Liberty Classroom: an Invaluable Tool

If you are reading this near the end of November in 2016, you can get some major discounts and provide a great deal of support to the Mad Philosopher project by going to Tom Woods Liberty Classroom and subscribing.  If you are reading this at any other time, you can still provide a great amount of value to the project by doing so.

Tom Woods Liberty Classroom is easily one of the most undervalued resources available on the internet, as it provides a legitimate PhD-level resource on a number of crucial subjects such as history and economics.  The term “legitimate” is important, here, as what most universities provide is only half-true and full of leftist propaganda.  This resource is the closest to comprehensive and the closest to unbiased as can be found.

Click Here to get some coupon codes and subscribe.  This affiliate program is definitely one of the best ways to support the Mad Philosopher project, second only to just sending me Bitcoin directly.

 

Here’s some free samples (the best stuff is behind the paywall, obviously):

the best way to fulfill the maxim “Carpe Veritas” is to subscribe to Liberty Classroom and take advantage of everything such a subscription provides.

patreon-logo

Contracts and the NAP

A while back, I mentioned that I think contracts are bullshit. Some day, I hope to get into a full ontology of contracts, but I doubt many of my readers really have much interest in such things. Instead, I’m going to Start a conversation with a few people I know in real life concerning the nuances of the NAP with regards to contracts.

 

Would breach of contract be a violation of the non aggression principle? What about scheduled payments in the future, non-compete, and nondisclosure agreements?

Given that I think contracts are bullshit, I bet most people would assume that the answer I have is simple and straightforward: “no”. Of course, I can never let something be simple. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll just assume the definition I expect to use for the full post on the ontology of contracts and say, “a contract is merely an external explication of an agreement between two or more parties”. In other words, Bruce and Alfred come to an agreement concerning their affairs, say a nondisclosure agreement. That agreement exists as a relationship between the two but, for the sake of clarity (given the human condition), they decide to write the entire thing down and, content that the written document explicates the agreement sufficiently, sign the document to signify their provisional assent to the agreement and the accuracy of the document written to reflect that agreement. Then Bruce and Alfred put the document somewhere where it can be referenced but not altered by either Bruce or Alfred.

That’s a contract, right? It sounds pretty similar to a previous discussion we’ve had. So, lets say the agreement is that Bruce will pay Alfred for services rendered at a certain rate so long as Alfred does not let anyone know some secret Bruce is trying to keep, either by actively communicating that information to someone or letting them figure it out on their own through some form of neglect. Would Alfred be aggressing against Bruce by telling the secret? We can certainly agree that doing so would be dishonorable and vicious, but would it be criminal? Another way to ask would be to say “Can Bruce justifiably kill Alfred if he does so?”

I haven’t gone into that issue in full detail yet, either, but the easy way to put it is I stand by Cantwell’s philosophy of paperclips; It is theoretically justifiable to shoot someone over stealing a paperclip. Admittedly, the odds of encountering someone who would both steal a paperclip and allow the situation to escalate to the point of lethal force are statistically negligible and the odds of encountering someone who values the sanctity of one’s ownership of paperclips over the exorbitant cost of a bullet are equally negligible. However, the moral reasoning remains sound, even if the tactical choice would be tolerance.

Why am I talking about lethal force and paperclips when I should be talking about contracts? Well, is Alfred committing a crime against Bruce if he violates the contract? Can Bruce justifiably kill Alfred for doing so? Surely, the cost of the secret is greater than that of a paperclip. Even so, I argue that the secret is of a different category than that of the paperclip. Whereas a paperclip is property, a secret is nothing more than an abstraction of an individual’s ideas. The primary historical role of contracts such as nondisclosure agreements is an attempt to use the law to transmute mental things into material things, which can then be treated as property. So, even though Alfred may be dishonorable and breach his agreement with Bruce, he isn’t “stealing” anything from him.

What recourse would Bruce have in such a circumstance? Under the legal fictions currently in place, contracts are largely treated as laws are: if one violates a contract and then continues to refuse to play by the rules of the contract concerning breach of contract, eventually the issue would escalate to an encounter with law enforcement, which if the dishonorable man still refuses to comply, will be killed by law enforcement. Because of this, the current state of contract law is every contract follows the formula “We agree to do these things. If we don’t do these things, someone’s gonna fucking die.” Just like a law.

The same is the case if Bruce does not pay Alfred for his services, just for the sake of clarification.

I am obviously not impressed with this formula. As such, I have been exploring contract theories and trying to figure out the exact relationship between the ontology of contracts and the nature of the NAP. Thus far, I have found two possible answers to the question above, and they are mutually exclusive. As such, I’m presenting this post as a conversation-starter (as is the custom at this point).

Option #1: Contracts are 100% bullshit. In this case, the reality of the situation is straightforward: caveat emptor. If Bruce and Alfred make an agreement that Alfred will do butler stuff and Bruce will pay him at the end of the month and either one fails to do so, it renders the agreement void. If Alfred fails to do butler stuff, Bruce doesn’t have to pay him and if Bruce doesn’t pay Alfred, he doesn’t have to do butler stuff. The reality is that all that exists is the agreement between the two with their honor and social standing at stake.

While this solution is simple, it does have some complications. For example, the agreement is temporal in nature: Alfred spends a month of his life performing a service for Bruce before not receiving payment or, if paid in advance, Bruce pays a month’s salary before not receiving the agreed upon service. There are a few technologies which can be employed to prevent such instances, but in the words of Sov Tsu: “If you create a technology to solve a moral problem, you didn’t actually solve the problem.” So, instead, I will simply point out the obvious circumstance surrounding contract-violators: if one is living in a society of a reasonable size, there will be little opportunity to violate agreements without destroying one’s reputation and being dishonored or declared an outlaw. These extenuating circumstances are enough to keep a majority of potential frauds at bay, even in our overpopulated cities and towns.

Of the technologies available to increase the effectiveness of social accountability is that of reputation systems (which I generally dislike); one can have an Angie’s list or a yelp which operates much like a credit score: if one doesn’t have enough honor points, you probably don’t want to get into a contract with them. Another is that of outlaw status; if someone violates fundamental social mores, they can be declared an outlaw by the offended parties, which basically puts them outside of the general functioning of society: you breach a contract without making proper amends, you are refused service at many businesses and won’t be defended if someone were to try to rob or kill you.

Or, alternatively, we can look to the free (black) markets that have existed outside of normal contract law since forever and see what technologies exist there. The one that comes to mind right away is that of escrow holdings: Bruce puts Alfred’s payment into an escrow account at the start of the month, to be paid out to Alfred after a month of service, and they place a third party in charge of that account. Another free market device is that of word-of-mouth; someone trusted would have to vouch for the trustworthiness of each party. In this case, Thomas, Bruce’s father, vouched for Alfred and so Bruce trusts him (and vice versa).

There is opportunity for abuse in this resolution, as with any. Reputation systems can be gamed, are open to corruption, and can become oppressive forms of governance as opposed to useful tools for self-actualization. Public shaming is only as effective as a society is homogeneous, culturally speaking. Escrow services work great for payment plans and such, but do nothing with regards to agreements which do not concern direct exchange of goods. This is why self-empowerment, social cohesion, and populations within the Bunbar number are crucial to a truly prosperous society: the natural market functions of such a society drastically mitigate the harm caused by fraudsters and indolence without resorting to the criminal activities of the state.

Option #2: Contracts have a social function and are therefore not 100% bullshit. In this formulation, contracts have impetus insofar as they can be enforced without violation of the NAP. So, unlike laws, I don’t think one could pretend a contract is valid if it were enforced with the same mechanism (“do X, or we’ll fucking kill you.”). If one agrees to arbitration by a third party and consequences for breach-of-contract as part of the agreement, it is conceivable that polycentric legal systems could manage to serve as a lubricant for commerce in societies, both big and small.

This polycentric system of agreed upon contractual obligations (and punishments) and arbitrators is certainly preferable to the monopolized and criminal system currently in-place throughout the developed world. Between the competitive nature of the market for “justice” and the voluntary nature of contracts (in theory, at least), this system would likely produce something resembling courts which maintains a reasonably high level of satisfaction with legal arbitration. Given the versatility of anarcho-capitalist theory concerning polycentric law, I imagine that such competition would demonstrate the forms of contract theory which produce the most utility over time, independent of their truth-value, of course. If I were to venture a guess, of what that would look like, I’m guessing that the theories of Stephan Kinsella will likely produce the most utility as well as most closely reflect the facts of the matter, even if he has more faith in contracts than I do.

