Monday, December 12, 2005

Give Us Us Free!

My friend Mush and I often break into spirited emulation of the slave character in Amistad's impassioned pleas to be freed from slavery: "Give Us Us Free! Give Us Us Free! Give Us Us Free!" Usually we do it to our wives when they harp on us to do something.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Oldie but Goodie: Palmer v. Raimondo

Hilarious interchange between the heroic and funny Justin Raimondo and the execrable Tom Palmer.

Secret Service Man

When someone disagrees with me, or sometimes just randomly, I'll tell someone, "don't you backtalk me in public!" Usually in a private conversation. Sort of puts them off balance.

I also like this: someone says, "Stephan, will you..." and I cut them off, "Don't you call me Stephan!" Usually stuns them, so they wonder for just a microsecond if they have my name wrong.

Also, when I go shopping w/ the wife, if I have my sunglasses on, as we walk across the parking lot or into a store, I circle around her and hold my hand up to block traffic and people, and scan around like an owl, playing Secret Service man. Wife hates it.

Sometimes, when we approach a restaturant, as I grab the door, I shake it as if it's locked, and give her a crestfallen look. Then she shakes her head and says, "Catholic High"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Funny Review of Lord of the Rings

Here. By fellow Apologist Michael Barnett.

feminism poem

Someone sent this to me:

Thoughts on Feminism

Feminism's steminism:
Ugly chicks are plentyism,
And require lots of ventilism
From years of neglectilism

-- The Insightful Buffster, 2002

Thursday, December 01, 2005

King Kong

I apologize for having an unalterable prejudice that anyone who wants to see the new King Kong movie is a moron.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Palmer on Friends of Freedom

Well well well. This is interesting. Our boy Tom Palmer praises some "inspiring friends of freedom," including "Paata Sheshelidze and Gia Jandieri of the New School of Economics of the Republic of Georgia..."

I agree with Tom and thank him for promoting Paata, who is indeed a great libertarian. But a bit surprising, since the group he praises--Paata Sheshelidze and the New School of Economics--has published and promoted the work of those P-dog elsewhere condemns as racists, morons, and impediments to the cause of liberty, such as Hoppe and myself. I speak of the heroic "Library of Liberty" series published by the New School of Economics in cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which contains Georgian translations of essays by various free market oriented writers. For example, Book I: Basics of Liberalism, published in February 2004, contains Georgian translations of classic essays by Mill, Bastiat, Mises, Ropke, Acton, Hayek, and of course, that great libertarian hero, and Palmer's bete noire, Lew Rockwell. Book II: Liberalism and Power (September 2004) has chapters by Tucker, Spencer, Oppenheimer, Nock, Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, and--gasp!--another pebble in Palmer's shoe--the great modern libertarian theorist Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

Book III. Liberty and Property, was published just last month (October 2005), and I believe Book IV. Liberty and Intellectuals will be published shortly. Book III contains works by Locke, Bastiat, Mises, Rothbard, Demsetz, James Buchanan, Palmer's buddy (and mine! :) Tibor Machan, David Theroux, Richard Stroup, James Dorn, and--heavens to betsy--Hoppe, as well as yours truly. (Full lists below.)

All this, of course, just makes makes Tommy boy's relentless, dishonest, monomaniacal attacks on Hoppe, Rockwell et al. look like the ridiculous, unfair bleating that it is. Poor Tom. I guess everyone but him is blind to the Misesian Menace. Not enough people are infused with his sense of Dimwit-Serioso High Libertarian Purpose, goshdarnit.

I bet it just drives P-dog nuts when he traipses around the world and keeps running into libertarians who love Hoppe and Rockwell. Heh hehh hehh. I apologize for taking a bit too much gleeful satisfaction in this thought.

Update: see page 8 of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation's Summer 2005 newsletter, reporting on the New School of Economics of the Republic of Georgia, and noting:

The idea of organizing a free-market think tank in the Republic of Georgia was born in Auburn, Alabama, USA in August of 2001. At that time the two future founders of New Economic School – Georgia (NESG), Paata Sheshelidze and Gia Jandieri were visiting the Mises Institute, which inspired them to create an institute in Georgia that facilitates change by educating people.

[...] Since 2001, NESG has strengthened itself by building partnerships with like minded institutions around the world including Mises Institute, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Atlas Foundation, and Foundation for Economic Education (all based in the US US), Hayek Institute (Austria), Fraser Institute (Canada), Naumann Foundation (Germany) etc.

Oh, wow, the NESG has close ties to the Mises Institute--and was even "inspired by" them. Poor Tom.


The "Library of Liberty" Series
(published by the New School of Economics in cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Foundation)

Book I: Basics of Liberalism (Feb. 2004)

1. N. Gorgadze & P. Sheshelidze, Introduction Notes on Liberalism
2. Henry George, Ode to Liberty
3. John Stuart Mill, on Liberty
4. F. Bastiat, The Wisdom of Adam Smith
5. L. von Mises, On Equality and Inequality
6. W. Ropke, Cultural Ideal of Liberalism
7. Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity
8. F. A. Hayek, Liberalism (Introduction)
9. Lew Rockwell, An American Classical Liberalism
10. Paata Sheshelidze. Forward to Liberty

Book II: Liberalism and Power (September 2004)

1. Paata Sheshelidze, Introduction Notes - Man's Life as a State's Property
2. Akaki Tzereteli, Kudabziketi (Snobbism)
3. Benjamin R. Tucker, The Relation of the State to the Individual
4. Herbert Spencer, The Great Political Superstition
5. Franz Oppenheimer, The Idolatry of the State
6. Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, The State (shorten version)
7. Friederik A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (shorten version)
8. Ludwig von Mises, Middle-of-the-Road Policy Leads to Socialism
9. Murray N. Rothbard, The Anatomy of the State
10. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Political Economy of Democracy, Monarchy and Natural Order
11. Paata Sheshelidze, End Notes for those who wish to Read More on Free Market

Book III. Liberty and Property (October 2005)

1. John Locke, Of Property (parts from The Second Treatise of Civil Government)
2. Frederic Bastiat, Property and Law
3. Ludwig von Mises, Liberty and Property
4. Armen Alchian, Harold Demsetz, The Property Right Paradigm
5. Murray N. Rothbard, Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution
6. Roman Kapelushnikov, Theory of Property Rigths (part)
7. James M. Buchanan, Property as a Guarantor of Liberty
8. Tibor R. Machan, In Defense of Property Rights and Capitalism
9. David Theroux, Property Rights v. Environmental Ruin
10. Leszek Balcerowicz, Towards an Analysis of Ownership (part from Socialism, Capitalism, Transformation)
11. Richard L. Stroup and Jane S. Shaw, An Environment Without Property Rights
12. Stephan Kinsella, Against Intellectual Property
13. James A. Dorn, The Primacy of Property in a Liberal Constitutional Order: Lessons for China
14. T. Anderson, L. Huggins, How Secure are property rigths?
15. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Ethics and Economics of Private Property

Book IV. Liberty and Intellectuals (forthcoming)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Jeremy Sapienza Apologizes

I'm so, so sorry Tom Palmer of the Cato Institute is a lying douchebag. I also profoundly apologize for fraternizing with the likes of Stephan Kinsella, Karen DeCoster, and other crazies from

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lucy & Desi -- I don't Get it

One thing I have been curious about--Lucille Ball in 1940 married Desi Arnaz, a Cuban--a hispanic. He played her husband Ricky on I Love Lucy. Now it seems to me that for a hispanic to marry a white chick back in the 1940s would have been a bit taboo. Yet I can't recall ever having heard that this is the case. I am not aware of any mention ever being made that when I Love Lucy came out, there was controversy about Lucy being married to a Cuban; that the show was "brave" and "heroic" and "pathbreaking" etc.

What gives? How come it was not likea big scandal?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Palmer on Hoppe, Coase, and Wealth-Maximization

In a recent post I noted that around 15 years ago, Palmer published two law review articles (Intellectual Property: A Non-Posnerian Law and Economics Approach and Are Patents and Copyrights Morally Justified? The Philosophy of Property Rights and Ideal Objects) arguing against patent and copyright and also critiquing the wealth-maximization "law and economics" approach of Richard Posner. In the first article cited he criticizes "A jurisprudence that claims to be based on “law and economics” but that would constructively assign or rearrange rights as part of a strategy to achieve some pre-determined outcome (maximization of utility or of wealth, for example) .... " Notice that Palmer characterizes Posner's wealth-maximization framework as one that would lead to the rearranging of property rights to try to maximize wealth.

Now Posner is of course a Coasean. And in fact others such as Rothbard, Walter Block (2, 3), Gary North, and Hoppe (2) have made a similar observation about implications of Coase's views (see also the views of Roy Cordato (2); Timothy Terrell's and Sebastian Storfner's summaries of Austrian critiques of Coase). Some of them note that the Coase Theorem could be interpreted as a recommendation that courts assign property rights so as to maximize wealth--in fact this is exactly what uber-Coasian Posner recommends, at least according to Palmer.

What is interesting is that in Palmer's campaign to smear Hoppe by repeatedly distorting Hoppe's views, he also has attacked Hoppe several times (1, 2) for interpreting Coase the way Palmer interprets Posner. He says Hoppe's and Rothbard's reading of Coase as meaning that "that courts assign property rights to contesting parties in such a way that 'wealth' or the 'value of production' is maximized" is an "absurd parody of an interpretation" and a "bizarre misstatement" of Coase. Palmer goes on:

Hoppe once attacked another panelist at a conference who had discussed the Coase Theorem by accusing the panelist (and Coase) of arguing that judges should be empowered to confiscate and rearrange property whenever the judge determined that the new distribution would be efficient. Now Coase has never said that and that’s not a part of or even an implication (at least, not without a number of questionable additional premises) of the Coase Theorem.

