Expand "Choice": David Boaz would like to see politicians support a woman's right to choose things other than abortions:
I'd like to hear a presidential candidate say, "I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in a woman's right to choose whether to have a child. I believe in a woman's right to choose any job someone will hire her for. I believe in a woman's right to choose to own a gun. I believe in a woman's right to choose the school she thinks is best for her child, public or private. I believe in a woman's right to choose what kinds of art she will spend her money on, even if she prefers Madonna or Randy Travis and Congress wants to give her money to Robert Mapplethorpe or Luciano Pavarotti. I believe in a woman's right to choose to drive a cab, even if she doesn't have a license. I believe in a woman's right to choose the employees she wants for her business, even if they don't fit some government quota. I believe in a woman's right to choose the drugs she prefers for recreation, whether she chooses Coors or cocaine. I believe in a woman's right to choose how to spend all of her hard-earned money, without giving half of it to the government."
I'd like to see this line of questioning come up in the campaign. Not that I expect philosophical consistency out of politicians; or even philosophic thoughts, or even thoughts at all. Thinking is not their job. But I would like to see 'em squirm and try to change the subject.
Brain in a Box: Philosophy of The Matrix.
Warning: Learning Might Happen: via instapundit I found this curious item about a class at Berkeley. You don't need to read all of it; just skip to the quoted part:
This course is an elective. That means you are not required to enroll. It is a course predicated on the conviction that students have not been trained to think coherently, rationally and empirically about the modern world. It conveys non-standard opinions, which you are not required to accept, but with which you must deal.
Whoa. Bitter. Necessary?
Fail Britannia: One of the most egregious cases of gun control's morally monstrous underlying assumptions plays out: parole denied to farmer jailed for killing burglar
Tony Martin, the farmer jailed for shooting dead a teenage burglar, last night learned he will not be freed early because he still refuses to concede what he did was wrong.

The parole board is believed to have taken into account probation reports suggesting he might again attack a burglar if his home was broken into, and also that he was living in the past.
Look for crime rates in Britain to continue to escalate. How long until they regain sanity? Prohibition lasted for years here in the US...

Secession in Michigan: This is great!
It all began when the Omer city government promised to extend the existing water line to connect the new home the Perrys were building, but halfway through construction, the government changed its tune, claiming the city government's coffers were bare and it couldn't afford the pipeline extension. ... [but] Omer is still levying taxes on the Perrys for providing water!—a tax bill for service the Perry's weren't even getting.

In an interview Cheryl Perry had a very common sense reaction to this action by Omer's governmental bureaucracy: "I don't feel I should have to pay because I don't get the water."
Such effrontery!
When petitioning one's government for redress of grievances proved to be a farce, Cheryl Perry turned the tables on the bureaucrats: if she had to pay the tax because she lived in Omer, she would secede from Omer and take her new house and land with her.
And she did! A tiny hint of the power of anarchy in action. When there is competition for government services, when you can take your business elsewhere effectively, there is an inherent limit on the ability of the state to screw you over.
Protest: I attended the antiwar rally in Washington. I had intended to meet up with Jim Henley and his crew, but that did not come off as planned. So I walked to the rally by myself, and spent the first half hour or so wandering around the edges of the crowd. Lots and lots of lefties. The crowd was very white given the general makeup of the left in America, and also given that it was meeting in the middle of a city full of African Americans. "No blood for oil" and Bush hatred leave me cold as antiwar arguments. War is the health of the state - that's the argument that matters to me. No taxes for war. No liberty for oil. Aggressive war is evil.

Eventually I found some people with libertarian Party signage, so I went over and introduced myself and stood with them. They had cleverly positioned themselves where people were walking around the edge of the demonstration, so they could hand out propoganda, but enough to the side of the stage and speakers so that we could not make out what the speakers were saying. Met some interesting folks, very normal seeming libertarians. Eventually Jim found me and we chatted briefly, but it was already 12:30 by that time. I had a lunch date with my brother so I took off.

