Egad. Smoking Ban Signed Into Law
Smoking Ban, Breathing Regulations Signed Into Law

DECEMBER 30TH, 2002

Bills to ban smoking and unnecessary breathing at New York City bars and restaurants were both signed into law Monday.

“This law does not legislate morality,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who pushed for the legislation as a worker health issue, said as he signed the bill at City Hall. “This law does not take away anyone's rights. Anyone important, anyway. This law allows important working people to earn a living in a safe workplace so they can provide for their families. Their children. The ban on unnecessary breathing in bars is important to keep oxygen in the air, which is necessary for all life. If we didn't do this, the terrorists would have won. And did I mention it's for the working children?”

The ban will take effect March 30, barring people from lighting up or panting heavily at virtually every bar, club and restaurant in the five boroughs. Violators will face fines from $200 to $400, or even life in prison, the foul swine.

“We hope and believe that this bill will not have a negative effect on businesses and will not be used as a tool to punish nightlife or bars or restaurants or anyone else who is doing legitimate business and making sure that their employees are safe," said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller. "I don't see why anyone would think this would affect any law-abiding business negatively. Nobody likes vile smokers and heavy breathers. But punishing people is so punitive. We hate to do it unless we must."

Exemptions to the ban include the city's seven existing cigar bars, sidewalk cafes with special outdoor smoking areas and bars willing to build separate smoking rooms with their own ventilation systems. In addition, establishments with no employees other than the owners or private clubs where only members work may still allow smoking. Heavy breathing will be allowing in gyms, sporting establishments, and other businesses that build special oxygen-enhanced rooms. Also people will be allowed to breath freely in their own homes, for now.

“I am confident that New York City will establish a new reputation as the smoke-free, easy-breathing capital of commerce, fine dining, nightlife, entertainment and tourism,” said Donald Distasio, the CEO of the American Cancer Society. “For as long as I can remember, this moment has been a dream of ours.”

"I, too, am confident that New York City will boom, now that we have bravely tackled the breathing problem," said Gloria Busybee, spokesperson for the American Oxygen For Children campaign. "From now on, the city sends a clear message: nobody has the right to breathe unless we say so!”
Well, not exactly.
Worth reading fully: Of Legal Fictions and Pro-Lincoln Libertarians by Stephan Kinsella.
Some interesting thoughts on Power and Vulnerability by Lew Rockwell:
The small, unintrusive government faces few threats to its limited power. Until Lincoln’s day, for example, it was possible to walk around Washington unencumbered. One could knock on the White House door and be greeted by the president’s butler. No office was closed to citizens. It was like any other town. There was no great fear emanating from the presidential quarters or any other public office. Why? Because power in the modern sense was so small. No one in government had good reason to feel threatened by anyone.

But as the power of DC has grown, so has its fortress mentality.
And these days every Federal building is a fortress.

According to this meme, we can determine the amount of power an group wields by how secure it feels, as shown by the inverse of its security apparatus. Powerful organizations buy lots of "security", because they feel little.

It's worth examining America's rush to trade a little bit of liberty for security, in the wake of 9/11, in that light.
Cheap press, indeed. A
Homeless Guy has a blog.
I saw The Two Towers over the weekend. It's an impressive film, especially technologically. In that, it is superior to the first film. But unlike the first film, serious liberties are taken with the plot, in ways that mostly weaken and hurt it. Peter Jackson, who does seem to get Tolkien at least somewhat, has succumbed to the screenwriter's temptation: to "improve" something that does not need it.

Let me first praise a sequence that Jackson adapted very well: the fight between Gandalf and the Balrog. This brilliantly opened the movie. No "last time on..." for TTT, a good decision. The sequence itself depicts accurately what Tolkien wrote on it. And the special effects - the Balrog - are stunning. I want to see it again.

Gollum is a marvel. I noticed one time when he looked a little bit out of context. But other than that, I accepted all of his interactions with the background and his dialog with the hobbits. The dialog is especially important; the character must seem to "be there" else the other actors will appear to be having a dialog with someone just over his shoulder. But in TTT this was not a problem. And that allows the Frodo and Sam (and Gollum) some excellent opportunities to act.

When I reread LotR, I often skip the Frodo and Sam arc. But in the movie, I found myself wanting more.

I did not want, nor approve of, the liberty taken with Faramir. At least I think I understand the motive - to show the dangerous power of the ring. But yes, I get that. I got that last film, actually. Meanwhile, taking the Ring to Osgiliath is all wrong. Stumbling into a battle in progress there, wrong. Battles in LotR, and medieval fighting in general, is not WWII. The Rider seemed to know the Ring was there; that's wrong. If Sauron had had any clue who had it, he would have concentrated all force necessary to take it. Concealment, not revelation, is Tolkien's theme wrt the progress of the Ring. When Jackson departs from the book, he makes ugly mistakes. These were relatively small, but annoying.

More annoying is the partial stripping out of an important Tolkien theme: the necessity for men (and others) to think, judge, and act in the face of uncertainty. This is most clearly seen in the meeting of Aragorn with the Rohirrim. In the book, there is a hard decision that Eomer must make. He must judge the honor, truthfulness, etc of the Fellowship as against an impersonal law that no stranger may walk abroad in the Mark. He thinks, questions, and finally makes the decision. He says what he decides, and does it. In the movie, there is not. particularly much at stake, since Eomer is an outlaw. The decision seems to not mean much, if anything: some outlaws give up two extra horses to some other guys.

There are many other decisions that characters, major and minor, must make in the book. In the movie, everything happens as if foreordained.

In the book, the decision of Hama, the doorwarder of Theoden, is a real one: let in Gandalf with staff, or not? In the movie, this is played as a clever joke. Funny, yes, but then seemingly decided with no difficulty. Show me. Tell me. You can have the joke and a real decision.

In the book, the testing of Wormtongue is a real test. Theoden honestly wants him to show by deeds that he is true. You get the feeling, reading, that perhaps Grima might redeem himself in battle. The decision is real, and he chooses to leave. In the movie, he has no choice, and runs off.

In the book, Entmoot is a big deal. Ents meet. Hobbits testify. Ents testify and talk. Finally, decision is reached to attack, even though it is unentish. And attack they do. In the movie, the Ents decide to do nothing in entmoot. Treebeard has to be tricked into seeing some dead trees (and then all of the Ents just appear, as if they were going along for some odd reason). Lame. So what exactly did they talk about at Entmoot? The weather? Did no Ent think to look at the eastern edge of the forest to see how it fared near Isengard?

In the movie much is made in Helm's Deep of the "decision", such as it is, between despair and fighting on. In the book, the fight there is certainly real and interesting, but it is not about despair. Nobody, as I recall it, is showing signs of giving up hope.

So in summary, the movie's plot has been streamlined quite a bit from the book. Real, hard decisions are rarely made, at least, not onscreen. Instead we move from one happening to the next automatically. Decisions are made by Saruman.
On Poverty: Isn't poverty just as bad now as it ever was in these United States? No, not hardly. But in the lala land of official government stats, it is. (And so it also is in the lala land of the activist left.)

What is wrong with government statistics on poverty? Well, a lot of things. I will point out a few in a second, but in case you are thinking I am biased, here is a critique from a person in government; introductory remarks to a Conference: Improving the Poverty Measure After 30 Years by Constance F. Citro from the Committee on National Statistics, National Academy of Sciences. I particularly liked this quote:
Although we do not fully understand the reasons, it seems that the "official" standing of the U.S. measure and the fact that it is used to determine eligibility for a number of government assistance programs have made it almost impervious to change.
"Poverty" was defined in the 60s. A survey in 1955 showed lower income people spending roughly one-third of their income on food. Food prices in 1955 for a minimal diet were used to calculate a minimal food budget. Then 3 times that was assumed, and a minimal necessary income computed. (3.7 was used for singles, and various other arbitrary-but-not-unreasonable multipliers for other domestic situations.)

"Poverty" then was assumed to increase proportionate to increases in food prices (as officially measured) for a few years. In the early 70s, the definition was changed to increase with the full CPI (which increases faster than food prices do). Food prices have generally continued to drop relative to the CPI price level.

So what are some problems with "poverty"? The largest problem is that it defined people as poor based only on their cash income. However, there are many very large income sources for poor people that are non-cash; for instance food stamps, subsidized rents, the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Another very important problem is the definition itself. Food prices have been dropping in spite of the fact they increasingly reflect processing and packaging; wholesale commodity prices have collapsed quite a bit since the 60s. Modern Americans spend only a small fraction of their income on food; nothing near 1/3. Using the CPI as a whole to adjust the poverty level is misleading because poor people do not buy the same mix of things that richer people do.