So, let me get this straight: Palmer's interpretation of Coasian wealth-maximizer Posner is reasonable, while Rothbard and Hoppe's interpretation of Coasian wealth-maximizer Coase is absurd and bizarre...? Of course a given interpretation of Coase is open to reasonable criticism, but is Palmer's attack here--given his history of blatant distortions of Hoppe's views, repeated even after being exposed, and given his similar views on one of the chief Coasians--a reasonable one, or merely evidence of his desperate attempts to smear Hoppe?

For links to other libertarian critics of Coase, see this post.

Palmer on Patents

Palmer's recent comments about patents are interesting in view of his previous publications about intellectual property.

First, around 15 years ago, Palmer published two law review articles (Intellectual Property: A Non-Posnerian Law And Economics Approach and Are Patents And Copyrights Morally Justified? The Philosophy Of Property Rights And Ideal Objects) arguing against patent and copyright and also critiquing the wealth-maximization "law and economics" approach of Richard Posner. Note that he opposed patents on principled grounds, and rejected the wealth-maximization approach. E.g., as he noted in the first article (p. 303),

A jurisprudence that claims to be based on “law and economics” but that would constructively assign or rearrange rights as part of a strategy to achieve some pre-determined outcome (maximization of utility or of wealth, for example) overlooks the analogy between the spontaneous order of the market and the spontaneous order of a legal system.

I.e., according to Palmer, Posner's wealth-maximization framework would lead to the rearranging of property rights to try to maximize wealth. Something he presumably opposes.

Anyhoo, back in 2003 some of Cato's scholars (Doug Bandow and Michael Krauss) came out in favor of restrictions on free trade based on the notion that reimportation of drugs would allow consumers to avoid some of the monopoly price charged due to the US patent system. Cato's adjunct scholar (and utilitarian) Richard Epstein has also argued in favor of patents, especially in the field of pharmaceuticals, and on this ground also opposed reimportation. Thus, as I have noted previously, support for intellectual property rights leads once again to the undermining of genuine private property rights, such as the right to trade.

This call for restrictions on free trade caused an outcry in the libertarian community, prompting Ed Crane and Roger Pilon to meekly disavow Bandow's and Epstein's protectionism. Interesting, this piece apparently endorses "the need for drug patents to encourage R&D"--this apparent endorsement of a utilitarian, wealth-maximization approach to policy seems to conflict with Pilon's principled, deontological, non-utilitarian, rights-based libertarianism--as shown in his 1979 Georgia Law Review article "Ordering Rights Consistently: Or What We Do and Do Not Have Rights To" and his 1979 University of Chicago Ph.D. dissertation, "A Theory of Rights: Toward Limited Government."

In recent posts Palmer appears to bend over backward to soften his previous principled anti-patent stance so that he does not conflict with other pro-patent Catoites--apparently now including Krauss, Bandow, Epstein, Crane, and Pilon. Writes Palmer:

I've been critical of the patent system in the past. Mr. Brady has given me a quiz about whether I conform to his vision of right-thought or have drifted further into thought crime[,] as he defines it. I am not a fan of the patent system and think we could generally live well without it. (I've posted a few articles on my web site indicating why.) The one exception to that general hostility to patents, as I have suggested elsewhere, is the system of patents for chemicals, notably pharmaceuticals. Because chemical compounds are relatively easy to reverse-engineer and can be successfully marketed independently of their role in a larger product (unlike, say, innovations in jet engine design, which often are only valuable as part of a kind of engine), patents may indeed generate incentives for innovation that greatly improve human welfare. That's an argument for them. Since the innovation has the characterstics of public goods (costly to exclude and non-rivalrous in consumption, the latter being the relevant feature here), a good profit maximization strategy ought to be price discrimination, by which those who can pay more do so and others pay less.

Re the "public goods comment--note in the "Non-Posnerian" above piece Palmer's sensible criticisms (pp. 284-85) of the coherence of the very notion of public goods. As for the "suggested elsewhere" comment, he must be referring to this post, where he writes:

Pharmaceuticals and chemicals offer undoubtedly the best cases for patent protection on utilitarian grounds. In my Hamline Law Review article ..., p. 301, I quoted from a study by Edwin Mansfield from the American Economic Review in which he pointed out that "patent protection was judged to be essential for the development or introduction of one-third or more of the inventions during 1981-1983 in only 2 industries -- pharmaceuticals and chemicals." That seems not to have changed. The reason is pretty easy to understand: reverse-engineering in the case of chemicals (which broadly includes pharmaceuticals) is quite easy. In the case of pharmaceuticals, at least, R&D costs are very high and would still be high even without some of the very costly efficacy tests imposed by the Food and Drug Administration. Furthermore, the benefits of new pharmaceuticals are enormous. If one were to make a case for patent law, that's the strongest industry for which to make it.

Palmer has elsewhere rejected the wealth-maximization approach, so what does it matter that pharmaceuticals is the "best case" that can be made under this approach? Why does he say the case of patents for pharmaceuticals is "one exception to" his previous "general hostility to patents," when this case is utilitarian and wealth-maximization based, an approach he has rejected (and presumably he still maintains that even under the wealth-maximization approach the case fails).

Note how snippy he is to Mark Brady's questions to him about patents--"Mr. Brady has given me a quiz about whether I conform to his vision of right-thought or have drifted further into thought crime[,] as he defines it." It is as if Palmer is annoyed that in response to his seemingly pro-patent comments, his previous principled and anti-patent writings are being waved in his face. Given so many of his colleagues' utilitarian endorsement of patents, is Palmer now embarrassed by his previous opposition to both? Is he trying to say that he is still principled, and anti-patent, but that the dominant pro-patent, utilitarian approach of prominent Catoites is "respectable"--or that he has (sort of?) softened his "hostility" to this approach? It wouldn't be the first time Palmer's views have "evolved".

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hurricane Rita and its Devastating Effect on Houston

From an email going around:
With all the news lately about Hurricane Katrina, we shouldn't forget That Houston has had it's share of devastating weather also.

The attached photo illustrates the damage caused to a home when Hurricane Rita passed through the Houston area a couple of days ago. It really makes you cherish what you have, and reminds us not to take life for granted!

Monday, September 19, 2005

the P word

I apologize for being insensitive in my use of the P word.

Katrina and Country Music

No comment on this news item:

The Wal-Mart store in uptown New Orleans, built within the last year, survived the storm but was destroyed by looters.

"They took everything - all the electronics, the food, the bikes," said John Stonaker, a Wal-Mart security officer. "People left their old clothes on the floor when they took new ones. The only thing left are the country-and-western CDs. You can still get a Shania Twain album."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

On Lawyers as Commodities

In the September 2005 issue of Corporate Legal Times, a piece called "Bidding Wars" profiles GE's recent move to reduce the number of outside law firms it uses from 500 down to 94. The first cut was based on quality; this reduced the number of law firms to 200. Then they cut based on RFPs and references from other clients, leaving them with 142 firms. Then they cut down to 94 firms based on cost--they made the law firms place bids in an auction type process. The reaction from the law firms was a bit amusing:
"An auction is a great way to buy pencils," says John Marzulli, a partner at Shearman & Sterling, one of GE's preferred M&A counsel. "It doesn't seem to me to be the best way to select your counsel for a complex multibillion-dollar acquisition. We like being part of their network, but we didn't enjoy the selection process."
I bet not.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

New Rouge

As I previously noted on the blog, an emerging nickname for Baton Rouge is "New Rouge," because of the huge number of New Orleans residents moving there in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. See, e.g., Capital city struggling with inflow (Sept. 3, 2005, Houston Chronicle).

So, Daddy has registered and am temporarily pointing it to Of course, I apologize for this shameless action.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Funny Australian Travel Questions

Not sure if this is legit (see version here), but it's fricking hilarious in any case.

"The questions below about Australia are from potential visitors. They were posted on an Australian Tourism Website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a raw sense of humor.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)

A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles. Take lots of water.

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is north in Australia? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? (UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca, which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of a bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Gum Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Do you have perfume in Australia? (France)
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Quoting La Me

I apologize for quoting myself: from this Chronicles thread:
I agree that most people do not want liberty; that is why we do not have it. IMO those who think we can "win" the battle for liberty are just deluding themselves. Why libertarians, who denounce altruism etc., feel as if it's some moral duty to go around wasting large parts of their life in some campaign for liberty is beyond me--it's altruistic; it's futile; it's a waste of time, since one is at most barely increasing the odds, that we will temporarily and slightly increase liberty, the puny benefit of which falls primarily on those who do not deserve it.
I have spoken. So let it be written, so let it be done (affecting Yul Brenner Pharao pose)


In the wake of some emails, let me add a few clarifying commments. I am not saying that it is a waste of time to try to work for liberty. To the contrary. I am saying that one would have to view it as a waste of time, if one really believed the costs of fighting the battle must be justified by the gains achieved--because one must delude oneself into making the equation balance. I just reject the equation. I help fight for liberty because it is the right thing to do. If I strutted around like some libertarians who claim that in their devotion to the struggle for liberty they are "making a difference"--certainly "more of a difference" than people like me who don't write "influential books" or a daily op-ed column or give speeches to socialist legislators in Arabia--then if I were honest I would have to say, it's really not worth it. If the justification for spending time and effort and money etc. to fight for liberty is whether or not we are "winning," then the project is a failure, on those terms. As I noted above, the actions of most of us at most result in a slightly higher chance at barely, and temporarily, increasing liberty--or, more likely, slowing down the rate of increase in government growth--primarily for the benefit of the masses who at root are to blame for the problem in the first place. And honest analysis realizes this.

