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.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A libertarian Breitbart?

How did Breitbart get so influential? Can libertarians pull a similar trick (or is it necessarily compromising)? Can the libertarian movement co-opt the anti-establishment sentiment that fuels the Trump campaign? Is there a libertarian version of Breitbart -- an 'in your face' culture warrior media outlet. Maybe Reason just doesn't seem angry enough. Is the problem that libertarianism will never find an establishment patron who will encourage its growth, thinking that it can be controlled. Or is the problem that libertarianism can never have the same visceral, thoughtless motivation as the desire for a "strong leader."

open borders advocacy

I've long figured that anti-nationalism (or post-nationalism) is likely the most productive approach to moving humanity towards a brighter, freer future (both here and abroad), and of course, open borders are a key component of that.

I've come across some open-borders advocates, and am documenting them here:
open borders website
open borders facebook
open borders discussion on Freakonomics radio

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

What are some contemporary resistance movements?

Hi all -- I need to crowd-source some information. In honor of Trump's possible coronation, I want to bring attention to current resistance movements around the world. But first, I need to get a list together. Nominate whomever you'd like, but they are most interesting to me if they are civilian led, popular enough and dedicated enough to have a realistic chance of toppling an oppressive regime. I'm not too interested in  counter-culture movements that fashion themselves as resistance, or militant groups that have been pushed to the margins of their society over the course of years.

Heres' what I can think of:

Recent past:
  • Color revolutions (e.g. Ukraine). Russian liberals.
  • Arab spring
  • Umbrellas in Hong Kong
  • Turkey's civil resistance (could use the anti-PDK or pro-PDK movements, though pro-PDK resisted the establishmet of a new oppressor) 
  • Anti-Apartheid
I'm sure I'm missing something...

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Johnson's tax plan is not libertarian

A progressive rips Johnson for the regressive nature of his tax plan. He's criticizing from a progressive (Sandersnista) perspective, but the tax plan is not libertarian either.

It's disappointing that the Libertarian candidate would give so much weight to this sales tax idea (the "fair tax"). At best, it is a massive distraction from real libertarian issues. It can't even be justified as the price of winning financial support from the Koch brothers. I can only assume that Johnson, like many conservatives, has a savings fetish and thinks that "libertarianism" is synonymous with capitalism (i.e. rules that favor the owners of capital). But at the end of the day, Johnson is proposing to expend massive political capital just to play an accounting game.

Johnson is also banking on the fact that income tax enforcement is particularly intrusive, though I doubt a massive sales tax would be much better. On a more substantial level, I believe that progressive taxation (higher rates for the wealthy) is more libertarian than other tax systems that raise the same revenue. This is because a person with more money (all else being equal) faces fewer constraints from losing any given amount of money. This is true even for losing the same percentage of their income -- it is worse to take 10% from a person with a thousand dollars than to take 10% from a person with a million dollars, even though the later involves 10x as much money. With this reasoning, it's clear that reducing taxes on the poor should be the first financial priority of libertarians. Lest we are worried about being unfair to the rich, they are fully capable of advocating for themselves in government.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ni una mas deportacion

I'm starting to see what the response will be if Trump starts mass roundups of immigrants...

On June 27, four activists were arrested for blocking the roads to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Downtown. More than 100 people calling for a moratorium on the deportation of all undocumented immigrants looked on as the activists were taken into custody.

Ni una mas deportacion

I'm starting to see what the response will be if Trump starts mass roundups of immigrants...

On June 27, four activists were arrested for blocking the roads to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Downtown. More than 100 people calling for a moratorium on the deportation of all undocumented immigrants looked on as the activists were taken into custody.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Right-libertarianism and left-libertarianism

After reading another sloppy take-down of libertarianism from a progressive (which of course emphasizes the "right-wing" currents in libertarianism), I was thinking of a concise way to distinguish left-libertarianism from right-libertarianism. Here's what I came up with:
  • Right-libertarians believe that the goverment is democratic.
  • Left-libertarians believe that the government is elitist.
This phrasing makes the distinction quite stark when you think about the implications of being "anti-government", and actually implies that there is substantial conflict between the two wings of the movement. Luckily, I think mainstream libertarianism is pretty "centrist" by this standard, believing that the USA's government has both democratic/populist and elitist aspects, both of which cause problems.

