Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Catch an early flight aboard Serenity

Gee, I'm a big comic book fan -- and an equally big fan of Joss Whedon's cult TV series Firefly (as anyone who's visited this blog more than twice ought to know by now). But until this afternoon, I hadn't heard anything about the three-issue Serenity miniseries now being published by Dark Horse Comics. The first issue was released and sold out about four weeks ago, but I was able to score a "second edition" of it plus the just-released second issue today. The third and final issue should be in comic shops in the next week or two, just prior to the nationwide release of Serenity, the highly anticipated Firefly spin-off movie, on September 30.

Anyway, this comic book series is written by Joss Whedon himself (with assistance from Brett Matthews) and illustrated by Will Conrad. And it's not an adaptation of the upcoming film, even though it shares the movie's title. Rather, it's a brand new Firefly story that bridges the TV series to the movie, so hardcore Browncoats won't want to miss this.

For you collectors/completists: each issue of this series features three distinct covers, one for each member of the Serenity crew and each drawn by a different artist.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In defense of revolutionaries

James Leroy Wilson’s Independent Country has become one of my first blog stops each morning. His posts are always contemplative, always thought-provoking. Yesterday, to clarify his affiliation with the Libertarian Left, he distinguished radicals from revolutionaries. Since the Left “is often portrayed as revolutionary,” he wrote, “I should point out that I consider my ideology radical, but not revolutionary.”

I recommend that all thoughtful Libertarian Leftists reflect on James’ nine points of difference between radicals and revolutionaries. I can’t argue with his reasoning. But I do quibble with his seeming dismissal of the term revolutionary. Wilson’s “revolutionary” is what Rose Wilder Lane called an “Old World revolutionist” more than 60 years ago in her classic The Discovery of Freedom. Lane wrote:

“From Nebuchadnezzar to Hitler, history is one long record of revolts against certain living rulers, and revolts against kinds of living Authority.

“When these revolts succeed, they are called revolutions. But they are revolutions only in the sense that a wheel’s turning is a revolution. An Old World revolution is only a movement around a motionless center; it never breaks out of the circle. Firm in the center is belief in Authority. No more than a Communist or the National Socialist (Nazi) today, has any Old World revolutionist ever questioned that belief; they all take it for granted that some Authority controls individuals.”

But Lane also recognized True Revolutionaries who operate beyond the false revolutions of Old World power-seekers. These revolutionaries, rather than repeatedly replacing one despot with another, seek true human freedom freedom that does “break out of the circle.” These revolutionaries do question the Old World belief in Authority over individuals.

The great Bob LeFevre expanded on Lane's ideas of revolution some two decades later. And as Karl Hess wrote in The Libertarian Forum (Vol. I, No. VI, June 15, 1969):

“Libertarianism is clearly the most, perhaps the only truly radical movement in America. It grasps the problems of society by the roots. It is not reformist in any sense. It is revolutionary in every sense.”

For that reason, I consider my ideology both radical and revolutionary.

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On "stealing" political labels

All of our recent talk about political labeling here in the Libertarian Left blogosphere has been polite and very well-mannered, even with a few philosophical and tactical differences. But I’m reminded of some not-so-civil conversation I incited online a couple of years ago. I’d written an article for about building a Left coalition between “market anarchists” and “socialist anarchists.” (In the sidebar, you can find links to that article and its sequel in the STR archive under “More Conger Polemics.”) Someone later posted my piece on, a socialist anarchist website, where it elicited 47 pages of online give-and-take, most of it from livid leftists. One of my favorite angry posts characterized radical Rothbardians like myself this way:

“… their desire is to co-opt and rip off any useful ideas or tactics anarchists or the left might have. They are not friends, they are enemies. They are trying to steal our labels: libertarian, anarchist, leftist, anti-state. They are scum.”
Granted, we market anarchists often whine that social democrats long ago hijacked the Left from us, and corresponding labels like liberal and progressive. But imagine anti-property anarchists bitching about “label theft.”

Monday, August 29, 2005

Defining Left Libertarianism

The blogosphere has produced some wonderful discussion during the past few days about what’s Left and what’s Right in the libertarian cosmos. B.W. Richardson wonders, for example, if we all might be ambidextrous. “What is ‘left’ and what is ‘right’ seem to vary with the seasons,” he writes. “Maybe we’re all ambidextrous in the end. The real eternal theme seems the individual versus the state. I’ll trust the person next to me as opposed to the amorphous bureaucracy every time.” B.W.'s post is terrific, and I recommend you check it out.

Meanwhile, Roderick T. Long, editor of The Journal of Libertarian Studies, answers the question of why he calls himself a Left Libertarian (go directly to his post for the many links):

“First, on many of the issues over which mainstream libertarians are divided, I end up on what would generally be perceived as the ‘left’ side of the issue: anarchist, anti-militarist, anti-intellectual-property, anti-punishment (so a fortiori anti-death-penalty), anti-big-business, pro-immigration, pro-abortion, pro-secularism, pro-gay-rights, etc.

“But beyond that, I share a lot of ‘left-ish’ cultural concerns that are usually not thought of nowadays as libertarian issues (though historically they were), such as a concern for worker empowerment and an opposition to male supremacy.

“Plus, I think race and gender are largely social constructs; I recognise the existence of non-state forms of oppression (though I don’t advocate statism as the solution); I favour a Sciabarra-style ‘dialectical’ methodology; I’ve had some kind words for multiculturalism, postmodernism, political correctness, environmentalism, and collective ownership; and I regard libertarianism as properly rooted in egalitarianism.

“Yet for all that I’m probably a 90% orthodox Rothbardian, both about rights theory and about economics. (Indeed I sometimes call myself a ‘left-Rothbardian,’ though not specifically in Sam Konkin’s sense of that phrase.) While I draw a lot of inspiration from so-called ‘voluntary socialists’ like Benjamin Tucker, I’m not at all attracted to Tuckerite limitations on private land ownership (let alone Georgist ones); I don’t seek the elimination of wage labour (though I’d like to see more worker cooperatives available as a competitive alternative); I don’t accept animal rights (though I do think we have serious moral obligations to animals); and I have no patience with the philosophic relativism and/or materialism one sometimes finds among the academic left.”