There are also a few effects that would increase "poverty" that are not measured in it: income and wage taxation. The social security tax, for instance, eats 18% of all working poor people's incomes. When it is hiked, more poor people result.
An old page, but quite funny. Why I Will Never, Ever, Get Laid Again. Found surfing to No Treason from Objectionable Content. Isn't the web fun?
Apparently Canada is getting close to quasi-legalization of marijuana. Zoiks! Go team! What's weird is there seems to be nothing in the Washington Post or the NYT about this. Yet this is much bigger news than just about anything short of the evil war.

If only the Canadian west can get busy on separatism, liberty would have a new leading nation.
Lott and Federalism: James Ostrowski on lewrockwell.com:
What do we do about abuses of federal power? Create a world government? I hear silence. So let’s sum up. Liberals say that when state governments abuse their power, we transfer that authority to the federal government. However, when the federal government abuses its powers, they refuse to follow the same logic and strip their beloved federal government of its powers.
Of course, some people would be happy with a world government. But the same problem applies: what happens when the world government gets something wrong? What if it decides, for instance, to adopt the War on Drugs as a global policy? What if it decides to dispossess everyone who is "rich", which would include all Americans? What if it it decides that women should not work outside the home?
On Politics and States Rights: by now anyone reading this probably knows what stupid old Trett Lott did. The Republicans, if they are at all smart, should remove him forthwith from the Majority Leader post. They should not, politically, wait until he resigns - they should force him out ASAP, with as much venom as possible. This will offer the most assurance possible to the public, especially minorities, that the party has its collective "heart in the right place".

(Not that I think any political party has a heart. The above is merely what I regard as good tactical advice, not any sort of moral statement. The purpose of political parties is to redistribute money from those that create and/or earn it, to others who do not. Lott's gaffe imperils the mission of corporate welfare.)

It's a shame that the people who Lott was appealing to - crude old time racists - have captured the term "state's rights". For it was a useful idea, that we desperately need still. But the fight over racism and discrimination in America shows an important truth about politics: people often do the wrong thing for good reasons; and people with bad ideas often ruin perfectly good ideas by mere association.

For instance, "capitalism" these days is thought of as meaning something close to "plutocracy; corporate aristocracy". In fact capitalism has nothing to do with corporations per se, and opposes plutocracy, aristocracy or any form of rule at all. Capitalism is inseparable from anarchy; any deviation from one is necessary a deviation from the other. But in the modern world the State, and the huge problems and crimes that go with it, have been associated with capitalism in part because of the people who defended the word "capitalism" - the corporate aristocrats. Their idea of "capitalism", that is, corporate welfare of various kinds, prevailed. It's not fair, but the that's politics.

Similarly, in the case in point, "state's rights" has been indelibly associated with racists, haters and murderers: the state apparachiks and lynch mobs of the South that legally and extralegally enforced Jim Crow. But "state's rights" does not mean Jim Crow; it means, in essence, "federalism" - the idea that most powers of government should not be delegated to the center. This is in fact a good idea.

Ironically, it was with the permission of the center - the Supreme Court - that Jim Crow was created.
The Plessy case erected a major obstacle to equal rights for blacks, culminating a long series of Court decisions that undermined civil rights for African Americans beginning in the 1870s, most notably the Slaughterhouse Cases, United States v. Reese, United States v. Cruikshank, and the Civil Rights Cases of 1883...

With the Supreme Court's approval, southern states quickly passed laws that restricted the equal access of blacks to all kinds of public areas, accommodations, and conveyances. Local officials began posting "Whites Only" and "Colored" signs at water fountains, restrooms, waiting rooms, and the entrances and exits at courthouses, libraries, theaters, and public buildings. Towns and cities established curfews for blacks, and some state laws even restricted blacks from working in the same rooms in factories and other places of employment.
The Jim Crow laws violated the right of free association. Nobody may morally tell you who to associate with, nor who to not associate with. It's your right as a human being to determine your friends, your acquaintances, and your trading partners.

True free association would have undone Jim Crow. The market, if left unregulated, punishes private discrimination and will inevitably (though slowly) destroy it. In order to stop this process from happening, the southern states made laws to enforce segregation - thereby violating the right of free association of businesses and citizens. The price of discrimination was socialized, and so it could be sustained indefinitely.

Illiberal policy - Jim Crow - was the core of the problem. Built on it was a superstructure of private discrimination. The correct solution would have been to strike down the illiberal laws, and let the market work. (Even better would have been for the Supreme Court to have correctly enforced right from the get-go.) The capitalist solution, while moral, would have been slow to demolish the offensive superstructure. And hence the powers that were went from forced discrimination to forced association, which is just as wrong for the same reasons. This was seen as acceptable in part under a theory of mass reparations for mass injury which is illiberal, but at least reasonable. But it was also accepted simply on the basis of who was arguing for it - the victims - and who was vehemently against it - Strom Thurmond and the other bad guys. People instinctively understand that lynch mobs are evil; and that anyone associated with them is probably wrong; and that anything such evil men say is probably bad too.

And thus the perfectly good concept of states rights was tainted. Leviathan rolls on.
Glenn Reynolds still appears to be confused by a few simple semantic issues related to the meaning of "pro". Here's a few thought experiments that might help clarify the thinking about that.

Let's say you can push a button, with the following effect known ahead of time and assured to happen: Saddam is deposed and a new enlightened government is installed in Iraq. Everyone in Iraq (other than Saddam) is better off; everyone else worldwide is no worse off than before.

Do you push the button?

If not, then I would agree with Reynolds that you are "objectively pro-Saddam". For while there are good reasons to press the button (making people better off), there is only one possible bad effect: the effect on Saddam. The only possible motivation for not pressing the button would be because you want to not hurt Saddam.

Most people, I think, would push the button. I would.

So now let's alter the experiment slightly. The same button, and the same effect if you push it. But as you make your decision, you only believe (with some degree N<100% of certainty), that the effect is as described. You also believe that there is some chance that pushing the button will have no effect on Saddam, while causing the death of 3000 innocent Iraqis.

Should you push the button?

I would say "no". Morally speaking, you should not. The reason is quite simple: you must always act on the basis of what you currently know. Since it is immoral to hurt (much less kill) innocents no matter what the end, you cannot morally endanger them by pushing the button.

By Reynolds' logic, however - only the effect on Saddam matters - I am still "objectively pro-Saddam". Presumably he would push the button. The Great Evil must be exterminated, and "the price is worth it".

So let's try a third experiment. Let's now dispense with the realistic (but complicated) lack of knowledge about the future in the previous experiment. Assume that somehow all effects of the magical button push are known in advance.

Let's assume that pushing the button does both effects previously described. That is, that Saddam is deposed and a new western liberal democracy appears in Iraq; everyone worldwide is no worse off except that 3000 innocent Iraqis are killed.

Presumably it is still "objectively pro-Saddam" to refuse to push the button; for this is, essentially, the war that Reynolds propounds on his blog. America will attack Iraq. Lots of innocent Iraqis will die under American bombs and whatnot. Saddam will be deposed. If the world is very, very lucky, "nation building" will work. (I'm not holding my breath, but assume so.) I would not push this button, but Reynolds clearly would.

Now I note that there is no difference, morally speaking, between killing innocent Iraqis and killing innocent Americans. Human rights spring from our mental abilities, and have no relationship at all to national borders. So, whatever conclusion one comes to in the previous experiment should remain the same if the 3000 innocents are Americans.

So it is "objectively pro-Saddam" to refuse to push a button which would depose Saddam at the cost of 3000 innocent Americans.

This leads to my final thought experiment. It's 9/10/2001, and someone offers you a button. If you press it, Saddam will be deposed and a new western liberal democracy will appear in Iraq; but two airplanes will hit the WTC and kill 3000 innocent Americans.

Do you press it?

If not, according to Reynolds' logic, you are "objectively pro-Saddam".

I really think Reynolds would not press the button. That makes him in retrospect "objectively pro-Saddam".

Join the crowd, Glenn.
An interesting article about copyleft in New Scientist. It mainly talks about the possible application of copyleft to information other than programs. Is it applicable? I think so.

Copyright is a good enough idea, though it has been slowly distorted over the years so that its advantages to the public are now much smaller than they used to be. (That sort of degeneration is inevitable for all State creations, not just copyright.) One of the great advantages of copyleft (and other forms of free information, including BSD-style licenses and even public domain), is that it serves as competition to copyrighted stuff. Such competition is increasingly necessary as copyright owning rent-seekers manipulate public policy in their self-interest.
It seems that leviathan must change some corporate tax policies. Uh oh: A corporate catfight in congress! Excellent reporting on politics as it actually is in the U.S. Pure self-interest from top to bottom, fractiousness caused (as always) by public property, and political immobility due to naked greed.
Drive a car out of an airplane; why? Because we can! Yes; "American decadence at its finest".
What is "privilege"? Talking to a modern liberal, you might get the idea that the word is synonymous with "advantage". But it isn't.

m-w.com has this:
privilege: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor : PREROGATIVE; especially : such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office
Under this definition, and in the domain of politics, advantages of birth such as wealth or skin color are not privileges. The thoughts, prejudiced or not, of our fellow citizens are not privileges. Only laws - actions of the state - are privileges in a political sense. It is certainly possible to talk about "private" privileges, such as having a key to the restroom in a particular private building. But these are hardly objectionable, and not what people talk about when they trot out the hackneyed "wealth and privilege".

dictionary.com has a more modern definition:
1.
a. A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste.
b. Such an advantage, immunity, or right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.