Freeing oneself from self-delusion is essential for self-honesty and integrity. It also frees one to take principled positions and to avoid making the dishonest and irritating mistake of judging the truth or value of a theory or view by its "strategical" significance.

I cannot count the number of times some irritating jerk libertarian says to me, in response to a theory or normative proposition, "but that is not going to persuade anyone." They immediately assume that everything is to be judged by strategy, rhetoric, persuasiveness. I see nothing wrong with using such standards when appropriate. For example if I am proposing a method or argument to persuade people, then it is relevant whether the proposed argument or technique is persuasive. But when I assert to a fellow libertarian that we have a right to such and such, or that there is no right to xyz, for such and such reasons--it is just a non sequitur, a category mistake--and usually smarmy disingenuity, IMO--to say BUT that is not "going to persuade people." Hey dumbass--I never said it was gonna persuade others. These type of libertarians are in my view basically moral skeptics, relativists, and/or utilitarians. They are incapable of discussing anything normative. Moral talk is simply not "useful." What good, after all, does it to do identify moral truths, if it does not persuade others?

By this logic, there are no rights violations; there is only power. After all, even if libertarian rights could be proved by the Word of God delivered in an engraved envelope--still, an aggressor could disregard it. "Telling" him that he is violating your rights will "do no good." Yes. So? And so? What is the point of this elementary school observation? This entire mindset is that of the self-proclaimed "pragmatist" who does not want to say there are no rights--after all, it might be "useful" if some people do believe in them--but he does not really believe in them. He, in engineer-like fashion, cares only about "practical" "results." And I have no problem with this. But I would prefer they be honest. If I say, "there should be no murder," don't say "that's not practical"; it's not "impractical"; it's a normative truth. To say the rule against murder is "impractical" is to fail to distinguish between ought and is.

Every 5-15 years you see some libertarians waxing about how we are winning the battle, or that we can win the battle, all we need to do is... As far back as the 1930s etc.... They have to delude themselves and engage in wishful thinking and rah-rah political rally self-delusion ("we can win! we can win the Presidency! This year we will get 100 million votes if we just get our message out there!!!"). They have to delude themselves because they have bought into the idea that the cost of the fight is a worthwhile "investment" in the struggle to "achieve" liberty. They must believe that worth it to fight for liberty, implying they think we have, or can, achieve suffiient "gains" to "outweigh" the "Costs". This is naive and wide-eyed gullibility, wishful thinking.

Me--I say, be a libertarian activist if you want (of whatever stripe: more academic, like some of us; a blogger; a writer; join a local discussion group; run for office; donate your time or money to something; help promote economic education and literacy; whatever). I am, myself, to a degree. It's okay to spend effort on a cause one is passionate about. I expend effort reading science fiction, and don't seek to justify it w/ some made-up phantom tangible gains. Fight for liberty for its own sake. If you fight for it based on the gains, you will soon give up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Please forgive me

It has been over a month since I last fired my 9mm. I am going to the gym more often and drinking less beer and have eliminated junk food. I have lost weight and bulked up. Also, I will be getting a haircut, an oil change, tire rotation/balacing and alignment this weekend. I did laundry and backed up a hard drive. What's wrong with me!?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Called to the Bar

I am very annoyed when lawyers--usually pretentious foreigners from Europe or some third world backwater, or do I repeat myself--say things like, "He was called to the bar in 1992..." Gag me. As bad as "He was graduated from Harvard..."

Also, I notice many Europeans put their last name in all caps, like my co-author Noah RUBINS. Not sure why they do this. It's on the verge of being annoying, but I think there may be some reason.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


I apologize for having the inexplicable gut feeling that use of this term is a bit nelly.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Falling Woman; cool quote

1. Interesting animation of a bikini-clad, animated woman falling through a balloon-populated sky.

2. "The matter does not appear to me now as it appears to have appeared to me then." --Baron Bramwell, in Andrews v. Styrap (Ex. 1872) 26 L.T.R. (N.S.) 704, 706.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Yuppie Birthday Parties

When I was a kid, we had simple birthday parties. A cake, maybe a pin the tail on the donkey, often under someone's carport, with makeshift tables set up. A few cheap paper conical hats perhaps.

Now that I have 2-year old, and live in a big city with a bunch of yuppie breeder friends, a trend that I had only been dimly aware of is starting to manifest itself more clearly to me. It's now routine for parents to have over-the-top birthday parties, inviting dozens of kids with any connection to their own--neighbors, classmates, what have you. I know parents who have to go to 3 or more such parties in a given weekend. I went to one this morning myself; and am having another at my own house this afternoon (but family only, thank God).

The kids love it. It's often done off-site, at a place like Gymboree, or an indoor soccer stadium, or indoor playground (Houston is HOT in the summer), with various personnel hired to entertain the kids--clown, referee, "poodle lady", whatever. Catered food, for both kids and adults. I am not sure if they try to outdo each other, but they are sure lavish. And now it's standard to provide "party favors"--little parting gifts for the kids attending, so they don't feel "left out". Aww, we are so careful not to bruise their precious little egos nowadays, aren't we?

The worst thing, as my wife pointed out, is the kids don't even open their gifts there--it's like a wedding reception, with tons of loot piled on a table somewhere, to be opened later, with thank you cards duly mailed out. Ridiculous.

However, if there are at least 2 milfs present, it helps ease the pain.

Friday, July 29, 2005

UN approves new international symbol for "marriage"

As reported here -- "After 5 years of heated debate, the Commission of Human Rights approved the new International Symbol of Marriage." (similar report here).
free image hosting

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Wiki on Mises and SPLC

Addendum: Wiki rejects this blog post as authority for the contention that "some view SPLC as hypocritical and PC" etc. Please comment below w/ any links or sources you are aware of that criticize SPLC.


From Wiki's entry on Mises:
the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges the Mises Institute to be a Neo-confederate organization, though its application of this term is controversial.
In my view, this kind of charge is merely the result of an excess of political correctness run amok. The politically-correct and liberal types often hypocritically excuse or whitewash the genocides and mass murders committed during the twentieth century by governments they would otherwise view as benevolent. Charges of Neo-confederacy and the like fly in the face of the tremendous amount of anti-socialist and anti-Fascist writing on the Institute's website and demonstrated in their programs, e.g. seminars such as the The Economics of Fascism.

I have edited the Wiki entry a bit; others may be interested in correcting the entry (or massaging my own comments as noted above) but should do so from a neutral point of view only.

The Wiki entry may link to this very post, so feel free to post comments below criticizing groups like SPLC who would make such ridiculous allegations.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Niger Innis typo

I apologize for MSNBC doing this (2) to Niger Innis. And for thinking to myself, "Roy Innis, what were you smoking when you chose your kid's name?"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Literary Apologies

I have fallen to the Harry Potter mania and have bought the latest book. I have decided to read that instead of *gasp* Atlas Shrugged. Perhaps I don't need to apologize about this after all...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Plain Text

I hate people who send me emails formatted in plain text. When I reply, I need to convert it to HTML, then change the format back to normal, etc. Dumb morons.

Almost as bad are those who forward me a 17th-generation forwarded email, where each previous forwarder was too fricking stupid to remove the forward info so that the meat is buried 17 floors below in a nest of headers. Or, it's one email attached to another, and so on, you have to drill down 3 or 5 levels to find the original. And they are invariably all these 7th grade level humor things or some dumb religious crap or pro-war or anti-Arab humor. Jesus. If tree-huggers are the brain-numb foot soldiers of liberalism, these blue collar rubes are their Republican analog.

Here's another. I ask someone to fax me something on FINE mode. "Do whutt?" I explain it to them, "Look, there's a button on your fax... oh fucking nevermind."

Annoying also are the dipwads who send me email with stationary font in the background. Or they put their name in script font, sometimes in blue color. What, do they think that'll fool me?

And why do some poeple insist on deleting context when they reply to an email. Do they think the CIA is tailing them?

And I love these ignant morons who, when you send them a PDF file attached, say, "Uhhh, Ah cain't open it. Eeet won't open." I invariably say, "Do you have the latest version of the free Adobe Acrobat reader?" And if the answer is, "Uhhhmmm, how would I know that," then I know the answer is no.

And if I see one more person click twice on a hyperlink, I will go berzerk.

NASA, Palmer, and the Handicapped

Three apologies today.

First, for this joke: Hey, did you hear the shuttle launch was canceled? Yeah, NASA couldn't afford the gas.

Second: for wasting my time battling with Palmer.

Third: Yesterday I picked my baby up from school during a bad thunderstorm. On a fairly main road that was getting too flooded for normal cars, I just plowed through with my trusty Land Rover. I hit a huge patch of water creating a huge arc of water spraying up from the passenger side wheels; my baby was delighted. So I did it again; and then espied on the sidewalk, inexplicably, this nurse lady pushing some handicapped kid in a wheelchair--in a thunderstorm. I saw her raise her arms over her head and a look of fear on her face, as my tsunami wave arced over toward her. I felt so bad, but nothing I could do; I hit the brakes, but the spray of water was on its way to her. I had passed her but I am sure the wave of water drenched her and her poor handicapped kid (who were no doubt wet already from the storm). I really apologize!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

some hnn comments restored

Following up on this post: the comments on hnn were not deleted. The links to them were. I had some links saved from my previous duplicate posts, so was able to get some of them. They provide some context for some of my comments:
Anyone reading these comments and my other comments elsewhere in this blog can judge for themselves whether or not Palmer is relentlessly on the attack (as are, to varying degrees, others including Steve Horwitz and Charles Johnson--have I left anyone out?).

hnn comments deleted

I can't say I'm surprised--but some of the hnn threads I have posted on recently, primarily arguing with Tom Palmer and combatting his repeated libels of fellow libertarians, have been deleted. The editors means only to cut off comments but inadvertently deleted the comments. Nonetheless, I'm not surprised, as can be seen from the last several posts where I re-posted some of my comments there, on this blog, just in case they ended up disappearing.