There are two problems I see with this position, though. First, the issue of honor still plays an inescapable role in this dilemma: a dishonorable person who will not honor an agreement will be equally unlikely to honor the specific clause concerning retribution or the presumed authority of the courts. Ultimately, then, we find ourselves in the initial situation presented in option #1. Second, I believe the harm-reduction and forward-thinking provided by standard financial and interpersonal practices far outperform any sort of contract and arbitration service beyond that which is contained in standard interpersonal and fiscal practices. What I mean is putting lenders in-charge of their own interest rates and application process will enable market functions to weed out the honorable and dishonorable, as does actually knowing one’s customers, etc.

This obviously didn’t cover all the nuances of contracts and such, but it is a starting place for a discussion. I need to do more research into the old tort systems and read more Stephan Kinsella. For the meanwhile, I propose that contracts are bullshit and one ought to strive to be honorable and surround oneself with honorable people. It couldn’t hurt to keep records of one’s agreements and obligations, though. Really, the approach one ought to take to contracts is the same as one ought to take to any service that is currently monopolized by government: ask “can this service be provided without the intrinsic threat of murder AND does this service have any necessity in a free society?

TL;DR: Contracts are bullshit, but they are still an important area of discussion to AnCaps and normies, alike. Insofar as that discussion applies to my project, I guess I’m halfway obligated to write about them. Contracts really seem to simply exist as an external point of reference for agreements, which are relational between two or more parties. As such, whether or not violating a contract or agreement (fraud, essentially) is a violation of the NAP is what is really at the heart of the discussion. I argue that most, if not all, cases of fraud are not actually violations of the NAP and that the old adage of “caveat emptor” ought to be kept in mind. As such, the initiation of force against a fraudster is, itself, a violation of the NAP. However, all the finer points of contract theory are currently beyond my expertise and from what I know of Stephan Kinsella, he would be the guy to read for ideas.

cropped-From-Scratch-4.2-Background-and-name.png

No Treason: Lysander Spooner

This month’s Lucaf Fits meeting (that’s my philosophy club) is centered on the nature of freedom. I did my best to try and separate my apolitical proclivities from the philosophy club, as I wanted to be a little more culturally ecumenical with the group’s prospective members, but the group demanded it. The difficulty with finding literature for such a discussion is that You have statist bullshit on one side and high-level praxeological works by anarchists on the other side, with a little bit of lefty garbage scattered between the two. However, there is a gem hidden in that grey zone between the two extremes: Lysander Spooner‘s “No Treason: The constitution of No Authority”.

 

As always, a bit of historical context is in order. Spooner was born at the beginning of the 19th century in America. He was a natural-born anarchist/agorist. He set up a law firm in Massachusetts and quickly became recognized as one of the best lawyers available, despite not having the required government permits to do so. He made a compelling legal case against licensure, but that cost him potential clients, as the government did everything in their power to keep him from acquiring new clients. After business dried up, he tried a few unsuccessful entrepreneurial efforts and eventually decided to set up a post office as an act of defiance against the violent monopoly that the US government held on postal services, and quickly outperformed his criminal competitors. Of course, that didn’t last very long, as the government violently shut him down. From that point on, he was a one-man publishing company, writing almost as much as Rothbard, himself, much to the same effect as Rothbard.

One can’t discuss a lawyer, activist, or political commentator in 19th century America without addressing slavery. Spooner was one of the many activists in the 19th century that has been stricken from the mainstream historical record for the heinous crime of not fitting the ex-post-facto justification for the war of northern aggression. He was a die-hard abolitionist AND he was a defender of the Confederacy’s right to secede from the Union and tend their own affairs. He wasn’t alone, but he is certainly one of the more prominent members of that elite group.

No Treason was actually written as a response to the war of northern aggression, pointing out how the lies written and perpetuated by the Federalists had lost any of their legitimacy when Lincoln (at the behest of criminal bankers) purportedly abolished chattel slavery by way of actively enslaving half of the inhabited continent of America by way of military conquest. In many ways, Spooner is the godfather of the sovereign citizen movement, using common law practices and contract law to point out the reality that the existing government is not only criminal but is, in fact, illegal. He met a similar fate as many Sovereign Citizens, as well… he was mostly ignored into obscurity.

That obscurity is unwarranted, though. In “No Treason”, Spooner presents a compelling case using common law and the contract law of his day, demonstrating the Constitution to be neither a legal document nor a reasonable declaration of intent. He attacks the rationale behind the “Social Contract” argument, demonstrating that the Constitution meets no necessary or sufficient conditions for being a legally-binding contract and that, even if it did, “We know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now… And the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them.”

He also demonstrates that the secret ballot undermines the legality of the contract and reveals the true nature of the government under the Constitution:
“What is the motive to the secret ballot? This, and only this: Like other confederates in crime, those who use it are not friends, but enemies; and they are afraid to be known, and to have their individual doings known, even to each other… In fact, they are engaged quite as much in schemes for plundering each other, as in plundering those who are not of them. And it is perfectly well understood among them that the strongest party among them will, in certain contingencies, murder each other by the hundreds of thousands (as they lately did do) to accomplish their purposes against each other. Hence they dare not be known, and have their individual doings known, even to each other. And this is avowedly the only reason for the ballot: for a secret government; a government by secret bands of robbers and murderers. And we are insane enough to call this liberty! To be a member of this secret band of robbers and murderers is esteemed a privilege and an honor! Without this privilege, a man is considered a slave; but with it a free man! With it he is considered a free man, because he has the same power to secretly (by secret ballot) procure the robbery, enslavement, and murder of another man, and that other man has to procure his robbery, enslavement, and murder. And this they call equal rights!”

He also consistently argues against the possibility that most, or even any, individuals consent to be governed under the Constitution. Citing the involuntary nature of taxation, the demonstrated propensity for the government to initiate violence to get its way, the illegality of putting a small group of unaccountable oligarchs in charge of a violent apparatus of coercion and theft, and so on. He also points out that, even though the government consists entirely of criminals, they are not even preferable to common criminals, because:
“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
The proceedings of those robbers and murderers, who call themselves “the government,” are directly the opposite of these of the single highwayman.
In the first place, they do not, like him, make themselves individually known; or, consequently, take upon themselves personally the responsibility of their acts. On the contrary, they secretly (by secret ballot) designate some one of their number to commit the robbery in their behalf, while they keep themselves practically concealed.”

Even if people consented to being enslaved by the government and found it preferable to the possibility of falling prey to common highwaymen, Spooner argues that there is no mechanism, physical, metaphysical, legal, or otherwise, by which one could accomplish such an end. Ignoring the performative contradiction of such an activity, Spooner argues: “If I go upon Boston Common, and in the presence of a hundred thousand people, men, women and children, with whom I have no contract upon the subject, take an oath that I will enforce upon them the laws of Moses, of Lycurgus, of Solon, of Justinian, or of Alfred, that oath is, on general principles of law and reason, of no obligation. It is of no obligation, not merely because it is intrinsically a criminal one, but also because it is given to nobody, and consequently pledges my faith to nobody. It is merely given to the winds.” This is a result of the secret ballot, the non-contractual nature of the Constitution, and the manner in which the Constitution is inflicted on those who do not assent and have never assented to be party to the contract.

Lysander Spooner writes with a command of both legal theory and language in a way so as to make slightly-complex legal concepts accessible to the reader while also maintaining a level of entertainment-value which allows one to read through the entire work. It is only about 75 pages long, so one can get through it in an afternoon if one really applies oneself. He touches on other ideas that are central to libertarian discourse, such as the idea of “voting in self defense” and the economic realities inflicted on the peasantry by international banking cartels. I argue that this work, like several others mentioned on the blog, ought to be on everyone’s reading list.

TL;DR: I’ll put the TL;DR version here, in Spooner’s own words:
“Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be; but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

Also, here’s a silly video from the Free Thought Project to a similar effect:
https://www.facebook.com/thefreethoughtprojectcom/videos/1765770890309837/

Expression Theory vs Realism

About a month ago, I came to a realization concerning something that has been confusing me for years. As is typically the case, I have no easy way to express it in terms most people can understand. In the easy, precise technical terminology I use, the barrier to communication between me and most “normal” people about crime and punishment is that I’ve been assuming people are reductive realists when they are, in fact, expressivists.

