THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 167, April 1, 2002
Eel Douche, Eh?
From Scientific American:
When I met Baldev in 1997, he was plowing. His master called him "my halvaha," meaning "my bonded plowman." Two years later I met Baldev again and learned that because of a windfall from a relative, he had freed himself from debt. But he had not freed himself from bondage. He told me:
"After my wife received this money, we paid off our debt and were free to do whatever we wanted. But I was worried all the time--what if one of the children got sick? What if our crop failed? What if the government wanted some money? Since we no longer belonged to the landlord, we didn't get food every day as before. Finally, I went to the landlord and asked him to take me back. I didn't have to borrow any money, but he agreed to let me be his halvaha again. Now I don't worry so much; I know what to do."
Lacking any preparation for freedom, Baldev reenrolled in slavery. Without financial or emotional support, his accidental emancipation didn't last. Although he may not bequeath any debt to his children, his family is visibly worse off than unbonded villagers in the same region.
I enjoy reading The Libertarian Enterprise and also L. Neil Smith's books. I am a once and sometimes still Objectivist who has had many spiritual experiences, so I've become a spiritual leader of sorts these days but not like any spiritual leader you've ever heard of.
Anyway, I feel camaraderie with you guys and thought you might enjoy the following story:
Thanks for L. Neil Smith's "Every Stem Cell's Sacred", which correctly excoriates the reductionism of the "deliberate, dishonest confusion" perpetrated by right-wing socialists on the abortion issue. (Neil never says those things in those words, but I'm a literary snob, so grab a dictionary.)
Since I'm an atheist, I share Neil's disdain for the religious foundations of the anti-abortion crusade and his contempt for the equation of a human being with a ‘human could be'. But, there's an interesting angle that most religious "pro-life" advocates overlook: the bible is not on their side!
Nowhere in the bible is a fetus considered a person. Nor is there anything in the Ten Commandments (whichever set you wish to read, including the 613 Mitzvot of Jewish faith) that forbids abortion. In fact, there is only one reference to a malicious miscarriage at Exodus 21:22, in which a woman loses the "fruit" of her womb in a violent encounter. The penalty is a fine. Only some other "mischief" to the woman warrants physical retribution.
Of course, there is a biblical proscription against killing (unless you're murdering innocents on God's orders), but there's nothing to suggest that a fetus (hell, a woman!) is anything more than valuable property.
Religious arguments -- including the Pope's -- depend on a Medieval misinterpretation of the biblical references to ‘soul', which is everywhere equated with ‘breath' and ‘spirit'. Every biblical scholar will render the term as a simple expression of the pedantic observation that living things breathe ... not even realizing in those ancient times that every living animal (even plants) breathe and are therefore endowed with ‘soul'.
In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI didn't just forbid abortion to his followers, he forbad any means of "artificial" birth control, even within the marital sacrament. While those of faith may devote their own lives to this teaching, a religious belief is insufficient grounds for imposing a proscription on those who disagree. The papal encyclical pleads for respect and compliance, but not for legal authority.
Reaching in the extreme, modern advocates will cite Jeremiah 1:5, "I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb" as implying the endowment of a soul at conception. However, the quotation can as easily be interpreted as a recognition of fact that progeny acquire genetic traits and personality dispositions from their parents. What makes it an extreme stretch is that the quotation literally says that the person was known before conception!
What the Religious Cultural Warriors hope to accomplish is a coercive implementation of their own theocratic beliefs. What they despise is any scientific innovation which allows people to control their own lives or to mitigate the consequences of bad decisions. There is no logical or biblical premise to support their proposition that a fetus, or a zygote, is a person. What they fear is any novelty which infringes on their idea of "God's domain" and allows humans to control their own destinies. What they fear is freedom.
Neil is absolutely correct about an incremental imposition of theocracy on our lives. We must support the freedoms barely granted by Roe v. Wade, oppose restrictions on stem cell research and any other law that invokes the pretense of ‘fetal rights'. Nor do we even need to concede to them the authority of any biblical or theological argument that they might concoct to justify restrictions on individual liberty.
William Westmiller [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Stop giving our aggressors ideas. After all, considering how much sperm winds up at the far end of condoms, we may be seeing quite a few murder cases on our hands in the future "conservative" utopia if the anti-research clan of today's Republicrat Party continues their whine.
Blocking God's Divine Flow of Sacred Goo could easily be called "impeding the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness" on the part of the many wigglers trying to reach home plate.