Here are the posts that mention the deletion of the comments sections:

There is of course nothing unlibertarian with "private" censorship; the fact that we feel compelled to explain this to each other is a bit depressing.

Personally I do not buy into the "both sides need to simmer down" type of view. My opinion is this: Tom Palmer (and some others, to varying degrees) repeatedly resort to personal attacks on the character and motives of fellow libertarians, as part of a response to substantive discussions. The motivations behind our views are questioned and snidely impugned, etc. It's to the point where if you have a differing view on federalism, it's because you come from the "fever swamp" of neo-confederate slavery apology. These type of personal attacks and libel seem to me to be prohibited by this blog.

It is not surprising that others, such as me, respond to these completely outrageous, uncivilized attacks on the character and motives of people I know to be decent people and sincere advocates of liberty. If anyone wants to equate my or others' response to the outrageous personal attacks of Tom Palmer or others, they are free to make this mistake. But just as there is a difference between initiating force and responding to it, there is a difference between launching an assault on someone and the response to it.

I and others that are regularly attacked by Palmer et al. are perfectly happy to go about our merry way, trying to understand and advocate liberty as we see it. There is no need to respond in a non-civil way to people who are not already breaching rules of civility, etiquette, courtesy, charity, decency, and honesty.

In my view personal attacks like those hurled by Palmer and implicitly or snidely suggested by others on this forum, ought to be prevented or a warning issued. But until this is done, I can tell you right now, whenever I see anyone maligning decent, fellow libertarians and impugning their motives, suggesting outrageous things like racism, bigotry, anti-semitism, I am going to call a spade a spade and denounce it. Ban me for doing this if you will. It's your property.
The problem is that Tom Palmer has demonstrated he will not treat me or others affiliated with the Mises Institute with civility, other than calling me "Mr. Kinsella." So blinded by malevolence and irrational emotions is he, he hardly sees us as humans, much less libertarian. Just like liberals, who act morally superior despite being willing to inflict terrible harm on individuals, Palmer here has the gall to adopt a superior stance all the while acting like an utter cad.

And I also posted this reply:
And a good place to intercede might be at the first sign of a personal attack on a fellow poster or fellow libertarian. This would include allegations that the other libertarian has a given, say, political or constitutional view because he does not care about liberty, or is racist, or anti-semitic, or yearns for slavery, or is not a "real" libertarian. It would include snide comments that imply the advocate of a given argument has evil, hidden, unlibertarian motives.

In fact, since accusing someone of anti-semitism, bigotry, racism, etc., are arguably libelous, not to mention outrageous and not conducive to honest discourse, it would be a very good idea for a given forum not to tolerate it.
No offense, Tom Palmer.

looking for free crawler

I wish to crawl a specific website to extract all the PDF's from a particular sub-tree. Anyone have any recommendations on a (free) program that will do this (I have Linux and Windows machines) -- I loathe the prospect of doing it manually.

Oh, and I apologize for using this forum to plea for technical help.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

More hnn replies

A few more posted here, in case hnn deletes them.

First, this reply:
P-dog writes:
A very weak retort. Thomas Jefferson did not lead a revolution for the purpose of furthering slavery. The signers of the South Carolina secession resolution did. There's a difference. Evidently you don't get it. A libertarian, on the other hand, would.
Ah. I see. Can't reply direclty to my own post--don't want to sully your hands. It's all electrons, Tom, you know. And no one cares about you finnicky rules. You insinuate here I am not a libertarian. I think you are not one. So there. Where are we now? Fisticuffs? On Segways?

Look, you obviously have a carefully-mapped out list of what is permitted, and what is not. It's okay to worship Jefferson, even though he owned slaves and raped one of them... but not to admire Jeff Davis, who freed his slaves.... because of "the" "purpose" of the "secession." Jefferson was in favor of secession... so was Jeff Davis... both secessions resulted in independent nations where slavery was legal... hmm, but "the" "purpose" --heck, I didn't konw there was "a" "the" purpose. You sure are smart, Tom.

Jusy give us the list of officially approved rules (run it by your benefactor first, would you) so we will know how to conform to the new world order.
And another one:
P-dog sayeth:
When someone says that I'm a contrarian at root, I'm tempted to deny it.
Interesting. Do they say that to you often? I don't think anyone's ever told me that. But then, I mostly hang out with normal people, most of whom have never used the term "contrarian" in their life.
But in this case, it would be true. To be a "contrarian" per se is just to be contrary: against what others believe. I believe in liberty. It is a positive value. I want it and I work for it. That's the difference between libertarians and people who are merely "anti-state." The latter are merely against something, but not for a positive alternative.
And here goes the shiv. P-dog first subtly implies that we--you know, the ones he constantly libels on his smearblog--are "merely" anti-state. This is ridiculous. As Roderick Long pointed out on this thread, "Pessimism?? Is this pessimism?" Of course, P-dog does not reply to Roderick (and strangely, he will not bash his friends or others with some weird immunity, even though they share the same views he schizophrenically attacks in others associted with this bete noir, the Mises Institute--you know, the big, hairy, evil group--ghoulish, he calls them elsewhere, who have "opened the gates of hell" (his words)--who ummm, promotes free-market, Austrian economics and, er, umm, libertarianism. Yeah, they are SCARY, SCARY. .... BOO!).

We are not "merely anti-state". We are of course in favor of rights and liberty. Has Palmer ever heard of, oh, I don't know, the fricking JOURNAL OF LIBERTARIAN STUDIES? Or Reason Papers, which Mises Institute hosts? Can P-dog with a straight face deny that the Mises Institute promotes the thought of Mises and Rothbard? Would either be called "mere" anti-statist? with no positive views about liberty, or rights? This is ridiculous.

As for being "for a positive alternative," now we get to the nub of the matter. I suggest Lew Rockwell's article Regime Libertarians. Just because not all libertarians are compromising, sell-out policy wonks who want temporary, incremental increases in liberty at the cost of liberty in other areas, or don't toe the line of a given beltway thinktank, does not mean we are not also "for" a "positive alternative." The insufferable arrogance emanating from Palmer's perch is truly a sight to behold.
Lots of people are in opposition to the state: they include a great many people with whom I would not want to be categorized, such as criminals, terrorists, advocates of other forms of coercion and tyranny, such as a Caliphate or feudalism.
Yeah, deep, man, deep. Wot a great insight.

You know, lots of hippies and scumbums are also in favor of legalized drugs and prostitution too. Let me guess--you are not "merely" in favor of drug legalization. You are "more" than that, right? And you would not want to be "reduced" to a mere defender of porn or drug rights. Hey, I have an idea--why don't you realize the universalizability principle actually applies here? Hmmm?

I'm not just "against the state," because I favor liberty, which is why I favor restrictions on the state. When people enjoy more liberty, I am pleased by that, at the same time that I am mindful that injustices still exist.
Being a "contrarian" is being a second-hander, letting others dictate to you what you will stand against, rather than choosing that *for* which you will stand.
Whatever. Cue violins. When the Randroid lingo comes out, my eyes glaze over.

Of course, those fellow libertarians whom you malign and hate at the Mises Institute are in favor of liberty and individual rights.
And another:
Mr. Gregory, if a state were torturing people to death in truly cruel and unsual ways, would you join hands with Mr. Kinsella and march against the federal courts taking steps to stop such behavior? I would hope that you would leave Mr. Kinsella to march on his own, as would all of the rest of the libertarians on the planet.
Mr. Palmer, can you not read? I have admitted many times over the purely instrumental value of the US Constitution. I would not hesitate to oppose it where I thought it unlibertarian. As a matter of fact, I think it is unlibertarian and I think the federal state it set up ought to be disbanded. You would not I suspect, because we need a benevolent nanny to ride herd over the nasty, naughty states, and the feds are your daddy, aren't they? WHO'S YOUR DADDY?

If the state were torturing people, this would not change the fact that the US Constitution does not authorize the feds to stop it. Would I in some cases "want" the feds to march on the states to stop this anyway? I don't know. What has that to do with whether the Constitution authorizes this action? To my mind, integrity calls for an honest interpretation of the Constitution. Where it is illiberal, we can acknowledge this, and then consciously choose to abandon the Constitution, or try to change it.

Reply -- hnn: Palmer on federalism

reply to Palmer here reprinted, in case hnn deletes it:


Do the "rules" of this board prevent disingenuous replies or outright libel? I guess not.

P-dog says:
What I find remarkable is the eagerness to resist restrictions on state power emanating from the federal courts when they are (or could be but didn't, as in the Kelo case) issuing opinions that are well grounded in the text of the constitution.
But they are not well-grounded in the "text" of the Constitution. This is mere question-begging. Palmer here snidely implies that hmm, there must be some sneaky reason we are "eager" to "resist restrictions" on state power. P-boy here snidely implies that those who are in favor of federalism--you know, like all educated libertarians until the modern "improved" generation--are "eager" to want states to be able to hurt people. This vile slander is inappropriate in this forum.

