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.


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.

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?