Monday, November 10, 2008

My Third Apology, but NOT My Third Annual Apology

Gather 'round ye anarchists. The time is again here for me to fess up. I've been bad. Not only do I need to step up and apologize again, I need to apologize for not apologizing on a firm schedule. I'm such a low life, I can't even apologize properly. What is to become of freedom? (And more importantly, why do I hate Amerika?)

Back to the subject at hand...

I approach my august Daily Apology breathren to say simply this. I apologize for not voting in the latest U.S. election. But it's worst than that. Not only did I not vote---a practice outlawed in Australia---I actually advised others to not vote as well. May the legions of stato-libertarians everywhere have mercy on my soul! I had the gall to not only spout off about the lunacy of voting on Strike-the-Root, but also on The nerve! One would think I actually believed I had logical reasons for shirking on the awesome responsibility afforded me by the Founding Fathers. (Wait. Actually they didn't think people like me should be allowed to vote. Well, anyway...)

But wait, wait. It's even worse than that! Not only did I not vote, not only did I publicly and brazenly advise others to not vote, but---and this almost hurts to admit---I didn't feel a single pang of remorse during that entire day. That's right, I just went about my day with a Zen-like mental ease. Hell, I didn't even turn on the TV. (Listen, I'm a partially-recovering TV-holic. I love TV like a crack whore loves, well, crack. Or so I've heard.) Still, I didn't even watch the returns. There I was, a black man in America about the experience a moment almost as seminal as when O.J. got off, and I missed it. I should be ashamed. (I'm not, but at least I know I should be.)

Sure, I understand the hoopla. (When Oprah gets that excited, it means something.) Maybe, just maybe, I don't think it's a great day when the same people who've been lying, stealing, killing, etc. find out that there's a brother just as ready to help out as the 40+ previously-elected unrepentant rights infringers. By way of comparison, my working theory is that many black folk rejoiced when O.J. was acquitted not because they thought he was innocent, but because they figured it was about time a black guy who looked guilty got away with it. (Full Disclosure: Some of that feeling welled up in my soul too.) I figure at least a few (if not more than a few) of the tears for Obama's victory spring from the same well. I guess one could call it progress when the Mafia Chieftain---or should I say, Grand Wizard---is a brother, but count me among that group that disagrees. It should be obvious as well: I apologize for saying so!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mises was Right, Part 2: Feulner, Neocons, Heritage, Georgia, Mont Pelerin

“It turns out, of course, that Mises was right.”
—Robert Heilbroner (1990), "After Communism", The New Yorker, September 10: 92 (1, 2, 3)

Regarding Paul Craig Roberts's "I Resign from the Mont Pelerin Society":

Interesting connected facts:

1. Formerly libertarian Mont Pelerin Society (which lists Hayek, Friedman, "Coase," and others as "Notable Members", but not Mises): its Treasurer is one "Edwin Feulner."

2. Feulner is President of Heritage.

3. In "Saving Georgia," Heritage Web Memo #2021, and The Russian-Georgian War: A Challenge for the U.S. and the World, on "Ariel Cohen, Ph.D." buys into the Bush administration's propaganda that uses "the Russian invasion of Georgia" as an excuse for further American hegemony.

No wonder Hans-Hermann Hoppe founded the Property and Freedom Society to take up the reins that MPS has dropped.

As Guido Hülsmann noted in "Ludwig von Mises and the Mt. Pelerin Society. Strategic Lessons" a speech delivered at the inaugural meeting of the PFS in 2006 (summary; program):
As classical liberal economists were usually not employed in institutions of higher learning (the teaching of economic science was not primarily organized within the universities), they built other institutions, from loose networks to political parties. By 1860 governments realized the danger to themselves that the classical economists posed. Their answer was to create their own economists and thus control the market of ideas. This strategy was first applied in Germany with the German Historical School or “Schmollerism” and soon spread to other countries, each with its own specific national feature. John Stuart Mill in Britain for example changed the meaning of liberalism into interventionism, while the Russian government thought that Schmoller was too tame and hired Marxist economists instead.

This trend continued into the 20th century, with Ludwig von Mises being one of the very few setting himself against it. After demolishing the case for socialism and putting the case for radical liberalism, he insisted that no “third way” was possible, as this would invariably lead to a loss of prosperity and in the end, socialism.

