Statism

Botched Death Penalty: “I counted about 660 times he gasped.”

Inmate’s execution takes nearly 2 hours

Joseph Rudolph Wood III remained alive at Arizona’s state prison in Florence long enough for his public defenders to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after the process began at 1:53 p.m. CST. The motion noted that Wood “has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour” after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution, lines were run into each of Wood’s arms. After Wood said his last words, he was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping, Kiefer said.

“I counted about 660 times he gasped,” Kiefer said. “That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49,” Kiefer said.

Another reporter who witnessed the execution, Troy Hayden, said it was “very disturbing to watch … like a fish on shore gulping for air.”

Imagine a hypothetical alternative scenario. Wood is strapped down to the table. He is given the injection. He starts to gasp and it is evident something is not right. A jailer leans over, ties a cord around Wood’s neck and strangles him, finishing him off. Would this be legal or just? Many might say it would be preferable to letting him suffer. Yet it would be unlawful. Thus, this statement shows just how Kafkaesque and bizarre state sanctioned executions are:

Gov. Jan Brewer issued a statement Wednesday saying she was concerned about the length of time it took for the drug to complete the lawful execution. She said she has ordered the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process.

“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer,” her statement said.

Not only did the individual suffer — no form of capital punishment is free of suffering — but the eyewitness accounts we have say that he suffered in a particularly extreme and gruesome way.

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What Are Borders: Measuring Freedom in Latitude and Longitude

Two libertarian values: individual liberty and free markets. Yet, borders transgress both.

What is a border? Webster’s defines a border as, “the line that separates one country, state, province, etc., from another.” The border and the state go hand-in-hand. Here we must distinguish a border from a property line. The term does not demarcate an area that has been homesteaded in this usage. A border is not a function of ownership, but a function of control.

Borders Violate The Individual Rights of the Immigrant and the Emigrant

An initiation of aggression guards every frontier. It is the threat of force, as well as its occasional use, that prevents individuals from crossing. This not only applies to the immigrant, but also to the emigrant. In the West we largely focus on the immigrants who desire to enter a state. We overlook that borders also infringe upon the liberties of individuals who are natives within a given state.

The threat of force, the initiation of aggression, is thus used not only upon those who would immigrate to your area. It is also used to prevent your emigration. The border dictates under what circumstances you will or will not be allowed to leave. Every border crossing involves two coercive acts: a threat of aggression from the emigrant state upon leaving and a threat of aggression from the immigrant state upon entering.

It should be reiterated that the threat used to enforce borders is an initial act of aggression. It is not defensive. This act of aggression is portrayed as defensive in nature in order to legitimize and justify it. However, it is always in the context of a general defense of “society,” “community,” “economy” or state.

The border is never in defense of the individual; the mere act of travel is not an act of aggression in and of itself. The individual has not delegated third parties to protect their property, despite the facade of democracy. Even then the individual would have no authority to make such a delegation unless the border were also his or her personal property line.

Border Rationalizations for Partially Free Markets

We can not justify borders as the defensive responses of individuals. Borders can only be justified in the context of the collective. And even then it is a collective acting coercively. How, then, are immigration restrictions by libertarians justified?

Justifications for borders always take consequentialist, utilitarian or pragmatist forms. They rarely address rights. Consequentialism, utilitarianism and pragmatism are largely absent theories on rights. And we have seen that borders by nature infringe upon individual rights.

While there are consequentialist, utilitarian and pragmatist libertarians it is accurate to call them libertarians only insofar as they are adopt libertarianism because they believe it will produce desirable results or political policy. If liberty no longer produced desirable results, if it no longer held the greatest utility or was no longer practical, then it would have to be rejected. The individual is thus a consequentialist, utilitarian or pragmatist first and a libertarian second. Libertarianism is the vehicle that moves toward the desired goal or maximum utility.