So it is not wrong to use privilege to mean advantage. But I would argue that it is confusing verging on tenditious, and we should avoid it. Advantages that we enjoy, perhaps without even knowing it and by no act of any person, are very different things than benefits handed out unequally by law.

Privilege used to mean something specific in politics: that well-born men by law were not subject to certain rules; that only well-born men by law were allowed to vote and other advantages; that men controlled women by law; that monopolies and other benefits were restricted by law to certain men. It is these sorts of privileges that Liberals fought and triumphed against (back when "Liberal" meant about what "libertarian" means today). This was the project of the enlightenment; and it has it clearest expression in the 14th amendment: "nor shall any State ... deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws".

"The equal protection of the laws" - what a majestic phrase!

So if privilege is (or should be), about laws, why then do progressives want it to be about advantages? It seems clear to me that the point here is political. People are, rightly, against privilege (as I would have it), but they are not against mere advantages. If you want to convince people to use the law to mitigate certain disadvantages, then it is clearly advantageous in a democracy containing lots of credulous voters to characterize such disadvantages as unequal results of privilege.
I sometimes wonder when people get caught up in paper crimes exactly what the law is they have violated. Lawyer James Ostrowski traces the law (as created mostly by judges and bureaucrats) that has landed Martha Stewart hot water: Wanted for Outsider Trading.

The actual law (meaning, something passed by Congress) which she violated is minimal. It is rather the Supreme Court's creation of law to interpret the SEC's creation of law interpreting the law passed by Congress, that Stewart has run afoul of.
In Pittsburgh you can go to the Carnegie Free Library. Here in Baltimore, I have a library card at the local public library system, which is called the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Why "free"? Aren't all libraries free by definition? No of course not. Free libraries evolved in this country as a philanthropic devotion of the rich. Before that there were libraries, run on a for-profit basis - private libraries. But a public library can always undercut a private one, which cannot tax. So private libraries don't exist anymore.

Or rather, private libraries don't exist called that. Private video rental libraries do exist - Blockbuster, Hollywood, etc. They aren't called libraries, but they are.

All of this reflection brought on by Lew Rockwell: Sell the Public Libraries. He's right, as usual.
Private libraries are not subject to the crazy political controversies that constantly afflict public libraries. Should public-library computers be able to access porn and hate sites? Should they carry Mark Twain? Shouldn’t they have a section designed only for blacks? What about gays and lesbians, who pay taxes to support the libraries. Why shouldn’t their interests be observed as well? But that offends other people who similarly pay for libraries.
I haven't blogged much in the last month.

There's a good reason for that - I haven't felt like it. But more than that; I didn't post for a weekend and I realized I was feeling guilty about it, as if I had the obligation to do so, even though I had nothing particular to say. I am a contrary sort; this realization made me determine to stay away from it for a while. I can stop any time I want - and I have.

But never fear. The world is still as unfree a place as it ever was, and I will continue to write about that. Just as I have for the last 15 years or so, on usenet, mail lists, personal email, and other places. But always intermittently. Politics is usually interesting, but it changes glacially and I am not always interested enough.
Speaking of Jim's blog, I really liked this post.
Statistics are wonderful in that they provide an authoritative measure of the harm that curfews and other Israeli actions cause, but they also serve to distract. They shift the discussion from morals to utility. The curfews are not wrong because malnutrition has doubled or tripled or quadrupled. They are wrong because innocent people should not be punished for crimes they did not commit. They are wrong becuase collective punishment is wrong.
Right on! I think the mass action in Nablus is very interesting. Mass oppression must work in part by keeping people separate, so they cannot join and oppose with their full strength. Protests like this may serve to give strength to the Palestinian people. Of course they have a power of sort from the actions of their terrorist minority. But this is different, because it is a power that should be theirs and that they are reaching for peacefully. The West must respect it. Peace is the way, not murder/war.
I had a letter from Jim at Objectionable Content, asking me what I thought about this post. Some guy in Georgia was apparently arrested for having 600 hand grenades. Yet the 2nd amendment would seem to apply. Jak asks:
Where in that Amendment is the line drawn between, say, a hand gun and 600 hand grenades? Or a ground-to-air missile? How do strict constructionist draw a line? Or do they?
I am no expert, but then I suspect most "experts" would draw the line somewhere around peashooters. To me the intent of the second amendment as written was to make sure that the people could form an army capable of beating the army of the US Government or the several States, if any of those governments turned despotic. Ergo, they need the same weapons as those possessed by the army. The use of a weapon by the army/navy/airforce is therefore defacto evidence that the weapon in question is permitted under the 2nd.

Should that mean that people can have nukes in their garage? The US has nukes, after all. According to a strict 2nd amendment, yes. However, my feeling is that nukes are inherently immoral; nobody should possess a weapon which by its very nature must kill innocent people if it is used. So I would draw the line somewhere between nukes and hand grenades, with the proviso that the government should not be on the other side of the line just as no individual should.

Now that's just me. Practically speaking, in the courts even a fairly strongly interpreted 2nd will end up being watered down considerably. For instance, they will almost certainly interpret it to mean weapons which an individual can "bear", meaning there is no right to possession of tanks, artillery, etc. That still leaves shoulder-launched rockets of various sorts that are fairly dangerous, but I expect that even these the courts will rule are not arms under the second for some reason or another, probably bad. The courts are not likely to uphold right simply based on original intent; they have to believe in them for current, practical purposes. They may well come to believe that armed citizens deter crime, because there is good evidence for that and such evidence will continue to pile up. (Look at poor Britain.) But the courts are arms of the State, and they will never see the utility of overthrowing the state by force of arms. So the 2nd will, practically, never be interpreted as much more than a right to carry around handguns and rifles.

That's enough original intent and construction. Constitutionalism was a great idea, but it has its limits. As I have mentioned before here, one of the nice things about anarchy is that it does not run into the problem of trying to define morality in a document or institutions, and then interpret. Rather it is a set of institutions which necessarily create a social situation with a moral logic. Some protection agencies may well have very strict limits on the weapons they will allow their client to keep and bear. Others may be very loose. Some will may even have nukes. The point is that all of them need not be the same. If you believe in gun control, then you can choose an agency which enforces it and try to avoid going outside the zones of controlled property. You will limit your life somewhat, yes. But that's your right. The law and protection will be created and supplied in response to demand, not via a command organization.
War Resisters: 'We Won't Go' to 'We Won't Pay'
"We will look back on war someday like we did on slavery"

Yes. And withholding taxes, though admirable, is not going to solve the problem. The problem is the state itself; inevitably it looks to its own health, which is war. Not paying taxes is a start, though. The problem is that only people with no assets can realistically use such a strategy. The rest of us, with real jobs and real assets, will have to work against war in less punishable ways.
Oh yeah baby! Revised View of 2nd Amendment Is Cited as Defense in Gun Cases. Individual rights, what a concept.
Andrew L. Frey, a deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department from 1973 to 1986, said the department's new position would make life difficult for prosecutors and might give criminal defendants unforeseen opportunities.