In the first half of the 20th century, a number of societies were founded by liberals to counter the trend towards socialism. By 1938, four schools of thought were represented:

Neoliberalism, i.e., practical and theoretical compromise with socialism; F.A. v. Hayek, for whom a small amount of intervention was permissible; Alexander Rüstow, who considered natural hierarchies as necessary for society; and Ludwig v. Mises, who stood for complete laissez faire.

Nine years and one World War later, these groups convened to form the Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS). At the same time, Leonard Read’s FEE in America was publishing leaflets explaining the ideas of Mises and organizing seminars and speeches for Mises and others. These activities were extremely important for spreading Mises’ thoughts, especially to young people. Ralph Raico, George Reisman and Murray N. Rothbard were among those influenced by the FEE papers. Without the FEE, the Chicago School would have totally dominated the field of free market ideology.

Mises was skeptical about the MPS right from the start; he was particularly concerned because of the participation of certain people. In 1947, he stormed out of a meeting, saying: “You’re all a bunch of socialists.”

Today, the MPS, a society of eminent scholars, mainly represents Neoliberalism. Therefore, the PFS could play the role that the MPS was originally designed to play: spreading the uncompromising intellectual radicalism of freedom.

(See also Hülsmann, Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism, pp. 871, 989-90, 1003-10, 1032, et pass.)

This helps place in context the principles for the PFS as announced by Hoppe at its founding in 2006:
The Property and Freedom Society stands for an uncompromising intellectual radicalism: for justly acquired private property, freedom of contract, freedom of association .... It condemns imperialism and militarism and their fomenters, and champions peace. It rejects positivism, relativism, and egalitarianism in any form .... As such it seeks to avoid any association with the policies and proponents of interventionism, which Ludwig von Mises had identified in 1946 as the fatal flaw in the plan of the many earlier and contemporary attempts by intellectuals alarmed by the rising tide of socialism and totalitarianism to found an anti-socialist ideological movement. Mises wrote: "What these frightened intellectuals did not comprehend was that all those measures of government interference with business which they advocated are abortive. ... There is no middle way. Either the consumers are supreme or the government."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oliva on Sandefur and Kinsella

Oliva continues his bizarre, false attacks on me (last one noted here):
My Last Post Ever…

…about Kinsella and Sandefur. To sum up the two divergent poles of “libertarianism”:

Kinsella: True libertarians never take any action to advance liberty.

Sandefur: True libertarians murder every man, woman and child who doesn’t share his worldview.

He is partially right about Sandefur--he's referring here to Sandefur's devotion to mass-murderer Lincoln and war perpetrated by big Western states against bad smaller states. But the way he wrote it is an exaggeration even of quasi-libertarian Tim Sandefur's views (and strange given his recent praise of Sandefur--here, here, and here).

He's wrong about me--I am not opposed to taking action to advance liberty. I don't even oppose suing the states in federal courts to try to vindicate my rights. I would do it. I simply maintain that outsider analysts should be honest. That's all. I might argue for incorporation as a plaintiff, because I want the feds to stop a state from hurting me. My argument might even persuade the court. (As I noted in my last reply to Oliva, "I of course support any victim of any state crime using another state against the offending state. If I were on the receiving end of a bad state law, sure, I'd use every argument in the book to try to persuade a federal judge to strike it down.")

But bhat does not mean it's honest or correct for a libertarian to say the court's interpretation of the Constitution is accurate, or that that feature is a libertarian one that should be part of any federal constitution.

As for this being his "last post" on me and La Sandefur, well, I remember when he "retired from blogging (2)." Uh, yeah. He has also given up (how does one do that?) "being a libertarian" -- see here.