According to expression theory, feelings and ideas can exist independent of the mind experiencing them, which allows for direct communication of ideas and feelings. One largely-known application of expression theory is Leo Tolstoy’s expression theory of art, which I will use as a paradigm example of expression theory at large. Tolstoy argues that the definitive quality of art is the communication of feeling from the artist to the audience. The ontology (and/or metaphysics) that is built around such a definition is the concept that an idea or feeling can exist independent of an agent which could be called a knower or a feeler.

In order for such an ontology to exist, it would require an even more intense version of substance dualism/pluralism than that to which I ascribe. Where I have argued that there must be a substance independent of the material substance which constitutes one’s brain (or anything else that physics looks at) which could be called a “mental substance”, that argument is limited to the existence of a “knowing/thinking thing” which is not fully explained by the interaction of matter with itself. An expressivist must allow for the existence of such a mental substance, but must also argue that the thing known is, itself made up of that substance, independent from any mind that may be knowing it. In essence, to an expressivist, the idea of expressivism is somehow currently contained in this set of black and white pixels on your computer screen.

In such a case, a painting or song could be imbued with the artist’s sadness or joy. When one hears the Haffner Symphony and feels happiness, that’s because Mozart imbued his sheet music with his happiness, and every copy of that sheet music made and, later, the orchestra’s playing from that sheet music have all been imbued with that happiness secondhand. So when one listens to said symphony and feels happy, it’s actually Mozart’s happiness infecting the listener. (Example shamelessly lifted from Douglas Groothuis.) I promise I tried to make that example sound as charitable as I could…

What this means, in the case of “crime and punishment”, is that an expressivist, on some level, believes that a criminal is expressing “crime” by committing said crime. They are imbuing the scene of the crime with “criminality” which may infect the minds of others (causing them to commit crimes, as well). “Society’s” response to that crime, then, will also express a response to the crime, imbuing “Society’s” environment with whatever that response is communicating, which will also possibly infect others.

It took me far to long to realize that this is what people meant when they say such absurd things as “We can’t rehabilitate drug offenders with medical science, we must lock them in rape cages… we don’t want to send the wrong message!” What such an individual believes is that a criminal is infected with an idea of criminality which could have been transmitted to them by another individual, by coming into contact with a thing imbued with “criminality” or by a criminal idea that simply happened to float by at that given moment. I’m not certain whether the belief is that the criminal lacks any free will, such that they are merely the slave to whichever ideas and feelings they are exposed to or if one would have free will, but only insofar as one could fight off the infection of an idea or feeling in the same way one fights off a cold or flu virus… the literature is murky in that regard.

If I had to venture a guess, though, I would point out that Toltsoy is a proto-Marxist and sympathetic to anarcho-communism. Because of this, I think his cultural influences would lead him to argue that individuals only have free will insofar as they can overcome the influence of capitalist marketing and join something akin to the communist revolution, which would mean that most people are merely slaves to the ideas foisted upon them and only the great men of history can rise above mere servitude. In full disclosure though, Tolstoy was not a fan of revolution, he was too much a fan of Buddhism for that. For example:

“The anarchists are right in everything: in the rejection of the current state of affairs and in the assertion that under contemporary moral conditions there can be nothing worse than governmental violence. However, they are profoundly mistaken in believing that anarchy can be established through a revolution. Anarchy can only be established by the process of people becoming less and less reliant upon governmental authority and by people becoming more and more ashamed of participating in this authority.”

To get back on subject, though, I am convinced that despite Toltsoy’s positive contributions to philosophy and culture, expression theory is riddled with absurdities which could not be reconciled with any ideology other than a naive platonic idealism, one which claims that the only thing that exists are ideas that exist independent of any particular media which may contain said idea… that everything which exists is nothing more than a perception of some ideal divine form beyond direct human apprehension. This is, conceivably, self-consistent, but requires an incredibly complex ontological and metaphysical framework to be constructed around each individual aspect of the human experience which could more elegantly and directly be explained by simply allowing the material things with which one interacts to be real. Instead of reifying (making real) ideas and feelings, instead of making them exist as non-contingent and independent entities, would it not make more sense to apply Occam’s Razor and ask if ideas and feelings are not merely phenomenological experiences contingent upon the sense-perceptions and brain-states of the experiencer?

A (reductive) realist will restrain their ontology to only include that which must necessarily exist and/or observably exists. To such a realist, ideas and emotions are phenomenological events confined to individual minds, derived from stimuli. Meanwhile, a realist will look at actions, incentives, and outcomes with regards to individual actors, or “communities” by way of statistical aggregate. So, a criminal, then, is choosing to commit crime, based on whatever phenomenological event is occurring within her own mind, and expressing nothing. Subsequently, any individual/institution punishing a criminal is not expressing anything, but merely attempting to accomplish an end by physical means (reform, punishment, removal from the general population, sending a market signal that “crime doesn’t pay”…) What little explanative power the expressionists have concerning crime or social stigma being “contagious” can better be accounted for by what amounts to “market signals”.

For clarification, what a signal amounts to is a discrete physical phenomena (such as black and white pixels on the screen) which lend themselves to individuals observing and constructing an idea from that stimuli, which then informs their action (such as decoding the sentence constructed from these pixels and understanding, to some degree, the idea in my head). In the case of market signals, prior events provide stimuli for constructing ideas which inform market functions such as risk-assessment, cost-benefit, and value acquisition.

I didn’t really set out on this blog post to argue with Tolstoy and his unknowing inheritors, though. I am writing this post to bring attention to a language barrier I’ve discovered between myself and a great number of people. I believe this language barrier is derived from a distinctly separate and unaddressed ontology. This post is really just a call for feedback so that I can come to a better understanding of how my audience sees the world and to increase the dialogue between me and my readers. This issue, I think, is surprisingly central to all of the disagreements between statists and anarchists as well as between AnComs and AnCaps, and I therefore feel I need to come to a better understanding of all sides of the issue… if for no other reason than to secure my paradigmatic awareness for future discussions.

TL;DR: This post is short enough that I don’t think it really needs a “too long; didn’t read” section. Instead, I want to take this portion of the post to express my gratitude to those of you readers that have provided support for this project by way of donations, getting things from amazon wish list, using my affiliate links, and sharing this content on social media. I also want to give the readers/listeners an update. A few of you have noticed that the site has been getting a little less attention of late, with a lack of podcast episodes and the timing of blog post releases. I’m honored that you noticed and felt that yo should let me know. I recently switched jobs, moving from a low-level grunt to management. My new workload and schedule precludes being able to write blog posts while at work, and we are still trying to get family life back into a regimen we can survive with the new schedule. Hopefully, but the end of this month we will be operating at full-capacity again. Thank you.

From Scratch 4.2 Background and name

Slave Rebellions and the Homestead Principle

In 1969, two significant libertarians wrote articles for the Libertarian Forum Volume 1. One Karl Hess published a list of questions he felt needed concrete answers from the libertarian community and Murray Rothbard dutifully stepped up to the plate and answered those questions from a principled, pragmatic, and economically-minded stance. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, though, this work of Rothbard’s has been excised from the libertarian consciousness and left to the AnComs to champion.

Rothbard is widely recognized as the arch-AnCap and rightly so. Without too much geeking out, I want it to be known that Rothbard, with nothing but a pen, brain, and lectures, has done more for humanity’s sake than nearly any other individual. Of course, he used that brain, pen, and lecturing gig towards such an end for fifty-or-so years and, understandably, made some mistakes along the way. The most significant of those mistakes, which he admitted to being an unmitigated disaster , was the time he spent on the political left.

Between the left-friendly rhetoric and the apparent inability for most to contextualize and dispassionately read material, “Confiscation and the Homestead Principle” has gone overlooked despite its presentation of what amounts to, simultaneously, the most principled and most actionable solution concerning the problem of de-socializing state property. Admittedly, this is not entirely Rothbard’s fault, as he was answering the questions of Mr. Hess, a bleeding-heart liberal lacking any solid grasp of libertarianism’s philosophical commitments. Instead of shredding Hess’ article for it’s numerous errors, though, Rothbard attempted to address it on its own terms.