Nonetheless, many self-styled libertarians reject rights but embrace a free market. A free market is desirable because of the results it produces, they say. And this line of argumentation is fine. Yet it would be more accurate if they told us they embrace partially free markets. An inherent feature of borders is a limitation to trade. Borders always create limits on the market by limiting trade.

If a free market did not produce desirable results the libertarians in this camp would have to reject it. And in a sense many do. Their libertarianism stops where their stance on borders begins. The belief in negative economic consequences of open borders is a tacit rejection of free markets. If open borders have negative results (they don’t, but those who oppose open borders believe they do) the free market is no longer a suitable vehicle for consequentialist goals. It must be limited, restrained, infringed upon and held back by the state.

With borders markets still exist. Individuals still have liberty. But they are not free markets, nor is individual liberty maximized. Instead, the freedom of the market and the freedom of the individual can be measured in latitude and longitude.

Libertarians As “The New Communists”

Nick Hanauer & Eric Liu co-authored an article on Bloomberg: Libertarians Are The New Communists. This is not an economic comparison, of course. It is not a claim that Libertarian Party-style libertarianism endorses communist economics. Instead, libertarianism and communism are “mirror images” of one another that “attempt to answer the same questions.” And they are mirror images because they are “extremist” or “radical.”

This may be a fair point. (And this is as generous as I will be with the authors.) Insofar as libertarianism or communism challenge the status quo they are radical. This is true for any political philosophy that challenges the status quo. Fascism would be called radical. Theocracy or a monarchy would be extremist in an American environment. Although the comparison of American libertarians with communists is a great way to create a provocative headline (gasp, libertarianism and communism in the same sentence) it misleads the reader. This isn’t a comparison of libertarianism and communism. It is a comparison of pro-state, pro-status quo politics with any opposing radical movements. Hanauer & Liu say as much:

“And there are plenty of self-described libertarians who have adopted the label mainly because they support same-sex marriage or decry government surveillance. These social libertarians aren’t the problem.”

Yet, to the radical libertarian those “libertarians” are the problem. They are but another facet of the political status quo. And here is where Hanauer & Liu make a big mistake. Even bigger than the Somalia argument. (Yes, Hanauer & Liu actually make the Somalia argument.) They conflate the “social libertarians” as they describe them — not to be confused with libertarian socialists — with radical libertarianism so-called.

“Radical libertarians would be great at destroying. They would have little concept of creating or governing. It is in failed states such as Somalia that libertarianism finds its fullest actual expression.”

Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and the Koch brothers are accused of being in the extreme category. These are “radical” libertarians. Hanauer & Liu do not include Paul, Cruz and the Koch in the “self-described libertarians who have adopted the label mainly because they support same-sex marriage or decry government surveillance” category. Paul, Cruz & Koch are accused of being “nihilist” and “anti-state.” The authors are serious here.

“It is the nihilist anti-state libertarians of the Koch-Cruz-Norquist-Paul (Ron and Rand alike) school who should worry us.”

Tongue-in-cheek, I must say: how offensive to those libertarians who are real nihilists or anti-state!

The Pauls, Ted Cruz and the Koch family simply represent alternative forms of statism to the radical libertarian. The radical libertarian now having a definition: those who are anti-state or nihilist. The Pauls are mainstream party politicians. Rand Paul is formally represented as a Republican. The Koch brothers are the epitome of crony capitalism; many Koch economic ventures (e.g. pipelines) derive from the state.

In short, Hanauer & Liu confuse the statists with the libertarians.

This may be intentional. Where the article fails as a critique of anti-state libertarianism — move to Somalia is its intellectual peak — it is a nice hit job on the politicians named. They are associated with a political philosophy that is not their own. The intended audience are those disaffected to American two-party politics, but still see hope in any party politician even remotely related to libertarianism. These are people who still believe voting works. It is not an audience that overlaps with anti-state libertarians who have already grappled with the question of who will build the roads.

