Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Environmental Anarchism

Pollution is a bodily assault. Releasing a puff of smoke in a person's face is comparable to shoving a person aside while walking down the sidewalk. These are the types of behaviors that result in fights--possibly escalating to wars--and governing these interactions is one of the rationalizations for the state. As described in the Economist (A scourge of the EPA takes over at the EPA), the Trump administration has made it painfully clear that they plan to abandon environmental governance, even at a time when the majority of Americans believe that greater governance is needed (and it's not just greenhouse gases). According to that article, the demand for environmental governance really took off in the post-WWII era as a number of high-profile environmental disasters produced a bipartisan consensus is favor of the Clean Water and Clean Air acts. Even in recent years, there have been a several high-profile environmental disasters*, so how will people respond if the state abandons this realm of governance?

Some people will try to shoulder the burden themselves, treating pollution prevention as a civic duty even as profiteers exploit the opportunity to shed their waste on everyone else. But there is also a history of people enforcing their own sense of justice. However, I don't think we've ever had a situation where a large fraction of the population has desperately felt the absence of state involvement with environmental governance -- possibly leading to a form of environmental vigilantism unlike anything we've seen.

Of course, pollution is different from other forms of impositions -- the consequences are diffuse, and we all claim the right to engage in "reasonable" amounts of pollution. It is hard for vigilantees to establish a consensus on what amounts to excessive pollution, and then identify the people who create excessive pollution. 

It'll be interesting to see how this develops.

* I couldn't find a list, but here are some I can think of:
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Several other oil spills
  • Several drinking water problems (though the immediate cause is infrastructure maintenance)
  • Elk River Chemical spill of 2014
  • Fukoshima

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Nolan Chart of cynicism

I used to think that I had a cynical attitude towards major American institutions --primarily the government and big business. I even remember a survey that placed me into a "disenfranchised" group (or something like that) -- basically identifying me as a lower income white guy (which is not quite accurate). Occasionally I would run into other libertarians who were more cynical, but outside of that bubble, my impression was that most people were pretty satisfied with how our country operates. But these days, I feel like I've been outflanked, and am running into lots of people from across the political spectrum who are even more cynical than me -- even people of greater socio-economic status than me.

So, I need to rethink the political spectrum.

I used to think mainly in terms of the Nolan Chart, and derivatives of it. Basically you have the "left" (defined by Dems as the center-left) and "right" (defined by Repubs as the center-right), with a second libertarian/authoritarian axis. On such charts, I typically landed as left-libertarian, which seemed correct to me. However, these charts are very much tuned for a pro-establishment polity. They define things in term of the policy disagreements between the two big parties. How would you capture the fact that people would happily abandon those parties?

So, I imagine a coordinate system based on cynicism. One axis is cynicism towards major institutions, the other is cynicism towards regular people. The four extremes would be:
1. Authoritarian. Trusting institutions; distrusting people.
2. Anarchist. Distrusting institutions; trusting people
3. Anti-social. Trusting nobody.
4. Pangloss. Everyone is as good as can be expected.

Of course, this is a gross simplification -- trust in institutions could be broken down between trust in the state and trust in big business (to give the conventional left/right divide among liberals). Similarly, "trust in people" often means trust is a specific subset of the American population -- whether just trusting one's own race, one's own religion, or one's own political coalition.

But still, I think there's something to this. On this scale, I think I'd be in the center-Anarchist region (perhaps with public figures like Glenn Greenwald). Establishment politicians tend produce propaganda in the Pangloss corner, spouting platitudes towards the American people and the benevolence of govenment and business (at least when they are in charge). I think in reality, they are a bit more authoritarian than that, and that faith in the state is often built of distrust of regular people. A lot of libertarian propagandists are near the anarchist corner, but I think most real libertarians are a bit more suspicious of some of their neighbors (at least suspecting that their neighbors are authoritarians), so would shift up towards anti-social. I'm not sure where to put the Trumpists -- before the election, a lot of them were probably in the anti-social corner, trusting only a small portion of the American population. With Trump in office, there's the risk that they'd drift towards authoritarianism... or maybe they just supported Trump the wrecker, and don't care for Trump the Leader.

Anyway, this puts some of my recent thoughts in perspective. A few years back, I said that the the big contribution of left-libertarianism is to expose the elitism of the state (thereby creating more cynicism towards institutions), however, with the rise of the Trump movement, it seems that the problem may be that there is not enough trust among the people, and it's time to put more effort into building a cohesive civic culture for our country -- and world.

p.s. I think this all has something to do with conspiracy theories too -- with trump being the biggest proponent right now.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I never thought this day would come

Back in my geolibertarian days, I thought the most important political issues were to establish a citizen's dividend (or basic income) funded by land rent, pollution fees, and resource extraction fees. I learned to despair that our political system ever producing such an elegant and fair policy, and thought the mainstream politicians could never support such things, except in special circumstances (such as the Alaska permanent fund). The Obama administration's cap-n-trade proposal just emphasized that even acknowledging the supremacy of the plutocrats was not sufficient to get urgent anti-pollution legislation through. Yet this week, I head that some Republican grandees are proposing more-or-less my ideal system -- a carbon tax that funds a citizen's dividend.

Not only are they keeping the issue of greenhouse gas pollution on the table, but they are doing it in a sensible and transparent manner. Wow! So, I'll publicize it and ask my Congresscritters to support it...but I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Holocaust statement

I'd heard the fuss over the fact that Trump did not mention Jews on Holocaust remembrance day (while simultaneously blocking refugee entry to the US), but only looked at his statement now. Perhaps just as disturbing is how he frames the Holocaust as an issue of the relative military strength between "good" and "evil".

Here it is (I underline the major quotes):
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.
“Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest.‎ As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.
“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”
This contrasts with with the more conventional calls for self-reflection, presenting the Holocaust as the consequence of German cultural/moral collapse (and the failure of other nations to provide refuge). Obama emphasized this strongly in 2015 (the only other statement I looked at):

On the tenth International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the American people pay tribute to the six million Jews and millions of others murdered by the Nazi regime. We also honor those who survived the Shoah, while recognizing the scars and burdens that many have carried ever since.
Honoring the victims and survivors begins with our renewed recognition of the value and dignity of each person. It demands from us the courage to protect the persecuted and speak out against bigotry and hatred. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris serve as a painful reminder of our obligation to condemn and combat rising anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust.
This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made confronting this terrible chapter in human history and on our continuing efforts to end genocide. I have sent a Presidential delegation to join Polish President Komorowski, the Polish people, official delegations from scores of nations, and many survivors, at today’s official commemoration in Poland.
As a founding member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the United States joins the Alliance’s thirty other member nations and partners in reiterating its solemn responsibility to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration. We commemorate all of the victims of the Holocaust, pledging never to forget, and recalling the cautionary words of the author and survivor of Auschwitz Primo Levi, “It happened, therefore it can happen again. . . . It can happen anywhere.” Today we come together and commit, to the millions of murdered souls and all survivors, that it must never happen again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Burn all flags

The Trump election has increased the prominence of flag-burning in the public consciousness. The thing I'd like to express with flag-burning isn't that the USA is particularly bad, but that the state in general is a problem (and the flag definitely is not sacred). So maybe it would help to desecrate the 'stars and stripes' alongside other flags. Or maybe, in limited circumstances, it would be possible to get the message across by burning other flags, such as the 'stars and bars' of the confederacy. Of course, if you burn the 'stars and bars' in Georgia, people might think you are burning the state flag.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What if Trump won't concede?

What should libertarians do?

Now that Trump is hinting that he will not accept the legitimacy of the election results, my evaluation of the likelihood that The Shit Will Hit the Fan is going up. This is the fear that got me to start looking at the libertarian blogosphere again-- either that President Trump would institute mass deportations, or that nationalist nut-jobs would strike out against immigrant communities. The later fear has already been reinforced by recent announcement of a plot targeting Somali immigrants. But now that Trump is talking about vote rigging and rejecting the election results, there's also a chance of some organized civil disobedience. So, what to do? Here are the scenario's as I see them:

