman in the street? Yes, you’ve tried it now bugger off. We’re not scared, no, you won’t change us. Even if we are scared, you can still bugger off.”

And this, from one of Andrew Sullivan’s emailers:

“I’m in London today...was on my way to Covent Garden from Paddington when they closed down the tube. I’m an ex-pat Brit (18 years in New York) who was in the Big Apple for the World Trade Center attacks.

“I’ve been alternating between home and down the pub since lunchtime, and in my local the BBC news coverage is on one channel, while the cricket is on another...England well on the way to beating the Aussies in a one-day match. Coming from America, where sports commentators felt compelled to litter their coverage of the most meaningless event with pious platitudes and references to the attacks, it’s quite remarkable...every now and again Sky Sports runs a very subtle trailer on the screen advising people that there has been an attack and they can watch the coverage of Sky News, but the commentators have made almost no reference to the bombings.

“No one has suggested that we stop playing cricket because of events in London. No one has said, ‘Of course this game fades into insignificance compared to events in the real world.’ Nor has anyone offered up the inane idea that if we stop playing cricket the terrorists will have won. The idea of stopping the game appears not to have occurred to anyone, which I think is wonderful and yet another example of the British stoicism of which you write. It makes me realize how much I’ve missed London.”

Quite a contrast to how Americans and their media “carry on” in response to crisis.

Sampling Phil Ochs

Sunni asks if there's any way I can share a Phil Ochs tune or two. I'm not computer literate enough to do so. But does offer some samples of Ochs songs on those pages dedicated to his music.

Of the antiwar songs, you can find samples of "I Ain't Marching Anymore," "Draft Dodger Rag," "Power and the Glory," and "What Are You Fighting For?" on The Early Years. Samples of "The War is Over" and "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land" are on Cross My Heart: An Introduction to Phil Ochs.
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"I ain't marching anymore"

Libertarian Critter highlighted a couple of his favorite antiwar songs on his blog yesterday — an Afrobeat number called “Indictment” by Brooklyn-based Antibalas and Bob Dylan’s classic “Masters of War.” Dylan I know very well. Antibalas I’ll have to check out.

Anyway, the Critter’s comments got me searching through my CDs again for Phil Ochs. Every time some president starts rattling sabers, I listen to Ochs. Two years ago, for the first few months of the war in Iraq, I had Ochs on my car’s CD-changer constantly. Then he was gradually replaced by some Miles Davis, some Doors, and a little Elvis Costello. This morning, though, I’m slipping Ochs’ There But for Fortune and Rehearsals for Retirement into the changer.

It’s hard to beat Dylan for protest music, especially antiwar music, but I think Phil Ochs did. Ochs was Dylan’s contemporary. I understand he always wanted to be Bob Dylan. Lucky for us, he was Phil Ochs instead.

I caught onto Ochs in high school, way back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He’d already been writing and singing for years. His stuff is still poignant...and relevant. Here’s his classic “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” still dead-on:

“For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning
I knew that I was learning
That I ain’t marchin’ anymore

“The labor leader’s screamin’ when they close the missile plant
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore
Call it ‘peace’ or call it ‘treason’
Call it ‘love’ or call it ‘reason’
But I ain’t marchin’ anymore”

Now, listen to “The War is Over”:

“I declare the war is over
It’s over, it’s over

“So do your duty, boys, and join with pride
Serve your country in her suicide
Find the flags so you can wave goodbye
But just before the end even treason might be worth a try
This country is too young to die”

I finally saw Phil Ochs perform live in Summer 1975, at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in L.A. He was so drunk, he could barely perform three or four songs before leaving the stage. A few months later, at age 35, Ochs was dead...a suicide.

But in my house, Phil Ochs lives forever.

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Monday, July 04, 2005

Thinking about Independence Day

On this Independence Day 2005, “Jorge” at Sunni Maravillosa’s blog talks about why most Americans are ignorant of the nation’s history:

“...the rulers do not want Americans to know history. They do not want ‘good citizens,’ they want sheople. They want the equivalent of children. Knowing history, especially American history, if you are a citizen of the United States, means knowing that your country is unique. It means knowing that your country is the only nation on Earth founded on an idea. It means knowing what the idea was.”

At, Anthony Gregory likewise has big thoughts on this Fourth of July:

“Amidst all the collectivist economic disasters, the bloodshed and the attacks on the Bill of Rights, there is reason to hope. Like the founding generation of this country, most Americans now see themselves as independent from the State. Perhaps this Fourth of July is no reason to celebrate too excitedly. But we need not despair altogether. Today’s disaffection with the State may indeed become tomorrow’s contagion of liberty. Some time down the line, five, ten or fifteen years from now, if not as early as a year or two from now, we just might have true cause to celebrate our Independence Day with as much exuberance as the day, marking the greatest revolution in history, deserves.”

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Got "Common Sense"?

My pal Warren says he was inspired recently (by something on this blog, in fact) to read for the first time (and in one sitting!) Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. His reaction: Whoa!

Gotta confess: I’d been calling myself a “libertarian” for almost two decades before I finally sat down, read, and was blown away by Common Sense. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve never missed an Independence Day without dipping into Paine again.

Common Sense is powerful stuff. Written in a plainspoken, remarkably modern style, it’s probably the most passionate, exhilarating, and dazzling piece of agitprop in American history: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” Until the publication of Common Sense in January 1776, many American colonists may have been sold on the ideas of Locke and Sidney, but they were still “more disposed to suffer, while evils [were] sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they [were] accustomed.” (Thanks, Mr. Jefferson.) Paine’s “how-to” was sketchy at best, but he was phenomenal at building a vision for victory...and Common Sense set Americans aflame. Within seven months, American independence was an idea whose time had come.

Three years ago, in a piece for, I suggested people read Common Sense in preparation for the Fourth of July. I was quickly attacked by a reader for promoting Paine, “the father of American socialism.” Sure, I answered, Paine had, almost 20 years after Common Sense, written about old age pensions, “universal” taxation, and relief for the poor to correct abuses of the British monarchy. But in the same essay in which he made those suggestions (Rights of Man, Part II), he also wrote this stirring bit of libertarianism:

“A great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It had its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landowner, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid of which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government.”
So I stood my ground on Thomas Paine, and I still do. He’s one of the Good Guys (despite some muddy thinking here and there). He’s indispensable. And I urge everyone to read Common Sense, especially during this long July 4 weekend.

Hell, the abominable Theodore Roosevelt once dismissed Paine as a “filthy little atheist.” That alone should recommend the careful study of Thomas Paine.

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