If one thinks the "text" that reads "privileges or immunities of citizens" automatically and obviously means citizens' rights, as implicit in the.... Bill of Rights, despite the history of the 14th amendment, then he must have a crystal ball. I mean, they left the word "rights" out because ... ahhh ... .well, who knows, but they MUST have meant rights, anyway. And, umm, just because this language tracks language in a previous bill that clearly referred to a narrow set of rights, not a broad set, well, let's just ignore that. And look, just because they listed due process in the 14th amendment, even though they didn't need to if the privileges/immunities clause incorporated the one from the 5th amendment--let's just ignore that too.
Rejecting the 14th Amendment on the grounds that it isn't part of the Constitution is absurd; we currently do have a federal Constitution.
P-dog may be right; but none of us are basing our argument on this claim. Now the brilliant Gene Healy does make this quite respectable argument:
Given that the Fourteenth Amendment was never legitimately ratified,we’re freer to adopt a narrow construction of the amendment than we would otherwise be. By giving a narrow reading to the Fourteenth Amendment (which was not a product of constitutional consent), courts keep faith with the Tenth (which was). From this perspective, the post-Civil-War Court’s crabbed construction of the Privileges or Immunities Clause in Slaughterhouse might well be justified as a blow for originalism.
That is, we can't ignore the 14th, but recognizing its problematic origin, perhaps when the federalism principle of the 10th butts up against the alleged erosion thereof in the 14th, we give the nod to the 10th. Just a thought.

But our arguments don't rest on this. We assume the 14th is part of the Constitution. So why does Palmer use this straw man?
We should appeal to it when the appeal is well grounded in the text and likely to advance liberty.
Well now, finally an unambiguous normative assertion about what "we" "should" do. I welcome a rigorous defense of this, coupled with some explanation why it is obvious why anyone who disagrees with it is an apologist for slavery, bigot, racist, anti-semite--am I leaving any out?--the kind of outrageous, disgusting smears that Palmer regularly trots out on his smearblog as the kneejerk response to anyone who does not toe the Cato line. But eve if this mere assertion were true, it again rests on the notion of appeals "well grounded in the text." Of course, this is what is in question, so it is question begging, as well as disingenuous.

What exactly is P-dog saying? Is he saying everyone (or just libertarians?) should (?) "adopt" a given argument for construction of the Constitution, as long as someone can plausibly say "it is well grounded in the text", so long as in one concrete case it increases liberty? What exaclty is he saying? That it does not matter what the Constitution really means? That the original limits on the feds are elastic? Subject to their discretion? Or only ... if they are libertarian judges? What?
Similarly, the guarantees to citizens of the several states in Article IV of "all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States" is in the federal (and unamendd) Constitution, as is the guarantee of a "Republican Form of Government."
HO HO! So here we come to the fall-back. Notice Palmer first tries to imply that the 14th amendment's "privileges or immunities" clause somehow includes some broad set of rights, supposedly largely coextensive with those express or implied in the Bill of Rights (well, only, er, some of htem--not those in the 10th, or the 27th amendment, or the unratified 1st article of the 12 articles submitted... or not in the 3rd, or 2d, amendment, and not parts of the 5th, and, er, um, also not the due process clause of the 5th, because, you see, that's already in the 14th).

Then his fall-back: why, we never had federalism at all! You see, FROM THE BEGINNING, the feds had the power to review state laws for all the rights in the Bill of Rights, because of the original privileges or immunities clause (even though this is not in the power-graning section of the constitution) or the Republican form of government clause--but let's ignore the fact that, say, the original privileges or immunities clause was adopted in 1789, when there WAS NO BILL OF RIGHTS (that came in 1791), so how in the world could the earlier P-I clause include those rights, as is argued that the later one does... or does the earlier P-I clause incorporate, oh, I don't know, some other unspecified set of rights? So that the feds have strictly enumerated powers... except here--they had the power to enforce whatever rights they wanted to against the states, no definition or limits at all. Even though the States would never have consented to a federal Constitution that granted such power.

Nice. Convenient. Let's chuck all we know about history and context, and just read the bare words on paper, in the most favorable way as possible for (centralized) libertarianism... then just "assume" we can somehow, someday, find enough libertarian judges to interpret it the same way...

Oh, it's so beautiful, I want to cry.
The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are in the federal Constitution.
Interesting, that--curious, if the 14th Amendment's due process and/or privileges or immunities clause are so fricking broad, then presumably so is its equal protection clause. You know, that one that prevents states from treating classes of citizens differently, from discriminating? So just curious, mind you, but if that one is so broad--wouldn't you THINK it would have prevented States from discriminating against BLACKS and WOMEN in the FUNDAMNETAL FRICKING RIGHT TO VOTE? Well, I would. But lo and behold, we needed the 15th, and 19th, amendments, to give blacks and women the right to vote. Hmmm, interesting. I guess the "equal protection" clause of the 14th ain't as broad as it seems to a college libertarian on first reading, is it? Maybe, just maybe, the same is true of the privileges or immunities clause? Nahhh--can't be. Anyone who thinks so is a Christian or an anti-semite (or is there a difference?).
If a state were to deny a person the legal right to vote on the grounds of race, would Mr. Anthony favor the intervention of the federal courts or of the federal Congress?
You see, there is actually constitutional grounding for such an intervention. There happens to be a constitutional amendment to this effect--the 15th. We don't deny this. Strangely, as I noted above, the equal protection clause of the apparently very broadly construed 14th does not cover the right to vote; but no matter. Just b/c the 15th does grant a right to vote to blacks, does not mean that the privileges or immunities clause of the 14th includes the rights implied in the bill of rights. These are separate matters. Palmer need not caricature our view; we are actually very clear and upfront about it. We admit some constitutional limits on states, and deny others. For some reason, for those libertarian centralists who are apparently not bothered by the idea of a non-limited federla government, anyone who thinks federal supervisory power over states is limited must be a fascist secretly yearning for states to permit mobs to lynch blacks once more.

Palmer on the Civil War

My reply to Palmer on hnn's Liberty & Power blog is reprinted on this post on the Palmer Periscope, in case the pinheads there delete it [coda: I was prescient; daddy is now down the memory hole!]

Palmer on Junge Freiheit

See this post on Palmer Periscope.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pesto and Chops

Why do some fine steakhouses hold themselves out as having great "steaks and chops"? What the eff is a chop? Do they mean fricking pork chops? Pork chops? Who goes to a nice restaurant for a goddamned pork chop? I don't think I have ever seen anyone do this. I have seen pork cops ordered at your regular shops, but a fine steakhouse? I mean yeah, a nice fish, or lobster--I sometimes see people order those instead of steak at a nice place. But pork chops? What the hell is going on here? If they don't mean pork chops, what the hell do they mean by "chops"?

And what the eff is pesto anyway? No one ever defines it. It's sort of like geffiltefish, as best I can tell.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Palmer Lies about Involuntary Unemployment--yet again! ha ha ha

In this thread, Heinrich wrote:
Palmer continues repeating the assertion that the work published by the LvMI is "an embarassment". In particular, he thinks Hoppe's work is "an embarassment". At one point in the past, he argued that Prof. Hoppe's claim that "on a free market, all unemployment is voluntary" was an embarassment to Austrian economists. Stephan Kinsella responded by quoting a statement of Ludwig von Mises saying the same thing. Palmer then facetuously accused Kinsella of an "appeal to authority" ( Also, in that regards, see *The Ludwig von Mises Legacy: A Reality Check* by J.H. Huebert (
Palmer replies:
And Mr. Heinrich, be careful of what you quote, since the quotation from my personal correspondence of a few years back with the odd Mr. Kinsella contains quite a few of those little dots [...]. The claim that in a free market all unemployment is voluntary is not a tenable thesis; insisting that it must be true because Mises said something that could be interpreted that way is mere evidence of cultishnes, and nothing more.
Now as even Heinrich's summary makes clear, and as Palmer well knows by now (as I have explained it to him numerous times), I did not insist that the comment about voluntarly unemployment is true because Mises said it, as anyone of even normal intelligence can understand (in fact, I do not believe I have ever stated that I do even fully agree with Hoppe and Mises here).

As I have explained repeatedly, I was simply showing Palmer's assertion was ridiculous--that Hoppe's comments were an embarrasment to Austrian economics. If they are perfectly consistent with the explicit views of the preeminent Austrian as expressed in his magnum opus, well, then Palmer's critique is inexplicable. The real truth is that when I pointed out this statement it embarrassed Palmer and it nailed his ass. Does anyone doubt that when he saw the Mises quote that was in line with what Hoppe said, Palmer thought, "Oh shit. I wish I would have not picked that example."--?

He was cornered and like a cornered animal, he stupidly fought harder. Since I had him dead to rights, he had no real defense but to lie and claim that I was acting cultlike in appealing to authority. I was not appealing to authority, and Palmer knows it. He used a ridiculous example that made him look like the ass he is when I pulled out the Mises quote, and he is desperate to cover it up.

As he wrote, "If you're right, then so what? Is that an argument? If you're right about this, then Mises was wrong. Is that so hard to accept?" I never said Mises or Hoppe were right. I was not appealing to authority at all, except to show that the view in question was also held by the most prominent Austrian, and therefore was, umm, Austrian, or hardly an embarrassment to Austrianism.

I can just imagine Palmer's reaction when he saw I had found a quote of Mises that says EXACTLY what Hoppe said, that Palmer had criticized in his pompous fashion. I bet his little eyes bugged out. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Palmer also calls me "odd." He just embarrasses himself by such comments. What he finds is odd is someone who is intelligent, articulate, successful, not a loser, not a religious nut, and who also has a sense of humor--and who does not take him seriously. He just can't fathom that, so oddly arrogant is he. I decided to tease him by making fun of his hypersensitive, ridiculous PC standards--he and his ilk call anyone who sneezes a bigot--by asking if he had ever used the word "bigger"; because if so, that is just one letter away from the n-word, so he is a semi-racist. Obviously the point is to make fun of his stupid accusations of bigotry etc. Yet he feigns innocence, ominously intoning that something must be seriously wrong with me to fixate on the word "bigger"--even doing me the favor of banning me from his smearblog for doing this.