While there is also a "right/left" divide among libertarian cultural issues, these don't have a substantial impact on policy preferences (except abortion), so the divide I'm focusing on above is more about theories of power relationships (e.g. economics and social status). I see Ayn Rand as the quintessential right-libertarian. My impression is that these libertarians think that a free market would largely be organized around the same principles as today's economy -- the main difference being greater productivity as populist parasites are shed. In contrast, left-libertarians typically expect a radical restructuring of the economy as the existing large-scale organizations collapse without state support and are replaced by bottom-up organizations that give workers much more influence over the economy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Anti-gun libertarianism

Following the massacare in Orlando, the mainstream responses are either anti-muslim or anti-gun. And of course, these are presented as diametric opposites -- to the mainstream politicians, supporting gun ownership implies demonizing "dangerous" minority groups, and supporting these minorities implies being opposed to free ownership of guns. I suppose everyone wants to have a simple solution to the problem of human violence.

So is there anything for libertarians to say, aside from "that's life"? Apparently the standard libertarian response is pro-gun -- that if more (LGBT) people were armed, the gunman would have been stopped sooner. In this case, it may be true that more guns would have limited the carnage, but that protection would come at the cost of more gun accidents and crimes of passion -- which really are the main causes of gun injuries.

Anyway, I'm sad that I can't find any defense of anti-gun libertarianism. By "anti-gun", I mean libertarians who oppose gun controls (of course), but see guns as a pointless danger in our society, that ideally should be less common. From where I stand, most people (and most gun owners) are unlikely to ever be in a position where having a gun will provide meaningful protection. Holding this opinion puts me at odds with the "pro-gun" crowd that sees guns as vital tools to maintain security -- both personal and communal (not to mention recreation and productive hunting). It also gives me nothing to say about the political response to massacres. Saying "this isn't the time for politics" sounds evasive. Saying "the risk of being hurt in a mass shooting is minuscule" sounds cold. So I guess there's nothing to say -- and just cede the political moment to the gun-control advocates (because I will not refrain from disputing the bigots).

Monday, June 06, 2016

what more can I do

As the Trump crisis unfolds, I've even had the thought that I should learn how to shoot... just in case. I'm nowhere near the point of buying a gun, but maybe I should get the slow part out of the way so that I know how to handle one when needed. I probably won't follow this path -- the time and expense is too great given the likelihood that I will ever need a gun. And there's the fact that picking up a gun has a tendency to make people dislike you, so that they don't listen to what you have to say and may even shoot at you! And since it's very unlikely that I will personally be put in a life-or-death situation (particularly, one that a gun can get me out of), the question is whether that is really the right way to help others who may be placed in a life-or-death situation.

On the bright side, I dug up a couple of my favorite bloggers:
bPsycho moved to wordpress, and Radly Balko moved to the WaPo!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

hello again

Well, I'm back.

As the Trump crisis unfolds, I've been drawn back to the left-libertarian blogosphere, looking for ideas for how to respond. My thoughts have been turning to direct action -- which I thought would only be an issue if Trump got elected and the mass-deportations started (or if his supporters feel emboldened to terrorize immigrants -- win or lose). However, it looks like some others have decided that direct action is needed even before he's elected.

I hope to write up some thoughts on that topic in the next week, and I hope I'll be able to get some feedback from my old crowd (whomever is still around). Unfortunately, my real-world demands haven't let up any, so I'm not sure I'll follow through.

Anyway, here's a variety of things I've had on my mind relating to the Trump crisis:
  1. Electoral. Can Johnson split the Republican vote? Is he a good advocate for liberty (from the left-libertarian perspective)?
  2. Organizing. Should I be getting more involved in local organizations so that there's a network in place in case the shit hits the fan? What types of organizations? Neighborhood? Libertarian Party? Refugee support? Local politics? What communities are most likely to feel the brunt of Trump and his fans?
  3. Resistance. At what point do we need to take direct action against injustice. What approaches will be the most effective (while also avoiding personal risk and escalation)?
  4. Free trade (this is tangential to the Trump crisis): I need a good write up of how modern trade agreements are efforts to bias the market is favor of capital. I found some stuff with RadGeek, but I don't think it went as far as it could...

Scanning the web, here's what I've found:
  • Relevant blogs that are still active: C4SS, RadGeek, Bleeding Heart Libertarians, EFF, my favorite communist.(I'm sad to see that Ruling Class has been inactive for a year -- he opened my eyes to a lot of issues). Will Reason be useful in the Trump resistance? What about The Intercept? And maybe the conservative Front Porch Republic?
  • The Dividist provided me with some good anti-Trump propaganda (and a reminder of how bad his election could be if he has  GOP Congress)
  • Evolution of digital currencies (as medium for international transactions). Bit in China. RipplePay.