Surely you can see that these poor spermatozoa deserve a fair chance to score. Put yourself in the confused and frustrated rubber- imprisoned sperm's place for a minute; if you hadn't been allowed to land on Egg Base 1, you wouldn't be able to pay your government to prevent research that defiles their sacred scriptures. And just imagine the loss your soul would feel, sitting up there at the Pearly Gates, praying to the Almighty that the prophylactic paralysis is only a temporary setback -- the trial lawyers could get punitive damages, if only their plaintiff's weren't all dried up and rotting at garbage dumps all across the land.
King George III has the right idea here. In fact, let's start a new organization called "Every Cell is Uncle Sam's" -- to make sure the world knows that the United States Government owns your body.
Regarding Bill Westmiller's "Anarchy v. Liberty" of TLE #166:
I fear your article is rather ineffective, considering that the fundamental problem it addresses:
... is based on false premises. Anarchy is not the rejection of rules and authority. Some anarcho-capitalists believe that disputes will be governed almost exclusively through contract. Others (such as myself) believe that a sufficiently vast majority of humanity can come to agree on most of the big stuff, like murder, rape, theft, and assault and battery. However, I have yet to encounter a single anarcho-capitalist who rejected any and all structured systems, nor one who opposes broad social interaction.
I humbly suggest that you speak more often with the anarcho- capitalists you know. They're either not pushing their case well enough, or they've appropriated a misleading label. Anarchism is not anti-social, but merely more consistently anti-aggression than is minarchism.
I know you've been around TLE for a while. Which makes it all the more shocking that you'd write such a sophomoric diatribe. For someone who describes liberty as "an intellectual concept which requires knowledge of the many lessons of history which demonstrate the benefits of voluntary and cooperative conduct," your column projects a complete lack of homage to the classics of libertarian (= anarchist) thought.
There were dozens of things in your column which I found galling, I'll pick out just a couple. First, your contention that "dependence on 'social pressure' assumes a truly utopian society..." No reputable libertarian (=anarchist) tome has suggested utopia. For starters, I offer Rothbard's For a New Liberty. The examples are dated, since the book is over 25 years old, but the concepts are completely valid to this day. Rothbard offers gem after gem of insight, one of my favorites being: "The libertarian believes that, in the ultimate analysis, every individual has free will and moulds himself...the libertarian system is one that will at once be far more moral and work much better than any other, given any existing human values and attitudes. The more the desire for aggression disappears, of course, the better any social system will work, including the libertarian...but the libertarian system places no reliance on any such change." (That is from a subheading of the Epilog entitled, "Are We 'Utopians?'")
After digesting Rothbard, I strongly recommend Morris and Linda Tannehill's "The Market for Liberty," followed by Bruce L. Benson's "The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State." These modern classics, along with Thoreau and Locke, offer a dazzling overview of the libertarian/anarchist heritage.
My second gripe is in regards to your column's attitude as a whole. Your column, like Patrick Martin's "Why Anarchy Won't Work" (TLE 164), fixes its thesis squarely around the attitudes and possible behavior of others; it hopes for a Single System that works for everybody. As Daniel Safford so keenly pointed out (Letters to the Editor, TLE 166), "the whole point is to minimize, if not avoid stuff like that." Honestly, Bill, the best first step to being free is to stop worrying about everyone else.
Best of luck,
- - -
Surely, if I accepted your "classical" authorities, rather than Locke, Jefferson, Rand, Hospers and Boaz, I'd be inclined to equate anarchy with libertarianism.
The fact that we disagree on the requirements for a free society demonstrates my point that total consensus and perfect knowledge -- required for successful anarchy -- will always be a utopian idea. Human perceptions of what is "aggressive" and what is proper retaliation will always require independent evaluation of the merits, based on expressed rules and judicial procedures, as a necessary condition of individual liberty.
Bill Westmiller (email@example.com)
In TLE # 166, in his article title "Anarchy v. Liberty", Bill Westmiller writes:
"... governance by social ostracism and arbitrary norms, usually religious, is what anarchists must fall back on as the only valid solution' to social problems." and "No authority and no rules will always encourage rational self-interest, good will and beneficial commerce among all humans. Scary!"
I must agree: indeed that is a scary conception of anarchy, if one sees that as the only allowable enforcement of rights. No enforceable rule of law. As unsupportable as Hobbes's "state of nature" - bloody tooth and claw and all.
But perhaps we can conceive of a different sort of anarchy: Let's start with the most fundamental principle of libertarianism: I have no moral justification for using force (by myself or collectively) against another person except in defense (of my person, my family, my property, or those of my neighbors, or even perhaps my right to be dealt with honestly). We have then no right to impose our rules on any non-consenting person, nor to tax them to maintain our government. The state then has no moral standing to claim its mystical "sovereignty" over any non-consenting person, even if the state should rightly claim to be executing the will of (a majority of) the people.