What is truly odd is someone like Palmer--who is objectively odd, given the things I have heard about him and that he has manifested--thinking he is in a position to call me odd. I someone like Palmer did not think me odd, that's probably when I would start worrying.


The sad, pathetic, monomaniacal Mr. Palmer has a final comment on the thread:

"That goes for simply accepting as truth everything said by Mr. Kinsella. My advice is that you be more careful about labelling someone a liar based on one person's heavily edited extracts from personal correspondence to which you have no access."

Hmmm, let's see. Now Palmer tries to deflect from the clear case that shows he's a buffoon by pointing to the fact that his comments were from a private email and that ellipses were used.

Palmer the shell of a human (as someone called him) published the following comments:
...Skousen made subtle reference to ... Hoppe's failure to understand fundamental Austrian economic principles, such as the role of time in economic adjustment. "As the editor of this volume, I have to admit that I do not agree with everything Professor Hoppe presents as Misesian economics, even in this significantly revised chapter. For example, I have serious doubts about his claim that market unemployment is 'always voluntary.' Certainly, permanent unemployment is always voluntary in the unhampered market, but a dynamic market is constantly generating temporary unemployment that requires time to correct." ... One could go on with examples of how Hoppe and the Mises Institute have proven embarrassing to the Austrian economists by whom they claim to be inspired .

What is Palmer saying here? He trots out Hoppe's view about unemployment being voluntary on an unhampered market, an then says he says, "One could go on with examples of how Hoppe and the Mises Institute have proven embarrassing to the Austrian economists by whom they claim to be inspired". One "could go on" with examples implies there are other examples--in addition to the one just given--that show Hoppe is embarrasing to Mises (the economist by whom he claims to be inspired). So Palmer is clearly stating, in published writing (not in private email), that Hoppe's view about voluntary unemployment is an ebmarrassment to Mises.

Now, it so happens Mises said exactly the same thing. There can be zero doubt that Palmer was unaware of Mises's views here, or he would not have chosen such an embarrassing example that makes him look like a moron with an vendetta.

Silly Tom Palmer ridicules some of us for believing in --gasp--limited federal government and enumerated federal powers. He repeatedly jumps to the libelous conclusion that anyone who says that, say, the Civil War was unjustified under the Constitution, or that states have a constitutional right to secede, are neo-confederate apologists for slavery pining for the antebellum south. And yet, some of Cato's own people, notably the brilliant Gene Healy, hold the same view, and you don't hear Palmer slandering him. Hmm, could it be--double standard, Mr. Palmer? Coward. Worm.

And he snidely attacks Hoppe's "argumentation ethics" defense of rights, arrogantly dismissing it with a flourishing wave of the hadn--"For the new prophet arrives, who teaches the truer version of that truth, while others have fallen away: say, Hans-Herman Hoppe, who has "proven" that merely to open your mouth to contradict him is to affirm what he believes, and therefore to contradict yourself. Presto! A new prophet." And yet, Cato's Roger Pilon, has promoted a similar defense of rights based on Alan Gewirth's Principle of Generic Consistency (as I have explained here); yet you don't hear Palmer snidely attacking Pilon's (great) work. Again: a sniveling, ignorant, dishonest coward with an axe to grind. Palmer has revealed himself time and again to be an utterly disgusting human being. For him to call me "odd," I take as a compliment.

Finally, numbnuts Palmer says:
There is no comment section at or at, where people might defend themselves from the outrageous claims or distortions served up by Rockwell, Raimondo, and their merry band of kooks and crackpots.
First, Rockwell and Mises Institute have nothing to do with Second, Palmer conveniently omits to note that the Mises blog does have comments.

Palmer apparently has no qualms about revealing that he has zero integrity and that he is an unfair, nasty person. What is interesting is that he adopts this arrogant pose, as if he is somebody important. That is what is truly amusing. Not content to be a plodder, he must make a name for himself by becoming the smearblogger nonpareil!

Too much sense

A couple of expressions I like. First, "come to find out," as in: "Wayull, Ahh thought she wuz single--but come to find out, she wuz married."

Second, "that would make too much sense," as in: "Why don't they put up signs in the airport parking garage showing which way to walk to get to the elevators? Why? Because that would MAKE TOO MUCH SENSE!"

Friday, July 08, 2005


I confess to feeling utter disdain when the French use "voila" so casually. I mean I think of "voila" as some dramatic move, like when a magician unveils a tiger behind his cape. So it seems bizarre and pompous to me when a waiter hands me a cup of coffee or the check, with a flourish and "voila!" like Ricardo fricking Montalban and his rich Corinthian leather.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Earthquake in Mejico

Joke someone told me recently:
Did you hear about the earthquake today in Mexico? Yeah, it killed like 250,000 people. Canada has announced a multi-million dollar aid package, and George Bush has declared he is prepared to send them 250,000 replacement Mexicans.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Truck Nutz

I am tempted to buy a set of these: a pair of testicles for your truck, hanging down from the receiver hitch.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Have mercy on my soul

I would like to apologize for being from Louisiana and not liking crawfish or Tabasco, for being hispanic and not having rhythm and thinking that Alberto Gonzales should be cleaning my house or better yet, making me a chalupa. I apologize for using Linux yet pinching my geek friends' brains for being closet socialists. Also, while I am not a graphic designer or homosexual, I like Apple computers. Finally, for today at least, I apologize for having a pistol with a 17-round mag, and that sadly, I don't (yet) put it under my pillow when I sleep.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

BK's Dumb Theory

Fellow Apologist Burger King Marcus writes:
I have a new hobby: rather than writing my own pieces for (which requires, after all, sifting through email feedback that's 1/3 hateful race theory and 1/3 gibbering leftist idiocy), I'm going to try to get myself mentioned in everyone else's stuff.
Sorry, BK, but I really doubt your strategy is gonna pay off.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Kelo and Takings

I have a long article on this controversial topic (for libertarians) here: A Libertarian Defense of ‘Kelo’ and Limited Federal Power. In Tom Palmer's honor, I should have entitled it "A Libertarian Defense of ‘Kelo’ and Limited Federal Power, or, Why I Am A Racist and Apologist for Slavery."

The Shadow Justice

Yo yo, I am thinking about starting a blog to give my opinion on how recent Supreme Court cases should have been decided (and the opinions of other libertarians who want to join in). I was talking about it with the Gilster and we think some good possible names are:
  • The Shadow Justice
  • Libertarian Justice
  • Dissent in the Ranks
  • The Court Intellectual
  • The Supreme Revisionist
  • A Case of the Red-Ass (nevermind; that's a Louisiana Coonass-ism)
  • Justice Unplugged
  • Libertarian Supremacy
  • The Daily Constitutional
  • The Constitutional Nag
Any thoughts on a good name for da blog?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Kinsella on Kelo and on Palmer on Kelo

I've had many posts already on the Kelo case: On the Mises blog (Woops, They Did It Again (Bad Supreme Court! Bad! Bad!)) and the Liberty and Power blog (First Raich, now This (Kelo)). I argue that the Justices' reasoning is confused, but the right decision was reached: to let the Connecticut taking practice stand. Because the 5th Amendment was never meant to apply to the states.

And in this post on the Palmer Periscope (Palmer on States and the Feds--Kelo), I critique Tom Palmer's comments on this case and related matters.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Insulting an Objectivist

Well over at SoloHQ I started this thread--Wendy McElroy on Nate, Babs, and Ayn. Predictably, the seriosos went batshit about the nicknames. So I posted this reply, not sure if it will be posted there:

This post may be redundant--not sure if my previous reply worked. Ms. Branden--I meant no offense. I was just pasting the short title used on today for McElroy's article. No offense intended, and I'd be happy to call you Ms. Branden or Barbara instead.

BTW my name is Stephan (sounds like Stefan), not Stephen (sounds like Steven). No one ever mispronounces Stephanie. The mind boggles.

To Brant: "Those prissy sissy's at ARI can't take these principal actors' word for what happened--they had to literally bring in a prosecutor--because they refuse to grant either Nathaniel or Barbara recognition or any kind of sanction for their own lives and the contributions they made to the spread of Objectivism and the well being of Ayn Rand."

I am sorry, but I can't follow this... whenever I see the word "sanction" in an Objectivist site my eyes just involuntarily glaze over, as they also do at terms like "whim-worshipper" or "psycho-epistemology." :)
My later reply:

Hi Michael! :)

Just a couple of questions. The premise of Valliant's book is that both of the Branden's autobiographical biographies are nothing but lies. So he drums up exactly the same kind of lies he accuses them of (attributing ill motives to every act, insinuating that Nathaniel was a rapist, etc.). If you do not believe me or think I am overly-biased, look at the "objective" review you just posted the link to from

I would not have purchased it, but someone sent it to me. I read the first couple chapters. I found it to be a hit piece. But I have not read the latter journal stuff. But when Valliant started, in the Preface, his excruciating defense of Peikoff's denunciation of B. Branden's account without having read it, and his defense of the need for non-Peikoffians to have this defense, it becames obvious it was more of the orthodoxy stuff. At least that part. Then I recall later on, there was some passage allegedly showing B. Branden's inconsistency when she at one point said Rand was not maternal at all, then later said Rand would help and guide her. Like that was an aha! moment. As if people could not themselves act inconsistently.

So do you think that the best way for ARI (meaning the heir who authorized this travesty of scholarship) to fight what it deems to be a pack of lies with another pack of lies (or extremely overly-biased insinuations at the very least), but sprucing it up with Ayn Rand's unpublished works?

Dunno, I have not gotten yet round to forming an opinion on this weighty matter.