I don’t mind being called a communist even if I am not a communist. This is a Cold War spectre designed to shock. But I do hope that no one ever conflates my anti-statism with party politicians like Rand Paul or crony capitalists like the Koch family. Although Hanauer & Liu intended to malign a Rand Paul or a Ted Cruz, it is the Cruz and Pauls who malign libertarianism proper.

The United Kingdom to Strip Passports of Hooligans

British Union of Fascists Flag

Soon to be the new flag of the United Kingdom? Why not. Fascism by any other name smells just as fascist.

World Cup: Banned England fans to hand in passports

More than 1,400 football hooligans in England will have to hand their passports to police in the coming days to stop them going to the World Cup.

Passports must be surrendered on Monday or Tuesday, ahead of the tournament in Brazil which starts on 12 June.

Police said the rule applied to people convicted of football-related violence and given a banning order including a condition to hand in their passport.

Anyone keeping their passport in breach of an order could face court action.

This is frightening even by statist standards. It is not uncommon for states to deny entry based on criminal history. That alone is bad enough for proponents of open borders. However, it is an even grosser violation of individual autonomy to prevent someone from being able to leave a state.

I am reminded of the statist quip: “If you don’t like it, leave.” In the totalitarian state you are not even allowed to leave.

George Orwell on Nationalism vs Patriotism

By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

Notes on Nationalism

George Orwell

“When I joined the militia I had promised myself to kill one Facist – after all, if each of us killed one they would soon be extinct.” – George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia

Orwell distinguished between nationalism as the collective identification of the good or evil, specifically in the context of the nation-state, from patriotism. The relative identification of oneself with a geographical boundary, or as Orwell put it “the habit of identifying with a single nation,” is a facet of nationalism. And this is what we see more often than not in the Western world — nationalism, not patriotism.

Nationalism, for Orwell, was not solely the blind love of a nation-state. It also included the blind love of authoritarian ideals: “Communism, political Catholicism, Zionism, Antisemitism, Trotskyism and Pacifism.” Orwell would also include racial elements such as devotion to the “White Race.” Nationalism, while linked with the state, is not fully dependent upon it.

This is an important point, because those who deem themselves patriots often wrap themselves in the flag of an idea instead of the flag of a state. They may claim they have no devotion to the government of the United States, but to the “American way of life” or to the “American people.” This, too, is nationalism. And, as Orwell wrote, nationalism can only be negative in nature.

This may not be intuitively apparent because nationalism often appears as the zealous advocacy for an idea. So how can it be negative? It is negative because the worth of an idea, the worth of a state, can only be compared in contrast to similar states or ideas. The USA is #1 — the slogan is chanted — but this is a rank. A state can only be #1 in contrast to a second state. Nationalism’s inherently negative nature makes it, as Orwell put it, a matter of “competitive prestige.”

Orwell listed these as the “principle characteristics of nationalist thought”:

  1. Obsession.
  2. Instability.
  3. Indifference to Reality.

These three elements manifest in the tendency of nationalists to focus upon an ideology, a tendency to shift ideological targets mid-way and a double standard in evaluating the world around them.

For example, #1 and #2 are seen in the blind devotion to a political party, yet shifting focus from one party politician to the next. This is commonly seen in elections when politicians compete between themselves, such as during primary elections, before going on to compete with the opposing party. Remember: nationalism is inherently negative and a manifestation of competitive prestige. It should not be surprising that this struggle for prestige manifests itself even within the nationalist’s chosen ideology.

In #3, Orwell illustrated a phenomenon that we’ve all seen during the war in Afghanistan:

Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

George Orwell

In 1936 George Orwell fought with the P.O.U.M. militias in the Spanish Civil War. He would later reflect, “As far as my personal preferences went I would have liked to have joined the Anarchists.” Orwell is the man holding the dog in this photo

Think about nationalism in the context of Edward Snowden. The debate in the United States has largely revolved around what the NSA is doing to American citizens. This is nationalism. The American citizen is elevated; he or she has a superior status due to said citizenship. The action itself is not being judged. Rather, the moral merit of an action is contingent upon the victim.