In response to Long, James Leroy Wilson adds some points to his perception of the Libertarian Left:

“If the struggle really is defined as ‘liberty vs. equality,’ then I would always favor liberty and fall to the Right for that. But debating that is akin to debating ‘slavery vs. hierarchy.’

Liberty and equality are on the same side — the left side. They are both against legally-enforced and –protected hierarchy. Liberty vs. coercion, equality vs. hierarchy — either way it’s phrased, it’s the same battle. Equal liberty is the only real form of liberty, and the only desirable form of equality.”

I love all this philosophic talk about political labeling. I really do. But my reasons for counting myself a Libertarian Leftist seem much simpler.

I am “Left” because I agree with Karl Hess’s designations of Left and Right, which expanded on Murray Rothbard’s definitions from the 1960s.

I am “Left” because I believe that historically the “Left” first referred to our classical liberal forebears, that it has most often meant “anti-establishment” and “opposition.”

I am “Left” because my political ancestors included H.L. Mencken, Albert Jay Nock, John T. Flynn, Randolph Bourne, and George Orwell, all Men of the Left. I am “Left” because more contemporary Men of the Left have included the likes of Paul Goodman, Edward Abbey, Wendell Berry, and Alexander Cockburn.

And finally, I am “Left” because George W. Bush, William F. Buckley, Jr., Charles Krauthammer, Rush Limbaugh, Robert Novak, and Sean Hannity are Men of the Right.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Click It or DIE!

I got a wee bit of shit when I revealed here a few weeks ago that I'd been ticketed twice for seatbelt violations in a recent seven-week period. Some folks were sympathetic to my libertarian principles but still questioned the risk I take by refusing to "buckle up."

Well, the risk of not wearing a seatbelt, it seems, is even deadlier than my well-meaning friends -- or I -- ever imagined.

Last weekend, Edgar A. Vera, a father of two boys, died after having an adverse reaction to "non-lethal" pepper spray used on him by police officers in Allen, Texas. On August 4, Vera had been waiting outside a family member's house. Police responded to a "suspicious person call." When they arrived, the cops learned that Vera had an outstanding warrant for a seatbelt violation. Vera was hit with the pepper spray after "resisting arrest." For a friggin' seatbelt violation. As a result, he lingered on life-support for more than two weeks before he died.

You can find more about the incident here.

Agorism Contra Marxism, part 4

[This continues a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83.]

Marxist Classes

Marx recognized that the millennium-old class structure of Europe was drastically and noticeably changing and that he lived in a revolutionary time. “The old order,” wrote SEK3, “was making way for a new one. The Aristocracy was on its way out, either to liquidation (as in France and the U.S.) or to vestigial status, kept around for ceremonial purpose by a sentimental bourgeoisie (and lower classes) as in England. The bourgeoisie was in the ascendancy in the first half of the nineteenth century — Marx’s formative and most active years.

“Future events could and were explained by this class struggle theory: the Europe-wide rebellion of 1848 swept away much of aristocratic power restored after Napoleon’s defeat; the American Civil War was the Northern bourgeoisie’s way of smashing the remnant of landed aristocracy preserved as by the South.

“While this phenomenon so far was widely acknowledged (though it applied poorly to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1), Marx was as interested in the transformation of the Lower Class as in that of the Upper Class. Peasants were being driven off their farms, serfs were given their freedom to go to the cities to become industrial workers. And here was the focus of Marx’s insight.”

First, based on Adam Smith’s Labor Theory of Value, Marx saw the evolving workers as the only real productive class. He saw the bourgeoisie evolving into a smaller, aristocratic group that held ownership of the new means of production: factories, assembly lines, distribution and transportation systems, etc. The world, Marx said, was being neatly divided between a non-productive class (the former bourgeoisie, now capitalists) and a productive class skilled in using capital goods but not owning them (the proletariat). Capital would control the State. To Marx, this was the world of the future, as evident in his present.

Marx’s second insight was based on Hegel’s dialectical materialism. History was an ongoing clash of ideas: the thesis existed, the anti-thesis rose in opposition, and the clash created a synthesis (a new thesis). Wrote SEK3: “This is why Marxist sloganeers always call for ‘struggle’ — it’s all their theory allows them to do!”

So just as the bourgeoisie ousted the aristocracy to create capitalism (the synthesis), Marx declared that the new proletariat would oust capital and synthesize into, well, nothing. The proletariat victory, Marx predicted, would eventually end classes and class conflict. Granted, the proletariat (or, rather, its vanguard elite) would control the State temporarily. But once classes vanished and there was no class conflict to repress, the State would “wither away.”

To be continued...
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Grimm Brothers: enemies of the State?

Skip the so-so and downright negative reviews of Terry Gilliam's new movie The Brothers Grimm. If you're a fan of Gilliam (particularly of things like Time Bandits, Brazil, and other fantasy feasts for the eyes), you'll enjoy the hell out of this one. It's lots of fun, and if it's a "failure," well, it's a Gilliam failure, which is better than 90% of the crap out there in theaters.

And Will and Jacob Grimm may even become 19th Century libertarian folk heroes! At the film's close, the two boys discuss where their futures lie. They need a new path, they admit, because, after all, "We're now men without a nation, enemies of the State." Thankfully, as we fairy tale buffs well know, they didn't go into politics.
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Blows Against the Empire

All the secessionist talk in Anthony Lewis’s The Third Revolution inspired me to stick Paul Kantner’s sci-fi rock anthem Blows Against the Empire in the Accord’s CD-changer this week. In my junior year of high school (1970-71), when Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess, and Paul Goodman were starting to stir my political thinking, Blows stoked the revolutionary inferno in my gut. Jefferson Airplane had always been an explicitly anarchist band, but this Airplane spin-off LP (the first to use the “Jefferson Starship” moniker) moved beyond Old World politics. It was what we called back then a “concept album” (a la Sgt Peppers and Tommy), and its scenario included dodging the government jackboot, hijacking a starship, launching ourselves into space, and freely colonizing the stars. Here’s an especially poignant lyrical bit:

A child is coming,
A child is coming,
A child is coming to you.

What’re we gonna do when Uncle Samuel comes around
Askin’ for the young one’s name,
And lookin’ for the print of his hand
For the files in their numbers game?
I don’t want his changes for freedom to ever be that slim,
Let’s not tell ’em about him!