The present signs point to someone laying a gigantic egg in public here - in Ayn Rand's name. I hold that it is Valliant's approach that is burying this newly released unpublished work of Ayn Rand. There are oodles of people who want to read her unpublished words without having to wade through Valliant's ranting and partisan fighting. So, in doubt, they simply buy other books by other authors.

Do you have another explanation?

Er... no, not at hand. An explanation for exactly ... what, sorry?

(There. No "sanction," no "whim-worshipper" and no "psycho-epistemology.")

Just a little capitalistic common sense.

And who said Objectivists have no sense of humor.

... but... I fail to see what your reply has to do with, umm, capitalism...

Monday, June 20, 2005

catchy tune

I apologize for recommending this annoyingly catchy tune: go to this site, and click "Introduction." It's infectuous.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Gopher balls

When I was little, my grandma used to tell me she was gonna "get my gopher balls". Scared the crap out of me. But it was kinda funny. Now here she is with my baby. But I won't let her get his gopher balls.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I "care" for you. BULLSHIT!

That irks me, in movies, when people say, "Because, because--I care for you." I have never known anyone in real life to say "I care for you." They say, I like you, or I love you.

"I care for you" is the modern agnostic analog to people saying "gezundheit" instead of "God Bless you" (as they do in movies--in real life, I've only seen it a few times, adopted by liberals as an affectation), or "would you move in with me" instead of "will you marry me".

I have also never known anyone in my life who treats the "let's move in together" question as some weighty move that should be celebrated, almost like a mini-marriage. The Hollywood movies MAKE ME SICK.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Libertarianism: The Movie

First task: casting. This ought to be interesting.

Ayn Rand: Helen Mirren, of course.
Murray Rothbard: Jason Alexander (the guy who played George on Seinfeld)
Stephan Kinsella: Michael J. Fox (pre-palpitations)
Hans Hoppe: maybe that guy who played in The English Patient, Ralph Fiennes?
Walter Block: Ned Beatty?
Tom Palmer: Jeremy Irons. Nathan Lane? Paul Giamatti?
Jeff Tucker: Chris Elliot (the guy from the David Letterman show)
Joe Salerno: Joe Pesci?
Tibor Machan: Michael Caine
Lew Rockwell: James Garner. John Rhys-Davies. Frank Gaffney.
David Gordon: John Lequizamo.
Guido Huelsmann: Ashton Kutcher. Rutger Hauer.
Karen DeCoster: Wynona Ryder. Brittany Murphy. Laura Dern.

and so on. Join in. I'll add to the cast as I receive suggestions (either post a comment, or email me at nskinsella -at- gmail dot com.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

belated book review -- Narveson's _Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice_

Years ago, Jan Narveson published Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice. I read it hot off the press, having been quite impressed with his earlier book The Libertarian Idea. So, I endeavored to write a review on both books as a system of thought. It was never quite good enough for publication in, say, the JLS. Sorry, Jan.

But it's good enough for a blog! (really interesting footnotes removed)

Resurrecting Respect and Liberty

A Review of The Libertarian Idea by Jan Narveson (Broadview Press, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, 1988; reprinted 2001 with new preface) and Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice by Jan Narveson (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Maryland, 2002)

By Gil Guillory

Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice is a collection of 16 essays, six of which are published for the first time. These essays were selected as an arc of scholarship over the author’s publishing lifetime, 1965 to present, with most of them being composed in the 1990’s. This is a libertarian cookbook of sorts, with chapters on practical matters (“The Drug Laws”, “Have We a Right to Nondiscrimination?”, “Deserving Profits”) and the abstract (“Marxism: Hollow at the Core”, “Utilitarianism and Formalism”, “Moral Realism, Emotivism, and Natural Law”) arranged in roughly chronological order of authorship. It is a good resource for any teacher or professor who wishes to assign a supplementary reading, because each essay stands on its own and makes its case without undue appeal to external literature.

Respecting makes a good companion to Narveson’s other volume reviewed here, The Libertarian Idea. First published in 1988, Idea attempts to defend libertarianism from the ground up. I cannot possibly do justice to all of the important topics that Narveson raises in both books (over 650 pages of text), so I have contented myself with a review of some of the persistent themes and recurring foundational arguments running through both of these books.

Against Intuitionism

Narveson makes it clear that he wants no part of intuitionism. The problem, as he puts it in “On Recent Arguments for Egalitarianism”, has to do with rationally defending morals:

…we are talking about arguments for equality, as distinct from sheer assertions of it. Appeals to “intuition” – that the commitment to equality is “moral bedrock,” as I have heard it said – must, on the face of it, count in the latter category…my “moral bedrock” might be something quite incompatible with the proponent’s: say, that equality is a snare and a delusion. Strange bedfellows! So where would we go from there? If it’s anywhere, it’s going to have to be either back to arguments, or to non-rational or irrational activity, such as politics…

But, doesn’t moral argumentation rest in the end, as Hume had it, on an ought, on some bedrock moral consideration? “Some of us deny it,” answers Narveson,

On the right view of the foundations of morality, there are no moral bedrocks. Everything is arguable, and arguable by reference to considerations that have to be meaningful to those concerned, antecedently to the moral theory put forward – namely, their various values and preferences, whatever they may be, plus a variety of empirically manageable factual claims.

It is the grounding of morality in fact that makes moral values fundamentally different than mere preferences. But what are these facts?

The Hobbesian Liberal

One of Narveson’s favorite facts is Hobbes’s disturbing (but true) claim that almost every person, no matter how weak, has enough strength to kill the strongest among us, and also the power to make others’ lives quite miserable. He goes on to show that the Prisoner’s Dilemma is “the paradigmatic situation to which morals addresses itself”. This is not a controversial claim among libertarians, but a deficiency of Idea is that it does not argue for this claim with enough vigor. Narveson admits as much in the new preface.

With the relevant facts (including valuing one’s life, and one’s life “projects”) distilled into the Prisoner’s Dilemma, he shows that rational actors will choose to cooperate instead of defect, and encourage others to cooperate. This is the “contractarian case” for morals. Since the very term “contractarian” is a bit confusing to some, a clarification is needed:

The general idea of [contractarianism] is that the principles of morality are (or should be) those principles for directing everyone’s conduct which it is reasonable for everyone to accept. They are the rules that everyone has good reason for wanting everyone to act on, and thus to internalize in himself or herself, and thus to reinforce in the case of everyone.

… Contractarianism can be made to seem arbitrary and silly: consider, for instance, the suggestion that long, long ago our remote ancestors made this deal, see, and from that day to this everyone has had to go along with it! …

The problem is that morality is obviously not the result of a literal contract: and, indeed, it cannot be… Clearly, the sense in which morality is founded upon or due to or represents an “agreement” is going to have to be less straightforward than that.

Narveson explains further:

[Contractarian morals are] the output of a course of deliberation…[chosen to have] the best chance of realizing values actually held by the agent. Those values, of course, need not be and in the first instance cannot be “moral” values. Morality is an output, and what makes it rational is the same as what makes any action or decision rational: it best fills the bill specified by one’s general set of values, whatever they are.

This subjectivism of values is important to Narveson, and he regards it as a defining element of the liberal tradition:

…the liberal must justify principles, policies, and institutions, to any person affected by them, by showing that person they are for his or her good as seen by that person… Each person is regarded as being the ultimate authority on what is good for himself.

Here we see a convergence of many libertarian views. Narveson has written that he was a utilitarian that changed his views by recognizing a few facts that counter classical utilitarianism: utility is not measurable, it is not interpersonally comparable, there is no reason why A would regard B’s utility equal to his or her own, and few people hold as a goal the maximal sum of utility (cardinal or not) for all. Most of these caveats were noted by the libertarian Ludwig von Mises, even though he was a self-proclaimed utilitarian. Henry Hazlitt, an associate of Mises’s, defended this special brand of utilitarianism. But these problems for utilitarianism as a theory of justice persist, rendering it an intellectual dead end in the minds of many.

Just where does Narveson fit, then? A brief taxonomy will answer the question. Prior to the 20th century there were two major libertarian-leaning theories of rights. First was the venerable natural-rights tradition, which cast as normative the natural tendencies of human life. Second was the radical Lockean theory, which proclaimed self-ownership as the moral bedrock and explicated a labor-mixing theory of property acquisition.

Libertarian rights theorists (especially in the latter half) of the 20th century have grappled with the foundational question of how an objective code of justice could exist given the seemingly contradictory fact of subjective preferences and then proceeded to discover such an objective code through the application of reason. This 20th century approach has rightly been called the Rationalist school of rights theory and regards objective justice to be a spontaneous order -- an insight that the pre-20th century theories seem to lack. It is to this Rationalist school that Narveson belongs. The Rationalist libertarian rights theorist constructs a system of non-contingent absolute rights on objective, but contingent, facts. Even though the program appears almost impossible, a number of these approaches have come to the fore.

The Objectivist approach grounds rights in the choice to live. Other approaches appeal to the logical character of the mind, showing that only a system of libertarian rights is self-consistent; and, alternatively, that disobeying libertarian rights implies no argumentative defense against punishment or perhaps even against other depredations. And Narveson’s contractarianism grounds rights in the choice of social cooperation.

Each of these rationalist theorists have important, complementary points. It must be appreciated that Narveson's main line of inquiry is why an actor should be moral, and only secondarily, what that morality is. Narveson has abstracted from Mises. Mises, unlike any other economist, saw the importance and pervasive applicability of Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage, which he broadened to call the Ricardian Law of Association. Narveson focuses on the Prisoner's Dilemma, which is a game-theoretic abstraction of the Ricardian Law of Association and other cooperation-dependent social phenomena.

A brief account of Narveson’s theory is difficult to summarize. Partly due to Narveson’s meandering and non-committal academic style, and partly due to the fact that his chief argument seems to change from essay to essay. But, the core of the contractarian case seems to be the answer to why people choose (and should choose) to cooperate.

[the contractarian’s answer to the game theorist’s claim regarding the one-shot Prisoner’s Dilemma] has seemed to many to smack of moralism. And it is undoubtedly more complicated than the game theorist’s response. Instead of adopting a simple, unconditional “nasty” strategy, the rational individual…sees the need in such situations to operate on a more complex strategy. Now, the complexity of this strategy is seen to be especially deep when we ask how we could know that the other person has the similar disposition—and above all when we reflect that that disposition is a disposition to cooperate if I am disposed to cooperate, so that part of my solving my problem about him is that he has to have solved the same problem about me.

The importance of the disposition of other actors has resonance with other modern theorists. Narveson’s contribution could be admirably aided by Hoppe’s insights to explain, for instance, why we should be consistent in our choosing to cooperate. Narveson’s theory maps well over the Objectivist argument. It also seems to have some similarity to Roderick Long’s “Kantianized Aristotleanism”, which grounds rights in the “logically-constructed”, as opposed to the biologically-given, nature or good. Narveson’s contractarianism has done well, in this author’s estimation, in being able to explain important questions such as why an individual often regards the norms of justice to be more important than (to the point even of transcendence over) his subjective preferences. And this is exactly how morals should function: as constraints on the individual actor.

The Contrite Anarchist

Idea received a cool reception in some libertarian circles its first time out of the chute due to Narveson’s discussion of the Ontario Hospital Insurance Program (OHIP), which ends with very unlibertarian conclusions. Perhaps Narveson’s libertarian credentials were questioned. And, if contractarianism can uphold the justice of a program of socialized medicine, the libertarian might not be interested in it. One could conceivably file such a book, along with other supposedly libertarian works, in the classical liberal category instead. Two points must be made on his behalf.

First, Narveson launches his discussion of OHIP in the chapter which attempts to rebut the “insurance” argument for government. He largely dismisses this argument, but then goes on to cite a hypothetical case under the heading "Overwhelming Majorities and Administrative Overhead". He argues that if health insurance is something virtually everyone wants, and if the costs of government-supplied health insurance is lower than free-market insurance, and if the few who do not want it can opt out, then what does the libertarian really have to say against this form of public insurance? Well, to answer Narveson, the libertarian has nothing whatsoever to say against voluntary insurance. The libertarian does wonder how such low costs are the province only of government.

Second, Narveson has obviously given this whole matter a second thought:

…there is one matter on which I have been decidedly contrite ever since the initial printing [of The Libertarian Idea]: my ringing defense of the possible acceptability of Canada's socialized medical system…[it is] quite clear by now that socialized medicine remains, in a word, inexcusable…

But if Narveson’s libertarian credentials were ever questioned, all doubts are certainly erased by his essay “The Anarchist's Case”, which, though pessimistic on the prospects for the stateless order, has some strong conclusions (for an academic philosopher):

Clearly, the libertarian view entails the market anarchist’s…Government may, in short, rest essentially on what amounts to fraud…Political power is inherently likely--“certain” is close enough to the truth--to cause more evil than good, and the good that it occasionally does can be better brought about [by voluntary means] rather than to bring about the side payments of politics…

Respect and Liberty as Libertarian

A refreshing element of Narveson’s work is his rehabilitation of the term “respect” for the libertarian tradition. Long the province of the egalitarian left, Narveson shows that respecting persons in theory and practice is what liberal individualism is all about:

The libertarian view may, I believe, be defended broadly as follows. These other people, being people as well as he, assess their actions in terms of their various values. The accepting and pursuing of one’s assorted values being the stuff of our lives, we cannot but be interested in not having them thwarted, trampled on, and so forth, by others. But also we must reserve the right, as it were, to values-changes without notice. These two, I think, are the sources of our interest, as individuals, in a right to liberty, that is, in not being prevented by others from doing the things we are bent on doing. We are all the same in this respect. And this does not presuppose any fundamental respect for others, any sharing of their values, or even any prior inhibitions about treating them in whatever way suits us in terms of our own values. It doesn’t presuppose it--but, argues the Libertarian [sic], to adopt an attitude of respect for the liberty of others in exchange for their respect for one’s own is one’s best bet among moral theories.

Narveson also gives much weight to the “General Principle of Liberty” and claims that libertarianism is “the doctrine that the only relevant consideration in political matters is individual liberty”. He regards property as derivative of the principle of liberty, but also equivalent to the liberty principle. And thus, libertarianism is all about liberty. This may seem to be a small matter, and perhaps it is, in the cold light of reason. Nonetheless, there is a rhetorical strength in having evidencing reasons that defend the notion that to embrace liberty is to embrace property; for, though there are admitted opponents of property, I have never heard of an opponent of liberty. And so, the persuasion of others, beginning always with common ground, is almost always easiest to achieve starting from liberty and proceeding to the property-rights implications.

An Anti-Intuitionist Critique: Children and Rights

Narveson's critique of intuitionism is sound. He brings it up so often in his works that it is constantly on the reader’s mind. And so, it is only appropriate to explore the possible sins of the preacher. Narveson takes as his starting point the “practical agent” (more about this below) and concludes by embracing both the homesteading principle and the principle of self-ownership.

But contractarianism seems to address the question of cooperation in the abstract, between actors with subjective and changeable (and therefore potentially conflicting) values and in the presence of scarcity of resources. The answer that contractarianism suggests is for men to cooperate under the homesteading rule. What it does not seem to address is the question of self-ownership. Considered by many to be the foundational libertarian political axiom, self-ownership seems not to be comprehended by Narveson’s account of morals.

It must be clearly understood by the reader that what is at issue here is not specific claims to self-ownership by adults (which is not disputed), but the claim that every person upon conception is a self-owner. Such an absolute claim would be inconsistent with the reality of child-rearing, in which the liberty of the child is restricted by the parent. Rothbard attempted to explain the apparent inconsistency with guardianship rights, but this answer is muddled. Sarah Lawrence has taken the opposite tack, founding a movement, Taking Children Seriously, dedicated to absolute liberty for children. This is also, I think, the wrong approach.

In his chapters on the rights of children, Narveson gives great weight to the guardianship claims of parents (and rightly so):

The question then becomes this: when and why should the sentiments of other people regarding a given child be able to override the sentiments of the child’s own parents? A plausible answer, prima facie, is never.

From the standpoint of received modern opinion, he does not venture far from this prima facie conclusion. He goes on to conclude that abortion is not unjust and that infanticide (the “let-die” form, not the “kill” form) is within the realm of justice, given certain circumstances. These conclusions echo Rothbard’s (in his The Ethics of Liberty), but given absolute self-ownership at conception, it has been successfully argued that not all forms of abortion could be just. Narveson argues that it is unjust to kill one’s infant, but it is just to kill one’s unborn. This distinction may be plausible, but it relies on intuition.

By the logic of contractarianism, the claim of a child to his liberty (self-ownership or body-ownership) is not stronger than the claim of the biological parents of that child at any time. As I understand the contractarian case, the child is wholly owned by the parents. Surely, the child’s will is not and cannot be owned. But the child’s body can be. Perhaps I have overly-abstracted the contractarian case. Narveson has warned of such thoughts:

Of course we want to know what it is for a human to be free; but humans are complicated entities, and there are many different features of them that might figure in our account of liberty. Some will want to say it is the “whole person”, others the strictly rational aspect of the person, others the “will”, perhaps in some highly rarefied conception of it [boldface added], and so on…

He goes on to explain that the proper subject of human liberty is “the practical agent”, presumably an adult. But, in doing so, the problem remains. Why and how would a child come to have rights? If the starting point is the practical agent, and our contractarian conclusions result in the finders-keepers rule, whence self-ownership? It seems that Narveson conjures self-ownership from the air, when he writes: “And in the case of children, there is the complication that ere long they have minds of their own, and by virtue of that will come to have the sort of independent rights that persons have.”

Certainly, he does not mean that anything with a will (animals?) automatically must be afforded rights. So, we have a puzzle: self-ownership, long a fixture of libertarian rights theory, is either (a) defendable under contractarianism (doubtful), (b) defendable under a separate line of moral inquiry (this reviewer has not been persuaded), or (c) not defendable under any line of moral inquiry. It seems that the notion that virtually every adult is a self-owner is fully consistent with the homesteading rule, but the notion of self-ownership for children is in conflict with the homesteading rule. Self-ownership, like intellectual property, is a second homesteading rule. To what extent it is defendable is left to the reader.

If axiomatic self-ownership is not valid, a radical contractarian approach suggests itself. Using only the notion of homesteading, one must conclude that parents own their children outright. The scholar may then explore the natural course of growing up, suggesting that parents gradually grant their children more and more freedom. Such a research program would examine in what regard community and familial bonds would persuade parents to adopt liberal attitudes toward their children, thereby checking the egregious excesses of despotic ownership. Even if the homesteading-only approach is ultimately a dead end, the work would certainly be helpful in understanding the social forces that keep depredations at bay; and, will most likely add to the libertarian literature on civil society.

It seems that the contractarian must pursue this program, and eschew self-ownership as hopelessly intuitionist. Rationalist rights theories can only be strengthened by further exploration of this persistent problem of the rights of children.


Narveson makes a compelling case for contractarianism, which complements and enriches other libertarian accounts of moral theory. If you don't read the book, I hope this blog entry has served to give an outline version of Narveson's thought for the reader.

If you are a fan of Narveson's work, as am I, you might consider sending him an email to tell him that we are awaiting his next book, with working title Hobbesian Ethics.

Here's a shout-out of RESPEK to my homeboy!