Imagine two brothers separated at birth. The first lives in New York City while the second lives in Karachi, Pakistan. They both attend a university, both become dentists and both raise a family. Their lives are identical in every way. They are only distinct as a matter of geography. And the NSA records the phone calls of both of them.

To the nationalist it would only be wrong for the NSA to record the man who lives in New York City. The nationalist rejects the fundamental equality of human individuals. And, so, the nationalist thus rejects the libertarian premise of natural, inalienable rights. Rights are relative to the nationalist. They do not follow you where you go. Rather, for the nationalist rights only exist within the borders of the nation-state. Rights are granted to you by the state, by its founding documents and by its ruling elite.

George Orwell on Nationalism

It is apparent that the world at large does not share Orwell’s distinction between nationalism and patriotism. However, the modern “patriot” is actually the Orwellian nationalist.

The New American Lemonade Stand

A proposed amendment to Section 5 of House Bill 5354, the Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act, has some new restrictions for lemonade stands. Yes, we’re talking about those ten cent lemonade stands small children set up on street corners. Among the proposed regulations:

  • Monthly gross sales may not exceed $1000.
  • A written notice must be provided to the purchaser that the good was produced in a home kitchen.
  • The product must conform to the labeling requirements of the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic act: name and address of home kitchen, name of food product, full list of ingredients, production date and an allergy disclaimer.
  • The vendor must have a Department of Public Health approved Food Service Sanitation Management Certificate.
  • The vendor must register with the local public health department.

The estimated total cost of the Food Service Sanitation Management Certificate is between $125 and $175. This is a two-day, weekend course totaling approximately 20 hours. The registration fee with the local public health department cannot exceed $25.

Total cost of your child’s lemonade stand: ~150-$200.

Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act 1 Food Handling Regulation Enforcement Act 2

Are Police Censoring Anarchist YouTube Videos & Facebook Pages?

OR: The Remora and the Shark.

Jeff Berwick at The Dollar Vigilante noted a trend: anarchist and libertarian YouTube videos flagged and banned. For those familiar with the following names, you may be aware that they produce almost exclusively original content. There should be no legitimate reason to cancel or flag the accounts of any of these individuals.

Josie The Outlaw, Adam Kokesh, Mark Dice, and Stefan Molyneux have all recently had YouTube accounts and Facebook pages closed. This could be coincidence. It could be individuals who dislike the content and play dirty. Or — and I can’t jump to conclusions here — it could be the work of law enforcement.

In March The Wall Street Journal reported that approximately 200 people and organizations, including a British police unit, had been given by Google the ability to “flag” up to 20 YouTube videos at once to be reviewed for violating the site’s guidelines. Since then, we’ve seen the wave of freedom-minded websites being taken down, if not by government agencies themselves, then by tattle-tale liberals of the keyboard variety.

Google for sure allows the UK government to censor videos that it doesn’t like. Google was forced to offer more details about the program. Any user can ask for a video to be reviewed, but participants in the super flagger program can ask for as many as 20 (!) videos to be reviewed at once. And most of these videos ultimately get taken down for good. In that respect, us libertarians have been lucky! The UK Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, for instance, sought reviews of videos it considered extremist. It justified this by evoking The Terrorism Act.

Over 90% of the videos identified by super flaggers are either completely removed for violating guidelines, or restricted as not appropriate for younger users. This percentage is far higher than regular users who occasionally flag dubious content.

YouTube, which has been owned by Google since 2006, is a private enterprise. It can do as it pleases. And, yet, it isn’t a free market enterprise. The corporate-state relationship forces private cooperation. The corporation depends on the state. The state depends on the corporation.

This is the state-corporation relationship:

The State and the Corporation

The state and the corporation share the same symbiotic relationship as the Remora and the shark.