"Is this a Pandora's box, which, when once opened, cannot be controlled?" asked Mr. Frey, who opposed the new position in a letter to Justice Department officials on behalf of a gun-control group.
Yes, individual rights would look like a box of evil to a government drone. Imagine, the little people can do things like speak freely or arm themselves and we can't control them!
hi tony!

who are you?

i run a blog about anarchy. it's not really important. i'm a huge tony pierce fan, you know?

no. ok.

so now that you have carpal tunnel, you lose control. so i figure you can interview.

i'm interviewing you?

yes. or me you, whatever. it's cool. ask me why I am doing it.

don't be stupid, just tell me.

mainly just wanted to help. but I thought it would be cool to do something different. my blog is mostly boring shit. well interesting to me, but i know what most people think about politics. you know, policy this, analyze that, etc etc. like all the others. you know, instapundit but only posting once a day or less.

a lot of the others are great blogs.

yeah but i don't admire them the way i do you. i mean glenn reynolds is a machine, no question of that. i'd like to be a machine too, but there are other things i'd rather be.

like what?

rich, famous, you know the drill.

blogwise, dummy

well just check over on the left for "writing i'm reading". i gotta add a few, been lazy. but for example: gummi is demented, weird and wonderful and i wish i could write like that.

you wanna be demented? maybe that's your problem

maybe so. ok maybe i don't want to be gummi. her health sucks anyway. but check out dawn olsen, she's not demented and she seems pretty darn happy. and her stuff isn't weird or funny usually, but she cranks out a lot of it and a lot of it is good. i can't write that much. and even if i could i would never be that open. the woman has serious nads.

yeah dawn is great. she's cool in person too.

lileks is happy. he's pro so i guess he doesn't count. how about madison? she seems super cool too. i just got into her via you and dawn.

she's nice. she's different in person than on her blog.

see that's the thing. what you guys have going on is a cool blog personality. doesn't matter what you are like in real life. of course i can tell you are sweet and strong and super cool, gummi is weird and super cool, and dawn is totally out and super cool.

what's your blog again?

you have it linked, dude. i linked you up in the drive to 100, before you had the list up, cause I love tony pierce, not for some reverse whoring. i hate self promotion, mostly refuse to do it.

you hold that against me?

no. as i was telling my friend, sure tony extorted the blogosphere. but he's worth it. if I started doing that shit holding out for links, nobody would care. but everyone reads you, and everyone loves your stuff. my rule is, if I read it more than a few times, link it. if I don't, don't. pretty simple. so when i saw you were going for links, i realized i should have already linked you and i updated my links.

by that logic I should delink you

yup, makes no difference to me. this is one way love. keep it up.

you could show the love at the tip jar

i've thought about that, but there are more important things in the world to me than supporting bloggers. i figure i do it for free, so why not anyone else?

so my time is worthless.

no, just that i am not paying for it. our liberty is more important than your entertaining me.

i guess so.

i think you'll eventually get a gig like lileks. you already have a national readership.

i'm working on that. but i still appreciate any and all support from you guys.

great. anyway i show the love in comments whenever you are sounding down and ask for it. but most of your stuff i don't really have anything to say about it. comments are for normal blogs more than your sort of thing.

i wish i got more comments

and now that you're laid out, i am trying to help with this.

this?

yeah, what do you think i just transcribed it? nothing here is true, you know that. making shit like this up is hard.

no it's not. i do an interview in 20 minutes. tracking down pictures is what takes the longest

well that's why you're a blogstar and i am an insignificant microbe. this is hard work for me. taken me an hour so far.

blogstar. where'd you get that?

heard it? don't know. pay attention. you have a gift. you are taking the form somewhere, doing something with it that is new. the medium is message, maybe. new medium, what's the message?

everyone is equal?

i don't know myself. you're not equal. that mcluhan is probably bullshit anyway. point is you have a great blog and i think it represents some small bit of the future. that's interesting. the blog as virtual salon, with you as the host with most.

well i really appreciate the praise.

rock on, tony pierce.
Jane's on a roll: her thoughts on drug reimportation.
Jane Galt has an experience of anarchy and traffic lights. Unlike my recent trips across to the interstate with dead lights, in NYC there is enough traffic that lights being out is a serious problem. But volunteers stepped out to direct traffic at all the lights, and things kept moving. How about that? People are not the devils that the statists belive they are, who must be controlled and directed at all times lest their idle hands make mischief. (Of course, neither are they the angels that left-anarchists would need for their impossible dreams.)
An interesting article on a computer system for medical diagnosis. Computer aid seems obviously desirable to me, but apparently there is a lot of resistance within medicine.
A bunch of dark skinned people get excited on an airplane, switching seats and pointing at New York landmarks. A passenger gets suspicious. The obvious response? Lock the cockpit door, perhaps? No! Scramble F16s! Detain the ragheads! Except they turned out to be Indian Hindus. (Don't all those people look the same anyway?) Ooops!

F16s don't fly cheap. Nor is it cheap to have trained pilots on standby waiting to shoot down passenger aircraft. How much of my ex-money was spent on this farce?
Democracy Fails: Most of us were indoctrinated in the state-run school system how democracy works in our great country. Civics. The people have a problem. Good elected leaders recognize it. A bill is proposed, goes to house, senate, president, and becomes law. Then the problem is solved, and everyone is happy. Democracy! Right up there with apple pie and Mom in defining America, and goodness.

The reality is much more grim. Democracy, properly used, is an useful technique for measuring opinion. But it is a dangerous meme, given to taking over. Consider: what is democracy? It is "government by the people; especially : rule of the majority" (m-w.com). Note: "rule" of the "people". Control by a collective. To formulate democracy in terms of control, it is the control of things by the people, that is, the public. The "control of things" is what property is about; another way to define democracy is thus "a system of public property employing majority vote as the primary decision technique". And that is public property in all things. In an (absolute) democracy, everything is owned by the public. Your shoes, your car, your income, your wealth, and your life. All of these things are up for majority vote. Of course, even in an absolute democracy not all things would necessarily have to be voted on. A democracy may well never get around to voting on what shoes you should wear, thereby de facto leaving you a private decision there. But it is still not private property - the right is not yours, merely the privilege.

Now, as we were all taught in Civics, the USA isn't actually a democracy - we're a republic. The difference is not that significant; the people don't rule directly but instead use elected representatives, who rule directly. But the system maintains the character of public property, and so I will continue to refer to democracy.

Why does democracy fail? One primary reason is the subject of the previous post: rent seeking. The US Government owns all of our income: yours, mine, and that of every other citizen. It allows us to keep some, of course - we vote it so. But there has never been a tax rate declared too high by the Supreme Court, and there won't be while the 16th amendment stands. Incomes are public property. They are worth a great deal. And so many, many groups struggle to get the Congress to take a slice and give it to them. How much is currently wasted on rent-seeking? Well, take as a start all the people that aren't working who could, in order to get a welfare check, a disability check, or a social security check. All of the income these people are intentionally foregoing in order to take a slice of my paycheck - rent seeking. Now add on all the incomes of bureaucrats who produce nothing, and pro-rate the income of those that produce little of value. Add in all the spending on military systems that don't really protect anything. Then for a topping throw in the most obvious rent-seeking: campaign contributions. (How much would candidates be given if there was no stream of tax money that people were trying to a slice of? Very little.)

Why else does democracy fail? Many other reasons, but I think I will talk about them later.

Now, American democracy clearly is not absolute; we prevent it from being so by a set of institutions, the "checks and balances" so beloved of Civics class. The best example of these is the court system, chartered with a Bill of Rights, most of which assert forms of private decisions that shall not be infringed; which is to say, they assert domains of private property. (The courts, under continual pressure from the democratic institutions, have gradually allowed them to evade and subvert the original intent, but it should be clear to the average reader what the Bill of Rights is supposed to mean.) Note, though, that private property is as close to opposite as can be from public property. The Bill of Rights is not democratic; it is anti-democratic. The Constitution defines areas of democracy, but to interpret it as written (as an grant of enumerated powers to Congress) is anti-democratic. The common law, created by judges and tradition, not popular votes, is anti-democratic. The jury system, where a single individual can thwart the will of the people, is anti-democratic.

Note that these systems are the parts of our society that work, at least relative to how well Congress works. (If you ask a libertarian, anyway. ) The anti-democratic systems work; democracy doesn't work. Private property: good. Public property: bad.
Rent seeking: Imagine that I am a zillionaire, and I want to amuse myself a bit. I post a prize of $1M, payable in 10 years, to be awarded in the following manner. On each of my many estates, there is a huge field. The person that digs, and fills up, the most holes in any field will win the prize. Stupid contest? Yes. But the million bucks is real; people will want it. What happens? Well, volunteers will come forward and start digging holes. They will each think: "I am young and strong. If I dig, say, 16 hours a day, starting now, I can dig and fill up X thousand holes, and I will win! The pay averages to $100k/year... not bad for a guy with my skills. Meanwhile, even if I worked 16 hours a day in the best job I can get, welding, I would end up after 10 years with less."

Now, assume for the second that the contest attracts just one contestant. Even after spending a few months digging, he would have to continue his work, because he would not know if there were someone else at some other of my estates competiting. So this guy digs and fills holes, straight, for 10 years. He gets the million.

Pretty clearly, the whole thing has wasted a great deal. If the guy had worked for the same pay, at a real job that served people, he would have created a million dollars of wealth (or perhaps, just $500000, say, but clearly a lot). Instead, he spent the time at laborious, but useless, digging. Total waste. (Incidentally, a clear demonstration that the labor theory of value is junk and always will be.)

Now imagine that there were many volunteers, each at a different estate thinking, but not knowing, that he would win the prize. If there are ten of then, my contest could waste up to $10M! With even more contestants, even more could be wasted. In fact, if I could somehow get everyone in society involved (and keep them all ignorant of each other's progress), I could waste the entire GNP, with only my tiny million as the bait!