This cannot, however, mean that we have no right to join together collectively to exercise our right of defense. We may justly use force to prevent and to punish wrongdoing, not because that wrongdoing is a violation of our rules, but only because we do so in defense of our rights.
Now, every good libertarian understands that the rule of law ought only reflect our rights, so my distinction may seem to be (in a libertarian society) a distinction without a difference, but maybe there is a difference. Talking about rule of law allows us (I fear) to forget the essential basis of law, and to think of law as itself primary and suitable to be shaped to suit the majority's current idea of justice, and that is (I think) a grave danger.
Perhaps anarchy should be understood, not as the absence of any government that might use force to protect the rights of its adherents, but the absence of a state claiming its mystical "sovereignty" over "its" defined territory; Perhaps we should allow that an anarchist government is not a contradiction in terms, when that government claims no such "sovereignty", but correctly claims only to exercise its adherents right of mutual defense (and their right to settle things among themselves by such structures as they agree upon).
(Any such agency might still be well advised to recognize a rule of law, and the right to the presumption of innocence, and the right to due process, for if they did not, at least in practice, then the neighbors might rightly conclude that such an agency and its adherents are a serious danger to the rights of everyone around them, and those neighbors might then feel compelled to act to remove that danger.)
I suppose the very phrase "anarchist government" will induce a cognitive dissonance in many of my readers, but perhaps "anarchy" ought to be understood to mean no more than the absence of the "sovereign" state; and perhaps a healthy liberating anarchy really is possible.
- - -
The hazard remains: any successful petty criminal, or even the perpetrator of unintentional injury, may be a "non-consenting person" to the retaliation (coercion) that your principles require.
The legitimate motive for sovereignty is to simply make clear the physical boundaries where explicit rules apply. Making those lines fuzzy strikes me as an invitation to medieval fiefdoms, warlord enclaves, criminal havens and pirate dens; i.e. anarchy.
- - -
[Reply to Bill Westmiller]
I don't believe I've ever explicitly or implicitly argued that the use of force in defense against a "non-consenting person" is in any way illegitimate, nor am I aware that any of my correspondents -- excepting the voluntaryists -- have so argued.
When the bad guys are interfering with your (that's the collective you) rights, you have a clear justification to defend against them. No claim of sovereignty is needed.
When the bad guys are interfering with the rights of someone not affiliated with you, justifying your interventions on the basis of sovereignty requires first justifying the claim of sovereignty. Aren't we better off justifying intervention on the basis that the bad guys are a threat to our own rights, or on an argument that the victims have called for our help?
If we wish to define a sphere of influence within which our protection agency (aka government) will act against bad guys (even if they refrain from attacking anyone affiliated with our agency), and outside which it will not, does this demand a claim of "sovereignty" over that sphere of influence?
If we make a claim of "sovereignty" over some defined territory, and act against all bad guys within that territory, does this justify coercing non-consenting residents to pay a tax for the protection provided them?
Does the convenience of acting thru the "sovereign" state justify the coercion of (innocent but disinclined) neighbors into the state? If so, what coercion cannot be justified by our convenience?
Is there any real argument for the idea of sovereignty other than a statist tradition which however historic is nonetheless quite misbegotten?
- - -
[Reply to Bill Westmiller]
I could not disagree more. What you describe is chaos, not anarchy.
Rule of Law doesn't work either, as demonstrated by the complete disregard with which our "archy" daily wipes their asses with the constitution.
No collection of people can exist where there is not a mutually agreed upon basis of action. Government forces this "agreement" on people by arbitrary lines on maps, or as far as their guns reach. Warlords do exactly the same thing. There is no difference between the state, the medieval fiefdom, and a gangs turf. None.
The single alternative is voluntary interaction. I will gladly entertain discussion of the possible problems of such voluntary interaction in the same way that Ludwig von Mises said he would entertain a discussion of the possible problems of a truly free market: So far, very few people can get past their own fear of chaos to present anything that isn't just more failures of the state.
I assure you that the rapist is non-consenting to being shot by his victim. That does not make the victims action any less right and proper in any context. And such an event has nothing to do with chaos, it is just as much a demonstration of perfect order.