Like the shark and the Remora, or suckerfish, the corporation latches on to the state. It moves with the state, ensuring its solvency, assisting it with its mission. The Remora has no niche without the state. Just as the corporation requires the state to survive, the Remora requires the shark to survive. The state, in turn, protects the corporation. It provides free passage. It shields the corporation from market predators — legitimate free market competition — that would displace it or harm corporate sector dominance. The corporation reciprocates by ensuring the health of the state: financial backing, technological tools, and logistical support.

And while the shark’s prey is fish meat, the state’s prey is your labor. Your production. Taxation. Forced work. Incarceration. Slavery lite.

The end result is that the state is allowed to use tools of the corporation — in the case of Google/YouTube, “super flagging” and other forms of censorship via police. The corporation is shielded from consumer backlash, because state privilege has granted it a de facto monopoly. If you want to be seen, you must use YouTube. This perpetuates the power monopoly of the state and perpetuates corporate monopolies within their respective industries.

Now, the question remains: do you hunt the shark or the Remora? (This is obviously a metaphor. Don’t hunt the literal Remoa nor the literal shark. This will have no impact on the state-corporate relationship.) Many choose to take the Remora approach, by focusing on capitalism or corporatism as the fundamental evil. This is common in traditional anarchist thought. In the schools of individualist anarchism, market anarchism, and the newer forms of anarcho-capitalism and anti-state libertarianism, the focus is redirected to the state. While corporatism is still rejected, the state is seen as the primary threat.

I tend toward the latter: by destroying the shark (the state) the Remora (the corporation) has no foundation. It dies. It ceases to exist. But I accept both. Fight who you will fight. Only you can decide for yourself.

The Goal:

The rest of the fish become vegan, living free of the tyranny of sharks everywhere. Well, not really. I kid. The shark/Remora metaphor only goes so far. Anarchism does not promise utopia. Libertarianism does not promise utopia. The big fish may still eat the little fish. But if we can rid ourselves of a predatory juggernaut and its enablers then we can eventually arrive at the beautiful ocean, the truly free market of voluntary exchange.

Paul Weston Arrested for Quoting Churchill

Paul Weston is the chairman of the Liberty GB Party in the United Kingdom. Despite the name, Liberty GB seems to have a fascist agenda. Liberty GB’s mission statement reads:

The Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives manifestly refuse to discuss the most important issues of our time, namely mass immigration from the EU and Third World, the steady rise of fundamentalist Islam and the hijacking of traditional British culture and institutions by well-organised left-wing ‘progressives’. There is no guarantee at such a late stage that Britain can be saved, but Liberty GB will endeavour to put a stop to our rapidly accelerating descent into economic, educational, moral, cultural and social ruin. Britain could be a wonderful country again, but it will take politics bordering on the revolutionary to achieve this vision.

So they’re a fascist party. Why are we even talking about them?

Despite the Liberty GB Party having very little to do with liberty there is an issue in the United Kingdom that many people are unaware of. It is the stifling of liberty due to authoritarian censorship laws.

Paul Weston was recently arrested at the Winchester Guildhall for reading a passage from former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s book The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan. He faces the potential of two years in prison for charges of “religious or racial harassment.”

This is one of many “blasphemy laws” that prohibit free forms of expression if perceived to cause religious offense. The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, one of the more notorious modern blasphemy laws, prohibits vague and subjective forms of expression such as “[an attempt] to stir up religious hatred.” (Section 29B)

While we might not agree with Paul Watons’s fascist agenda this is an important issue for any individual who holds a strong opinion on religion. If you believe that, say, “religion is the opium of the people” this may apply to you. And even if you don’t believe this — even if you have a positive view on religion — as long as you support an individuals’ right to criticize religion then this should be important to you.

This is a quote from Churchill’s The River War:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

You can be arrested for reading this in a public place in the United Kingdom.

That is the only point.

Paul Weston describes the event: