Instapundit has a bunch of stuff about how Scientific American has come, over the years, to suck. And that's true. The Lomborg hatchet job was clear evidence.

On Reynold's site a lot of the letters he is posting are claiming SciAm has been going downhill for years. As a longtime reader myself, I can confirm that, too, though with a big caveat. And that is that the decline of SciAm, in my opinion, has been very gradual - until recently. As of about a year ago, they started completely overhauling the magazine's feel. Among other aspect of this, they started putting in bullshit illustrations. This, more than anything else, epitomizes to me the rapid recent decline of SciAm. The illustrations were half the reason to read it; they were always top notch and made understanding the science easy. Indeed you could often get valid scientific information simply by looking at the pictures. But now they are putting in illustrations that have no connection to the scientific article at all, other than the vaguest fanciful connection in some hack illustrator's mind perhaps. This is a break much bigger than publishing borderline science like articles on nuclear disarmament. It means that the editors no longer are reading their own magazine for their own scientific understanding!

Brink Lindsey has an extremely interesting blog entry up about the really deep conceptual learning that seeing E.T. invoked in one of his kids.

Pretending was something he understood, and so the whole idea of a "real" movie with "real" people that still wasn't really "real" (i.e., the events in the movie didn't really happen) started to make some sense to him. But he was totally blown by the skill with which the child actors pretended. "How did they learn to pretend to cry and be happy and sad?" he asked me. I didn't have any good answer

Virginia Postrel has an interesting article up on the NYTimes website. She popularizes the meme of an economist, Michael Suk-Young Chwe, who thinks that public rituals serve the purpose not only of distributing information from the center outward, but also in making the audience mutually aware of each others' knowledge

Public rituals, rallies and ceremonies generate the necessary common knowledge. A public ritual is not just about the transmission of meaning from a central source to each member of an audience; it is also about letting audience members know what other audience members know.

This is an interesting idea. I would add that for at least some of rituals, I think an important aspect of their meaning is to make sure the participants in the ritual know that their society knows something. So, for example, if Bush were to find being President too stressful, the knowledge that everyone he knows saw him take the vow will add to his fortitude.

Or take marriage, another case discussed in the article. It is important that one's friends and family know one's status. That's the "simple" interpretation of marriage. Chwe would add that it is also important that the friends and family know each other know the status of the married couple. I can see some reasons for this, but it does not seem that important. It's more important that the couple know that their friends and family know, that they are married. In particular if one of the pair is tempted to cheat, it's likely that a potential partner will know his or her status, which will squelch the temptation in one way or another.

Generally speaking, a vow taken in absolute privacy is easy to give up. A vow taken publicly is not, because giving it up will probably mean loss of respect from those that know about it.

With superbowl ads, of course, my explanation is not operative. Except, perhaps, insofar as people know there is a huge commitment necessary to buy the time, so that to some extent having bought the ad insures that a company will stick with the service or good offered. (Psychologically true; economically such reasoning is false.) But Chwe's idea is helpful, I think, in analyzing why network effects might be the case in the mass media.

Postrel is always worth reading; I have her blog linked in the sidebar. That's where I found the link to the article.

There is a Matt Welch review up at the Reason site of Ralph Nader's book about the 2000 election. A good review -- Welch takes apart Nader, particularly on truthfulness:

We?ve come to expect this kind of professional dishonesty from the two
major political parties, which is one of the reasons many of us find them
repellent. But coming from a "purity" candidate who wants to lecture us on
"how to tell the truth," it suggests a certain self-delusion.

What I find fascinating about what Nader says in the book, is that he is still denying the idea that he cost the Democrats the election. The greens were trying to downplay the possibility before the election, too, but now there is plenty of hard evidence that Nader did in fact spoil the election.

Now, if I were the Greens I would be making that fact known widely, loudly, and clearly. This is how they can achieve their goals. The Greens themselves, like their intellectual forbears, the Socialists, will never get elected to anything substantial in America. Our winner-takes-all elections are not stable with more than two parties. But clearly outsiders can influence the process; the way they do it (among other means) is to get their ideas adopted by the big parties.

But the big parties don't need to bother with the idea of little parties -- unless those little parties credibly threaten them. To threaten them you need to cost them elections, or at least show possibilities of it. But the actual deed of costing them an election is the best threat.

So the fact that Nader beat Gore is something he should be proud of. Instead he is lying about it. How like a politician, yes. I expect that. But how stupid of him not to make their case to his supporters!

Now Nader is not a stupid man. He has to know what he has wrought; so the only possibly explanation for lying about it is that he is trying to have it both ways. He knows that the Democratic establishment knows that he cost them the election. But he thinks the sort of people that might vote Green are too stupid or uneducated to understand strategic behavior in politics. Perhaps he is warranted in his contempt, but then it makes you wonder why he wants to lead a group of imbeciles.
Yesterday I am talking with my friend Rachel in the gym. It seems she doesn't really believe in human nature.


I guess I don't get out much. But this amazes me. I asked her about parental love, and she comes back at me with parents abusing children, and then Chinese parents selling girls into prostitution. It is true that some children do get abused. But somehow I don't think think these things are as universal as she seems to. If some particular abuse happens in 1% of cases, can't we say that 99% of humanity acting in some way, regardless of culture, is a pretty strong bit of evidence that there are human universals?

In any case, parents who abuse their children may not love them, but it seems to me that mostly they do. It is possible to abuse what you love. And as child murder statistics suggest, a lot of abuse comes from non parents -- exactly those who evolution would predict would not love a particular child.

I brought my digital camera to the gym to lend to Rachel, as she had a couple stray cats she had taken in that she wanted to give away. But I told her to go crazy; take pictures of her boyfriend, other cats, whatever she wants. Digital pictures are cheap. Then she starts telling me a story about one of her other cats. It seems this cat has 15 little mice-cat-toys. Why 15? Seems she loses them under the sofa sometimes. (Um... and who bought these toys for her because the others are out of reach? And why?) And the cat does things that are "sooooo cuoooote"! Yes, as she told me this Rachel adopted the universal tone of maternal love, the "ooo"-noise often heard near strollers. The same woman who was earlier disputing the idea that humans might universally love children.

(I wonder if the word "cute" in other languages usually contains the "oo" noise? Is that just a coincidence? Is not the "ooo" itself genetically programmed? Don't all human coo over babies?)

Rachel is not a mother and I think perhaps not interested in being one, which probably informs her weird idea that loving children might be cultural or individual or familial, or anything other than an instinct. Yet she, herself, is reacting to the cuteness she perceives in her cat in a instinctual, programmed manner!

Indeed, it seems to me a large part of the reason people have pets is exactly to trigger their own parental instincts. Why? Because such instincts are pleasureful. It is rewarding for us to see our loved ones prosper and be happy. This is an evolved mental faculty, evolved for the very good reason that genes for it prosper in humans.
Glenn Reynolds wants to see someone "denounce Saddam Hussein as a 'baby killer' or anything similar for his embargo on oil exports".

OK Glenn. Saddam is killing babies by immorally coercing his people to not trade with us. The man is evil. He should free his people and let them trade with us if they want.

Of course, anyone calling Saddam "baby-killer" on this basis also should accuse the U.N., albeit in somewhat less harsh terms (since Saddam's embargo is total, whereas ours was not). It is not something we should be proud of, to have this man emulate our immoral tactic.

Another way of looking at Saddam is that he owns the entire country (and population) of Iraq, which is the defacto truth, more or less. To paraphrase Mao, ownership springs from the barrel of a gun. Looked at that way, Saddam has every right to not trade with us (it's his Iraq, after all). On the other hand this makes him a slaveowner, a far worse violation of human rights than coercing people to prevent them from trading.

In any case, "killing babies" is a side effect of the true moral evil at work here (coerced non-association or slavery, depending on how I look at it). Innocent deaths are always regretable, and while they should always exert an emotional claim on everyone, they do not necessarily exert a moral claim. The only people who might claim so are the left, who propound notions of entitlement. You know the idea - people have a "right" to free food, free medical care, free water, free shelter, blah blah blah. So really I am not giving Glenn what he wants: he wants to see the left apply notions of entitlement to Saddam's action. On that score, I am waiting along with him.
I am really glad people like Sara Rimensnyder are libertarians. This is funny stuff.
Just a bitter note to celebrate yesterday, tax day. I was discussing it last night with a good friend who had to send in money. I got money back, on net, but that's not the point. Getting back a few hundred is still a small fraction of what I paid. And what I paid is going almost completely to buy things I don't want, things that are actively bad for the world. Welfare, warfare, and pseudo-savings, all of which crowd out productive activities, disturb peaceful people, and/or give people incentives to act antisocially. This is wrong.

And please, don't give me that social contract crap, or any of that "we" did it so it's right. You may feel your own taxes are in some sense voluntary. I don't.
I signed this Cell Research Petition. If you are reading this, you probably already have, but you should too.
Brink Lindsey has more to say. He is still dodging the idea that there might be any moral angle to war. But since I have responded thus far to his pragmatist arguments, I might as well have at him yet again.

Anti-state libertarians can't seem to see the importance of context -- that what may be wisdom in the confines of Lockean civil society could be utter folly in the Hobbesian state of nature. And so, in the domestic sphere, they indulge in fantasies about replacing government with totally privatized law enforcement. And internationally, they contend that making war beyond one's borders is inconsistent with the defense of liberty.

Lindsey does not explain why he thinks that private law enforcement is a fantasy. The rest of his post is devoted to arguing that war can serve liberty: "there is great truth in Randolph Bourne's line that war is the health of the state, but it is not the whole truth. War, for all its horror, has just as surely served as the midwife of freedom."

"Just as surely"? No way! Historically war has occasionally served the cause of liberty. But that only in a qualified way, and also fairly rarely. And if we distinguish wars with at least one party as a non-state (i.e. revolutions), I think there are very few examples, if any, of war serving the cause of liberty.

Sometimes one state conquers another (or takes territory), and the winner is a freer state than the loser. Although the occupants of the freer state see their liberty decrease because of the standard need of the state to steal property and enslave people to use in the fight, the net liberty lost by the citizens of the victor is comparable to the gain in liberty of the citizens of the losing state. So for example when France was liberated in WWII it went from being controlled by Nazis to a new republic - clearly a big improvement for the French. But Americans paid the price in lost liberty.

Furthermore, we should not evaluate the effect of wars by looking at only some of the participants. Rather, the effect of war on liberty needs to take account of all the effects of the war, on everyone. Of course it is impossible to draw any firm lines around history; did WWII start in 1937, 1938, or 1939? But surely if we look at the whole picture of WWII, we see the following. All of the western democracies got more socialistic. That is we all lost liberty. All of the axis countries, which were conquered, got a lot freer. (East Germany excepted.) All of eastern Europe, which had been in varying states of liberty, fell under communist rule and got a lot less free. And Soviet Russia was infused with a new lease on life, gaining legitimacy from the struggle against the invader that propped up the regime for another 45 years. All results considered, WWII was a disaster for freedom.

Madmen occasionally do get in control of states (though in Hitler's case, that was itself a long-drawn out effect of WWI, at least in part). The question is what to do. WWII turned out as it did: a loss for freedom but at least the madman was unseated. Lindsey and other warmongers regard the result as self-justifying. I don't; for I believe there were many other paths that history might have taken. America might have stayed out of the war, and Hitler still defeated.

More generally, there is always a danger in drawing lessons from history, because history is untestable. Lindsey is certainly within reason to believe that the world is more free today "because European military power checked and then repulsed the spread of Islam". But he cannot prove that; perhaps had Islam conquered Europe it would have simply replaced Christianity as the faith of the liberal, modern West. Most of his other examples are similar; a war happened, someone won, and in subsequent history that someone was at some point a champion of liberty. But correlation is not causation.