1. Trump elected. Help immigrants. Help refugees. Reinforce the global community by supporting nation-free institutions (e.g. BitCoin)
2. Anti-immigrant terrorism. Help immigrant and refugee organizations. Help law enforcement catch the terrorists, if applicable. Would we trust all law-enforcement agencies? The Feds would probably be safe.
3. Pro-trump demonstrations. Probably best to ignore them and just stay out of it. Of course, these could escalate into brawls if the anti-Trump people show up. Probably best to stay out of it, let the Clintonistas handle it.
4. Pro-Trump strikes (doubt it). Be a scab if applicable (and pays well)? Would they beat a scab? What industries would be impacted? Can we prepare ahead of time to avoid those industries (e.g. if coal is one, should be set up solar panels)? This scenario is very unlikely, probably not effective to try to anticipate them.
5. Pro-Trump blockades. Large protests and blockades would probably be unlikely to bring down the government, but would cost a lot of money. The blockades could be a form of anti-immigrant terrorism, so there could be some value in white men being available to transport supplies to blockaded communities. If these are general blockades, would this be an opportunity to develop libertarian counter-economics? The situation would probably be short lived.
6. Secession. This would suck. I don't know if any state really has so many anti-establishment white-nationalist residents that it would try to secede over this election. It's the worst case; probably would be impossible to stay on the sidelines.

At the end of the day, it may be good to get in touch with the following types of organizations:
1. Immigrant support organizations (World Relief, International Rescue Committee)
2. Your favorite religious activist group (Religious Action Center of Reform Judiasm; Unitarian Universalist Service Committee)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A book for every age

I recently picked up a couple of books by David Graeber. The books have a few good ideas, but I don't consider the writting better that what I get from an intelligent blogger. I had expected more rigor from an academic, but I guess that books like The Utopia of Rules is just shit that Graeber put out for the mass audience. Anyway, his depiction of bureaucracy as inherently violent, and cops as bureaucrats with guns was insightful. Oddly enough, shortly after starting his Utopia, I picked up a kids book at a yard sale -- and found that it had the same themes. I could describe it here, but you can just listen to it being read as a bedtime story...

Let's send everyone to college!

Clinton has picked up the fetish of the college-educated left -- let's make 4-year colleges free! What a fucking crock. Yeah, let's dump even more money into these bloated elitist bureaucracies than have been taken over by marketers and influence peddlers. Let's help all of our young adults continue to act like children -- just going with the flow and sitting in classrooms because that's what everyone is doing and it's easier than getting a job.

Don't get me wrong -- I love universities. I spent 14 years at universities, both as a student and a researcher, and I would love to be a professor if I thought I could make a living at it (given the other constraints in my life). But the worst experience in my time there was teaching kids who didn't want to be there. A university education is not for everyone. While I know that many people acquire valuable skills at universities, I firmly believe that the simplistic claims that a degree will give the marginal student a million dollars in extra income are pure bullshit (my university education taught me how to evaluate these claims).

I think formal education is a great thing, and I support any effort to increase the learning of our society, but 4-year colleges are not an efficient way to do so. Let's start with community colleges and free educational materials-- let's make sure everyone has the opportunity to access the fruits of intellectual efforts without having to dedicate themselves wholly to an institution. Let's focus on providing opportunities to those with the least money, least preparation, and the greatest obligations, rather than dumping money on the ungrateful heads of a bunch of pampered "first-world" kids.

What can we get from these candidates?

Nothing. That's what we can get from Clinton or Trump. Both candidates will make the government more intrusive, and neither will challenge the elitism of the state.

Neither of them offers a vision for a sustainable society.
  • Neither can address the perpetual increase of the national debt. Seven years into an economic recovery, the debt should be growing more slowly than the economy...but it's growth exceeds the economy's. The political establishment has no clue about how it will deliver its fiscal promises. It's made up of short-term opportunists and partisan hacks.
  • Neither will address greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Neither will mitigate the growing social-economic stratification of American society -- which will create even greater political dysfunction and crime.
Of course, Gary Johnson doesn't have the answer either. I'm bugged that he wants to replace the income tax with a sales tax rather than a pollution tax. One "libertarian"  benefit of a pollution tax is that it probably would not be able to raise even a fraction of what a tax on livelihood (like income or sales) can.

What is a political party?

This fucking election...

The following rant was my response to the assertion that the Libertarian Party is not a real party. I'm saving it for posterity:
 "Your political leaders sell their influence for personal gain while humiliating and nickel-and-diming the regular people with unreasonable regulations and penalties. They make you afraid of your neighbors (including the other "real" political party), so that you feel that you have no choice but to surrender your freedom and wealth to them. You're so enamored with he idea that you can get close to power that you make endless excuses for the failures your candidates. You don't have a political party, you have a professional marketing campaign that is run on the same principles as a campaign for any mass-market commodity, and is funded by the same corporations."

FWIW, I don't take the LP too seriously, and I think most LP members don't either. ..even though they take the movement seriously.