I need to get a big Gadsden flag for this kind of thing. That way the few other anarchists and libertarians who might be there can see where to meet.
Market Efficiency: Is this for real? Well, anyway, apparently the market is functioning well in NYC. The drug market, that is: GAWKER EXCLUSIVE: The quest for the perfect coke dealer.
"I want it to be run like a real business. Like, 'here, we have our people,' and they come. The people who bring me pot - they're like that. You call a number; they're there in ten minutes. Every time, any time. They're these cute indie rocker bike messengers. I really like that. But it's the nature of the drug - the service, you know, because you've all of a sudden you've gotta screen people for not stealing it, and cutting it, and I guess that's where the problem comes."

She pauses.

"And the illegality of it," she adds.
Well, certainly an entrepreneurial opportunity here. How much longer will the insane war on (some) drugs continue?
An interesting footnote on the history of the KKK and its flag. Which flag? Have a look. I was surprised.
Equality of Outcome: the fight for true equality in America continues: Radley Balko reports on new legislation for Affirmative Casualties:
WASHINGTON - Rep. Charlie Rangel (D- NY) took his "fairness in the military" proposal a step further this week. The congressman is now calling for what he calls "affirmative casualties" in war, a move he says will "ensure that the dead and maimed statistics coming back from the battlefields of any future U.S. military engagements look more like America."
Nuclear Profileration: there's a great essay at Unqualified Offerings on the inevitability of nuclear proliferation:
Nonproliferation is slowly failing. North Korea has won already, and other countries will win too. Why? Because the entire international community simply is not going to follow a course of nonproliferation in concerted cooperation. The "international community" is more fictitious than most "communities" that get invoked in domestic politics. Just as the United States is not, pace what you hear when the Democrats hold their conventions, "like a family," the nations of the world are not a meaningful community
Read it all; it's long but all good (and perfectly correct).
The Liberal Press: an old Slate piece on How Slatesters Voted. 40 people working for Slate explain their 2000 Presidential votes. Three are noncitizens, so I give their would-be votes in parentheses:

  • Gore: 29 (1)

  • Bush: 4

  • Nader: 2 (2)

  • Browne: 2

Lomborg Rebuked by Danish Government: Bjorn Lomborg has been officially censured by a committee of Danish scientists. They claim his work is bad science, but have little to base that on. Mainly that his book is not reviewed enough to be officially science, and too popular in format. Readers might think it is science, and we can't have that.

A good summary of the situation by Nick Schulz is here.

The idea of a government panel censuring honest science is rather frightening. I wonder how many European countries have this sort of thing?
Standardized Testing: There's been a bit of posting 'round the blogosphere recently regarding standardized testing as a school reform. Jane Galt comments here, and asks
I don't know how we can fix schools if we don't have a meaningful measure by which to compare their performance longitudanally and latitudinally.
"We" don't have to measure, meaningfully or not, performance. The error here is conflating the owner of schools - "us", though it should not be - with those that they serve - individuals, as proxied by their parent(s). "We" are not "us", so to speak. (This is one of the design flaws of the English language.)

Education is no more important than eating. Imagine your statement cast as one about the food market: "I don't know how we can fix food-providers if we don't have a meaningful measure by which to compare their performance longitudanally and latitudinally."

That's just silly. As if we might compare Steve the Farmer's job performance against that of McDonalds as against Chez Snob as against my kitchen abilities. All are involved in food-production. All are incomparable. One size does not fit all. There is no reason to assume it does, or should.

Of course, food production in this country is not broken and does not need to be fixed. Food production is private. Education is public. Therein lies the solution if we care to see it.

Returning to the production of food: food production that involves the market is "tested", in a sense. It's tested on the market. Businesses that make money continue and if they are successful enough, may expand. Those that don't make money eventually fail. But this has nothing to do with any standardized test.

The solution to the education crisis is not standardized testing. It is competition - market testing. The solution is possible only with more liberty - ideally, completely privatizing education; less ideally but practically, instituting voucher programs. Educational socialism doesn't work; and it cannot work in the long run for the same reasons that socialism always doesn't work. Why do we accept as obvious that the Soviet Union failed economically, but then puzzle over the failure of our daycare prisons? If there's anything puzzling, it's that, not the failure of the schools.