This phenomenon - the expenditure of scarce resources to capture a pure transfer - is called by economists rent seeking. (The term is perhaps somewhat unfortunate in using "rent" in a special way; it's not related to "rent" as we normally think of it, as payment for use of a resource owned by someone else.) The first analysis of the problem was done in 1967 by Gordon Tullock. The term itself was coined by Anne Kreuger, in a classic article "The Political Economy of the Rent-Seeking Society," (1974). Quoting Tullock in his introduction to rent seeking:
Kreuger's paper focused attention on third world mixed economies in which government intervention was extensive. She provided quantitative estimates of the social losses imposed upon the economies of India and Turkey by rent-seeking for import licences. According to her estimates, such losses amounted in 1964 to 7.3 per cent of the national income of India and to a staggering 15 per cent of the national income of Turkey. Numbers of this magnitude were sufficient to turn the heads of even the most left-leaning of the world's development economists.
15% is staggering indeed. As my silly imaginery contest shows, private rent seeking problems are possible. However, almost all serious rent seeking struggles in the real world are creations of governments, or to be more specific, the state. Read Tullock's intro (it's short) for a few more good examples.

The reason I bring this up is I want to use the concept on this blog. So consider yourself warned, and I hope, educated.
An article on private arbitration. The WaPo doesn't seem to like it much, but both sides are presented, if not fairly.
Opponents of mandatory arbitration argue that it also protects many firms from large jury verdicts, particularly from class-action lawsuits.
Opponents? This is a feature, not a bug.
Who'd have expected it? Me. Study Finds Steady Overruns in Public Projects:
"No learning is taking place among the professionals doing these budgets," Mr. Flyvbjerg said.

"Either the people who do the budgets are incredibly stupid, but this is highly unlikely," he added. "The other possibility is they manipulated the budgets to make sure the projects are approved."
Public property: bad. Private property: good.
An amusing argument slurped out of the memepool: Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?
Another thought experiment: Imagine that via a Constitutional amendment, the US legislative branch was cloned. Two senates, two houses of representatives. Each initially inherits the full US legal code, but can freely add or repeal laws afterwards.

Initially, states are chosen randomly and their representatives and senators assigned to one Congress or the other. However, the states will be allowed to switch from one Congress to the other, presumably via their own legislatures passing a law to do so. This is just the right of free association correctly applied to the situation.

The national dept would be split between the two congresses, divided up per-capita.

The two US congresses don't have to work together to fund any specific government program; they are free to disagree about things. Joint funding is possible and likely for many things.

OK, that's the scenario. I have altered today's system in one fairly simple way. What consequences flow from that, and are they good?

Well, first off we can see that there will be an initial flurry of states changing their affiliation. Just by random chance, the two congresses will get slightly different average political centers. One will be slightly more Republican; the other, slightly more Democratic. As a result, the two will pass different laws. This makes the consequences of belonging to the two congresses different, which creates an incentive for states to change their affiliation if they think that they would be better served in the other congress. A very Democratic state, perhaps Massachusetts (with 10 Democratic representatives and zero Republicans), finding itself in the slightly more Republican congress would move to the slightly more Democratic congress. Note, though, that in so doing, not only does the Democratic congress become more Democratic, the Republican congress gets more Republican. So both congresses will now be able to pass or repeal a few more laws than previously, and both legal codes will shift farther away from the average opinion of Americans as a whole, towards the average opinion of their respective party.

This process will continue, until all of the states have moved to the congress which best reflects the average politics of their citizens. Each party will end up easily controlling one congress. The representation in each congress will end up something like 15-20% from one party, and 80-85% from the other. (If all states had a definite leaning but were split 50-50, you would expect the split in the dual congress to end up 25-75.) With clear majorities in each respective congress, we can expect one thing in the short term: substantial legal change. The Republican congress would probably lower taxes some more, implement some forced private savings in lieu of some of social security, perhaps dabble in national voucher programs for education. The Democratic congress might implement national health care, give away more federal money to hire teachers, repeal welfare reform, raise social security taxes, etc.

So that's the short term, that is, two years or less. What happens when elections come? Well, new parties arise, or the existing parties split. The two party system always adjusts towards the middle; what is odd in this experiment is that there are two distinct middles. So in the long run the system might end up with up to four parties; in each congress the two would be ideologically close to that congress' midpoint. Three parties, I think, would also be stable: a "big tent" centrist party contesting elections in both congresses, and then a leftist party and a rightist party that would mostly limit themselves to one or the other congress.

Another effect that would happen in the longer term: people would physically relocate in order to get into one or the other legal regime. For instance I would probably leave Maryland (almost certain to be in the left leaning congress), for somewhere safely in the lower-tax right-leaning Congress. Over time, many Americans would do similarly; this would tend to reinforce the ideological polarization of the two congresses.

What sort of laws would be produced? Well, as I have suggested above, initially the system would produce both better law and worse law than exists currently. The "Republic" (the congress with the Republican majority) would lower taxes. The "Democracy" would raise them. Both can't be better.

But over time, a good thing would happen: the congress with the less libertarian laws would be forced to scale back its laws. Why? Well, consider as an example welfare. The Republic tightens it even further. The Democracy repeals it to its pre-Clinton state, or even makes welfare more generous. Initially this would cause no problems. But in the longer run, as I have described above, it would. The welfare-receiving poor would clearly have an incentive to move from the Republic to the Democracy. So welfare reform would work in the Republic, in part because they can dump their problems on the Democracy. The Democracy, unable to keep out those seeking its handouts, would gradually be forced to scale back its plan to close to that offered by the more stingy Republic. In fact, it is possible that some whole states, tired of freeloaders and their problems, would defect from the Democracy to the Republic over this issue.

Voting with one's feet is a very powerful way to get liberty. With two Americas, it is a much more viable option than with just one.

Let's take another issue: school reform. The Republic would set up a national voucher system. The Democracy would continue with tax and spend, paying even more for salaries and bureaucrats, but doing nothing for kids or the job quality of the teacher/guards. Over time, because the vouchers create competition, the Republic system would clearly beat the system in the Democracy. It would be cheaper, there would be fewer administrators, and kids would actually learn. The Democracy would eventually be forced by citizen pressure to adapt, as their system continued to fail.

The previous example shows another mechanism for libertarian change that doesn't happen in our current monopoly system: experimentation and copying of success. With only one system, there can be little experimentation, and there is therefore no way to learn new things to be copied. With two systems, a comparison can be made. Of course, it is possible, now, to experiment in small ways or small locales, with exceptional populations. But results from these sorts of experiments take a long time to amount to much, and even then are inherently difficult to apply to the political whole. (Consider the debate over the Cleveland program as an example.)

What about for stuff that the two congresses have to agree on? Consider national defense. Presumably the two congresses will cooperate on this one, each throwing in more or less half of the defense budget. Why half? Because otherwise people in the side throwing in more would feel cheated. Now consider the budget from the point of view of the two congresses. The Republic wants a big military, let's say $300b/year. The Democracy, a small one, say $100b/year. What happens? Well the Democracy has a trump card: they simply pass their budget allocating $50b this year to the military, then invite the Republic to do whatever it wants. A more libertarian budget gets passed. (At this point, I hope you are working out for yourself why Republic can't preempty the Democracy and pass its budget for $150b.)

Generally, in things that the two congresses do jointly, the one wishing to spend less always has the ability to pull the spending its way. Given that all government spending originates as taxes of some form, this is libertarian.

Seen generally, competition in the provision of law almost always moves the law in a libertarian direction. It is not immediately obvious why this is, but it is definitely the case; we have now examined three mechanisms for it: voting with the feet, experimentation, and the "race to the bottom". Of course, with only two law-providers, and the aggregation of the customers by state, the system is pretty crude. There will be a lot of Republicans ending up in Democratic states with nothing they can do about it. Choice here is increased over the real-world, but it's only increased somewhat.

So, now imagine there are 10 congresses, all with their own law. Or 100. And imagine that rather than aggregating by state, each individual American could choose the congress whose laws he or she wants to live under.
This is my blogchalk: English, United States, Baltimore, Charles Village, Leonard!
For good reason, the blogosphere is going nuts linking this article from the Times, which challenges the notion that obesity is caused by dietary fat. There is increasing evidence that it is carbs that are the main culprit in modern diet, not fat. What if that's true?
The alternative hypothesis also comes with an implication that is worth considering for a moment, because it's a whopper, and it may indeed be an obstacle to its acceptance. If the alternative hypothesis is right -- still a big ''if'' -- then it strongly suggests that the ongoing epidemic of obesity in America and elsewhere is not, as we are constantly told, due simply to a collective lack of will power and a failure to exercise. Rather it occurred... because the public health authorities told us unwittingly, but with the best of intentions, to eat precisely those foods that would make us fat, and we did. We ate more fat-free carbohydrates, which, in turn, made us hungrier and then heavier.
Read that again: if this is right, then the cause of the "epidemic" of obesity is, in part, the incorrect recommendations of the State! Talk about unintended consequences; here's one the American people might actually get mad about: I believed and you made me fat and ugly!