Curt Howland [Howland@Priss.com]
I think we're looking at this body armor issue from the wrong direction, and by extension, the whole question of gun control. You must remember that armed officialdom is composed of people. When the state loses credibility, a significant number of the people both outside and inside government become uncontrollable by the state. If the state were to suffer a crisis of credibility then at the very least, corrupt government forces will be tempted to sell light arms (at least) for money or other favors. Just look at the Soviet army for an example. Where there is a will, there will be a way.
It's not the guns; it's the people who are the biggest danger to the state. It's not about gun control; it's about people control. Furthermore, it is not the guns in and of themselves that worry the state and its squeamish collectivist admirers. Even the framers of the Constitution were wrong about guns when they wrote the Second Amendment. The greatest danger to a tyrannous government does not come from the kinds of arms in the hands of citizens, but rather the mindset of people that grows from accepting responsibility for the safety and defense of others and self.
People who accept the enormous responsibilities of owning, understanding, and developing the moral consciousness required to use weapons will never submit to tyranny and cannot be subjugated. That is why the staties fear weapons of any kind, and are desperate to teach your children, not only to be conscious of the dangerous capacities of weapons, but to actually fear weapons themselves, and to doubt their own abilities to handle and use them competently and responsibly -- in other words, to fear themselves and doubt in their ability to handle their own lives and take responsibility for their own actions. Such people as what the statists dream of producing out of our progeny are the coveted toys of tyrants of all sizes and stripes.
Bob Lallier [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Just to re-visit the Forge of the Elders and the whole Eris confusion thing:
In Saturn's Race by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes, there is a detective "Lupus Nero" who is stored on a computer hardware system called "Archie." The only reference to Archie is on page 119 of the paperback (TOR) edition, but "Nero" is used throughout. The book is a fun read, featuring Marshall Savage's sea-crete grown hexagonal floating island platforms, some enhancement technologies, and the occasional rocket stuff.
Archie Nero spelt backwards, phoneme-wise, is Eichra Oren, a character in Forge of the Elders.
I think it must be one of those things like "See you next Wednesday" in all John Landis movies and in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Just parallel weirdness, to go.
Dear Mr. Taylor
The following is no April Fool's joke; it is true---sad but true. According to The Canadian Press, in order to protect the interests of the Quebec Milk Producers Association, the Quebec government has passed a law in that Canadian province which prohibits the sale of yellow margarine. Yes folks, you did in fact read that correctly.
The law, which is currently being contested in a Montreal court, is costing the food distributor Unilever, in excess of $1-million a year in lost sales.
Oh yes, the stale stench of guvment. Nothing quite like it. Pass the non-yellow margarine please.
David Maraj [email@example.com]
In reading your article, "Bureaucratic buffoonery at the INS", I note your statement that the credit card system[s]: "...allows people to present their credit cards and have their credit approved within 30 seconds. The system works because it is built on a consistent and standard infrastructure that allows banks and merchants all over the world to easily participate and makes it very difficult to steal someone's identity."
Mr. Kemp, it works because it is voluntary. Merchants and banks join the various systems with the goal of being able to profit by offering services to customers. The various systems compete for subscribers by continually improving their service. If a system has problems, subscribers can take their business to some other system that performs better for them. If customers choose to change their expectations, even a perfectly working organization will cease to exist, its resources and expertise reallocated to follow demand.
The INS is an enforced monopoly. Quality of service is irrelevant, clients cannot take their business elsewhere, and budgets are actually dependent on the size of the apparent "problem". By making things worse, more resources are allocated by government to "solve" the "problem", which motivates the agency only to make things even worse for the next round of budget justifying.
Your comparison is quite valid, actually, as one reason for abolishing the INS in its totality. And, for my money, every other government "service". For some reason, I get the feeling this was not your intended goal.
SARAH’S GOT A GUN
lyrics by Jim Lesczynski (with apologies to Aerosmith)
Sarah’s got a gun
why did Sarah stick out her neck
Sarah’s got a gun
tell me now it's untrue
stay away, stay away from our rights
what did her press lapdogs do
Sarah Brady, you’re the problem
go away, go away
Saw this and remembered the recent arguments in TLE about "private" justice:
The numerous reviews by people who seem to have actually read the book are quite enlightening in of themselves, to see how the ideas impressed different people and groups differently, especially the "law enforcement" professionals.
I am writing to alert you to a special, very timely event we will be holding with Gore Vidal, Lewis Lapham, and others, "Understanding America's Terrorist Crisis: What Should Be Done?", in San Francisco on April 18th. The program will discuss the nature of the terrorist threat, U.S. defense and foreign policy, civil liberties, and related matters.
Here is a link to the web page on the program.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.
Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?
The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"
Order from JPFO NOW!