Hess was clearly unaware of the inherent “right-wing” nature of libertarianism/anarchism, openly denigrating “the right” in favor for “left-libertarian” (AKA Marxist) presumptions. The most philosophically criminal of which being his overturning of the ontological hierarchy of human activities, claiming that conceptions of rights and property are derived from some goal of human activity as opposed to the other way around. Such an argument is nothing short of a performative contradiction. Additionally, he lifts openly Marxist revolutionary rhetoric and terminology while also demanding that specifics be given concerning environmental agendas, the revolutionary takeover of General Motors, and egalitarian nonsense such as racially-motivated “reparations” programs in the context of libertarianism.

Given the stage of development Rothbard was at and the stage set by Hess, it isn’t surprising how Marxist Rothbard’s response sounds. Despite all the garbage concerning answers to Hess’ stupid questions, Rothbard still produced a gem which demands legitimate attention. Instead of doing what Rothbard ought to have done and devoting my energy to destroying Hess, what I want to do here is mine out the gem Rothbard created using his later, more AnCap material to inform this activity.

Slave Rebellions and the Homestead Principle

It can be taken for granted in anarchist circles that the dichotomy most central to libertarian discourse is that between the state (socialists) and the individual (anarchists). Another, less equivocal, way to name that dichotomy would be that between the criminal (outlaw) and the non-criminal. In order to appropriately understand this dichotomy, one must first come to an appropriate, if basic, understanding of property.

In the tradition of John Locke, property comes into being by way of homesteading. The simplest conception of homesteading is that unowned property enters into private ownership by virtue of an individual investing one’s own property into it, whether it be labor or materials or by way of occupying or otherwise adding value to it. After a certain property is homesteaded, it can easily pass from one owner to another by way of voluntary trade or donation. This is the basis of all forms of human interaction and that which is commonly referred to as “rights”.

For the sake of clarity, a definition of “property” ought to be proffered here. I use the term to mean “any discrete object to which one has access, control over, and a legitimate claim by virtue of homestead or acquisition from the previous owner with the owner’s assent”. Incidentally, I’ve also addressed the concept of “theft” as applies to property before, and recommend that others read the post centered on the issue. In lieu of reading the whole post, one should at least be aware that theft, in this conception, is the unauthorized use, consumption, or acquisition of another’s property.

In such a case that one steals another’s property, one is engaged in crime and is, therefore, deserving of the title and status of “outlaw”. The unfortunate etymology of the term notwithstanding, all it means is that one such individual is not likely to be welcome in polite, cooperative society, so much so that they are likely to, themselves, have property taken from them and be the recipient of violence. Ideally, this circumstance would lead to the outlaw seeking reconciliation with his victims, making the victim whole. Even if reconciliation is impossible, it would still be morally and economically preferable for the outlaw’s stolen property to be confiscated by literally any private individual who can invest it back into cooperative society. Not only should the stolen property be re-appropriated by the market, but also any (formerly) legitimate property belonging to the outlaw which was utilized for that theft.

The clear example of this principle would be a back-alley mugging. Say I take a shortcut down the wrong alley in Denver and find myself held at gunpoint. My assailant demands my wallet. For the sake of discussion, I either hand over my wallet or have it forced from me. It would clearly be justified if I were to promptly re-appropriate my wallet from him. Not only would it be tactically sound, but it would also be morally justified for me to confiscate his firearm and maybe even his getaway vehicle as well. If I am overpowered and some honorable bystander witnesses this event, he would be equally justified in intervening and doing so on my behalf.

This action is preferable and just for three reasons. Firstly, it makes the victim of a crime closer to being made whole and increases the opportunity for justice to take place. Secondly, it decreases the opportunity of the outlaw to continue committing crimes. Thirdly, it sends a market signal that there are externalities and risks associated with committing crimes, thereby reducing the likelihood of others taking such a course of action.

A crime which has only recently been acknowledged as such, historically speaking, is that of slavery. Ultimately, slavery is little more than institutionalized coercion and theft. The (largely fictional) account of slavery in the American South is an easy example of this reality: individuals compelled by the use of force to perform tasks and refrain from others while also being robbed of the fruits of their labor. This description may sound reductionist, but no one could argue that it is not the heart of the matter. The only change that may be warranted would be the addition of some description of scale, but that is superfluous to this discussion.

Given the above description of homesteading, theft, and confiscation along with the popular sentiment concerning slavery, I imagine it would be largely non-controversial to claim that a slave rebellion in such a climate would be morally justified. At a minimum, one who believes the American Revolution was justified would have to acknowledge the legitimacy of a slave rebellion in the South.

Such a fictional rebellion could take several forms. One, unfortunately impractical, instance would be an entire plantation or county witnessing its slave populations simply standing tall and walking off the plantation. I imagine most can see why that would be impossible; given the surrounding environment, it would likely turn out much like emancipation really did. More likely to succeed and more in-line with the first part of this post would be the confiscation or re-homestead of the plantations. Rather than remaining complicit with their slavery (horizontal enforcement, complying with orders, etc.), the slaves could act in self-defense, thereby exiling or executing their masters and confiscating or re-homesteading the products of their forced labor and the instruments by which that theft occurred.

This is where Rothbard’s application of the homestead principle comes into play. How ought the slave re-appropriate the plantation? What options are available? By way of the nature of homesteading, each slave who remains on the plantation and continues to work would naturally come into ownership of his tools and the immediate fruits of his labor. While the theory is simple and broad, the application could be messy and case-specific.

One possibility would be an extreme individualist approach, whereby the individual plants on the plantation would be divided among the farmhands while the individual household appliances and rooms would be divided among the house servants and a micro-economy could emerge whereby the cooks could prepare meals in exchange for the fruits of the field and as rent for staying in the house… but this solution is likely to result in friction: petty squabbles over bits and pieces of the plantation and personal disputes.

An other option would be to collectivize ownership of the plantation whereby a communist micro-state could be formed. Each former slave would continue doing the very things they were before the rebellion, only replacing the masters’ directions with weekly meetings to determine how the plantation ought to be run. Presumably, these meetings would also serve to manage how wealth ought to be distributed amongst the former slaves who choose to stay. Of course, this solution looks far too similar to an Orwell novel and is likely to go as well as the Bolshevik revolution.

A more likely to succeed option would be a sort of middle-ground by which the confiscated plantation would be incorporated, for lack of a more accurate term. It would take a certain degree of commitment and foresight, but the former slaves could divide the plantation into a number of shares equal to the number of remaining former slaves, essentially granting virtual ownership of the plantation to those who re-homesteaded it. This creates an economic incentive to remain and invest labor and play nice with others in order to increase the value of the shares one owns in the plantation. Such activities would increase the dividends and resale value of the share as well as increasing the security of one’s livelihood. However, if one desired to leave, they could, using the dividends or resale of the share to serve as compensation for one’s participation in the labor and rebellion preceding his departure.

Admittedly, this is all hypothetical. To my knowledge, no such rebellion occurred in actual history, which leads me to believe that slavery, writ large, wasn’t as bad as I was told in elementary school. Even so, I only presented three out of a literal infinitude of resolutions of a slave rebellion. Given my more pessimistic views of human genetics, the most likely outcome would be something similar to that which exists in sub-Saharan Africa as opposed to Iceland. However, this hypothetical would be far more likely to end well in the following example.

Before moving further, it is important to draw attention to the basics of this hypothetical. The justification for and the means of achieving this slave rebellion is a combination of self-defense and confiscation in conjunction with the homestead principle, as indicated at the beginning of this post. Self-defense from criminal acts is eminently justifiable, this applies to theft and coercion and, therefore, to slavery. In the case of self-defense, confiscation of the implements of crime-in-progress as well as stolen property is justified as well. Stolen property is, in practice, unowned due to the outlaw effect and the lack of legitimate claim in conjunction with access to the property. Even if that weren’t the case, an executed or exiled criminal’s former property (legitimate or otherwise) is effectively unowned and, therefore, open to homestead.

With this argument in mind, we turn our attention to other instances of slavery. Most widespread, historically and today, is the case of slavery known as the state. By way of regulation, taxation, enforcement, and other euphemistically-named criminal activities, the state coerces specific behaviors, steals and destroys property, and engages in all manner of murderous, coercive, and thieving activities. It is impossible to define slavery in a manner consistent with its historical referents while excluding government in a manner consistent with its historical referents. In Rothbard’s words, “The state is a giant gang of organized criminals, who live off the theft called ‘taxation’ and use the proceeds to kill, enslave, and generally push people around.”

In the case of state-slavery “All taxpayers, all draftees, all victims of the State have been mulcted… Any person or group who liberates such property, who confiscates or appropriates it from the State, is performing a virtuous act and a signal service to the cause of liberty.” In the spirit of the earlier example, “How to go about returning all this property to the taxpayers? What proportions should be used in this terrific tangle of robbery and injustice that we have all suffered at the hands of the State? Often, the most practical method of de-statizing is simply to grant the moral right of ownership on the person or group who seizes the property from the State. Of this group, the most morally deserving are the ones who are already using the property but who have no moral complicity in the State’s act of aggression. These people then become the “homesteaders” of the stolen property and hence the rightful owners.”

The specific examples are largely straightforward: police can take their armor, guns, and vehicles home and take advantage of a sudden demand for private security personnel in the absence of the state. Lawyers and judges can establish arbitration firms. Educators can take control of the facilities and implements of education and continue to teach in a competitive market. Those currently providing non-marketable “services”, such as DMV employees, bureaucrats, union thugs, and military will likely have to find a way to re-brand their respective talents of race poverty. Of course, the slave-holders themselves, the politicians, executive officers, representatives, and lobbyists will face exile or execution. Unfortunately, not everything is that straightforward. What of corporatist entities? General Motors, Haliburton, Koch, MSNBC, the Post Office, and “private” colleges are wholly indistinguishable from the state, itself.

“As a result of zealous lobbying on behalf of the recipient… The same principle applies… they deserve a similar fate of virtuous homesteading and confiscation.” In the case of corporations and organizations that receive half or more of their funds though government institutions, they are effectively inseparable from the state and must suffer the same fate. The military industrial complex, especially, ought to be confiscated from the criminal band known as the state, not only for its complicity in theft but also its open endorsement of globalized murder. Important note: this is a wholly different issue that the legal abuse suffered by firearms and alcohol manufacturers and distributors when their products are abused.

Speaking of these absurdly regulated industries, many of a communist persuasion will argue that all industry is a beneficiary of government and ought to be re-homesteaded. I disagree. Whereas Haliburton is a direct recipient of welfare, most other corporations are merely indirect beneficiaries of the state’s criminal activities by way of limited competition, externalized expenses, and coercing purchase of goods and services. These corporations will be forced, in the absence of the state, to either adapt to the ensuing market correction or fold and sell their assets. Besides, it is morally suspect and quite inefficient to try and homestead every regulated industry. Those that manage to adapt to market correction were clearly sufficiently virtuous enough to deserve protection from re-homestead, whereas those that fold and sell out were vicious enough to deserve such a fate and homesteading becomes superfluous, as those entities are peaceably re-introduced into the free market.

TL;DR: What is required to de-socialize the state and appropriately pursue the abolition of slavery is nothing short of a slave rebellion. Such a slave rebellion must be conducted in accordance with the moral principles of self-defense, confiscation, and homestead. Otherwise, such activities are likely to end in the establishment of an even-less preferable state of affairs, such as that of communism. In the words of Rothbard, “Libertarians have misled themselves by making their main dichotomy “government” vs. “private” with the former bad and the latter good. Government, [Alan Milchman] pointed out, is after all not a mystical entity but a group of individuals, “private” individuals if you will, acting in the manner of an organized criminal gang. But this means that there may also be “private” criminals as well as people directly affiliated with the government. What we libertarians object to, then, is not government per se but crime, what we object to is unjust or criminal property titles; what we are for is not “private” property per se but just, innocent, non-criminal private property. It is justice vs. injustice, innocence vs. criminality that must be our major libertarian focus.”

cropped-From-Scratch-4.2-Background-and-name.png

Rant 7: Trial by Jury

“Trial by Jury” has always bothered me, even as a punk commie teenager… Now that I’ve had time to think about it, it makes perfect sense that “trial by jury” is so intuitively wrong to me.

The way that jurors are encouraged to show up and “do their duty” is they are threatened with violence and imprisonment. Name one person that enjoys jury duty and would do it if they were not coerced into doing so and I’ll show you someone who really, really, shouldn’t be on a jury (just ask Plato or anyone that’s run afoul of a “Grand Jury”).

The jury is supposedly selected for their objectivity. This objectivity is derived from the fact that they have absolutely nothing to do with whatever altercation is being arbitrated. Of course, being wholly outside the altercation, they have no authority to arbitrate the situation *and* they have no skin in the game, what motivation do they have to “get it right” as opposed to taking out whatever prejudices they feel like exercising in that situation or doing what makes them feel good as opposed to what is right and just?

Speaking of prejudices: if someone’s been ripped from their daily routine in which they largely engage in voluntary interactions for mutual gain and are violently coerced to sit in judgment over others and *must* violently meddle in others’ lives without their assent, how can you expect that individual to be objective? It’s generally accepted that most bullies are merely taking out abuse that they have received from somewhere else on others that are weaker than themselves. You dad smacks you or your mom around? You’ll just go to the playground and smack some underclassmen around. The state threatens to take everything you have and lock you in a cage if you don’t waste somewhere between one day to nine months of your life being shuffled around like cattle in a dreary building and listening to people complain about each other for hours on end… how are you not going to let such an environment infect your mindset when you are supposed to be objective?

Besides, there’s an interesting parallel between the state in this instance and child molesters’ MO. Typically, a child molester will get a kid to do something “naughty” with the child molester in order to skew their conscience and to use as blackmail. Before getting “romantically involved”, usually a molester will get the kid to take up smoking, shoplifting, pornography, or some other nefarious activity in order to weaken their resistance to “naughty” things in general and to threaten “If you tell anyone I’m rubbing my balls on your face, I’ll tell them you stole that candy bar from the gas station.” Given the underdeveloped cost/benefit analysis of children, it tends to work.

When the state says, “It’s your patriotic duty to violently fuck with other people’s lives, especially when we violently coerce you into doing it” it weakens your resistance to participation in other ways one uses the state to violently fuck with other peoples’ lives (like voting, calling the cops, calling congressmen, snitching…). It also makes one complicit in the criminal actions of the state, placing one in the difficult situation of having to admit guilt and hypocrisy in order to speak out against the wickedness of the state.

Only those who have a strong enough sense of justice to overcome the pride of shamelessness can speak out against trial by jury, and only those with the fortitude and piety to put up with the bile and hatred spewed by those who would rather remain married to their guilt than to face the truth can withstand the culture of death in which they live.

Rant_zdzislaw_beksinski

More Tuttle Twins: Bastiat

The Tuttle Twins series, by Connor Boyack, is one I cannot recommend highly enough.  I’ve previously acquired a copy of The Tuttle Twins and the Miraculous Pencil and my kids love it.  Written in a style that is educational and fun (as all childrens’ books should be), it is a good read, even for adults.

Because I can’t contain my excitement about the upcoming release of a fourth Tuttle Twins book, I’ve decided that I intend to give special attention to each of the books as they become available on Amazon.  I would do so as they come out, but the eCommerce on the official Tuttle Twins site is a little wonky, and I don’t want to encourage my readers to accidentally purchase a product they didn’t intend to.

This post concerns The Tuttle Twins Learn About The Law.  Just as The Miraculous Pencil is a splendid adaptation of “I Pencil”, Learn About The Law is an adaptation of Bastiat’s “The Law”.  I believe “The Law” to be one of the few texts that ought to be “required reading” for any civic-minded individual.  I’m not a fan of voting, but passing a test on “The Law” would be required to register to vote, if I were put in charge of the electoral process.  Rather than read all 61 pages of Bastiat, though, one could get by on reading the far more digestible Tuttle Twins adaptation.

That’s all I feel compelled to write at the moment about this book, you should pick it up and read it, yourselves.  I intend to read it to my kids at the earliest convenience and I’ll probably have more to add to this post afterwards; my kids are great at picking up on things that I miss and ask all the right questions.

Rant 5: Blame Capitalism

This rant got a little off-course, as is prone to happen in a fit of passion.  I will likely make a full post about this later, to flesh it out a bit better.  In the meantime, though, you can hear me yell about lazy and stupid people who want to force others to subsidize their uselessness:

Demonizing and attempting to eliminate freedom or capitalism (same thing) for the alleged increase of inequality or poverty is the intellectual equivalent of demonizing and attempting to eliminate the sun due to the existence of broccoli or whatever food you dislike.

I obviously don’t have time to explain the way the world works in it’s entirety in one little rant, given that it took Mises 900 pages. Besides, as you’ve demonstrated, you don’t give a single fuck about the way the world works, if you’re whining about an emergent property of rationality as if it’s something that can be done away with.

In short, inequality will always exist, even if your socialist utopia were possible (think Brave New World), there would still be inherent inequalities in man. When humans are allowed to flourish, those that are better suited to success in personal goals or providing value to others will naturally do better than those who are not. This does not “make the poor poorer” but it certainly makes the superior more wealthy. This is the paradigm example of what’s known as “Market Signals”, in the absence of a violent monopoly-granting criminal gang, the only way one garners wealth is by way of providing value to others. If one is wealthy, it is an indicator that you would rather hire them to help you with something, rather than the guy who can’t even provide menial services such as making coffee, scrubbing toilets, or selling his body parts.

If you are complaining about capitalism because the service of flipping burgers or waving a sign on the street corner is not worth enough to properly fund the services of keeping a family alive, going to college, or subsidizing your heroin/football/video games addiction, that’s not the fault of capitalism or greed, but a reflection of the objective reality of the situation: I can flip my own goddamned burgers, and nobody cares about the sign you’re waving. I understand this all too well, I have been building a career the last seven years entirely off of wiping peoples’ asses for them. There’s only so much one is willing to pay an asswipe. The only difference between me and you, though, is that instead of blaming abstract concepts or individuals superior to myself and attempting to violently inflict my inferiority on them, I am working on improving my ability to provide more valuable services and diversifying what I have to offer.

Capitalism is the only way that I will ever not have to wipe aristocratic and ignorant white suburbanites’ asses and bend over backwards for illiterate mexicans in order to survive; if you are trying to eliminate that sole savior from my incredibly short list of options with your benighted and violent religious beliefs, I will be forced to try to stop you by any means necessary.

Capitalism is as inevitable and necessary as the sun, without it we simply wouldn’t exist and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, only render ourselves unable to take advantage of it. I’m perfectly content to let you sit at home and complain about the fact that you can’t or won’t just get a job or try to improve yourself, but if you’re going to try to stop me or anyone else from doing so, you have made yourself the enemy of humanity, you misanthropic waste of resources.

Rant 3: Your Words are Empty

Here’s a list of words and concepts that are meaningless without a context and are more likely to be vices as opposed to virtues (off the top of my sleep-deprived head):

Diversity
Education
Tolerance
Self-Acceptance
Fairness
Equality
Justice

What this list represents is the modern-day list of social “virtues” that everyone strives for. Every last item on this list is vapid bullshit. There is absolutely no reason that one should strive for any of these positions in themselves.

If an insular group of like-minded individuals are managing to flourish, why would one possibly want to introduce elements that may destabilize that arrangement? “Oh, that’s a mighty fine hard-boiled egg you’ve got there, let’s diversify it with some rat poison.” Fuck your diversity and fuck you.

“Education” is synonymous with “government-indoctrinated” and has been since the term was coined in Prussia. I don’t want “educated” people running around, voting for more socialism and cramming the other ideas on this list down our throats. I want people to be intelligent and informed, most certainly, but you will never get that from state-funded bureaucracies pushing an anti-realist and false narrative for political gains.

Self-acceptance is only justified if it is followed by self-correction. You’ve gotta accept that you’re a stupid lump of adipose slowly decaying and wasting your few millions breaths you are given on bullshit like football, patriotism, and transient relationships before you can decide to stop wasting what little you have and start doing something productive. You simply cannot start and end at “I’m a unique and beautiful, Harvard-educated, otherkin, transracial snowflake.” To simply give up there and pretend you are happy with that is to simply wait to die. I would love to expedite that process for you.

One of the things that was told to every generation of children until mine is “life isn’t fair.” As it turns out, “fair” simply doesn’t exist, and neither does equality. I don’t care how much we have in common, you and I are different entities in our entirety. You may be better able to lift heavy objects or hold conversations with inanimate objects and I may be better suited to acting ethically. You may be better suited to designing rocket ships and I may be better constructed from scrubbing toilets and yelling at people on the internet. In the end, we are all different, and nothing can change that, despite what your “Diversity and Tolerance Education for Racial Justice” teacher might say.

And justice does not mean revenge, especially revenge for something my great grandfather may have done to your great grandfather. They’re dead and I’ve never met them, so who cares? What really matters is what you’ve done with yourself. Took out loans to get a meaningless degree and further inflated the largest economic bubble in the history of humanity? Good job, slapnuts.

If you want to make the world a better place, quit violently inflicting your stupid on other people by voting for this shit and start actually providing something of value to others. That’s right, I just told you to get a fucking job and shut up.

Defending the Undefendable

In the spirit of Rothbard, Walter Block presents a treatise on the relationship between crime and economic manipulation, semi-appropriate ethical indignation and the unintended consequences of using violence to try to prevent those ethically unappealing actions.
In Defending the Undefendable, Walter Block defends the heroin dealer, the speculator, the employer of child labor, and the man who screams “fire” in a crowded theater against accusations of economic perversity and harming the social order.  He does so quite effectively.  After reading this book, one who is educated in economics will have to seriously reconsider support of a minimum wage and legal prohibitions against child labor.
The introduction, written by Rothbard himself, makes it clear that while the people defended in Block’s book are heroes because of the role they play economically and the adversity they face in reducing the friction of a politically-controlled economic system, this is not a moral defense of the particular actions the people make.  For instance, a heroin dealer could very well be a boon to the market and a hero in face of the evils of government while also perpetrating an immoral or unethical act (such as selling poison to people, even if it is a voluntary interactions).
As compelling, concise, and informative as the book is as a whole, there is one chapter, however, that doesn’t seem to belong.  The defense of the “Male Chauvinist Pig” was less an economic defense of chauvinism and much more an incoherent and aggressive defense of feminist talking points, most prominent of which being the importance of abortion.  This defense of abortion is actually inconsistent with a much more compelling case he makes later on in the case of defending “The Employer of Child Labor”.
All-in-all, though, this book is a must-read for anyone who believes in the free market but hasn’t critically assessed their position on “the undefendable” as of yet, people who are genuinely interested in reducing crime and increasing the quality of life for the poor, and those that still believe that government violence can somehow improve the world.  Each chapter is a few pages long, very direct and to the point.

One can acquire the book for free in digital form from the Mises Institute, or purchase a hardcopy at Amazon.  I strongly recommend that you do so.

Collectivism: the Bald-Faced Lie

Today, rather than harping on issues in the science community, or pointing out all the irrationality surrounding Paris (I wrote a whole diatribe, several pages in length, and will likely never share it with anyone), I figured I should focus on something more important and more universally applicable (one which applies to both issues, if indirectly).

Rather than discussing the book in its entirety, I would like to suggest reading/listening to the chapter on “The State” from “For a New Liberty

You can also download the full text of “For a New Liberty” here:

For a New Liberty The Libertarian Manifesto

Charity: Another Definition

More Definitions? Really? You’ve gotta grant this, at least, when one hears or reads the word “charity”, an idea pops into one’s head which is radically divergent from most other people. I’ve had family members cease speaking to me at thanksgiving for upwards of four years due to this seemingly innocuous term.

Really, though, is charity giving money away, being nice, or the girl you met at the club? Just as I’ve done with honor, justice, ethics, anarchy… I’m going to define a culturally significant term that is vaguely defined at best and likely upset some people along the way.

I’ve previously written on virtue and honor as well as crime, vice, and sin. The common element in each of these cases is the fact that they are performative actions regarding one’s character. If one is virtuous, one tends to do virtuous things, if one is honorable, one tends to do honorable things, etc. So, if one does charitable thins, what do we call them? What are charitable things, anyway?