PS: don't you hate when "epidemic" is used for health problems which are at least partially self-caused?
Anarchy in action: it seems that $3 tax on a $2 pack of cigarettes is a bit much to pay. Fortunately, there are Indian nations within striking range of NYC. Businesses in the nations are cleaning up, selling untaxed cigarettes.

This illustrates an important principle that I shall have more on eventually: competition in supplying law has the practical effect of laissez faire. As long as there are multiple sources of law, any of which one might affiliate with, there tends to be a "race to the bottom" effect between the law suppliers, bidding for customers. What's the "bottom"? Freedom - no law at all. In this case, huge taxes are applied by the monopoly protection agency covering most of the New York state area, but tiny agencies are starting to have a serious effect. Fewer taxes are collected, and the businesses affiliated with the tiny protection agencies are enriched.

Meanwhile, cigarette selling businesses who are subjects of the large and evil monopoly are fighting like hell to use legal means to crush the competition. (Let's hope for the sake of New Yorkers that they fail in that.) They do this because it's the easiest way for them to get an even playing field with the Indian merchants. (Getting the tax repealed in NY would be better, but they know it is practically impossible.) In full anarchy, they would simply switch agencies, voting with their feet that $3/pack is too much tax.
I am against war in Iraq. However, if the USA does attack Iraq, it should make a new state of out Kurdistan.

In fact, the USA should create a Kurdistan now. There is no need to attack Iraq, either. From the times: Kurds, Secure in North Iraq, Are Cool to a U.S. Offensive:


Protected by a "safe haven" declared by the United Nations and a "no-flight zone" patrolled by American and British warplanes, the Kurds, with barely 40,000 troops and only light weapons, have built a 17,000-square-mile mini-state that arcs across a 500-mile stretch of Iraqi territory bordering Syria, Turkey and Iran. ... In this "liberated area" of soaring mountains, fertile foothills and semi-desert, the Kurds have built a society with freedoms denied to the rest of Iraq's population.

The Kurdish-controlled area has opposition parties and newspapers, satellite television and international telephone calls, and an absence of the repressive apparatus that has prompted international human rights organizations to brand Mr. Hussein's Iraq a terror state.

The drawback is that all this exists outside international law, and could be made permanent only by a new government in Baghdad that embraced freedoms for all of Iraq.

Why does this exist outside international law? What good is international law if people cannot secede? How is self determination possible without secession?
Weird "weather" in Baltimore yesterday: Canadian Wildfires Generate Hazy Day. Fallout from wildfires 1000 miles north of here generated an overcast, light grey day smelling of smoke.

UPDATE: Satellite photo!
Eric Raymond ends his series on Islam with a call to war. The series has been analysis thus far, and I think very good. Now Raymond gets to suggesting policy, and suddenly loses all sense of history.
To people who view the entire world through the lens of the Western tradition, the strategy I will outline is doubtless going to sound bellicose and regressive. It is not; it is founded on a cold-blooded realization that Arab cultures (and the Arabized cultures of the rest of the Islamic world) regard victory in war as a sign of Allah's favor and regard compromise and concession as a sign of weakness.

Well, yes, what follows is bellicose. "Regressive" is a judgement call that I will leave aside. As for that cold-blooded realization: all societies that I am aware of have regarded victory in war as sign of favor of their favorite diety. And all regard compromise and concession, at least over matter of principle, as weakness, because they are.

I agree with Raymond that we should take measures to improve our self-defense: "these will include conventional police and security measures. It must also include a revival of the role of the unincorporated militia and the armed citizen."

Raymond proceeds to argue that somebody (practically, the USA) needs to project military power against the "terrorist bases and havens". Bases, no problem. (Proof is an issue, but I ignore it for the purpose of discussion.) Havens? Problem. Right now, every Arab country has citizens who that hate Jews, the West, and the USA. All offer "haven" to at least a few terrorists. What we are talking about here is full scale war, between the USA and essentially all of the Arab world. Raymond does not quite admit that, but close enough - his call for targeted countries: "the war must continue in Iraq, and it is likely to encompass Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia as well."

So the USA is to overthrow all the governments in the Islamic world. To what end? To change the minds of the Islamic people: "We must teach the Dar-al-Islam to respect and fear the power of the West. We must not negotiate or offer concessions until it is clear from the behavior of governments, the umma, and the 'Arab street' that the public will to support jihad has been broken."

In other words, Raymond is advocating a sort of memetic engineering: from outside, we will apply force of arms that will change the hearts and minds of Muslims, making them give up on the idea of terrorist jihad. This point is emphasized later in the article, where he talks about cultural subversion.

Now, there is one, huge, gaping problem with this idea. And that is, that there is zero historical evidence that memetic engineering has ever worked, without the application of truly horrific levels of violence. Examples of effective imposed meme engineering are few: the conversion of Japan to democracy after 1945. Failures are many: Reconstruction. Vietnam. The War on some Drugs. "Nation building" sounds simple, but it is not.

Even more unlikely is the idea of forceably meme-engineering a foreign religion. Religion tends to strongly resist all change, internal or external. The expansion of Islam by the sword is one of the few examples I can think of where people were converted by external force. And in fact, it was not external force after the conquerers won - they moved in, and waged a sort of permanent battle for a while against the infidel.

Why is it so difficult to forceably change the thoughts of the masses? The reason is quite simple: people do not like to blame themselves, for anything. Given a problem and an even vaguely plausible external cause (such as an occupying army), we avoid self-criticism and blame the other. This is only human. It makes engineering other people's cultures extremely difficult.

History shows that only excessive levels of violence will serve to change a culture from the outside. The US government killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians, for example, to put the survivors in the right frame of mind to accept American tutelage. But we are more progressive now, and we will not stand for our soldiers terminating Arabs in the street. Nor will we tolerate our boys and girls coming home in body bags, altruistically sacrificed for Arabs. Any attempt by the US government to inject new ideas into Islam will fail.

So what should we do?

The USA, and the West, should disengage with Islam. We should remove our standing armies. We should give up the embargo that is hurting the Iraqi people but not Saddam. We should stop training Arab secret police and other CIA-type interventions into their society. And we should strongarm Israel into unilateral separation from the Palestinians. We should, of course, trade freely with the Islamic world. And we should continue sniping at their lack of freedom, but only with words from private groups. Publicly we should simply say we believe in self-determination and let the Arab street figure it out.

We should also make it clear that any attack by an Arab country on a democracy will result in us entering the war, and either capturing or killing all Arab leaders that are plausibly responsible for the decision to fight.

What will happen? Well, terrorists will continue to attack us for a while, and we must be ready. That's why I agree with Raymond on self-defense measures. After a while, the terrorists (along with many good Arabs) will realize that the local dictators are vulnerable. Social revolution will break out. The dictators will be swept aside, replaced by nasty socialist theocratic regimes. (I hope they will be nice playful liberatarian Western regimes, but let's be realistic.) These regimes, in turn, will fail because socialism always fails, and both socialism and theocracy will be discredited. They will evolve fairly peacefully into democratic market economies. This is the pattern we have seen in the undeveloped world (substituting nationalism for theocracy). This is the pattern that we are seeing in Iran. It will work in the rest of the Arab world. Note the key to it all: they will evolve. Social evolution has to come from within. Raymond's open-ended war will only prolong the current period, of deeply angry people being turned against the West by clever rulers.

And guess what? The policy of peace is also moral. How about that?
An interview with the judge who wrote the pledge of allegiance decision. Funny ending.
Lew Rockwell correctly points out that Vouchers [are] Another Name for Welfare. Aren't I against welfare? Of course. So why I am so happy about the voucher decision?

The reaction to the decision reveals a split between hardcore moralist libertarians, and more practical ones. Now, I would almost never place myself on the side of practicality, but in this instance I find myself there.

As Rockwell argues, there is no doubt that vouchers are welfare. Welfare is different from charity; welfare is involuntary on the part of the giver. Broadly, any time taxes are handed out in such a way as to effect redistribution, that's welfare. Libertarians are all against welfare, for the simple reason that taxation is wrong. So Rockwell is certainly within the libertarian mainstream to be against vouchers, at least at a theoretical level.

The split between libertarians comes in adapting ideology to the real world, a world that is already deeply immoral. In this case, we already have a tax system up and running, and it is already spending huge amounts on horrid public schools that are damaging millions of children. Furthermore, student slavery (aka truancy) laws are already in place and don't appear likely to change.

In this context, I see vouchers not as a new form of welfare, because the welfare of public schools is already in place. In the sense of requiring immoral taxation, vouchers are no more or less moral than public schools. (Though it is worth pointing out that by saving money, vouchers will at least damp down the need for taxes.) Vouchers are unrelated to evil truancy laws.

