Category Archives: Philosophy

An Empirical Inquiry into Polycentric Power Structures

Interacting centers of power

When anarcho-capitalists argue that protection should be provided in a private manner by companies instead of coercively by governments, opponents maintain that neighboring police agencies will start fighting amongst each other. The argument goes that one company will decide that it will make more money if it physically forces another company out of business, and this sets the stage for endless fighting. Structures that have many police forces in the same general area are thus bound to fail. Robert Murphy has an excellent refutation of this line of argumentation in his article “But Wouldn’t the Warlords Take Over?” [3] Here, I will turn the opponents on themselves and challenge them to explain what makes government work.

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What is “the System”? Who are “They”?

Merlin

The main idea: the twin concepts of “the system” and “they” do not stand for any actual system or group, but are a simplification of the Extended Order by the unconscious mind.

1.Intro

1.1 Allow yours truly to abundantly quote from a great blog I follow. Writing of Django Unchained the author opines that:

[D]iCaprio asks a rhetorical question, a fundamental question, that has occurred to every 7th grade white boy and about 10% of 7th grade white girls[:] “Why don’t they just rise up?” […]

Why did Django rise up?  He went from whipped slave to stylish gunman in 15 minutes.  How come Django was so quickly freed not just from physical slavery, but from the 40 years of repeated psychological oppression that still keeps every other slave in self-check[?]

You should read this next sentence, get yourself a drink, and consider your own slavery: the system told Django that he was allowed to. He was given a document that said he was a bounty hunter, and as an agent of the system, he was allowed to kill white people.  That his new job happened to coincide with the trappings of power is 100% an accident, the system decided what he was worth and what he could do with his life.  His powers were on loan, he wasn’t even a vassal, he was a tool[…]

DiCaprio is a third generation slave owner, he doesn’t own slaves because he hates blacks, he owns them because that’s the system; so powerful is that system that he spends his free time not on coke or hookers but on researching scientific justifications for the slavery– trying to rationalize what he is doing.   That is not the behavior of a man at peace with himself, regardless of how much he thinks he likes white cake, it is the behavior of a man in conflict, who suspects he is not free; who realizes, somehow, that the fact that his job happens to coincide with the trappings of power is 100% an accident… do you see?

The Last Psychiatrist,

No Self-Respecting Woman Would Go Out Without Make Up (January 14th 2013)

1.2 I do indeed, but what I see is something else entirely.

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Democracy as crowdsourcing

Merlin

The main idea: representative democracy fails in producing unbiased crowdsourced answers to difficult problems, as do its direct and statistical offshoots.  Only unfettered trial by jury can be realistically considered a fair crowdsourcing mechanism.

Previously on Lost...

Previously on Lost…

My previous post tried to analyze the claim that mass (i.e. representative) democracy is the only realistic non-violent alternative to civil conflict and found it in need of severe qualifications, to put it mildly. Here I will try to deal with the other appealing argument made for mass democracy: that it provides an algorithm for crowd-sourcing difficult issues.  May democracy be in better luck this time?

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Introduction to Libertarianism (For the Left)

[This is the first article in the left-leaning LBRT101 section of the Guided Study at Liberty HQ]

The Past 12 Years

A foreign policy of war

The past twelve years have seen the US enter numerous new military engagements, many of which show no signs of fading. Iraq and Afghanistan are well known to everyone, but are far from the only ones. Despite strong evidence that the US intervention would not improve our national security − and, in fact, would worsen it − we continued to remain, at both a high human cost − all the lives lost (American and foreign) − and a high financial cost (with conservative estimates at $1.5 trillion). Besides throwing the US into these wars, Bush passed into law the Patriot Act, escalating the level of government invasion of the personal lives of the public. Suddenly, everyone became a suspect in the hopeless War on Terror. How does this square with the respect for individual freedom that Bush is supposed to have? Continue reading

Aggressors and the Citizenry – Theories on Anarcho-Capitalist Revolution

Broadness is fairly spread throughout ideologies and worldviews, with each ideology having their own “school,” or “branch.” Very few worldviews have been capable of escaping this kind of disorienting divide, a separation creating quarrels between individuals due to the fact that their sociopolitical ideologies can be expanded so broadly. The reason for this is quite simple really – these “ideologies” and “worldviews” that I speak of all target the state as a way to control the masses into doing what these individuals believe is best (or worst) for the world. Governance, as anyone with a basic understanding of political science knows, can be done in a variety of different ways, due to the fact that the state itself is a monopoly – an institution that has a monopoly on whatever it chooses through the “ideologies”. Therefore these ideologies which I speak of only vary on the level of violence they want the monopoly to utilize – this is what creates the “schools” and the “branches.” Continue reading

Thoughts on Cultural Evolution

Merlin

The main idea: Hayek’s concept of cultural evolution must be furthered by taking into account the conflicts between different replicating entities: the group, the individual and the meme itself.

