libertarian

N.L.P.D.: Non Libertarian Police Department (The Atlantic)

If you read the recent New Yorker satire, L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department, it may please you to know there is a sequel. Sort of. It is from The Atlantic. I was thrilled; I thought we should have an actual genre of absurdist police noir. Unfortunately The Atlantic disappoints. Because while the New Yorker’s L.P.D. gives us gems such as:

I was shooting heroin and reading “The Fountainhead” in the front seat of my privately owned police cruiser when a call came in. I put a quarter in the radio to activate it. It was the chief.

“Bad news, detective. We got a situation.”

“What? Is the mayor trying to ban trans fats again?”

“Worse. Somebody just stole four hundred and forty-seven million dollars’ worth of bitcoins.”

The heroin needle practically fell out of my arm. “What kind of monster would do something like that? Bitcoins are the ultimate currency: virtual, anonymous, stateless. They represent true economic freedom, not subject to arbitrary manipulation by any government. Do we have any leads?”

“Not yet. But mark my words: we’re going to figure out who did this and we’re going to take them down … provided someone pays us a fair market rate to do so.”

“Easy, chief,” I said. “Any rate the market offers is, by definition, fair.”

He laughed. “That’s why you’re the best I got, Lisowski. Now you get out there and find those bitcoins.”

The Atlantic’s article, N.L.P.D.: Non Libertarian Police Department, gives us:

I was just finishing up my shift by having sex with a prostitute when I got a call about an opportunity for overtime. A no-knock raid was going down across town.

“You’re trying to have your salary spike this year to game the pension system, right?” my buddy told me. “Well, we’re raiding a house where an informant says there’s marijuana, and it’s going to be awesome—we’ve got a $283,000 military-grade armored SWAT truck and the kind of flash grenades that literally scared that one guy to death.”

“Don’t start without me,” I told him. “I just have to stop by this pawn shop. It’s run by some friends of mine from ATF. They paid this mentally disabled teenager $150 dollars to get a neck tattoo of a giant squid smoking a joint. Those guys are hilarious.”

I laughed, too, until I realized every single event in the N.L.P.D. story was a real event. I don’t know Tom O’Donnell’s intentions when he wrote L.P.D.: Libertarian Police Department. It was, admittedly, funny as hell. Did he intend it to be the absurdist detective noir I wished it to be? Was it a light-hearted joke? Perhaps O’Donnell intended for it to be an actual critique of a truly libertarian police department: dysfunctional, chaotic, full of moral deficiency?

If the latter, all we must do is look at actual police departments. The real life N.L.P.D.s. The actual behaviors, on a daily basis, of police departments are beyond extreme. They make O’Donnell’s satire seem the sane alternative.

When satire no longer makes an absurdity of real life, but real life makes satire seem sane — even a satire where police officers are doing heroin while reading The Fountainhead — this alone should make us rethink the reality we want to live in.

As for you, dear reader, which would you prefer to live in: The world of the New Yorker’s Libertarian Police Department, or the real world, the world of the Non-Libertarian Police Department, full of the actual violations we witness on a daily basis?

Libertarianism is More than Anti-Statism

Rockwell envisions the libertarian philosophy as being the non-aggression principle, Lockean property rights, and nothing more.

Any concern for social and cultural issues beyond this is merely a person’s preferences that have nothing to do with their libertarianism. “Libertarians are of course free to concern themselves with issues like feminism and egalitarianism. But their interest in those issues has nothing to do with, and is not required by or a necessary feature of, their libertarianism.” I don’t believe this is the case. My aligning myself with the ideas of feminism, anti-racism, gay and trans liberation, and worker empowerment is an outgrowth of my libertarianism. I am committed to those principles for the same reasons that I am committed to anti-statism.

Rothbard’s argument shows how liberty is needed for each person to find their own purpose and achieve their own good. This goes beyond the actions of the state. Repressive cultural norms and domineering social customs also prevent people from flourishing. They, too, lessen people’s liberty. A black person can’t flourish if he lives in a staunchly racist community with employers and businesses who refuse him service. They wouldn’t be violating his rights, but they would certainly be diminishing his ability to achieve his own good. He would hardly be considered free in such an oppressive society.

Libertarianism is More than Anti-Statism

15 Ways to Live Libertarian

“Harry, Don’t Run for President” (LFB.org)

Many of the ideas here are more powerful than others. A few are classic agorism and resistance. A few excerpts:

4. Stop doing business with people who support your enemy. Boycott businesses that live on government contracts. Boycott those who lobby for protective legislation. Tell them you don’t approve of them stealing from you through the state.

5. Support private alternatives to government services. Wherever you can use a private service instead of a government service, use it. Use faxes instead of the Post Office. Use private libraries instead of public ones. Use private schools instead of public schools.

11. Engage in civil disobedience if you are prepared for the consequences. Henry David Thoreau went to jail for refusing to pay a small poll tax. He believed that civil disobedience was a moral obligation. His view of political action as a means of changing government was succinctly stated in his tract, ON THE DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE. “How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.”