More than three decades later, Blows Against the Empire might seem fanciful as hell, but gee, we were all fanciful as hell in the early ’70s, and the music still sounds great. And you know, with secession movements now dotting the landscape (and books like The Third Revolution leading that charge), maybe Blows ain’t all that fanciful anyway. We could do worse than share Kantner’s rock manifesto with younger libertarians, or re-experience it ourselves.
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Can Minear bring "Mistress" to the screen?

I’ve probably read Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress five or six times. It brims with so many unique ideas that I still find new things in it. But until this week, I hadn’t heard that the novel may be moving to the Big Screen. An article by Paul Davidson reports that Tim Minear, writer for and executive producer (with Joss Whedon) of Firefly, is working on a Harsh Mistress script for producers Mike Medavoy (Holes, this summer’s Stealth) and David Hayman (the Harry Potter movies). Minear says that writing the screenplay presents a lot of challenges, one of them being the political preferences of Hollywood:

“This is about a revolution. It’s big and it has a lot of really complex political ideas. It’s hard in that respect. How do you personalize this? There’s a lot of talking in the book — theoretical talking about Libertarian ideals and political structure and that sort of thing — how do you take that and make it immediate and dramatic and emotional? How do you say that stuff through scenes and action, as opposed to characters sitting around and having a conversation? That’s difficult.

“The other thing is to make sure the powers that be in Hollywood don’t force you to turn it into some Marxist screed on socialism, when Heinlein was a Libertarian and it’s about free-market capitalism. You want to try and not make it about an evil corporation. That’s the trick.”

No kidding. When it comes right down to it, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress not only paints a vivid picture of a market anarchist society, it’s also an explicit instruction guide on how to get there, from cadre-building to revolution to, well, “governance.” Minear’s got his work cut out for him. And I’m anxious to see the results of this project.

Thanks, Anders Monsen, for pointing me to Davidson’s article.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The flexibility of terminology

Claire Wolfe, freedom comrade and author par excellence (RebelFire 1.0, The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook, etc.), posted today her observations about our discussions here and elsewhere on what's Left, what's Right, and where along the line libertarianism falls. She closes with this:
...I'll watch the discussion with interest, wish my fellow "leftists" well, but not worry too much about labels. I have to laugh at the extreme flexibility of political terminology. Because not only does being a "classical liberal" make one a "paleo conservative." It now seems that being a "right-wing anarchist" makes me pretty much automatically a "left libertarian."
You can find Claire's full post here.
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Karl Hess: the Left-Right spectrum

[Once upon a time, I saw the political spectrum as a circle. At the top-center sat a gray zone of liberal-conservative welfarism. Moving further left or right, you entered areas of increasing statism (communism or fascism) until both “wings” ultimately met in a broad region of libertarianism (voluntary, decentralized neighborhoods, both socialist and market). This circle helped me make sense of the world presented by modern politics and media — where both left and right extremes were bad, a mushy middle was the Establishment norm, and where I could call myself a radical right-wing libertarian and still link arms with many on the radical Left. Then Rothbard changed my notions of Left and Right. Konkin tinkered with my head. And in his 1975 book Dear America, Karl Hess pulled it all together. What follows is an excerpt from Hess’ book, unforgivably long out of print.]

“My own notion of politics is that it follows a straight line rather than a circle. The straight line stretches from the far right where (historically) we find monarchy, absolute dictatorships, and other forms of absolutely authoritarian rule. On the far right, law and order means the law of the ruler and the order that serves the interest of that ruler, usually the orderliness of drone workers, submissive students, elders either totally cowed into loyalty or totally indoctrinated and trained into that loyalty. Both Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler operated right-wing regimes, politically, despite the trappings of socialism with which both adorned their regimes. Huey Long, when governor-boss of Louisiana, was moving toward a truly right-wing regime, also adorned with many trappings of socialism (particularly public works and welfare) but held together not by social benefits but by a strong police force and a steady flow of money to subsidize and befriend businessmen.

An American President could be said to move toward the right to the extent that he tended to make absolutely unilateral political decisions, with no reference to Congress, for instance, or to the people generally, and when the legitimacy of the regime was supported or made real more by sheer force, say of police power, than by voluntary allegiance from the people generally. Such a regime, also, would be likely to suppress or to swallow up potentially competing centers of power such as trade unions. Major financial interests, however, if Adolf Hitler’s relations with industry, for example, can be considered instructive, would be bought off, rather than fought off, with fat contracts and a continuing opportunity to enrich their owners. Joseph Stalin, of course, had no problem with anything such as independent trade unions or business, since both had been killed off earlier.

“The overall characteristic of a right-wing regime, no matter the details of difference between this one and that one, is that it reflects the concentration of power in the fewest practical hands.

“Power, concentrated in few hands, is the dominant historic characteristic of what most people, in most times, have considered the political and economic right wing.

“The far left, as far as you can get away from the right, would logically represent the opposite tendency and, in fact, has done just that throughout history. The left has been the side of politics and economics that opposes the concentration of power and wealth and, instead, advocates and works toward the distribution of power into the maximum number of hands.

“Just as the scale along this line would show gradations of the right, so would it show gradations of the left.

“Before getting to a far-right monarchy or dictatorship, there are many intermediate right-wing positions. Some are called conservative.

“Somewhere along the line, for instance, a certain concentration of power, particularly economic power, would be acceptable in the name of tradition. The children of the rich, characteristically, are accorded very special places in the regimes of the right, or of conservatives. Also, there is a great deference to stability and a preference for it rather than change — all other things being equal. Caution might be the watchword toward the center of this right-wing scale, simply a go-slow attitude. That is, admittedly, a long way from the far right and dictatorship, but it is a way that can and should be measured on a straight line. The natural preference for law and order that seems such a worthwhile and innocent conservative preference is from a political tradition that came to us from kings and emperors, not from ancient democracy.

“This hardly means that every conservative, if pressed, will go farther and farther right until embracing absolute dictatorship or monarchy. Far from it. It does mean to suggest only that the ghosts of royal power whisper in the conservative tradition.

“The left shows similar gradations. The farthest left you can go, historically at any rate, is anarchism — the total opposition to any institutionalized power, a state of completely voluntary social organization in which people would establish their ways of life in small, consenting groups, and cooperate with others as they see fit.

