Offending Liberty

Read this article by Brad Edmonds
I get impassioned emails from readers who are military veterans or relatives of military veterans, saying, in essence, 'You go ahead and say your terrible things. The men and women of the armed forces will continue risking their lives to defend your right to say it.' These readers claim that the only reason I'm free to say the things I do, and the reason I owe the military all sorts of my money, is because the military has for 200 years defended my freedom all over the world.

I say, Hogwash! ...

I'm sorry that so many honorable military men and women have been misled. I'm sorry that so many believe they fought for our freedoms. I'm sorry that a smaller, but significant, percentage of those believe that I personally owe them an involuntarily-taken chunk of my income. Morally, I do not owe them this. I did not ask them to do what they did; they already have been, and are being, paid; I believe my freedom has only been eroded, not enhanced, by their presence; and I believe my actual personal safety is more threatened by their existence, not less, as a result of how they have been used by Congress and the White House.

I'd only quibble with Edmonds on the small issue of women in combat. Equality under the law demands that any Federal institution, including the military, make every effort to achieve equality of opportunity. Withholding certain jobs from a class of citizens based on their genes is thus not supportable, either morally, or (IMO) under the Constitution:
14th Amendment
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States,
and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the
United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State
shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges
or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any
State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without
due process of law, nor deny any person within its jurisdiction
the equal protection of the laws.
The only limit on service in the government should be competence to do the job. The average woman may not be strong enough to be an infantrymen. That's one thing. But there are many combat roles that do not require much physical strength. Tankers don't walk; they drive. Women would make great tankers. Let 'em ride, I say.

Of course, in my ideal world the US military would only be a few thousand people, supported by bake sales and charitable donations. As Edmonds points out, it is the militia - the people, armed to the teeth - that make us unconquerable. Having a bloated military is not needed for defense; its use is offense. It's a form of corporate welfare: not just in terms of handing out tax dollars to the military industrial complex to generate expensive high-tech weapons, but in terms of subsidizing the security costs of corporations in and out of the US.
The Incredible Shrinking Terrorist Threat

I mailed Jim Henley the other day some thoughts that I almost posted here, but I've been kind of lazy about posting. Anyway, he saved me the trouble and posted them as part of his mailbag response. Go read it there. Jim asks,
why don't America's terrorist enemies apply the 'Israel model' to strikes against the US? Is it because they don't think it will do any good, or because they don't have the resources to mount a sustained campaign?
I think the answer to that is sort of both, sort of neither. Terrorists (and "freedom fighters") are utility maximizers; they strike where they think they'll do the most good relative to the cost to them. Costs here are not necessarily their lives, which they hold cheap; but the difficulty of getting the physical goods (explosives, weapons, etc.) for the operation, and the difficulty of getting physical access to the scene of the operation.

The place where it is cheap to strike is among sympathetic people, and close to home, and where security procedures are lax. The USA is apparently not generating political terrorists from among our home-grown Arab-Americans. So there is nobody who wants to strike here for whom it is the home field. Clearly, Arab terrorists are going to find it easiest to pull off operations where there are lots of Arabs. On the supply side, "security" measures do affect terrorism at the margins. Sure, the USA has instituted a lot of mickey-mouse bullshit security since 9/11. But I'd wager not all of it is completely worthless; and if most of it is vile from a libertarian perspective it still may "work" from a myopic security POV.

"Security" is a microcosm of the entire War on Terra. Short term fix for problems we caused, which will result in long-term problems. Both fit exactly into the paradigm of creeping socialism. Social control is like squeezing a balloon - pass a law to squeeze it in here, it "unexpectedly" pops out there, and you need another law; repeat until everyone lives their life chained in a padded room watching only PBS.
Personal Anarchy

Butler Shaffer had a nice article about anarchy on lewrockwell:
I am often asked if anarchy has ever existed in our world, to which I answer: almost all of your daily behavior is an anarchistic expression. How you deal with your neighbors, coworkers, fellow customers in shopping malls or grocery stores, is often determined by subtle processes of negotiation and cooperation. Social pressures, unrelated to statutory enactments, influence our behavior on crowded freeways or grocery checkout lines. If we dealt with our colleagues at work in the same coercive and threatening manner by which the state insists on dealing with us, our employment would be immediately terminated. We would soon be without friends were we to demand that they adhere to specific behavioral standards that we had mandated for their lives.

Should you come over to our home for a visit, you will not be taxed, searched, required to show a passport or driver’s license, fined, jailed, threatened, handcuffed, or prohibited from leaving. I suspect that your relationships with your friends are conducted on the same basis of mutual respect. In short, virtually all of our dealings with friends and strangers alike are grounded in practices that are peaceful, voluntary, and devoid of coercion.
Anarchists are those who think that peaceful relationships can be extended throughout society. But it's always worth pointing out that the vast majority of our interactions are already ungoverned by any law, other than that of voluntary association. My friends are not mandated.
Anarchy in the Northeast

It's a pity this won't work:
KILLINGTON - Voters may consider something a bit weightier than the usual town meeting fare this spring - whether to secede from Vermont.

The Select Board is considering asking for voter approval to cut ties with the Green Mountain State and essentially have the town become a landlocked piece of New Hampshire. ...

'We're very serious,' said Select Board Chairman Norman Holcomb. 'It's not just an effort to make a statement. It's an effort to save our community.'

But officials in Montpelier don't seem worried about having to redraw any maps. Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz cited some imposing obstacles to Killington's quest, beginning with the legal relation between the state and its towns.

'This is symbolic, clearly,' she said. 'Absent an armed insurrection type of thing, there isn't anything a town can do to secede. A town is a construction of the state and exists at the pleasure of the Legislature.'

Killington's discontent has to do with justice as much as dollars, according to Town Manager David Lewis. It is rooted in the history of Killington's effort to fight for an equitable tax scheme since the passage of the statewide property tax, Act 60, in 1997, he said, and a sense that the town has exhausted all its options. The town manager compared Killington's situation to that of the American colonists under the British monarchy. He said Killington sends $10 million to the state every year through the statewide property tax, and receives only $1 million in return.

Sales and business taxes generated in the resort town add another $10 million to state coffers. But Killington, with less than 1,000 full-time residents and one legislator shared with three other towns, does not have the political clout to bring this money back to the community, Lewis said.

'They don't have to worry about 1,000 people here affecting anything politically. We're a big meal ticket to them,' he said.
They don't have enough rifles to pull it off. But imagine a world where every city, county, township, etc. was explicitly allowed to reaffiliate at will with the state of its choice. That's not so far fetched, but the effects would be far reaching. Suburbs and rural areas would secede from the more socialist states and affiliate themselves with low-tax states. This would concentrate tax-hating people into low-tax states, thereby creating political incentives to lower taxes even further. "New Hampshire", "Wyoming", and "Alaska" would spread nationwide. Meanwhile, the socialist inner cities would gradually all be gathered together into "California" and "New York", which would collapse financially because of ruinous taxation. People would then vote with their feet to get out of the socialist hellhole "states", and into the capitalist "states". But this would not typically very difficult - it would usually mean only moving to a nearby suburb, not out into the middle of nowhere. Eventually the capitalist states would have to take over and reform the socialist ones.
On Immigration

So Bush has a new proposal to reform the USA's immigration system. The usual suspects shriek; the Democrats say little because they know it will favor them. Basically the idea is to implement a guest worker program; this probably looks great to the President because it would be a reserve army of non-voting unemployed who can be kicked out during recessions, thereby making himself look good. (He's probably wishing for some expendable workers that could be exported right now!) I also expect that the neocons like the idea of a greater America. They can knock over foriegn states, true, but they can't conquer the world because they cannot control entire alien populations. But they expect that with our fine public schools, they can beef up America by importing people and Americanizing them. Bush wants to increase the legal immigration rate. But opponents of the guest worker system are right that it will also increase immigration, illegal and legal. People who are here "temporarily" will just stay and go underground. Also, they'll have children - instant new citizens. Then family unification kicks in. No sweat.

Immigration is a conundrum for libertarians. On the one hand, people should have the right to travel and live whereever they want. "We" should not be excluding anyone. There should be no immigration system at all, nor border controls - abolish the entire business. On the other hand, we do in fact have a state, and it is doing what states always do - redistribution to buy support. And immigrants get goodies too; hence, some immigrants come here only as rent seekers. That's wrong - they're exploiting those of us who produce. Knowing all the transfers that go to immigrants on my dollar, I'm definitely inclined when wearing my technocrat hat towards a system of immigration more like Canada's - that is, only let in people when you can be pretty sure they'll pull their weight.