With educational freedom, "we" don't need to test. "We" - the collective we - can leave the evaluation of results up to "us" - as individual parents. Tests will continue to be a part of that, of course, for some or even many schools and parents. But there are many other aspects of education that are not on standardized test, and cannot be.
Lord of the Flies: Michele at a small victory, How to grow a bully:
Today I called the principal. He gave me a touchy-feely response about how we must take into consideration the bully's feelings. After all, Mr. Principal said, Big Bully's mother died.

Yes, I say. I am aware that Big Bully's mother died four years ago. For how long will he continue to get a sympathetic pat on the back every time he acts up?

I mean, what is the statute of limitations on using your mother's death as an excuse for atrocious behavior?

Well, Mr. Principal says, we have tried peer mediation and peer review with Big Bully. I sent home a pamphlet that will help his father and step-mother go over the proper way to express anger.

See, that's the thing, I say. He has no reason to be angry at my son or my son's friend. If he wants to express anger, I suggest that the classroom is not the appropriate place to do it.

Oh, says Mr. Principal. When he expresses anger in the classroom, he gets sent up here to me.

And then what happens?

He has to sit on the bench for a few minutes while he thinks about his behavior.

And then?

And then he goes back to class.
Read the whole thing. This has also been posted by Rachel Lucas here, and there are lots of interesting comments in both places.

I never had to deal with any substantial bullying in school. Minor pinching in gym class is all; and it certainly made me hate gym. My school did not tolerate this sort of thing. The teachers and principals governed the schools.

What does one do when governance breaks down? Mere anarchy (in its bad sense) is loosed on kids, who are least able to deal with it. Reading the comments there are a lot of people that understand that bullies must be reigned in, by force. And there is a lot of testimonials from people who dealt with their own bullying that way. But there are other ways suggested as well: redress in the legal system mainly. So the situation is more complex than simple anarchy; there is a superior force-system that might be involved.

I think both solutions can work. Apparently, so does Michele.

Turnabout is fair play:Willamette Week Online: RUBBISH!
Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so we grabbed theirs.
One of the politicos whose garbage is pawed over reacts humorously. The other two react angrily - in spite of the fact that they maintain, in their official roles, that police can take people's trash without a warrant to do so.
We chose District Attorney Mike Schrunk because his office is the most vocal defender of the proposition that your garbage is up for grabs. We chose Police Chief Mark Kroeker because he runs the bureau. And we chose Mayor Vera Katz because, as police commissioner, she gives the chief his marching orders.
The press at its best/worst!
More from Asymmetrical Information. Mindles Dreck asks as an aside in one of his posts:
"Will ubiquitous access to information and communication change our actual beliefs and behavior?" I believe it will. This is something I have been meaning to write about for a while.

Hypertext has the revolutionary potential to put the grist of political debate within easy reach. Right now, a lot of real-world political debates end up with my facts, and with my opponent's facts. The two are incompatible, but it is too difficult to check facts to make it worth continuing the argument.

Back when usenet was the net forum for political debate (there being no web at the time), it was quite common to see debates boil down to one party telling the other to read a book. Nobody was convinced. Occasionally facts would be online, but it was still rather difficult to get at them using ftp or (god forbid) gopher.

With HTTP, facts are much easier to present to one's opponent. It is easy to say I don't have the time to go to a library and read a book. It is hard to say I don't have the time to click on a link and read a page or two.

In the future, everything worth knowing will be on the net. That is not a prediction that people will digitize everything (although I think that - people will digitize most things we currently can't get at). It's a prediction about how people will regard sources - there will be a point at which if a source is not on the net, people will not take it seriously. Much the same way that we currently regard people's recollections of old conversations.

Even now, the net is far more libertarian than the population at large. Part of that is a selection effect - younger people tend to be socially liberal, and predominate in networked social interactions. But part of it is the educational effect of being on the net. I should know - I came to anarchism from a soft libertarianism via the net.
Jane Galt posts a couple pages on charity: Charity Begins at Home.
I part company with libertarians who think we can get government out of the charity business. Advocates often seem so infatuated with the free market that they believe it applies everywhere, which is silly; there's no equilibriating mechanism I can see to ensure that the demand for charity equals the supply. So, given that most of us feel a genuine obligation to help the genuinely needy -- those whose physical or intellectual endowments are insufficient for them to earn a decent living -- the government will, at the very least, have to be the charity provider of last resort.