When I examine the examples Lindsey uses to try to show that war is the "midwife of freedom", I find nothing I would regard as at all conclusive. In almost all of the cases he cites, the war in question preserved some sort of freedom for one set of people, at a cost in lives, capital, and freedom, of a larger set of people. The result is probably a win for the set of people whose liberty was preserved, and just as probably it is a loss for those paying the price. Consider Korea, for example. At large cost the US preserved what amounted to a military dictatorship until the 1980s. If Korea had been forcibly unified by Communists in 1948, would it have in time evolved as China seems to be doing? Was war in fact necessary at all? Perhaps so, but it is not clear to me. Lindsey may be comfortable making that tradeoff; I am not.

Of the other examples Lindsey gives, the only one that needs additional comment is the result of the American Civil War (which was not, in fact, a civil war, but that's the label it has). Yes, the slaves were freed. But that means less than it seems, since subsequently the North sold them out and allowed them to be reenslaved, albeit in a kinder and gentler fashion than previously. The result was still a net plus for the ex-slaves; but again looking at the whole picture: at what cost? Not just in the horrendous loss of life, but that the states lost the most vital liberty: the right of secession. Had the South been allowed to leave peacefully, the fugitive slave laws would have been instantly repealed in the north. In time, the north would have emancipated its slaves with compensation, perhaps with a few defecting border states, perhaps not. In any case, with the border in walking distance and no federal agents to hide from, a torrent of slaves would have poured out of the South into the North, freeing themselves. Slavery would have ceased to be economically viable, and it would have thus died a lingering, quiet death, ending peacefully just as it did in almost every other country in the world. Indeed, the crypto-slavery of sharecropping itself died, not by the sword, but by economic progress making the practice uncompetitive. And the political slavery of the segregationist south was killed, not by war (though federal coercion had its part), but by the committed peaceful activism of the civil rights movement. There is indeed a lesson here for libertarians, but it is not what Mr Lindsey thinks.

Meanwhile, the right of secession is something we vitally need these days, but it is gone. I hope with all my heart that Quebec manages to pull it off some day. For if they do, Canada will break up, and the libertarian tinged West will then become a very attractive place to be; more so than these United States.

So I emailed Brink Lindsey what I posted earlier. He has now
responded, not specifically to me. Lindsey has simply ignored my main points: that the USA should act morally, which means dismantling our "war machine", and that the USA should cease to coerce our own citizens who wish to trade with Iraq. These are, in my opinion, the heart of the argument. Men should be moral, perhaps not at any cost, but certainly to the point of tolerating great costs.

Anyway, here's my response to the rest of his points.

The final argument, against the idea that Congress needs to declare war, I tend to agree with. Yes, it would be better if there were some way to limit the actions of our government by the Constitution. But there isn't. That is, of course, the problem with the USA, not just in this case but generally, so this one is hardly exceptional.

The other two points show Lindsey as pragmatist, hardly any surprise to me. He argues that "we" need to "face reality", both of the present and of the future. That's reasonable. Then he throws up the straw man: "we see that our options are essentially two. Either we try our best to stop these maniacs before they kill more of us, or else we leave ourselves at their mercy." This is feeble. To refuse certain kinds of attack against an enemy is not equivalent to throwing yourself at his mercy. Nobody is advocating surrendering to terrorists. What I advocate is defunding and shutting down the imperial war machine. These things are different. Of course that's not going to happen, either. The practical choice is (a) more defense spending and more erosion of our domestic rights, and war with Iraq, then perhaps others, or (b) somewhat less defense spending, less erosion of our rights, and no hot wars.

So if Mr Lindsey wants to argue for war, let him do so. But in contrast to a very similar world, not a world where we have surrendered our nuclear weapons to Osama Bin Laden.

Indeed, since we are not, currently, at war with Iraq (at least not as Mr Lindsey and his ilk would have it), I can turn around his straw man. Using Lindsey's boolean division of our choices, we currently are "at the mercy" of the "terrorists", which makes me wonder why they don't just show themselves and set up the concentration camps.

Lindsey's point (2) is more sophism. "What are the odds we're going to pick up and evacuate the Middle East? How likely is it that we'll tell Israel she's on her own? I'd say the probability is indistinguishable from zero." I would agree the chance that "we" will abandon Israel is near zero. But as for the others? I would say it is quite possible that we would pull out of Saudi Arabia (in fact they might kick us out), and/or that we will give up our embargo against Iraq. Further I think that "we" have a lot of leverage we could exert on Israel to force it into peace. Does Mr Lindsey think these things are near-impossible? If so, then argue it. Otherwise it seems reasonable to believe that peace is possible by peaceful means.