“The attitude on that farthest left toward law and order was summed up by an early French anarchist, Proudhon, who said that ‘order is the daughter of and not the mother of liberty.’ Let people be absolutely free, says this farthest of the far, far left (the left that Communism regularly denounces as too left; Lenin called it ‘infantile left’). If they are free they will be decent, but they never can be decent until they are free. Concentrated power, bureaucracy, et cetera, will doom that decency. A bit further along the left line there might be some agreement or at least sympathy with this left libertarianism but, it would be said, there are practical and immediate reasons for putting off that sort of liberty. People just aren’t quite ready for it. Roughly, that’s the position of the Communist Party today...

“At any rate, at some point on the spectrum there is the great modern American liberal position. Through a series of unfortunate but certainly understandable distortions of political terminology, the liberal position has come to be known as a left-wing position. Actually, it lies right alongside the conservative tradition, down toward the middle of the line, but decidedly, I think, to the right of its center. Liberals believe in concentrated power — in the hands of liberals, the supposedly educated and genteel elite. They believe in concentrating that power as heavily and effectively as possible. They believe in great size of enterprise, whether corporate or political, and have a great and profound disdain for the homely and the local. They think nationally but they also think globally and now even intergalactically. Actually, because they believe in far more authoritarian rule than a lot of conservatives, it probably would be best to say that liberals lie next to but actually to the right of many conservatives.”

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Remember "America: Love It or Leave It"?

Said Rush Limbaugh on his August 11 radio program:
"Wouldn't it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick 'em out. We'd get rid of Michael Moore, we'd get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law [from Britain]. That would be fabulous. The Supreme Court ought to look into this. Absolutely brilliant idea out there."
Next time I hear Limbaugh mention the word freedom, I'll keep this quote in mind. Thanks to Agitprop for publicizing this, by the way.

Reclaiming the Left

Thomas Knapp addresses email and blog comments in an article posted on Free Market News last week. Here’s what he says to a correspondent who questions the term “Left Libertarian”:

The left/right dichotomy, of course, has served as a source of irritation to libertarians for many years. As that dichotomy has evolved in various, seemingly contradictory directions, its associated scale has become less and less relevant to libertarians — we seem torn between a “rightward” direction on economics and a “leftward” direction on civil liberties...except, of course, when the “right” happens to be imposing economic controls or the “left” seems to be advocating censorship.

Nonetheless, I believe that a plausible case can be made for placing libertarianism historically on the political “left” and for a libertarian reclamation of “left” values and the “left” banner. I’ll leave the extended historical case to others to make for the moment (I highly recommend Wally Conger’s “Why Not Reclaim the Left?” and “Why Not Reclaim the Left? Redux”). My observations as to the current state of the “libertarian left” are as follows:

  • The split between “socialist” or “communist” anarchists and “market” anarchists has a long history; however, that breach seems to be healing somewhat as “market” anarchists find their nominal allies on the right moving away from economic freedom as a value while leaning ever further toward the authoritarian in other realms. As time goes on, market anarchists find their nominal position on the political right less and less tenable — and there seem to be some indications that their fellow anarchists are becoming more amenable to market ideas. Fusionism may yet deliver some mix of the Rothbardian and Konkinite visions.
  • Within the realm of state political action, the right has similarly continued down the authoritarian road it was always on, while throwing its formerly free-market rhetoric overboard. The failure of the right to deliver when in power has created an opportune space in which the left may examine — and hopefully purge — its own authoritarian contaminations while also reconsidering its economic orientation.

Is it likely that the “libertarian left” will find itself populated to some degree by people of various degrees of statist orientation? Absolutely. The same is, and has always been, true of the Libertarian Party and the “libertarian right.” However, the left impulse is anti-authoritarian and the right impulse is authoritarian. For that reason, it is the left which has at hand the tools to correct its course — the right is lost to us at least for the moment, and has never been fit as a long-term anti-authoritarian vessel in any case.

As in any other sphere of human interaction, there are no guarantees in politics. However, I believe that a robust, anti-statist, anti-authoritarian, libertarian left can be built and that it can fulfill vital needs within the freedom movement.

Once again, three cheers for Kn@ppster and the work he’s doing for This Movement of Ours.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

One ring to, uh, unite them all

It occurs to me that I've neglected to point out a recent addition to the sidebar. Please note the "dashboard" for access to The Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left, a webring kindly launched a week or so ago by Thomas Knapp (aka Kn@appster). I think the number of participating blogs, all interested in building a strong, new Movement of the Libertarian Left, now stands at 12...and growing. Just click on "List" and start visiting with a fine variety of right-thinking, left-leaning libertarian bloggers.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

FIREFLY: a "liberal" checks in

Sunni Maravillosa alerted me to Anders Monsen’s terrific Liberty and Culture blog. And Anders in turn pointed me toward a wonderfully twisted “liberal Democrat” critique of Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly, now popular among so many of us sci-fi lovin’ radical libertarians.

The critique comes from Daraka Kenric’s hoverbike blog, which is appropriately subtitled “Politics is to want something.” Kenric writes that “the entire framework of [Firefly] is a bizarre masculine-libertarian fantasy, even worse than the original Star Wars trilogy.” Since the show’s characters are veterans of a galaxy-wide civil war, Kenric insists the series is a “nice sanitized right-wing allegory” of the U.S. Civil War, “so the world of Firefly is built around a dynamic of federal growth and defeated localist bitterness. What is creepy, intensely so, is that the heroes are the Confederates.” Now listen to this:

“And then there is the Indian thing. In order to complete the Old West picture, they had to have Indians. Because this is not a race thing ... they made the Indians insane people-eating pirates. Lest you forget that they are Indians, however, there is the drum music and phrases like ‘they’ll chase after you if you try to run, that is their way.’ Christ.”
Kenric describes the series’ lead character, Captain Mal Reynolds:

“...the ultimate alpha male, a straight-talking silent type who is driven to honorable criminality by the oppressive federal government. He hates their rules. He just wants to be left alone. Leave him alone. You’ll take his spaceship out of his cold, dead hands.”

Kenric admits to missing the original Star Trek series and is even depressed by “how much better as narrative and entertainment Firefly is than the latest Star Trek offerings.” But the Star Trek universe is so much nicer! Writes Kenric:

“In Star Trek, we are treated to a vision of a positive future, one in which politics focuses on an expansive defense of peace and justice, rather than individual glorification.”
Wait a minute! Is Daraka Kenric a liberal Democrat or — shudder — a hawkish Bushian neoconservative?