Oliva's behavior of late is bizarre--attacking me for no reason, after years of friendly interaction. See e.g. here. Pro-Mises Instute, then against, now pro again; pro-Kinsella, now anti-; pro-Sandefur, now anti-; "libertarian", then "no longer". Wow, what a ride.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Stephan Kinsella’s Libertarianism…

Presumably in response to recent posts of mine (The Great Gun Decision: Dissent; To Hell with Heller; Heller and the States; The "deeply dishonest" opponents of the President...; ), Skip (not Dave) Oliva writes:
In Stephan Kinsella’s Libertarianism…

…the government can take everything you own…

…the police can murder you and your family without consequence…

…religious fanatics can take control of your body and mind…

…regulators can destroy productive capital and plunge the economy into depression…

…and if you do anything to challenge these acts, you will be branded as the enemy of “true” libertarianism.
Let's take the first four. I presume by "government" Oliva means "state." Now, does he really mean "can"? That just means ability. Certainly, states do steal and murder--and therefore they "can". In my libertarianism, states do not exist since they are widely regarded as criminal.

Perhaps Oliva means "may", as in permission. That is, he is alleging that I believe it is permissible for states to exist, and to rob, murder, and regulate. Where he got the idea that I think it's permissible for states to exist, or commit crime, I do not know, since I'm an anarchist (and Oliva is not even a libertarian).

I suspect what the confused, inarticulate, non-libertarian Mr. Oliva is trying to say is this: if you do not believe that the federal government has (or should have?) the constitutional authority to strike down unlibertarian laws of the several states, then you are in favor of these unlibertarian laws. But when you make plain what he's really saying, it's obviously false.

His last comment is also false. I of course support any victim of any state crime using another state against the offending state. If I were on the receiving end of a bad state law, sure, I'd use every argument in the book to try to persuade a federal judge to strike it down. But there's a difference between advocacy and objective, honest, outside analysis.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Technopeasant Revolt starts April 1

Slightly less than one year ago, then-VP of the Science Fiction and fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Howard V. Hendrix, expressed a distaste for writers who give away their material for free. You can see the original blog post here. The entire post covers SFWA internal business, but the controversial bit is as follows:

I'm also opposed to the increasing presence in our organization of webscabs, who post their creations on the net for free. A scab is someone who works for less than union wages or on non-union terms; more broadly, a scab is someone who feathers his own nest and advances his own career by undercutting the efforts of his fellow workers to gain better pay and working conditions for all. Webscabs claim they're just posting their books for free in an attempt to market and publicize them, but to my mind they're undercutting those of us who aren't giving it away for free and are trying to get publishers to pay a better wage for our hard work.

Since more and more of SFWA is built around such electronically mediated networking and connection based venues, and more and more of our membership at least tacitly blesses the webscabs (despite the fact that they are rotting our organization from within) -- given my happily retrograde opinions, I felt I was not the president who would provide SFWAns the "net time" they seemed to want at this point in the organization's development, or who would bless the contraction of our industry toward monopoly, or who would give imprimatur to the downward spiral that is converting the noble calling of Writer into the life of Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch.

The response from the technopeasantry was predictably strong. I first heard about it in a podcast from author Scott Sigler. I later heard about it again from various other blogs and podcasts. The response prompted a clarification from Hendrix:

Although I don't spend much time in the blogosphere, I am aware—particularly through emailings from various SFWA committee members— that the use of the term "webscab" has touched off something of a firestorm.

The term itself is undoubtedly too incendiary, but I hope the discussion will prove salutary in the long term, not only to those of us who are members of SFWA or who write in the science fiction and fantasy fields, but for everybody who works in print.

My primary concern is that the webbification of publishing will increasingly disenfranchise authors—to the benefit of the big bandwidth barons, the media conglomerates. In the short term, free online posting of entire novels for promotional purposes may well strengthen the hand of those authors who gravitate to that promotional technique. My concern is that, in the long term, as more and more people become schooled to reading off the screen rather than from the printed page, free online whole-book posting may set a precedent of "why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?" which in the end will benefit conglomerates rather than authors as a class.

That issue still concerns the Luddite in me, who remembers that what the Luddites objected to was not technology per se, but technology which they viewed as potentially damaging to to their community and commonweal—their work and way of life. I believe I have the right to push back against technologies which I feel are potentially damaging to the community and commonweal of writers.

I may well be wrong. A number of folks have written to say that the very people I've called webscabs are those working hardest to prevent land-grabs by the big corporate congloms. I have a great deal of respect for organizations like EFF, EPIC, and Public Knowledge, but I don't feel that free online posting of whole novels for promotional purposes will in the end empower authors as a class.