11. Cultural Evolution

1.1 Friedrich Hayek’s last work (and the one I personally find the most compelling) The Fatal Conceit  elucidates his concept of cultural evolution. In short, Hayek states that social mores, intermediate in nature between reason and instinct, are subject to an evolutionary process. Those human groups that sport the mores which are better suited to boosting their numbers will expand at the expense of groups following less adapt traditions. Though such norms are (most of the time, at least) not the products of any deliberate human rationality, they still ‘behave’ as if some human intelligence periodically reviewed their usefulness, a special case of Hayek’s celebrated spontaneous order.

1.2 I will have to skip here Hoppe’s critique of Hayekian cultural evolution (we may meet again, but for now let me state that this lecture sounds very Hayekian for a critic of cultural evolution), and rather focus on but a single issue: namely, that as stated by Hayek this model is clearly one of group selection, a set of theories which have been extensively (and, to my mind, convincingly) critiqued. Can Hayekian cultural evolution jump past this limitation and can we gain any additional insights in the process?

Of course, but we must go deeper!

Of course, but we must go deeper!

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Voluntary Slavery and Lawful Consent

godfatherIn the movie, The Godfather, Michael Corleone relates to his sweetheart Kay Adams a story about his father:

MICHAEL: Well, when Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to a personal services contract with this big-band leader. And as his career got better and better, he wanted to get out of it. But the band leader wouldn’t let him. Now, Johnny is my father’s godson. So my father went to see this bandleader and offered him $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went back, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, he had a signed release for a certified check of $1,000.

KAY: How did he do that?

MICHEAL: My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

KAY: What was that?

MICHAEL: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract … That’s a true story.

Of course, we all recognize the pun – making “an offer he couldn’t refuse” ordinarily means an offer so good it can’t be passed up. In this case, it means literally an offer that cannot be refused because Luca Brasi will kill you.

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Least, Sufficient Force: Libertarian Theory of Defense

reddawnwolverinesIn The Ethics of Liberty Murray Rothbard made the remark that punishment theory has been scarcely treated by libertarians. The very same thing could be said for the theory of defense. If there has been little attempt by libertarians to determine what sanctions may be taken against an invader of property of another, there have been just as few attempts to determine what means may be used to thwart such an invader.

Rothbard himself devoted a chapter of The Ethics of Liberty to each of these two questions, but then spent a number of paragraphs in the chapter on defense discussing punishment instead, and so himself treated the latter question even more briefly than the former. This brief treatment of defense in The Ethics of Liberty is inspirational, but underdeveloped and insufficient.

In his treatment of defense Rothbard first poses a question of how extensive one’s right to defense of person and property is. He then proposes a basic answer: “Up to the point at which he begins to infringe on the property rights of someone else.” This can scarcely be argued with, for it is simply the principle of non-aggression restated. To infringe upon the property rights of another is indeed impermissible in any circumstances.

Rothbard’s elementary answer is useful in that it settles the matter of how much force may, in the conduct of defense, be brought to bear against people other than the aggressor. The answer is none at all. The non-aggression principle does not permit for any amount of “collateral damage” against third parties. Any act of intimidation, fraud or violence against people other than the aggressor carried out under the veneer of repelling aggression is in fact an act of aggression in its own right, and does not fall under defense.

There is one matter Rotbard’s basic answer does not resolve, however. That is, the question of how much force may in the conduct of defense be brought to bear against the aggressor himself? If there is a right to self-defense — and Rothbard showed that for libertarians there has to be — then there can only be one answer. Against the aggressor, the aggressed-upon may use up to exactly the amount of force that is necessary to thwart the aggression.

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Nuclear Weapons in Libertarianism

What does the NAP say about ownership of nukes?

Nuclear weapons like to pop up from time to time and make the headlines. They held the national attention during the Cold War, and now Iran is allegedly close to being able to build a bomb of their own. If the Iran bit sounds like déjà vu to you, that’s because it is – Iran has been “only months away” from making a bomb for quite some time:

– “Iran Poised To Build Bombs” (Sept 2003) [1]

– “Iran Only Months Away From Making Nuclear Bombs” (Jan 2006) [2]

– “Iran could have ability to build nuclear bomb by 2010, study warns” (Jan 2009) [3]

– “Goodspeed: Iran may be two months from bomb, two new studies say” (June 2011) [4]

– “Iran just months from N-bomb” (Sept 2011) [5]

I’m not a physicist, but I’ve heard that time travel is possible, so there could be something to it – they just happen to be a time-traveling nuclear power.

The point of this article is not to make bad jokes about the nuclear weapons in Iraq Iran, however, but to answer a question posed to libertarianism from time to time: “In a libertarian society, are you allowed to own nuclear weapons?” I will first address the ethical aspect and then the practical one.

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Rights That Aren’t

Or, “why a misformulation of Constitutional rights has restricted, rather than liberated, the natural rights of man”

Rights everywhere

Initially, the Founders formulated the Constitution not to delineate the rights of the individual, but to restrict the powers of government. Soon thereafter, it was decided that the Constitution indeed needed to list some individual rights, so greedy was government for power. Hence, the Bill of Rights promised the American public a certain set of rights. Unfortunately, this was a hodge-podge solution that failed to address the fundamental reasons behind those rights – the right to your body and property [1]. Moreover, the misunderstanding of these rights has led to supposedly pro-liberty people taking on some very strange positions. I address a few of these rights here and hope the reader can apply the logic elsewhere.

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