In anarchy, if it were to happen tomorrow and the wealth levels of the world stayed the same, there would be massive immigration into the USA. Why? Because we have massive amount of capital here, and the only way to access a lot of it is to move here. That's why our wages are high, at least, in the short-term sense. (In the long term, we're rich because we are capitalist - more on that anon.) The incorrect, but common understanding of the Hans-Hermann Hoppe thesis (that a stateless society would or could control immigration) is bullshit. Read what Hoppe himself says. In a stateless society, because all property would be privately owned, in theory "they" could collectively stop immigration by refusing to rent or sell to any immigrant. Similarly, in theory "we" can collectively stop crime by simply refraining from any criminal acts. The point is, as always, there is no "we" in anarchy. "We" assumes that everyone in a whole country might act the same way. That never happens, not even in a state that coerces uniformity. We're humans, and there's money to be made. Employers don't care who the employee is as long as the job gets done. Landlords don't care who the tenant is as long as the rent comes in on time.

So the long run goal is clear: no state, no immigration controls, and probably as a result a very high level of immigration. It would all be "legal immigration" looked at from our current point of view, since the entire notion of "illegal immigration" would be inoperative. However, these immigrants would not be responding to the same set of incentives that current immigrants face. They would be getting much more liberty, including the liberty to keep their culture. But they'd not have the power to take money from the current residents involuntarily.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we face a problem. The welfare state is not going away. It's much easier to reform immigration - which affects nonvoters - than to take even the most transparently wrong welfare off the books. So, what to do? The vdare types would say that's easy: restrict immigration. But to me that's not so clear. If welfare and immigration are intimately tied together, then perhaps the way to undo welfare is to free immigration. After all, arguably it was the early-century restriction of immigration which made the New Deal politically possible. The vdare mindset would say: it's too late for that. "White" people are already close to a minority: soon they will be, and the socialist transfer state will be unstoppable. This is a reasonable argument.

I mentioned earlier that America is rich, in the short run, because we have capital. That's true, but it's also true that we have capital largely because we had capitalism up until the 30s, and even now have a fairly capitalist economy. The long run problem for America is maintain the institutions that permit laissez faire. And for that, allowing untrammelled immigration might well be a problem. Poor people and culturally alien people in general, and low-intelligence (== uncompetitive) poor foreign people in specific, are dangers in a capitalist (more or less) democracy, because they are likely to vote for rents. Bush's proposal can perhaps be seen in this light as somewhat helpful: although it seems to envision much higher immigration, by regularizing the process it should make it much easier for immigrants to come from places that are not physically close to the US - that is, it should increase the proportion of immigrants from places other than Mexico (most specifically) and Central America (in general). If this has the effect of increasing the flow of culturally capitalist, educated, and/or intelligent immigrants from the rest of the world, it may not prove to be destabilizing to liberty as the current immigration pattern is. However, that remains to be seen. Right now, the immigrants which we want from the POV of capitalist America - educated Chinese, basically - are still voting Democratic. But that may yet change.
Mission Impossible

We aren't wasting money fast enough down here on Earth, it seems. Most Americans love war, but it doesn't create enough jobs. And the killing is distasteful (at least to some of us weaker humans). To get reelected, the Republicans clearly feel they need to connect more of the people with the Federal tit. Thus Bush Plans To Call for Settlement On Moon. The piece has to be read to be believed. The gap between what the USA can do (not much - shuttles go boom!), and what is proposed is huge. Meanwhile the need for manned spaceflight is severely lacking (and the Federal government's need for it even more lacking), and the scientific value of the endeavor is near if not exactly zero. (It's subzero compared to what the US is currently doing: using robotic probes.) But none of those minor problems should stop the "mission to Pluto"!
Pinned Down

It's always nice when you can actually get the opposition to predict something clearly. This shows their worldview; their working assumptions. Case in point: hawk Mark Steyn

On Groundhog Day in America, the groundhog emerges from his hole and whether or not he sees his shadow determines whether winter will last another six weeks. I don't know whether Groundhog Hussein saw his shadow when he emerged from the hole, but another six weeks of insurgency sounds about right, after which it will peter out, despite the urgings of Tariq Ali, George Galloway and other armchair insurgents.
That is, Steyn appears to believe that the insurgency is a Ba'ath lead thing, and with no leader, it will go poof. In contrast is the idea that the insurgency is popular, and the idea that with the chance to become a billionaire at stake, greedy and ruthless men will be fighting like animals for the ring of post-Saddam power. (Idea #2 courtesy of Steve Sailer - read down about two posts.)

Who's right? Well, let's check back in six weeks - mid Feb - and see if there are still attacks going on against US forces and the Iraqi organizations blessed by the US. Then check in again by maybe March to see if they've petered out. My prediction: they won't. The insurgency will continue through the year.