Check out the entire post at the link above. It’s a hoot and a half.

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Pushin' back "V for Vendetta"

Sci Fi Wire is reporting that the Wachowski brothers' movie version of Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta, originally scheduled to open November 4, has been pushed back to March 17, 2006. I wrote about the movie here a few days ago.

In a statement, Warner Brothers said: "We have moved the release date of V for Vendetta ... to accommodate the movie's post-production schedule." Warner denies that the delay has anything to do with the film's subject matter or the current political climate. But you decide.
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Modern Class Conflict Theory

The shirt says: "Class Warfare...brought to you by the yuppies who don't tip." I love it!

Agorism Contra Marxism, part 3

[This continues a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83.]

“Agorism and Marxism,” wrote SEK3, “agree on the following premise: human society can be divided into at least two classes; one class is characterized by its control of the State and its extraction of unearned wealth from the other class. Furthermore, agorists and Marxists will often point to the same people as members of the overclass and underclass, especially agreeing on what each considers the most blatant cases. The differences arise as one moves to the middle of the social pyramid.

“Agorists and Marxists perceive a class struggle which must continue until a climactic event which will resolve the conflict. Both sides perceive select groups which will lead the victims against their oppressors. The Marxists call these groups of high class consciousness ‘vanguards’ and then extract even more aware elements designated ‘elites of the vanguard.’ Agorists perceive a spectrum of consciousness amongst the victims as well, and also perceive the most aware elements as the first recruits for the revolutionary cadre. With the exception of ‘intellectuals,’ the Marxists and agorists sharply disagree on who these most progressive elements are.”

Precursors to Marxist Class Theory

Although today’s academics largely credit the doctrine of class conflict to Marx and Engels, historian Ralph Raico has for many years advanced the 19th Century classical liberal exploitation theory of Comte and Dunoyer as a much superior, more correct precursor to the Marxist class model. However, Konkin begins his examination of class theories much earlier than Comte-Dunoyer or Marx.

Rome,” he wrote, “had three citizen classes and a fourth alien class written into its legal codes. Medieval Europe continued the concepts and much of the rest of the world had its versions. The upper class was the nobility, that is, the royalty and aristocracy, who controlled the land and directed its resources. The lower class were those who worked that land, peasants, serfs, villeins, etc. Most people fit in the lower class but those that fit in neither were, at least in numbers, at least as numerous as the upper class. Many were merchants, and as they turned villages into towns and then large, powerful cities, they were given the term Middle Class or terms meaning city-dweller: burger, bourgeois, etc.”

Enter Comte, Dunoyer, and the rest of the “French school.” But we will get to libertarian (and agorist) class theory later.

First...Karl Marx.

To be continued...
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Libertarian Left: presenting a clean break

I can't recommend highly enough James Leroy Wilson's post "How is the Libertarian Left Different?" James does a bang-up job of drawing the line between libertarianisms Left and Right. Just listen to this:
"By being both anti-authoritarian and anti-corporate monopoly, Left Libertarians present a clean break from right-wing coalitions of neo-cons, the Religious Right, and Big Business. In opposing the war, in promoting local control (which many Greens do), in fighting state-sanctioned corporate privilege, and in fighting to protect our civil liberties, the Libertarian Left has far more in common with the Left than with the Right as it is presently identified.

"What this does not mean is that I prefer Hillary to Congressman Ron Paul. It does not mean outright partisanship in which liberals are my friends and conservatives my enemies. I still feel a sense of common cause with many on the Right, especially strict Constitutionalists. But historically the Right has been the party of the Establishment, of landed privilege. The Left has been opposed. Libertarianism ultimately belongs on the Left."
I don't think James declared himself a Man of the Left until quite recently. If that's the case, I welcome him to This Side.
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Monday, August 15, 2005

Smoking bans run amok

Lest you be blinded by novels like The Third Revolution into thinking that only the Feds are oppressive bastards, Gene Healy alerts us to a new smoking ban in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Smoking within 25 feet of the door of a publicly used building, a park, or in other public spaces can now cost you $500 or a year in prison.

Sound harsh? Baton Rouge Councilwoman Lorri Burgess doesn’t think so. “The issue today is clean air,” she says, and the ban “sends a strong message.” No kidding. Smoke a Marlboro, go to the slammer.

Writes Healy: “A year in prison. For smoking a goddamned cigarette. Mencken said that every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. Reading stuff like this can make you feel completely normal.”
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Sure, I’m a diehard non-political, non-voting, anti-party, Left-Rothbardian anarchist. But I’m still gonna recommend Anthony F. Lewis’ political novel, The Third Revolution, even if it does exhort using political means to reach libertarian ends. In an era when TV networks grind out Beltway-worshiping pap like “The West Wing” and the upcoming “Commander-in-Chief” (about the first — gasp! — female U.S. president), Lewis has written a novel that convincingly talks about the Real Deal: what liberties Americans have lost and how they might get them back.

In a nutshell: it’s 2013, and President Robert Henderson pushes through his “One Nation” legislation, federalizing everything and leaving the states and their legislatures powerless. Only one state, Montana, fights back. Encouraged by a group of fed-up state lawmakers, libertarian Governor Ben Kane goes head-to-head against the president. Montana votes to nullify the federal law. The Supreme Court, unsurprisingly, declares the One Nation law fully constitutional. Powers in Washington consider military options and even martial law. Montana moves toward secession. The novel’s scenario is absolutely credible, its characters are well-drawn, and the suspense is nail-biting.

You might expect lengthy Galt-like political speeches in a story like this. There aren’t any. You might expect black-and-white good guys and bad guys. Well, there’s no question who we’re meant to root for in this book, but solutions aren’t presented as simple, and Lewis’ characters are driven as much by messy circumstances as they are by ideology.

The Third Revolution didn’t convince this anarchist to vote Libertarian, or to participate in electoral politics at all. But it did give me a couple of days of feverish reading. And it’s good to hear that Lewis is now working on a sequel. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!
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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Karl Hess on Marxism

[To complement my ongoing summary of SEK3’s unfinished Agorism Contra Marxism, here are some words on Marxism by the late Karl Hess, one of the granddaddies of Libertarian Leftism. Hess, of course, was the speechwriter for Barry Goldwater who joined the New Left in the late 1960s and had a tremendous influence on the modern libertarian movement. This excerpt comes from Dear America, Hess’ 1975 philosophical autobiography.]