Rockwell worries about the influence of vouchers on religious schools. Won't they be tempted, and thereby fall under the regulation of the state? Well, yes, many will. But they are not forced into the system. So I don't see it as a problem. Certainly some schools will hold out for religious reasons. Some won't. Probably in toto, the number of "pure" schools will decline. But that just represents the fact that most people, even now, are not sending kids to religious schools for religious reasons; rather they send them there because the alternatives suck. In any case, all the kids now in religious schools do, currently, have the option to go to a public school and thereby accept welfare. Tempting them with a voucher is no different, except for the practical reason that vouchers are likely to buy better schooling. Morally the two are equivalent.

Where vouchers are important and different, is that they hold out the possibility of introducing competition into the education market. This will drastically increase quality over that of public schools. Now, it is true that vouchers will not introduce as much market discipline as a true free market in education would. But so what? Vouchers are clearly superior, practically, to public schools in at least some ways, and morally inferior in none.

So can libertarians advocate a change to public policy that is evil, but less evil than the current public policy? That is the question. I would say the answer is yes. For if we can only make changes that change to moral end-states, we will achieve nothing.

Meanwhile, I think that vouchers will achieve a very great deal. What? Well, there will be a terrific social struggle for a while, as the teacher's unions fight to keep customers in their failed system. But over time the benefits of competition will become increasingly clear to the public, and they will implement voucher systems for everyone, not just the poor. The middle classes will leave the public schools. The public schools will remain as a rump system, but it will only be used by those that nobody else wants - handicapped kids and discipline cases. Meanwhile, the education in the new voucher funded private schools will become top-notch.

Why? Competition. Like Rockwell, I worry about the effect that state bureaucrats will have, attaching strings to vouchers. Inevitably they will. But I also think that the effects will be much smaller than the effects that those same bureaucrats have on the public schools. The reason is simple: currently both the administrators and the educators are the same set of people. They have the same interests in bilking the public. Therefore, it is very hard for politicians to get cover to say "no". To say no is to be against "the children".

In a partly private system, the interests of the educators will be opposed to those of bureaucrats. Therefore, not only will there be fewer bought Democrats, there will be political cover for Republicans that want to stand up to the school bureaucrats. The private school teachers will be happy to testify that such-and-such a regulation is hurting their ability to educate, that the regulation needs to be clipped "for the children". This opens up the politics so that the politicians are free to do what is right (for the non bought ones). It's a very different political situation than currently obtains.

So, while the state will regulate the voucher schools somewhat, there will be much less regulation than currently; furthermore of the regulation that is there, much less of it will worthless or counterproductive.

Less regulation, and much more competition - this is a formula for vast improvement. That improvement itself will feed back into the system over time, as kids become adults and can vote. It is a joke, currently, amongst libertarians, that our enemies were educated in public schools. That joke holds truth, though, as hurtful jokes often do. I don't know of any statistics on it, but my impression is that people who were privately educated are much more ideological than those who got public educations. They are more likely to be libertarian, whether of the left or right. They are more likely to be sceptical of the government. And they are more likely to be interesting friends. Now imagine a nation full of such people. That is what ultimately frightens the left about vouchers; it's not just the teacher's unions. And that is why almost all libertarians are cackling with glee over the recent Supreme Court decision.

Mwahahaha!
In the National Review Online, James Bowman argues that Marx does influence us all in our political language.
when Mark Leibovich in the Washington Post says that the news from WorldCom is "yet another body blow to our national faith in capitalism triumphant," we have to wonder if the defenders of "capitalism" shouldn't consider the dangers of using their enemy's vocabulary. For "capitalism," as a man from Mars unfamiliar with the terms of political debate in the 20th century would have to conclude, is simply the socialist word for life.

Or, to put it another way, this supposed "system" of capitalism is simply the way things are, baby - even under "socialism," as the inevitable black markets in socialist countries bear witness. To give this fundamental economic reality its socialist name, to call it an "ism" and speak of that "ism" as a "system" implies that there is some alternative to it

An interesting piece, but ultimately wrong. "Capitalism" is the economics that spring up from private property. It is not "life", except insofar as we accept liberty as a default state which is so obvious as to be unchallengeable. But clearly liberty is challenged by many political ideas. The fact that "capitalism" of a sort exists even under socialist systems does not mean it's "the way things are". It means that the socialist system, for one reason or another, has not seen fit to extinguish defacto private property in some particular segment of the economy.

The economic results that grow from private property stand in stark contrast to the economic results that grow from public property. Succinctly, private property is good; public property, bad. And thus it is important and worthwhile to have words, "capitalism" and "socialism", to use to contrast to such ideas. One could, I suppose, instead say "the system of natural liberty and its economic aspects", or something like that. But hey, we have the word. Why not use it? Indeed, given that it is a compact description of a complex thing, we will never expurgate it from the language.

As for the idea that the ideological enemy is shaping the discourse, I think that is only true if we, the defenders of liberty, let it be true. I use "capitalism" myself all the time, without irony, as a good, desirable, and even wonderful thing. As in, "look at all these brands of cereal! Ain't capitalism great?!" Capitalism is great, and we ought to say so. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either uneducated in economics, or an idiot.
Doesn't copyright require novelty? No, I guess not. John Cage's publishers go after some guy who "wrote" a minute of silence.

UPDATE: I was just cruising slashdot, and this was there on Monday. You know you are a geek when you find a piece and blog it, then later discover you are following slashdot.
I was just getting ready to leave for work this morning, when I heard beeping. Spitting toothpaste, I went to look and sure enough, it was my UPS. Power was out. So much for that last look at the web before commuting. I turned the computer off and left.

All the lights on 29th street were out, most of the way to the interstate. I made great time. I waited briefly at one intersection for traffic the other way, but mostly it was going my way and I cruised all the darkened intersections.

Do traffic lights serve a useful purpose? Well, yes. In heavy flow both ways, they clearly create fairness in accessing the intersection. In light flow, they tend not to be that efficient. Mainly they make it clear who has right of way, thereby eliminating "chicken" games in an intersection. That is, they may not be efficient in terms of traffic flow (which was what I was perceiving), but they may be efficient in terms of safety and traffic flow collectively.

Would road companies competing with each other for customers find more efficiencies? I expect so. The state has little or no incentive to do so. It suffers neither from loss of customers to competitors nor to liability when the streets are not safe. Why should it change anything?
Jim at Objectionable Content has some comments regarding my piece on the price of civil order. He calculates it per-household and per-adult. He also calculates per-household defense spending as $253/month.

I did not calculate defense spending in the original, even though I thought about doing so, for a good reason. Most of what the justice system produces is private goods. If you don't subscribe to a company A, it doesn't protect you. Most of what we think of as "defense" spending is a public good. Public goods are underproduced, or not produced by for-profit producers. Defense being a very broad-scale public good, in anarchy I expect it will not be produced on the market. Since defense is valuable, it will be produced in other ways - primarily, I think, charity. But the total spent would almost certainly be far less than the USA currently spends. And the cost is likely to be spread much less evenly than that for protection (which everyone needs all the time).

Economics lesson for those confused by "public good" and "private good": a private good is a good which you can exclude others from (and because you can exclude, you can make money!). Most normal goods are like this. If I eat the apple, you can't also eat it. A public good is a good that, once produced, benefits a set of people who cannot be excluded from enjoying it. Think of a NPR radio broadcast: regardless of whether you cough up money at the begathon, you can still listen. Economic theory tells us that private goods will be produced in the correct amount in a market, but that public goods will be underproduced.
I just read Brink Lindsey's blog, as I occasionally do, because he is a libertarian. In this case I was looking to see what he thought about the pledge thing.

I found this, which is wonderful and short enough to quote in its entirety:
Yesterday evening I did a live segment on CNBC on agricultural trade issues. When I got home, my 5 year-old boy was waiting at the door, grinning expectantly and asking: "Did you see me? Did you see me?"

I asked him what he meant, since I had no idea what he was talking about. "I saw you on TV," he explained. "Could you see me?"

I remember, when I was around his age, thinking that if I smashed open the TV all my favorite cartoon people would scamper out into my living room. I never had the guts to try.
Against the Pledge: I crowed over the Pledge decision, earlier. Why?

I always disliked the pledge. Not just because of the God reference, though that was offensive. But because it didn't make any sense and felt creepy to boot. Of course at the age where I was reciting it I was not as critical as I am now. But now I think I can analyze it adequately enough to explain my earlier feelings.

It did not make any sense for me to be standing there showing respect for a piece of cloth. It's a piece of cloth. What does it mean to pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth?

Plainly seen, the use of the flag in the pledge of allegiance is idolatry: the worship of a physical object. (One wonders why so few conservative Christians and Jews abjure it for this reason; they are commanded against idolatry many times.) Forget about "under God". The entire ritual is religious, and should not be performed in government schools.

Well, what if we removed the flag and god references and the use of the flag too? I pledge allegiance to the United States of America, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Nope, still wrong. What is allegiance? It is "the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to a sovereign or government". I'm an American, not a serf. The government exists to serve me; not vice-versa. I owe it no fidelity; if it ceases to serve me I should (and do) call for its abolition. To pledge allegiance even in this attenuated form, is to declare oneself a vassal, to declare oneself owned. I am, or at least should be, a free man. And I want all other Americans to be free, too. I don't want them declaring servility.

And I especially don't want children being brainwashed with servility memes that they are not sophisticated enough to really understand.

OK, that's my blast of negativity. It's easy to be a critic. So what would make me happy? Well, I am happy to declare allegiance to principles. The pledge should state principles that are common to all Americans. Here's a pledge I would recite happily enough: I pledge allegiance to the principles of the United States of America: limited government, private property, life, liberty and justice for all.

Do I want that performed in the government schools? No, it's still too much like brainwashing for my taste. Of course, I don't think there should be any government schools for exactly that reason.
Imagine that as part of the settlement with Microsoft, some of the terms were that Microsoft would get out of the spreadsheet business. But imagine, further, that Microsoft had appealed the decision, and reliable observers thought there was a good chance that the ruling would be reversed in the Supreme Court.

Question: would you start a business to make and sell spreadsheet software?

Answer: no chance. You would be a fool to go up against a 50-50 chance of outright bankruptcy completely out of your own control. No responsible bank would lend you money for such an endeavor. They would tell you: why not wait for a few years to see how it goes in the courts, and then, if the ruling goes against Microsoft, come back and we'll deal?

The preceding is completely hypothetical. I thought it up to help think about the effect of the recent Supreme Court decision on school choice. It's no wonder that 95% or so of the kids choose religious schools - there are many more of them already in the inexpensive education market than there are cheap secular private schools. With the decision, though, I expect more private schools to enter the low-end market. Not because they couldn't make a profit there before, but because they stood to have their entire market killed at the stroke of a pen.
What a great week for liberty in the courts! High court upholds school vouchers!
Her religion requires her not to expose her face to strangers. Florida requires full-face shots for drivers licences. But it also guarantees religious freedom. Lifting Veil for Photo ID Goes Too Far.

Like the pledge in schools, this is yet another instance of the struggle set off by public property. In the case of the pledge, the state owns the schools and by predatory pricing makes it very difficult to compete. People who are not rich can't opt out, and thus they try to have their ideas of what should be taught in school implemented. There can be only one policy, but there are many contradictory ideas, so it is a fight. If the pro-pledge people win, the anti-pledge people lose, and vice versa. Both sides cannot have the imprimateur of the state upon their preferred outcome, because the state is singular.

Similarly, the state runs a monopoly road system, using predatory pricing (and coercive funding) to prevent anyone from competing. So access to the government roads becomes something everyone must have. And so competing interests must fight to set policy.

These two cases are both small things. Principle is involved, so they are well worth fighting over. But the actual effect of the decisions, whichever way they go, is small to nonexistent. Some people seem to think this is a reason not to fight. I disagree totally. If you won't fight for principle, what will you fight for? If you shouldn't fight for principle, what should you fight for?

But there are many cases where the stakes are not as small. For instance, can they teach evolution in the public schools? Or even larger: can they teach science? The problems are an inevitable result of public property. The solution is private property. Once you see that for the schools (where it is obvious to anyone who understands economics), then you are set to start questioning where else the same solution can be applied.

I apply it everywhere.
Yes! Pledge of Allegiance Declared Unconstitutional.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that requiring teachers to say "under God" endorses religion.
Virginia Postrel on economics: always worth a read.
What Does Protection Cost? I have been talking about "Protection Agencies" that compete in a market for the business of consumers. One question worth considering is: how much does protection cost? If it is a lot of money, then perhaps the poor will not be able to afford it. That may or may not be a problem, per se, but certainly it raises issues of justice.

Well, check out the Statistical Abstract of the United States. In table 424, we find that the total spent by states and localities on "Police protection" in 1998 was $187 per capita. On "Corrections", per capita spending was $157. I infer that costs of running the court system are included in that, since there is nothing else it fits under, other than possibly "Financial administration", $96 per capita. But let's assume courts are under administration. Total: $460 per capita - per year.

The Federal court and prison systems are much smaller than the states, something like 10% or less. So we can ignore them for this.

Keep in mind that a good bit of both the law enforcement costs and the corrections costs are the costs of apprehending and imprisoning victimless "criminals". This is perhaps half of the total. Then we should also decrease the amount one might pay in anarchy based on the near-certain fact that the current system is bloated and inefficient. That will also be perhaps half. So the costs of protection in an anarchic system should be something on the order of $115/year, about $10/month. Anyone can afford that.

Now, I think that anarchy will do even better than that. I have written before about the function of our current prison system as rapist factories. More generally, our current prisons are fantastic places to learn to be a criminal and not very good for anything else. So, reducing their throughput drastically would cut crime disproportionately. Another advantage of anarchy is that prisoners will work to earn their keep and to pay restitution to their victims. This would be a huge gain in financial efficiency, since currently incarceration costs an average of $20000/prisoner/year. Finally, I suspect that given a highly competitive market, protection agencies will not just "cut out fat" and get leaner, but they will invent whole new ways to police that we won't try today. As I said yesterday, liberty is like that - unpredictable. So the price may well come down even further. I can certainly imagine "free" policing that really poor people provide by themselves, for themselves, as a sort of militia system.

In short, currently the State spends surprisingly little on protection, especially given how much they steal in taxes. In anarchy, total spending will be less. It's affordable.
I have suggested thus far a few ways to think at anarchy, and I hope to post another when I have the time. But I wanted to stop off a second to make something clear. I can certainly kick out some ideas of what I think anarchy will be like. My ideas might be accurate. But then, they might not. One of the striking aspects of freedom is that you don't know what people will do with it without actually giving it to them, letting them mess around, and seeing what comes out.

Consider, for a second, the following thought experiment. Say I had come to you, 20 years ago, and told you that the U.S. government was considering privatizing the U.S. postal service. Next I would have asked for your prediction: what will the business of carrying mail be like in 20 years? If you had been up on things at the time, you would have predicted UPS would be big, and FedEx too. You probably would have predicted many other package services would have entered the market. But would you have predicted email would dominate the market? Probably not.

Similarly, when I propose ideas for what I think anarchy will be like, it's just that: ideas. The system itself has a logic that may or may not match what I think; and what will happen is what will happen. That's freedom. With most political ideologies, people do things the other way around. They posit the outcomes they want, then they try to construct a political system such that it will force those outcomes to obtain, or at least make them likely (in the opinion of the ideologue). That's what I meant a couple days ago, when I said that "Libertarians try to take a moral framework and construct politics out of it." You take an idea, say, the idea that people should be able to carry around guns. Then you try to create a system such that it must hold true, i.e. a court system chartered with a bill of rights that has the right to keep and bear arms in it. This sort of construction often runs into problems: what's a "arm"? Do machineguns count? Artillery? Shoulder launched anti air missiles? Thermonuclear ICBMs? What does "keep" mean? What does "bear" mean? Etc. etc.

Now, I am a libertarian from the point of view of most people. I support the libertarian (and Libertarian) agenda pretty much without caveat. I also happen to think that anarchy will have a very libertarian politics supervening over it. But, I could be wrong about that. If push comes to shove (and it will, at least in tiny ways), I will take anarchy. As, for example, the RKBA example: a rights absolutist will have to admit that a thermonuclear weapon is not really different from an assault rifle, from the point of view of being "arms". Both are useful for the militia to deter the state. Now most people, even libertarians, would be uncomfortable with the idea of just anyone with a nuclear device. That's an ideological problem. To an anarchist, it's not, because "rights" as such, while convenient ways to think of what the system will produce, are not reified in the system. The protection companies (if that's what evolves) can easily decide to allow their clients to have guns, but not nukes. They are businesses and they don't have to be ideological.

How can a person espouse a system without knowing exactly what it will produce? Well, it's easy to me. I see that most people are generally good, at least publicly, and will fight at least a bit for justice. Give them freedom, and I think it is enough; over time they will create a system, whatever it may be, that will work pretty well. If they keep the simple axioms of liberty in mind, it will be a great system. If they don't, it will have problems, but it will still probably be OK. In this, I point to the current systems that have evolved around us. Sure, they are statist and ultimately unacceptable. They violate rights all over the place, are inconsistent and even dangerous occasionally. Nonetheless, they more-or-less work most of the time. That's not too bad for systems designed and/or evolved without a modern understanding of economics and human evolution. Knowing so much more, we can do even better. And we will.