Typically, I look to etymology and history to inform my understanding of a term. This time is no exception in that regard. However, unlike terms such as “honor”, “charity” seems to be a fairly recent invention. “But right here in my copy of the Vulgate, I see ‘caritas’ something like fifteen times!” Yeah… but “caritas” didn’t have the connotation of “virtuous love” or “philanthropy” until some time in the middle ages; those ideas themselves seem to be something underdeveloped in the ancient world. Rather than fully exploring the philology of charity and losing a chunk of my readership this week, I think it may be more beneficial to simply give a modern definition of the term and demonstrate its role in my understanding of the human condition. We can devote more time to this issue in later posts concerning Scriptural translators’ notes… I have a lot to say concerning that.

If one defines charity as, “maintaining an attitude of sympathy (or empathy) and compassion, and habitually attempting an understanding of one’s fellow man”, what results do we get when looking at the term’s use in the vernacular? The least controversial application of this definition, I think, would be when one is speaking of a critical analysis or opinion, for instance “While the author did not pull any punches, his critique of the work was charitable.” In such a case, a “charitable review” would be one that attempts to understand the purpose and perspective of a particular work while also expressing the faults of said work.

Additionally, when one speaks of doing charity or donating to charity, one can see where this definition would apply, if indirectly. If one is compassionate (etymologically: “suffering with”) towards one’s fellow man, they may feel compelled to ease another’s suffering at one’s own expense, even if it is only to treat them with a dignity deserving of a human being at the expense of one’s time and energy. Donating to charity is the same idea, if one step removed from the actual act: one donates to a “charitable organization” so as to aid in that ministry of charity… or, at least, that’s the pretense for it; it could just be an attempt to get a tax break or gain social status. Even in the case of one merely pretending to be charitable (by our definition), they are doing so in order to approximate the appearance of charity as we have defined it.

Even so, why does charity, a modern and loosely-used invention, warrant a role in my list of positive human activities alongside honor and virtue? Would it not be secondary or redundant if one is already an adherent to the non-aggression principle and a pursuer of virtue? Secondary, maybe, but not redundant. I say it is secondary because if I had to choose between an individual who hated me with every fiber of their being but refused to murder me versus a person who loved me unconditionally but felt it would be more humane to murder me, I would choose the non-aggressive asshole over the do-gooder criminal. I just realized this is the easiest way to delineate the libertarian left and libertarian right… but that’s neither here nor there.

Charity is not redundant in the face of virtue and honor. In the same way sin can be considered to be a specific brand of vice, one which is considered less often but can be far more detrimental to one’s happiness in the long run, charity can be considered the equivalent on the side of virtue. Charity is a specific virtue (a habituated act which aids one in the pursuit of happiness/their telos) which is considered less often, or one’s understanding of it is often maligned, but it is crucial to one’s flourishing. This is strange coming from an brutalist egoist/anarchist, isn’t it?

I tend to not write concerning charity for two reasons. The first is that it is one of my weaknesses. Empathy doesn’t come naturally to me… it’s a skill I’ve learned for the sake of bolstering my rhetorical and oratory skills. Charity is also a difficult sell amongst most Objectivists and AnCaps, given the cultural connotation of “giving shit away to undeserving people” and the Objectivist/Capitalist distaste for moochers and looters (which I share). Charity, when defined as above, does not necessitate enabling moochers and may even discourage doing so in many cases.

For example, the effective altruists have had some degree of success in proving that economic principles and employment do far more than just moving money and resources around (they would have more success if they could stop being so statist). The New Work, New Culture movement has also been quite effective in demonstrating an authentic and humane method of lifting the poverty-stricken without subsidizing moochers (they would be more effective if they were to do a little more PR work and learn some Austrian economics). The question at the heart of these sorts of programs is not “how do we get rid of poor people?” but instead “What causes humans to make stupid decisions and how do we provide them with the tools necessary to avoid such decisions?”

These programs are far more charitable and authentic than something so banal and superficial as simply giving money to those that don’t know what to do with it or feeding those that refuse to feed themselves. There is certainly a place for such practices, but such practices must be seated in a much broader framework of genuine human interaction and care. Even communities centered on such ideas, such as Catholic Charities, fail to meet the demands such a framework entails due to a number of limiting factors. Bureaucracy, lack of funds/resources, the crushing onslaught of the disenfranchised overwhelming a small number of volunteers, state regulations… they all serve to inhibit the effective charity of an organization centered on provision as primary care and the supporting framework as a secondary one.

I’m doing my best to avoid sounding like I believe in a silver bullet to cure all ails, but charity can only truly flourish within two concentric cultural movements: a free society and an intentional community within the limits of the Dunbar number. The state and cultural controls exist in such a manner so as to discourage the formation of genuine empathetic bonds between individuals and virtuous behaviors. The slavery of the state aside, a community of sufficient size to exceed the human person’s capability to develop psychological bonds with every member of the community is forced to engage only those that are capable of bringing immediate gains to the individual. Those that are in most need of charity are typically those who have the fewest tangible resources to provide, therefore disincentivizing charity to the poor due to the limitations of one’s mental resources. In a smaller community, however, the very nature of the human mind would compel one to develop a standing relationship with even the most impoverished of one’s community, which is the basis and prerequisite for true charity.

Why does any of this matter to a philosopher or an anarchist? This is barely virtue ethics, barely economics, and would be nothing more than a beneficial side-effect of anarchy. It is important for three reasons. Without charity, one cannot effectively interact with other human beings on an authentic level, which drastically impairs one’s ability to achieve any form of happiness. A common accusation leveled against anarchists and other liberty-minded individuals (which is typically false) is that they “don’t care”. As one would expect, this accusation comes primarily from the left; demonstrating the virtue of charity in its true form would effectively shut down such accusations. Thirdly, charity is absolutely essential to the proper application of justice in a free society.

Authentic human interaction is an issue I discuss frequently enough, so I don’t feel too compelled to comment on it here. However, “not caring” is a common and typically lethal accusation made against freedom-minded individuals, and it really shouldn’t be. Where a liberal (or a “conservative” which is now just a less-racist liberal) feels as if they care about the poor and therefore feel compelled to regulate their poverty, steal from the less poor in order to give a portion to the more poor, and push economically benighted ideologies surrounding vague concepts such as equality or “charity”. In all reality, if they cared about the poor, they would attempt to understand the circumstances of the poor, both on a personal level and an institutional level. Such research would demonstrate the abject and necessary failure of the welfare state and the pernicious influence of feeding moochers.

A mere historical survey of economics will demonstrate that the poor are, in fact, not “getting poorer” but instead have seen a dramatic improvement concerning material wealth, not just in America, but across the entire globe. This is a result of economic prosperity and the very manner in which the world operates. If one were to allow nature to take its course (a-la free markets) without the stifling effects of institutionalized crime (i.e. the state), the material standard of living for all people would be improved much more dramatically and efficiently. It is the welfare state itself that causes a vast majority of the poverty the leftists claim to care about. This economic argument should be a tool in every AnCap and Objectivist’s rhetorical toolbox.

Happy side-effects aside, a more compelling case would be that charity cannot be an institutional and impersonal function, but instead must be a genuine engagement between members of a community. In which case, bureaucratic welfare programs, free markets, and philanthropic donations do not qualify as charity. Instead, one must get out and do charity themselves. Creating a job market for the less-employable (children, reformed criminals, drug addicts, the mentally ill, the elderly, etc.) which accommodates their particular market deficiencies can be an uplifting and profitable venture for all involved. Unfortunately, the leftists “care” and government regulations actively prevent such forms of charity, which have been consistently proven to be more effective than welfare programs and resource distribution.

As mentioned before, justice is restoration of relationships in spite of interpersonal damages. If one is unable to engage those that have done them harm in a manner consistent with understanding and empathy, justice is impossible. In this way, the virtue of charity is required for justice to be realized. Closely related to justice, as well, is the subject of deescalation of conflict. I’ve mentioned before, if in passing, the importance of avoiding conflicts where life, liberty, and property are at stake. Charity is a useful tool in assessing and engaging in situations where conflict is likely to escalate. This is also the basis of Non-Violent Communication (NVC), which is both an incredibly useful rhetorical tool as well as a useful methodological tool for one to simply engage with the world. It is very similar to both stoicism and epicureanism in a lot of ways.

Remember, anarchism is a philosophy of personal responsibility. Without armed thugs forcing everyone to obey the arbitrary dictates of Leviathan, we’re going to have to learn to get along on our own. A great many libertarians and anarchists have a hard time getting along, this is partly due to the tensions that run high between those who pursue truth and those that are willing to simply do as they feel the urge, but it is also due to the manner in which focus rests primarily on intellectual and martial virtues to the detriment of developing social virtues such as charity.

TL;DR: Charity cannot simply be “giving stuff to people that haven’t earned it” and it can’t simply mean “loving people”, it must be a more grounded and virtuous habit. Thus charity, in its modern incarnation, is the virtue or habit of maintaining an attitude of sympathy (or empathy) and compassion, and habitually attempting an understanding of one’s fellow man. This virtue is cardinal among virtues, as it stands in direct opposition to sin, which is chief among the vices of man.

Restoring Justice

If someone were to have read my post concerning honor and engaged in critical discussion, they may have accused me of being a non-dualist. Claiming that honor and same are the same thing would sound to many as if I’m saying “good” and “evil” are the same thing. I am not a non-dualist, but you may not believe me after hearing/reading this today. Today, I’m addressing another ancient concept that nobody seems to understand in this, the postmodern era: justice.

You hear about “justice” every day: SJWs demanding that straight white men be burned at the stake for “social justice”, different victims or criminals becoming the focus of “justice for this guy” mobs, in the statist prayer “liberty and justice for all”, justice in music, television, movies, lectures, C-span, everywhere. Reading Plato, one sees justice presented as “giving to everyone what they are owed” which is often interpreted through the lenses of “an eye for an eye” and “repay your debts”. Something often addressed alongside justice, and often used to help define the limits of justice, is mercy. People point to the beautiful occasions in which someone forgives the man who killed that person’s entire family or something and say “faith in humanity: restored”. Christians, inspired by Thomism, love to juxtapose mercy and justice as opposites and then struggle to argue that God can simultaneously possess two opposites to an infinite degree, which is simply absurd.

 

“Blasphemy!” No, not really. It is the very definition of absurdity to simultaneously hold that both A and non-A are true. No amount of special pleading (mystery) or symbolic logic can change that. I’m not saying God isn’t infinitely merciful or just, only that Aquinas made yet another mistake. As a matter of fact, I’m dropping this God talk in favor of philosophical exploration of justice and mercy themselves. Those of my readers that are both intelligent and theologically-minded will be able to follow this line of thought to its necessary conclusion concerning God’s nature.

Most people, as I understand it, believe that justice is either some formless and vapid idea like “equality” or “fairness” or that it means “retribution”. “This guy did something bad, so we have to do bad things to him.” Very few people will argue with that description, only the specific reason for or implementation of it. “That guy raped someone, so we must lick him in a rape cage (prison) for the rest of his life.” “This lady stole some money, so we must take everything she owns or earns until it is paid back… and a little off the top for me.” There’s always arguments as to how far is too far, like the death penalty; “should we murder a murderer?” but rarely is the more fundamental question asked.

Is doing “evil” to “evildoers” justice?

I’ll leaver that question for your rumination while I address mercy. In the ancient world, mercy was a vice that only the most powerful could afford. In the Christian world, it was a benevolent act that even the most impoverished peasant could perform towards even the most powerful king. In the post-Christian world, it’s a meaningless feel-good word for being nice. In each of these eras, the meaning of mercy has been assumed to mean “staying the execution of justice.” Debt forgiveness, governor pardons, jury nullification, victims and their families forgiving criminals, for example. Mercy, then, is shown by those too helpless to extract retribution on those with power. The paradigm case would be millennial SJWs getting jobs and shutting up.

Of course these two concepts are at odds. If justice has been a perennial issue of rights, honor, and morality throughout recorded history and mercy has been a more recent afterthought, it is no wonder that so many are confused, There are lots of exciting logical conundrums which emerge with this juxtaposition of two aesthetically pleasing opposites. I’m not sure I need to explore them right now, as everyone has read a book or watched a movie which hinged on one such conundrum or another. Any Christian that hasn’t wrestled with these problems has not critically assessed their faith. It’s a very real concern: when does one do evil to evildoers and when does one forgive them? I believe I have a solution. I’m not about to take credit for it, as the inspiration at least comes from the first couple centuries AD.

Our understanding of justice and the function it serves is wrong. Mercy, then, is also misunderstood, due to its status as wholly dependent on justice for its meaning. If justice is people getting what they deserved, people ought to do their best to keep their distance from me; as I’ve mentioned in a recent Daily Resource Suggestion, “Nobody deserves anything. If we deserve anything, it is nothingness.” Unsurprisingly, this is a Catholic belief; that’s why theologians are so desperate to make God merciful.

I have intentionally avoided discussing justice from the utilitarian position, as they equivocate justice with political ethics: “Whatever laws and violence are shown to maximize pleasure for the most people, except the obvious answer of ‘none’.” “Justice” as “deterring crime through punishing those that break the law” is a subset of the utilitarian stance. I call it moral/legal equivalence, and that’s all the time I want to waste on it today.

If justice is not retribution or deterrent, if it’s not repaying debts and taking an eye for an eye, what is it? If mercy is not the suspension of justice, what is mercy? Justice is restoration, and it is growth. Mercy is the proper application of justice. Doesn’t make sense? Good.

Justice exists betwixt individuals. If one were to exist alone in the universe, there would be no party for him to injure or be injured by, there would be no party to establish or show justice to. In this way, justice is a concept that is only manifest between individuals. If one is injured by another, whether it be the intentional commission of a crime or an unintentional destruction of property or honor, their relationship is also damaged. If justice were merely returning harm for harm, both parties are rendered worse off than before the execution of justice and their relationship is damaged doubly so. If justice were merely the replacement of damaged goods, justice could not be applied in circumstances in which the damage is incalculable or immaterial such as the loss of a child or the stripping of honor. Justice (or mercy) could not merely be the forgiveness of transgressions between individuals, as whatever harm has been affected is still present and the relationship will remain damaged after the initial act of forgiveness.

Justice, if restorative, would require the growth of all parties involved. If one party were to be harmed by another, for both the property damaged and the relationship between individuals weakened, they must grow beyond the damage done. Harm itself is contrary to growth, even if it allows at times for growth that would have been otherwise impossible, so returning harm for harm is not justice. The replacement or repayment for damaged goods can be incorporated into an act of justice, as it is an attempt at restoring the status of things to their original state. As mentioned above, though, such an action alone cannot be justice and such an action may be impossible as some things are irreplaceable and relationships cannot return to previous states. The same goes for forgiveness, it is necessary but not sufficient for restoration of relationships and statuses.

The specific implementations of justice are contingent upon the circumstances of the injury between parties. What is required to grow beyond a stranger scuffing someone’s shoe is orders of magnitude lesser than what is required to grow beyond a friend or family member murdering one’s family with a chainsaw. In the first instance, a more sincere apology and offer to make amends and a subsequent act of forgiveness and re-polish or replacement of the shoes (by either party) is all that is required. In the latter case, the one concerning a murder most foul, I know not by what means one would grow beyond the loss of one’s family nor if a relationship could be restored after such an inhuman crime, and I hope never to discover the answer.

Such a limitation is not a limitation of justice, but of those that ought to pursue it. Justice is one of the greatest expressions of discipline and the quintessential foundation of community for, without the mutual guarantee of justice, individuals are left to their own Hobbesian devices, unable to even raise a family. This is mercy, the manner in which justice can restore peace, community, and flourishing, how justice allows the growth of community despite the spectre of risk and bad actors.

Clearly, there is a tension between justice and self-defense. If I am obligated to defend myself, my autonomy, and my property at all costs, how can justice be applied once my assailant is dispatched? In some ways, it cannot; whatever relationship my assailant and I had is severed the moment he chooses to commit a crime against me, and it cannot be restored once he is dead. This tension ought to serve as a reminder to avoid exposure to crime and to encourage one to attempt de-escalation before resorting immediately to violence when someone is being an asshole.

TL;DR: Justice is not punishment, nor is it getting even. The only logically consistent description of justice is that it is restorative. Justice is a mutual concession of guilt and effort to grow beyond damages caused. There are limit cases to justice that can and ought to be explored, but first principles and the immediate fallout of those principles ought to be explored first, especially because this understanding of justice has been largely ignored in modern culture.