“[A]s a guide to the future, I would absolutely reject Marxism. As a tool to grasp the dimensions of the past and some of the possibilities of the future, I would no more reject the work of Karl Marx than I would that of Aristotle, Tom Paine, John Dewey, Peter Kropotkin, or anyone else who has thought long and hard on the condition of being human. Or the Bible, with its many extraordinarily commonsensical perceptions. One need not be a Marxist to appreciate Marx or a Christian to appreciate the Bible. I would not follow either. Nor would I ignore either. ...

"No matter the use Marx has been put to by regimes which rule by police power and which treat people as mere cogs in the state machine, what Marx himself wrote about is strikingly different from what most Americans seem to think he wrote about.

“At a time when many historians were persisting in seeing the human story as just a chronicle of kings and queens, Marx dug deep enough to find the people generally and to see their role in history as shaped in the long run not so much by the capers of kings as by the relationship of people generally to productive life, to ways of working (from gatherers and hunters to farmers to feudal peasants to factory workers). He saw, also, that the great sickness of society was the increasing separation, alienation, of people from their work; separation in fact, by more and more people doing smaller and smaller and usually inexplicable parts of a process, becoming mere extensions of machines, and separation economically by working in a system in which the full value of their labor could never be realized by workers themselves due to the demands of owners to skim so much off the top.

“Above all, he saw that human beings were vitally and essentially social in nature, deeply desirous of living in communities, with other people, and capable of open cooperation among themselves if not alienated from their human roles by intervening institutions such as capitalism or the state which, in Marx’s eyes, was the executive committee of the economic ruling elite. ...

“This is a defense of the value of what Marx did write and not at all a defense of Marxism. Marxism has come to denote, for me, a mind-set in which reality must be hammered into the shape demanded by this or that official version of Marxist literature, a mind-set in which a correct line is far more important than correct, or decent, actions. It has become cant and cabala, political theology. It has become, more than that, distinctly anti-Marxist, in the sense that Marx wrote so often of seeing the world fresh and fully and without the distortions of past orthodoxy. For the writings of Marx, which raged against the hold that official histories had fastened on people, to now become an official and orthodox history and analysis is supremely ironic.

“... The point is just this: Distortions of Marx, both by the right and by the left, have been used for terribly bad purposes — to justify police repressions on both sides of the fence, for instance. To avoid falling prey to such distortions it would be wise to read Marx’s writing for yourself or, if you prefer not to, not to let what others say about it become a determining factor in your actions.”
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Agorism Contra Marxism, part 2

[This continues a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83.]

The Marxist Appeal

Karl Marx himself asserted that should History fail to bear him out, he would admit he was wrong.

History has passed judgment.

Just as Ludwig von Mises forecast in his landmark book Socialism (1922), in which the impossibility of economic calculation under Marxist statism was demonstrated, Marx’s economics failed horribly. This economic failure led inevitably to the failure of Marx’s political and historical predictions, and Marxist-controlled institutions today coast on intellectual capital and historical inertia.

But Marxism still won the hearts and souls of billions in the past century, and continues to do so among many even now. Why? What is Marxism’s appeal? Samuel Edward Konkin III wrote:

“The most appealing part of Marxism may well have been the vision of sociopolitical revolution as a secular apocalypse. While others offered explanations of Revolution, only Marx gave it such meaning. No longer were the oppressed to merely oust the old regime to bring in a new regime brutal in a slightly different way, but the Revolution would make things so great that no further revolution was necessary. Marx’s legerdemain was actually profoundly conservative; once the Revolution was over, there would be no more. Even diehard monarchists flinched from that much stasis.

“Yet the combination was unbeatable to motivate political activists: one all-out effort and then home free. More realistic presentations of Revolution tended to excite less dedication and commitment.”

But the truth remains: today, Marxism is bankrupt. On the Left, faith is gone, morale is low, and activism is paralyzed. The Left needs a new ideology to supplant its failed and discredited Marxism. Agorism — the purest, most consistent, and revolutionary form of libertarianism — is that supplanting ideology. Agorism can motivate and direct the underclass’s struggle against the overclass — and return the Left to its radical anti-state, anti-war, pro-property, pro-market historical roots.

To be continued...
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Defending "V for Vendetta"

One of my regular bloggish haunts is Jason Apuzzo’s Libertas: A Forum for Conservative Thought on Film. I may not always agree with Apuzzo’s take on movies, but his blog is generally a refreshing and often humorous alternative to the usual “Hollywood liberal” dreck.

Yesterday, though, I think Apuzzo really overstepped with a piece for called Hollywood’s New War Effort: Terrorism Chic.” Here’s how he begins: “Slow to awaken after the 9/11 attacks, Hollywood has finally come around to contributing what it can in the War on Terror: namely, glossy, star-studded movies that sympathize with the enemy.”

Apuzzo immediately attacks Warner Brothers’ upcoming V for Vendetta, based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel (first published almost 20 years ago). He writes that the film is “about a futuristic Great Britain that’s become a ‘fascist state.’ A masked ‘freedom fighter’ named V uses terror tactics (including bombing the London Underground) to undermine the government — leading to a climax in which the British Parliament is blown up. Natalie Portman stars as a skinhead who turns to ‘the revolution’ after doing time as a Guantanamo-style prisoner."

I’ll admit that I haven’t the vaguest idea how faithfully the film adheres to the novel; the movie isn’t due for release until November. But Moore’s V for Vendetta follows the tradition of 1984, We, Brave New World, This Perfect Day, Anthem, and other freedom classics. Its forecast of a fascist Great Britain is as plausible as Orwell’s vision, perhaps even more so. The lead character’s “terror tactics” are never used against innocents. And to say that Evey, the character Natalie Portman portrays in the movie, is “a skinhead who turns to ‘the revolution’ after doing time as a Guantanamo-style prisoner” is a total misrepresentation. Evey is no “skinhead.” Her head is shaved during the course of the story while she is a prisoner.

I hope Apuzzo will read Moore’s book before he makes further assumptions about the upcoming film.

The V for Vendetta posters bear this headline: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Sounds as American as Thomas Jefferson to me. And it sounds like an idea “conservatives” like Jason Apuzzo at one time agreed with.
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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Get 'em while they're young

Writes "lew lew" at Claire Wolfe's Claire Files Forum:

"I took my daughter to the fabric store, so she could pick out some material to make a set of curtains for her room. As we were combing through the bolts, I shit you not, there was a cheery bolt labeled 'Good Citizen.' It had phrases like, 'Pay Your Taxes, Obey All Laws, Vote, Plant a Tree, Recycle' patterned all over the fabric and 'Good Citizen' examples like 'Policeman, Teacher, Mailman' dotted around the phrases. The writing was child-friendly script and the colors were bright red, black script and white."

While government schools continue their focus not on readin', writin' and 'rithmatic but on making good little statists out of our kids, it seems at least one fabric company is now doing its part as well. The fabric pattern seems to be missing one important phrase, though: "Fink on your parents."

Raico on class theory

The Mises Institute offers a lecture by Professor Ralph Raico titled "Classical Liberal Roots of Marxist Class Analysis" for free download as an MP3 file. It was recorded in 1988 and is excellent. Anyone interested in class conflict theory, or my current postings on Sam Konkin's writings about Agorist class theory vs. Marxist class theory, should really hear this lecture. You can find it (sometimes with difficulty) at I have no direct link to offer. Just go to's Media section and hunt the lecture down by speaker or title.

Agorism Contra Marxism, part 1

[This begins a multi-part summary of known existing portions of Samuel Edward Konkin’s unfinished book Agorism Contra Marxism, which began, and ended, its serialization in Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, 1982-83.]

The Failure of Marxism

Marxism is dead. This is acknowledged almost everywhere, with the exception of university campuses and among stodgy Old Leftists and uninformed media pundits. “The [Marxist] dream is dead,” wrote Samuel Edward Konkin III. “The institutions move on, decadent zombies, requiring dismemberment and burial. The ‘gravediggers of capitalism’ approach their own internment.”

Marxism failed on many fronts, perhaps on all fronts. Most fundamentally, though, its failure was economic. Marx’s “map of reality” — his class theory — was fatally flawed, and economics was the measure by which his philosophy could be checked with reality. The failure of its economics led inevitably to Marxism’s failure to live up to its political and historical predictions. Wrote SEK3:

“Remember well that Marx outlined history and brooked no significant wandering from the determined course. Should History not unfold according to the determined pathway ‘scientifically’ obtained, all Marxist theoretical structure crumbles. ...

“Marxism failed to produce a ‘workable model of reality.’ On the other hand, it has won the hearts and souls of billions in the past century. In order to bury Marx, it is necessary to deal with his apparent success, not his failures. His strong points must be overcome, not his weak, if [radical Rothbardians, agorists] hope to replace his vision as the prime inspiration of the Left.”

To be continued...

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Building a New Class Theory

In the U.S., “only rightist kooks and commies talk about ruling classes and class structures,” Samuel Edward Konkin III remarked two decades ago. Even in the libertarian movement, discussing class theory is too often considered impolite and unrespectable. This is one reason I brought up the subject a few weeks ago.

If Libertarian Leftism (i.e., radical Rothbardianism, New Libertarianism, agorism) is to ever recapture the Left from a dying (some would say dead) Marxism, it has to hammer out a class theory upon which to build a new movement. With such a theory, we can finally sweep Marxism into the “dustbin of history” and, as SEK3 once wrote, “the revolutionary agorist cadre (New Libertarians) will supplant neo-Marxists in the new movements and institutions of present and future Left currents and will reduce to vestigial status or annihilate hopelessly Marxist-controlled institutions of the past.”

In the early 1980s, Konkin began writing a book about Agorist Class Theory vs. Marxist Class Theory called Agorism Contra Marxism. Only an introduction and first chapter were ever published (in the now out-of-print Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2) and the book — along with many other SEK3 projects — was left unfinished at the time of Sam’s death last year. I’d love to see some libertarian theorists build on Sam’s work in this area.

In the next week or so, I intend to summarize on this blog what now exists of Agorism Contra Marxism, supplemented with other Konkin sources and my own ideas and comments. I hope readers of out of step will feel free to join this “work in progress.”

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Here comes AEON FLUX!

I’m a sucker for great-looking movie posters. And right now, few look as great as this one, promoting the December 2 release of Aeon Flux, starring Charlize Theron. Of course, I’m a fan of the old MTV animated series the movie's based on, so that may have something to do with the thrill I felt when I first spotted it. Oh, and the film stars Charlize Theron, which is another plus.

Aeon Flux is a freedom fighter for a rebellion set about 400 years in the future. She lives in a repressive, walled city-state called Bregna, ruled by a congress of scientists. And from closely examining this poster and a few dozen stills from the upcoming movie (all easily found online right now), I think Theron makes a dynamite Aeon Flux. We’ll see.

Aeon Flux
is directed by Karyn Kusama and also stars Frances McDormand (Fargo, Darkman, etc.).
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Small Business 101

When it comes to conflict resolution, you just can’t beat the State!

In Salem, Mass., a sausage stand owner last weekend finked on two grade-school kids, ages 9 and 11, who were running an unlicensed lemonade stand near his business. The sausage guy called the cops about his young competitors last Saturday, saying he wanted the lemonade stand moved further away. But since the children couldn’t raise the necessary $2,200 vendor’s license, the police shut down their business altogether.

However — hooray! — Salem’s Mayor Stanley Usovicz came to the rescue! Yesterday, he decreed that the kids could operate as subcontractors under the sausage man’s vending license! The agreement expires when school starts. “What we’ve experienced here,” said the mayor, “was a corporate merger and it’s good for all.”

What the two grade-schoolers really experienced was a hard lesson about government regulation of the market. Read the Washington Post story here.

The Quotable Mises

I love collections of quotations. Maybe because I love quoting, er, great quotes. Ever since I got my first copy of Bartlett's in the eighth grade, I've regularly added such collections to my reference library. My favorites are Jon Winokur's Portable Curmudgeon volumes, The Guinness Book of Poisonous Quotes, Political Tales & Truth of Mark Twain, The Macmillan Dictionary of Political Quotations, The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations and, of course, Paul Berman's indispensible Quotations from the Anarchists.

Now the Ludwig von Mises Institute offers online The Quotable Mises. It's still in the beta stage, but it's impressive -- some 1,400 quotes by Mises about nearly everything, sorted by subject and source. And it's fully searchable!

Let the quoting begin!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Are government workers "thugs"?

On his blog this morning, Warren Bluhm regrets that he’d recently referred to those in government as “thugs” because he was “describing mostly sincere people who honestly think our collective security is more important than each individual’s right to be secure in their own person and property.” Warren adds: “[W]hen my frustration spills into anger, I need to take a deep breath, not rush to publication. The word thug distracted too many readers from the point that I was trying to make. It lowered me in many readers’ eyes and elevated those with whom I have a deep and serious disagreement.”

While I understand Warren’s worry about losing a reader or two by using tough language — and agree with him that taking a deep breath before launching into argument is a fine tactic — I’d point out that calling government functionaries “thugs” follows a Grand Libertarian Tradition. More than a century ago, the great Lysander Spooner wrote that a tax collector (i.e., government worker) is not only no better than the common “highwayman,” he is actually less noble. Unlike the tax collector, the robber doesn’t have the chutzpah to claim he’s seizing our money for our own good.

We libertarians say “taxation is theft” and “war is murder,” radical as those phrases sound to most people, because we hold government (and its employees) to the same standard of morality as we do our next-door neighbors. If it’s not OK for Margie next door to tax us, pass laws regulating our private lives, or kill us, then it can’t be OK for government to do so. Government “thugs” can make claims on our lives only by elevating themselves above the standards of personal morality. It’s our duty as libertarians to constantly “demystify the State” (thanks, Wendy McElroy) by calling attention to this fact, even if it requires us to compare government pencil pushers, “sincere” or not, with thugs on occasion.
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What if...?

What if rocket scientist Wernher von Braun hadn’t worked for the Nazis before and during World War II but instead had made aerial weapons for the anarchists in Spain? What if, while fleeing Europe and her arms manufacturer husband Fritz Mandl, on her way to Hollywood, actress Hedy Lamarr had met, inspired, and become the lover of von Braun? What if, instead of being crushed between the Republicans (Communists) and Nationalists (fascists) during the Spanish Civil War, disparate anarchist factions had successfully linked arms and won out (with the help of von Braun’s rockets)?

Those are a few what if’s addressed by Anarquía, a sci-fi alternate history of the Spanish Civil War by Brad Linaweaver and J. Kent Hastings (you’ll find Kent’s comments posted on this blog occasionally). I’ve had a copy of this novel for a few months, and I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to it. I’m glad I finally did, because I had a blast. Ever since I first read Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” in the seventh grade, I’ve been fascinated by the idea that if you tweak this or that in a timeline, new paths emerge and things down the pike necessarily change. L. Neil Smith has written some wonderful spins on history (his Probability Broach, of course, is a libertarian classic). And Harry Turtledove’s made an industry of the alternate history genre.

But Anarquía is special in that it covers ground I can’t recall seeing covered before. There have been dozens of speculative novels about “what if Hitler had won WWII?” New takes on the U.S. Civil War are pretty common. But the Spanish Civil War is fresh territory, and Linaweaver and Hastings don’t waste it. They’ve stuffed every conceivable “what if” into Anarquía, as well as every possible true-life figure you can imagine: Eric Blair (aka George Orwell), Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Francisco Franco, Louis B. Mayer, G.K. Chesterton, Ayn Rand (and her husband Frank O’Connor, who has an affair with Hedy Lamarr in the book), Konrad Zuse, John Dos Passos, and even an “off camera” Canadian political theorist named Konkin (the father of Agorism). And almost every political stripe is represented: Fascists, Falangists, Carlists, Marxists, Trotskyites, Separatists, Loyalists, Royalists, International Brigades, Comintern members, Syndicalists, Distributists...

Some readers will be annoyed that the dialogue in Anarquía often consists of speeches. But that’s customary in most philosophical novels (think Rand). Here, for example, is German computer geek Konrad Zuse expounding political theory to his friend von Braun in the early ’30s:

“The world’s States will fight a war that might very well destroy civilization if they are not stopped. The only people in the world crazy enough to make war against all the States are anarchists but they come in two different varieties. The anarchist ‘commune’ types and the extreme ‘individualist,’ free-market types stand in complete opposition to each other, but all of them share a common aversion to the State. Right? No one has ever tried to forge a serious alliance between them before. As the majority of humans prepare to become slaves to various dictatorships because of economic woes, a growing minority will be ready to do anything to secure their freedom. These are the sort of people who can respect radically different lifestyle choices, including economic choices. No one else takes liberty that seriously.”

Anarquía takes anarchism seriously. And it takes anarchist victory very seriously. This novel’s a must for history buffs, political junkies, and especially frustrated Libertarian Leftists who need a philosophical pick-me-up.
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Monday, August 01, 2005

Movie review: THE ISLAND

I’m not a fan of director Michael Bay especially — and I can’t say I particularly enjoyed Armageddon or even saw Pearl Harbor — but I do like his newest movie, The Island. Sure, it’s derivative of umpteen other sci-fi books and films, it offers few surprises, and there are gaping holes in its plot. But it’s glossy, lightweight fun. And once it’s on cable and DVD (which should be soon, since it’s tanking at the box office), I’m sure I’ll watch it several more times.

The movie’s about Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor...y’know, the young Obi-Wan) and Jordan Two-Delta (gorgeous Scarlett Johansson), who live in a highly controlled, utopian facility, carefully guarded from a hopelessly contaminated Earth. In the mid-21st century, the last uncontaminated spot on the planet is The Island, and residents of the facility eagerly await their turns to win “the lottery” and be sent to that pastoral Shangri-La. Of course, Lincoln eventually discovers the truth behind his existence and learns that The Island is a big, fat lie. He and Jordan escape the facility and enter the Real World, where they’re ruthlessly hunted by the facility’s forces, a la Logan’s Run and THX-1138 and countless other films.

As I said before, there’s not too much that’s new in The Island. But the film does address some important ethical questions and does a fine job of dissecting the “risk-free” society that enemies of freedom continually offer us. The supporting cast is good, and it includes Sean Bean and the always-amusing Steve Buscemi. The action sequences are first-rate and mile-a-minute.

And did I mention that Scarlett Johansson stars in it?
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