Now some classic warmonger. Sure, "we" do have a conflict with radical Islam. So Lindsey argues that we need to "start figuring out how to manage that conflict so we come out on top." No, only in a zero-sum, him-or-me world. In the world I live in, people can live in peace in positive sum ways. And I find it mighty strange for a libertarian, of all people, to be arguing the reverse. All people, all cultures benefit from economic and social liberty. The fact is, most Arabs have little of either -- they are ruled by despots. Most of those despots, the USA put there, helped put there, or supported at one time or another; or we failed to support the opposition. Arabs know that. They know that in our foreign policy, we are hypocrits, talking up liberty, justice and democracy while working to make sure they get none. It is time that changed. Both sides -- the American people and Arabs, everywhere -- should come out on top.

Recently Brink Lindsey has taken issue with peace-loving anarchist libertarians. "Denunciations of the war by people of libertarian views are splashed all over the web. Look, for example, at and What is going on? What's wrong with these people? One can dismiss particular individuals or groups as disreputable or crankish, but the fact is that anti-war views similar to those held by the loonie left are not uncommon among libertarians these days."

What is going on here? From Lindsey's point of view, it is something bad: peacemongering is "disastrously wrongheaded". But from my point of view, it is Mr Lindsey and the warmongers that are wrong, albeit not disastrously but tragically. This difference reflects a deep underlying cleavage, between pragmatic libertarianism and moral libertarianism.

Lindsey writes: "The first and most obvious problem is the dogmatically anti-interventionist foreign policy touted by many libertarians. There is a clear conflict between such a vision of foreign policy and the effective prosecution of the present war on terror... I've posted already about the shortcomings of ... principle... as a practical guide to sound foreign policy." (emphasis mine)

"Effective". "Shortcomings of principle". "Practical". All of these are earmarks of pragmatism. Pragmatists, like Lindsey, are concerned with what works. Well, as any libertarian would tell you, capitalism works. So we all agree on that. The pragmatics are often economists by training or inclination. But moralists are not necessarily pragmatic; we believe in doing what is right, regardless of whether or not it "works". Another way of saying this is: the ends do not justify the means. It so happens (and I doubt it's a coincidence), that the moral and the pragmatic are very often the same. But this is not necessarily so, or at least, not obviously.

For example, anarchists believe that killing innocent people, or exposing innocent people to the risk of death, injury, or property loss, is morally wrong. So it is wrong to fly airplanes into buildings. It is wrong to blow yourself up in a crowd. But it is also wrong to drop explosives where they will certainly destroy innocent lives and property. Dresden was wrong. It was evil. Hiroshima was wrong. It was evil. It's true that the Axis did things that were even worse, but that's immaterial to the case. Morality is absolute; not relative. Two wrongs don't make a right.

A pragmatist cannot issue a blanket condemnation like "Dresden was wrong" based on the simple fact of 100000 innocent people being burned alive or asphyxiated. Rather he must look at the context, and decide whether or not he thinks the results were good enough to outweigh the regrettable loss of life. But note that the context for any action necessarily includes the future, and at the time an action is decided on the future is always unknown and thus subjective. Perhaps burning those people to death shortened the war by a day or two, thereby saving more than 100000 lives of other Germans and/or Allied troops. Lindsey may well consider Dresden wrong now (I hope he does), but I doubt he would have at the time. And it is for that exact reason that the horror happened at all; the people who planned it, at least some of them, honestly believed that it would end the war faster; that it was pragmatically the most humane path! Here is one reason why pragmatism can fail as a philosophy: it may require too much knowledge to use correctly at the time of decision. Of course this is not fundamental argument against pragmatism; merely a pragmatic one.

There is an interesting angle here: just as a pragmatist cannot have passed judgement on Dresden when it happened, neither can he pass judgement on 9/11! Yet everyone did, instantly, of course (this makes us all moralists, not pragmatists). Why could we all judge so quickly? I suspect the main reason is rooted in biology: we are hardwired to experience certain things as injustice (this is the true origin of rights). It is also much easier to be moral with the crowd than against it. But clearly pragmatism in the case of 9/11 would never work "for" the ones we identify with - the victims. In other words, the deaths of 9/11 could never be seen as achieving anything good enough to justify them - from an American perspective.

But those deaths might have worked for the perpetrators. That is to say, that from the point of view of Bin Laden, pragmatically he might have "justified" perpetrating 9/11 if it brought about the change in the Arab world that he was trying to achieve. Put more generally, pragmatism is not a human universal. What was pragmatic for Bin Laden may not be pragmatic for America. This aspect of pragmatism makes it, to me and other moral libertarians, an unacceptable place to ground our philosophy. Interestingly, the fear of 9/11 "working" also seems to define the Western pragmatist response to 9/11: they are resolved that the killing will not achieve any end desired by Bin Laden and his gang. Thus the idea that if we do anything that Bin Laden demanded, it would be wrong, even if it is in our own best interest. And similarly, pragmatism inspires the idea that essentially no level of violence and "collateral damage" is too high to destroy Bin Laden and Al Qaeda; to allow them to persist any longer than necessary would be to allow them to "get away with it". This sounds good until you realize that killing innocents shortened the time necessary to bring down Al Qaeda. In principle, killing innocents might have been the only way to proceed.

Any libertarian, if pushed, will have to accept some "collateral damage"; our information is never complete, and the problem of the guilty sheltering among innocents may sometimes be insoluble. But in the real world, a lot of us think, we can push our tolerance for error to "beyond the shadow of a doubt" levels. I think that all libertarians would agree, when it comes to criminal justice, that the correct way to value life and liberty requires letting many of the guilty go free to save just one innocent wrongly accused. This is the reason why criminal trials require a high level of proof. I submit that the same is true in other circumstances.

Some of us will never accept a double standard for the value of human life. Consider the Afghan war. Not all of Al Qaeda knew of the bombing; in fact almost none of them did. That's how cell-structured organizations work. Only the topmost ring knew; perhaps 10 or 20 men. In order to punish these evil ones, America was willing to kill many thousands of innocent civilians, and did in fact kill at least many hundreds. Historically, the number of people killed in war is always less than the number wounded and/or maimed; so we can add a lot more people whose rights were violated. So America was willing to kill or maim on the order of 10 to 100 innocents to "get" each guilty party. (Of course we have not killed the guiltiest of them it seems, but I hope and expect that we will.)

If America was willing to accept that same ratio of "collateral damage" in our own law enforcement, our streets would run with blood. Imagine the police in hot pursuit, spraying machinegun fire down a busy interstate at a suspected getaway car. Imagine a crazed shooter holed up in a steeple; the police just call in artillery to blow up the church regardless of who might be inside. Imagine a suspected shoplifter beaten into a coma by security guards. These actions might well lower crime enough to be pragmatically justified, but I hope America will never accept them.

In its actions, America very clearly shows to the world that in our opinion, American lives and property are worth many times more than Afghan lives and property. Of course this is no new thing; in war democracy tends towards socialism which necessarily tends to total war. But total war, and its devaluation of innocent "enemy" life and property, is something that libertarians should reject.

It is also wrong to take money from innocent people by fraud, force or threat of force. This is robbery or taxation depending on who the perpetrators are, and I should think that any libertarian would oppose it. But Lindsey cannot. As he says, "huge armies with aircraft carriers and Apache attack helicopters and cruise missiles and tanks and a million young men in arms? That can't be in private hands, can it? War machines are creatures of the state". But he means this as a good thing; that the need for war machines justify the state. To an anarchocapitalist, war machines are bad things; not necessarily because of what they do (though that is sometimes bad), nor who owns them (contra Lindsey, I can imagine one raised and controlled privately). Rather, they are bad because of the way they are funded. Without theft, there will be few war machines, or none at all. Brink, it's not a bug; it's a feature.

Another thing it is morally wrong to do, is to forbid the peaceful dealings of others. If I try to forcibly stop Lindsey from selling books on the web, that's wrong. The UN trade embargo against Iraq is killing many Iraqis indirectly. Everyone knows that. But, terrible as that is, it is not a moral reason to oppose the embargo. No individual has a "right" for others to trade to support him; if an individual who used to trade with Iraq decides to stop, that's his or her right of voluntary association. Rather, the embargo is wrong because it is not, in fact, voluntary on the part of the would-be traders, who are wrongly denied their right to freely associate and trade.

Summarizing thus far, I have argued that no anarchocapitalist can believe in wars which involve extensive collateral damage, expensive standing armies, nor in coercively imposed embargoes. In my opinion, these views should apply to all libertarians, not just anarchists. I am curious which, if any, Lindsey rejects. But in any case, America was (and is) garrisoning Saudi Arabia with a standing army, and indirectly killing Iraqi kids with our embargo. And those are two of the three reasons that Bin Laden cited for attacking us. Given that, it is rather hard to see exactly why Lindsey argues that it's "delusional" to believe that "Swiss-style militias are all you need to get by in the world. And that any threats which might require a more muscular response would just go away if we'd only keep our nose out of other people's business." Swiss style militias have worked just fine for Switzerland, which was not, in fact, attacked by Bin Laden.

So Lindsey needs to make his argument. Show me a country that Bin Laden has attacked for no reason. Show me any historical terrorist attack where the targets were not in any way affiliated with the enemies of the perpetrator. I know it is a hard thing to cast aside the idea of peace through superior strength, but I and many others have done so. Think about it. Switzerland exemplifies a kind of peace through weakness, or at least inoffensiveness, that anarchists think we need to adopt ASAP. I don't think 9/11 would have happened but for America's previous actions. (And to head off critics, no that doesn't mean I think it was "justified" or any such nonsense.)

Be that as it may, I also take exception with Lindsey's idea that anarchocapitalists would have no response to events like 9/11 if they happened in spite of our peaceful posture. He writes, "The first and most obvious problem is the dogmatically anti-interventionist foreign policy touted by many libertarians. There is a clear conflict between such a vision of foreign policy and the effective prosecution of the present war on terror...". I agree with Lindsey that many libertarians are against the present war and interventionalism in general. Most libertarians see, in contrast to the general public, that war is the health of the state and that in wars we always lose liberties permanently. So we think that even in pragmatic terms, war is almost never a good idea. And moral libertarians, as I have shown, are deeply concerned with the slaughter of innocents implicit in war.

But 9/11 might possibly be a case where the vengeance is worth the cost. Recall in late september the huge voluntary outpouring of support for the victims. There was also a tremendous demand for vengeance. This was supplied, of course, via the state, so no private competitors appeared. In anarchy the demand for vengeance would just as great; and supply would rise up as it will. Bounties might be set, or entire private armies formed for the purpose of vengeance (and I do hope they would be moral about collateral damage, but I am afraid they would not be). Or perhaps arrangements would be made that we cannot currently imagine. Any such undertaking would be voluntary. If I thought it was wrong, I would simply not contribute my time or money. By way of contrast, this year I am paying many thousands of dollars that will go to the Pentagon, despite my wishes.

Of course, since we have no real examples of capitalist anarchy, and none of an anarchic society producing retaliatory warfare, Lindsey is within reason to think that anarchy cannot by its nature produce retaliatory war. But he argues, rather improbably, that anarchy cannot produce any war: "If you don't accept the legitimacy of the state, you can never really embrace the necessity of war - since war is inescapably an affair of state."

War is inescapably an affair of state? George Washington led the army of which state? For that matter, what state were the Soviet-era Afghan "freedom fighters" inescapably part of? These examples, I hope, suffice to show a simple truth: that war is not inescapably an affair of the state. Offensive war - aggression - is. But defensive war, "freedom" fighting, and revolution, are acts of war that can be undertaken without rulers and without the sovereignty principle. Libertarian anarchists are not pacifists in the leftist sense.

So, the statement of Lindsey's is quite false. But it is a very interesting statement, as I believe it betrays a flaw in Lindsey's thinking, and the thinking of many warmongers, about the current situation. If war is inescapably an affair of state, and terrorist actions are acts of war (which is a reasonable interpretation), then terrorist actions must be affairs of state! So it was not just that the Taliban was protecting terrorists. 9/11 was war; therefore an affair of state; some state must therefore be guilty; the Taliban was the closest culprit; therefore war against Afghanistan was a morally acceptable defensive war. Afghanistan flew those planes; Afghanistan gets bombed. Tit for tat. Or, similarly, consider the idea that Arafat can stop the suicide bombings. Again, if bombings are an act of state, and obviously Palistinians are doing it, and the Palistinian Authority is closest thing to a state there is - then by Lindsey's logic, Arafat is directly responsible for the bombings, and can stop them as easily as Bush might stop patrolling of the no-fly zone in Iraq. In this logic, it makes sense to apply pressure on Arafat and his government.

Finally, we come to the denouement of Lindsey's argument. "Anarcho-libertarianism is delusional. We may claim our rights on moral grounds, but we enjoy them only by virtue of government." The conclusion makes sense coming from the point of view of a pragmatist. The state may be very dangerous; it may always crack up in time as it evitably slides to socialism; but if it is the only means to enjoy liberties (however briefly), it is still better than anything else, including anarchy. But this argument rests on two things. First, that "government" is the same as "the state". Yet we are governed by many private agencies even now; consider your relationship with your car insurance company and its incentives on you to drive safely. Anarchocapitalists don't believe in non-government. They believe in no state; the two are different. In anarchy, we will be governed by many different agencies.

Second, the idea that rights are a creation of the state, or even "government" seen broadly, is nonsense. (Though the sort of nonsense that has unusual currency in these statist times.) Most of the assertion of rights in this country is handled privately. Certainly, law enforcement has its role. But it is only the failure of the ordinary norms of rights-assertion that necessitates law enforcement action. What are the norms? Everyday actions that will never make the papers. I forget to pay the rent; a letter shows up from the landlord; I take my rent to her by hand and apologize. Or: I hit and damage a car by accident, violating the property right of the owner. We work it out between us, perhaps not even involving my insurance company. Or perhaps I do call the company - still no state involvement at all. Or: I am stopped at an isolated rest stop; a pair of large men start to approach me; I pull back my jacket and place my hand on my gun. The large men stay on the sidewalk, and walk on by. Or: a large group of armed men say I am not allowed to buy marijuana, but I find someone else who sells it and I buy a joint. In all of these cases but the last, the state is no direct party. Of course, the state is often there as a positive influence; the reason people settle out of court is that if they don't, they will be forced to the settlement found in-court. But as the last example proves, some of my rights are not recognized (and even denied) by the State; but that doesn't mean they don't exist, or that I cannot conceive of them, or that I cannot assert them by dint of my own action.

In summary, Lindsey is attempting to appeal to us anarchists using implicit assumptions that we have, largely, rejected. Pragmatism itself is a barren place to build philosophy, because what is pragmatic depends on the ends sought. Anarchists don't abjure all war or intervention blindly; rather we take our morality seriously and deduce the consequences. If you cannot morally tax, you cannot practically have a standing army with which to pound small countries into the stone age. However you can still intervene in many ways. Anarchists reject the idea that terrorists attack Americans for no reason at all. We find it logical to stop doing things that we should not, morally, be doing anyway. And finally, we reject categorically the idea that the state has any necessary relationship to rights. Rights preexisted the state; the state often opposes them; and regardless of whether it upholds them or not, rights are largely asserted privately. And rights will exist long after states, and the pragmatist apologists for states, have vanished into the past.

That said, I appreciate Mr Lindsey's evident earnestnest in worrying about us. "People who understand the moral and practical case for liberty are important. They're ahead of the historical curve, and therefore in a position to make a huge difference. It's a terrible waste to squander that opportunity by discrediting the case for liberty with the baggage of a flawed ideology." I would only add to this, for Mr Lindsey's consideration, that perhaps we have thought just as deeply, or even more deeply, than he himself has. We might find warmongering libertarians just as inexplicable, or even moreso, than he finds us.