Ultra-libertarians are on the wrong side of the question of whether a decent society lets the helpless fend for themselves. Conservatives in general may be too optimistic about the possibilities of private charity.
I don't think anyone thoughtful is going to claim that supply of welfare will, should, or can meet demand. Welfare is, by definition, not earned on the market. The supply of any good must be rationed. Free goods cannot be rationed by price, so they must be rationed by means other than price. Supply of any free good will always be less than demand.

The argument against welfare does not stand upon the question of whether or not "enough" welfare would be generated by a free society. Clearly human wants are unlimited; and so there is never enough free goods.

What we "ultralibertarians" don't like about welfare is not giving out money, per se. Any money or goods a government, or any other corporation has which it is entitled to, it surely has the right to dispense with however it may decide. That's private property, which essentially everyone agrees on. And although trying to do good via handouts is difficult, it is surely possible. What libertarians protest is the means of funding of said handouts - taxes. Involuntary taking. Theft, if done privately, or if performed without the intellectual rationalization of the elite. It's morally wrong.

Until you understand the moral argument against taxation, you will not be able to understand the moral argument against (public) welfare.

Letting the helpless fend for themselves is, agreed, morally problematic. However, it is not morally wrong; we can infer this from the fact that right now, someone else is starving to death who you might easily and at low cost save, by an small contribution to Oxfam or other such charity. Practically everyone reading this has plenty of ability to voluntarity donate more to charity. That you don't is either moral blight (if you truly believe a good person should), moral cowardice, or self-deception -- or else, quite clear evidence that you understand that inaction is, morally, categorically different than action.

Anyone living above the poverty line in the West reveals this morality, by his or her inaction.

Taxation is an action. Only by force, constantly threatened and applied, can a regime of forced wealth extraction persist.

Non-helping is inaction. It's the default state of humanity.

If you believe in working towards a moral society, and you believe that theft is a worse moral evil than inaction in the face of suffering, and you believe that taxation is theft - then you will be compelled by logic to the libertarian position.

I also want to take issue with the idea that a free society will not generate "enough" welfare.

Even if it cannot, then that's still not a sufficent argument to say that we should not seek a free society. I believe the converse, as I argue above. But it does dim the attractiveness of a free society for a lot of people; apparently Ms Galt among them.

How much does America currently spend on welfare? Governments spend about a $400 billion per year. Americans also give on the order of $100b/year to private charity.

Would 1/5 of the current spending on charity be enough? I tend to think so, but then I am the sort of person that think the Great Society a fairly unmitigated failure. Others may believe that much more money is necessary for "adequate" charity.

(Of course, if we abolished public charity, there would be at least somewhat more money given privately simply because people's incomes would be higher. But people would hardly give the full $400b.)

We don't know how much money there would be in a free society for welfare. The data we have are from our current society, and from a much freer, but also much poorer historical America.

Recently Ted Turner gave a billion to the U.N.. Bill Gates gave $20B to his foundation, which does various things. Many other rich men have left foundations, organized to do various things. The total assets controlled by charitable foundations in America must be on the order of hundreds of billions; these should generate on the order of several percentage points in interest that could serve as an ongoing source of welfare.

Of course, currently those revenue streams do not serve as welfare. Rather they are channeled in other ways. But that is because the government already does welfare; there is no point in trying to compete monitarily with a government. When cash-transfer is monopolized by the deep pockets, charitable givers think of other things to do with their fortunes.

100 years ago, Carnegie's money was used to do something he viewed as directly helpful to the (deserving) poor: to endow libraries where you did not have to subscribe to rent books, but where anyone could check them out for free.

These days, Bill Gates' money is "dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community". This does not directly help America's poor; I would argue that if there had been no welfare when Gates made the endowment, he might have considered making his foundation's mission something more directly helpful to the American poor. But there was welfare. Overmuch, I would say; but certainly well-covered, by the US federal and state governments. So Gates did something else with his money.

How much capital ownership do you think it would take, earning dividends and interest tax-free, to "adequately" endow enough organizations to provide all necessary charity for the poor, completely privately?

Do you think that America can generate enough money to do that?

If so, then you believe that America could handle welfare completely privately. Without taxation. Morally.