I've had some very interesting emails from various people, and I'm learning from their points of view. My thoughts are not carved in stone on this. My use of the term "webscab" has proven unfortunate in that it distracted from what I was really concerned about in that posting—namely the "hypermediation" of SFWA business, where the officers and president are increasingly expected (almost required) to participate in scads of lists, blogs, and newsgroups, and to respond to every note of praise or blame that crosses the electronic transom. It's no way to run an organization, and threatens to run down and burn out the organization's officers.

Lastly, I want to clarify that I was not speaking for SFWA when I wrote that LiveJournal note. I was expressing my own opinion in what I considered a personal farewell comment to the organization and its members—rather like Eisenhower's warning of the "military industrial complex" in his farewell address as president (to compare great things with small).

I've been accused of "lobbing a bomb" by using the "webscab" term. Judging from the emails, it was a suicide bomb whose most likely victim is me.

This sort of reaction is, of course, what happens whenever technology changes a well established industry. Hendrix may well be correct in his concern for "authors as a class," as what exactly is the job of an author may soon change radically. The same goes for what it is to be a publisher.

April 1 may well mark the date of vindication for Sigler's chosen method for promoting his work. His novel, Infected, is slated to be released by Crown Publishing Group on that date. The book is being promoted as a major sci-fi thriller. It promises to be a big deal, as it has a major marketing campaign, and has the potential for a wide appeal. It has already been released as a free podcast, and Sigler is currently releasing an audio version of the soon-to-be-released print version now. It is a bold move, and likely alien to many authors. It is the move of an entrepreneur. Sigler is attempting to kick-start a business. I imagine many artistic people dislike the notion that they are, in fact, running a business, but facts are facts, whether or not they are acknowledged. If his business model proves successful, others will imitate it, and everyone will simply have to adjust to the new competition. Indeed Sigler's model suggests a good way for someone who is as prolific as he has shown himself to be. If an author is immensely popular, they could serialize their content, and get paid subscribers for that serialized content. For budding authors, the content would have to be free to attract readers, but there is no need for well-established superstar authors to so limit themselves. Indubitably, people far more savvy than myself will come up with even more ways to monetize the fruits of artistic talent.

P.S. I forgot to add the apology: I apologize for being a black guy writing about science fiction and geekery and not "keeping it real, yo."

Friday, January 04, 2008

Am I Anti-Ron Paul or Pro-Liberty?

Again, the time for an apology draws hither. It has been far too long since my first apology -- for not reading enough Rand before becoming an anarchist. This time, I come to throw myself at the mercy of those here assembled for a similar affront. Please don't let this get out, but not only do I not care about politics generally, but I specifically don't really support Ron Paul. (How can I go on?)

Here's the thing though, I remain plagued by a question that scratches at the base of my psyche. That question, to which I haven't gotten a good response from any Paul supporter, is simply this:

Haven't we [market anarchists, anarcho-capitalists, etc.] already decided, among ourselves, logically, that button-pushing scenarios do not necessarily lead to better outcomes?

I've written in other places that I can see some positive motivation behind the Ron Paul campaign. I can legitimately see the value in getting the message of liberty and limited government "out there" during a presidential campaign. What I haven't done, and what I won't do -- and I feel pretty safe saying this is also true about most other anti-Paul folks -- is begin to think that "the answer" to our problems with the state is to take over the state! What logic supports this idea?

Imagine if you will (I'm having a Rod Serling moment) a world where we anarchists are presented with a magic button. Pushing the button will immediately result in the abolition of the IRS, the FDA, the EPA, FEMA, the closing of all US bases in foreign lands, etc. Would pushing that button be the next best action? Not so much. While pushing the button would most assuredly result in some real, almost intoxicating pleasure for most of us, one other relatively unassailable conclusion can be drawn about it. Within milliseconds of that button being pushed, the rest of the populace would begin reconstructing those items that the button-pushing removed, probably supported by violence.

...what I want is a voluntary society that moves toward anarchy and freedom, not my own personally-selected slave master controlling the guns of the state, but hey, I already said I apologize!

(May the ghost of Murray N. Rothbard not haunt me tonight.)