12. Find ways to avoid taxes. Cut every corner. Make life miserable for a tax collector. Consider using trusts, foundations, tax deferred investments and offshore charities. Your success will be emulated by others, and every dollar denied a thief makes him that much more likely to find another line of work.

Thomas Jefferson on Constitutions

JeffersonTired of hearing about “muh konstitushion” in every discussion from the United States to Ukraine?

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment…But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.

— A letter from Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval Monticello, 1816

On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct. They are masters too of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please. But persons and property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors extinguished then in their natural course with those who gave them being. This could preserve that being till it ceased to be itself, and no longer. Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.

— Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789

Most of the constitutions of the world are, by a Jeffersonian standard, overdue. They have expired. No one alive today agreed, signed nor participated in their creation. They do not bind you, nor do they give authority to a government.

Lysander Spooner Social ContractAs Lysander Spooner put it at the very beginning of No Treason:

The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. and the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them.

The older the constitution the less relevance it has. How many issues do the constitutions of the world fail to address? Men who lived centuries ago were unable to account for the complexities of the Internet, email and social networks. They had little concept of mental illness and rehabilitative justice. The pinnacle of technology was a musket. Now we have consumer grade drones. Sexual taboos were untouched. Religion was ubiquitous. Communities were homogeneous.

They fail to, as Jefferson put it, keep pace with the times.

Many constitutions have some procedure for amendment, but this is insufficient. When a significant portion of a constitution is lacking, why amend it? It is best to start over. And, like Spooner said, a constitution cannot represent you except as a contract. And for this you must participate. You must give your explicit consent. If you do not participate — if you have not helped to create the constitution — it is a tyranny. A tyranny of dead men who have decided who will rule and who will obey.

Political Questionnaires – Where Are You?

I have been playing with some of the more popular political questionnaires on the Internet. Here are some results and thoughts:

Pew Score - LibertarianThe Pew Research Center for the People & The Press has a Political Typology Quiz that groups you into one category: Staunch Conservatives, Main Street Republicans, Libertarians, Disaffecteds, Post-Moderns, New Coalition Democrats, Hard-Pressed Democrats, Solid Liberals and a final category of Bystanders.

This is a survey that seems to be focused on American partisan politics, despite its inclusion of non-partisan categories. Apparently I would be a Libertarian, along with 9% of the American population.

Libertarian Description PewI do not necessarily consider myself a libertarian per se, although I share many libertarian beliefs. I would definitely not consider myself aligned with the Libertarian Party of the United States, which I find has a very different definition of libertarianism from Joseph Déjacque’s initial use of the term as a synonym with anarchism, the small government philosophy of Milton Friedman, or the use of the term in the context of Austrian economics. Many of these individuals may be better described as pot-smoking Republicans, although they are certainly a lesser evil than the mainstream Democrat and Republican parties.

The descriptions of the Pew’s typologies reinforces some American stereotypes. The Disaffected typology is financially unstable, religious, has more children and enjoys NASCAR. Libertarians are male, affluent and tech-oriented. Staunch conservatives are old, white and oppose both same-sex marriage and abortion. The New Coalition Democrats are an even mix of white (34%), black (30%) and Latino (26%). They are strongly pro-government, pro-immigration, socially conservative and very religious.

To see this group of Democrats described as “socially conservative” or “very religious” may surprise many Americans. In the American psyche, the Republican and the Democrat parties are perceived as opposite ends of the political spectrum. We will see this is not the case when Republicans and Democrats are contrasted with political positions outside the US mainstream.

Political Compass Elections 2012

This is the popular multi-axis model known as The Political Compass. The group behind this has plotted the positions and statements of politicians around the world on two axes. The Left and Right are economic in nature. The Authoritarian and Libertarian are social in nature.

Most of the world’s politicians are right authoritarian. This is especially true for mainstream political parties such as the Republicans and Democrats in the United States. In this model they are practically twins. Most individual politicians mirror Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on The Political Compass. Politicians such as Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are exceptions who win very few votes in the United States, but seem to be included here for the contrast in policy.

My Political Compass

This is where I am on the Political Compass. I assume my rejection of anything state has moved me almost as far away from the authoritarian side as possible. This seems fairly accurate and reflects how I would identify myself. It is important to remember that the left and the right axes in this model are economic in nature. This is in contrast to how we usually use the terms Left and Right in most political discourse. Left/Right terminology has been replaced by the vertical Libertarian versus Authoritarian axis.

To help illustrate:

Beasts Org SurveyThis is the multi-axis model from beasts.org. Beasts.org developed this in response to The Political Compass:

Politicalcompass.org is a web site which asks a number of opinion questions of its visitors, and then places them in a two-dimensional space which is supposed to characterise their political views. Unfortunately, politicalcompass.org has a poor reputation; in particular, there is a suspicion that its questions are designed to make respondents lean towards an economically right-wing, socially liberal (“right libertarian”) position, and the two axes of variation on which results are plotted are opaque in their derivation and may not be tremendously relevant.”

These suspicions are compounded by the problem that politicalcompass.org’s methods are not open and, therefore, it is not possible to determine whether their selection of questions carries a bias which its operators are using to further their own ends.

The purpose of this site is to do a survey of this type properly and openly, so that the methods and data in use are open to inspection.

The methodology is different, but so are the axes chosen here. The Authoritarian and Libertarian axes revert partially back to the Left and Right axes, while two new measures of Pragmatism and Idealism are introduced. As per my results above, I am now the pragmatic left. Even further left, as well as less pragmatic, is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy. Beasts.org does caution not to read too much into the labels.

Part of the utility of these measures is not to give you an objective label in a vacuum, but to compare your position to those around you. To say I am Left or Right is so vague as to be almost meaningless, but to say that I am to the left of Tony Blair and to the right of Charles Kennedy would give more information to someone unfamiliar with my political beliefs.

It is interesting to see how closely together Margaret Thatcher and Adolf Hitler are in this model.

Liberal Democratic Party SurveyHere we have a quiz from the website of the Liberal Democratic Party in Australia. From the home page it asks: Is the Liberal Democratic Party for you? Given that I am against states, my response would be no.

There I am way down in the bottom right hand corner – close to the maximum for Social Freedom and Economic Freedom. I find it odd that this would not be the default position for the entire world. After all, who doesn’t want to maximize both the social and economic freedom of all individuals?

The Nolan ChartThis next one is The Nolan Chart. David Nolan, one of the founders of the Libertarian Party of the United States, created this model. It is similar to both the chart of the Liberal Democratic Party and The Political Compass in that it uses two axes of economic freedom and personal freedom.

My results here closely mirror those of The Political Compass as well. Again I am in the center, but opposite authoritarian/statist. I think this is a very good place to be.

GotoQuiz Results

I took this quiz because it was one of the most popular that kept showing up in searches. It is the Political Spectrum Quiz from GoToQuiz.com. It gives a comparison versus the average of all others who have taken the test. I think we are starting to see a consensus here.

A final test I took was the California F-scale, which can be found at Anesi.com. This was a personality test developed by Theodor Adorno in 1947. The scale was designed to measure the degree to which an individual has an authoritarian personality or, as the F in the F-scale indicates, a tendency towards fascism. A few of the questions from the F-scale were actually incorporated into the model from The Political Compass we have seen previously. My score was a 2. According to the website, the average American score in 1947 was a 3.8.

The F-scale is still used today in research on the authoritarian personality. However, more people are familiar with Robert Altemeyer’s RWA (Right-Wing Authoritarianism) Scale, the progeny of Adorno’s F-scale.

Take a test and let me know what you think. Are you where you thought you would be? Are you close to the politician you support?

Harvard Lectures On Libertarianism Parts 1 & 2

Introductory basics of libertarianism, a short lecture and discussion with Dr Michael J. Sandel at Harvard University. Each video is around 25 minutes and gives a general overview of libertarian political philosophy, with discussion from attendees/students and some brief criticisms/rebuttals.

Selected highlights of the lecture.

  • Individual human rights serve as the highest value and the basis of justice within the context of libertarianism.
    • In contrast to utilitarianism – the highest form of justice or value being that which provides the greatest utility or benefit for the maximum number of people.
      • The libertarian value of self-ownership, or the self as individual property, versus utilitarianism: May a doctor use a healthy man for his organs if they provide a greater quality of good for more people? The right of the individual, on the basis that he is his own property, is greater than the potential good arising from the sacrifice of that individual to the benefit of others. This is intrinsic to libertarianism. If self-ownership provides the basis for an individual’s right to his body, the same principle of self-ownership applies to the individual in respect to all that he owns.
  • As individual liberty is the fundamental, basic human right what laws or restrictions by the state are illegitimate?
    • Paternalist legislation. This is coercive legislation designed to guide or protect. Seat belt laws are used as an example.
    • Moral legislation. This is coercive legislation designed to enforce moral values. Prohibitions on homosexual marriage are an example.
    • Any form of taxation used to redistribute wealth from those who have earned it legitimately to those who have not.
      • This does not include all forms of taxation.
      • Legitimate income is defined as that which is earned with consent in the context of free trade.
  • Taxation as slavery.
    • Earnings and property are reflected as a product of work and time worked.
      • To take a portion of income is to take a portion of time worked, to be applied elsewhere.
        • This is therefore tantamount to forcing a person to work elsewhere, thus can be expressed as a form of slavery.
          • Taxation = forced labor = slavery.
      • To force an individual to work and/or appropriate a share of that work violates the principle of self-possession or self-ownership.
        • Additionally, as taxation is coerced (under threat of force) it calls into question the fundamental idea that we have liberty and ownership over ourselves.
  • Objections and rebuttals.
    • Those with less have more need.
      • The benefits of taking from those with more in order to give to those with less do not outweigh the benefits, or fundamental right, of liberty within self-ownership.
      • To need something is not to deserve or be entitled to it.
    • Taxation is via consent within a democracy.
      • There is insufficient representation of individuals to demonstrate true consent.
      • There is no obligation to demonstrate or democratize fundamental human rights.
        • “Liberty is not up for a vote.”
    • Those with more have a debt to society.
      • The debt to society has already been paid by the service or value created that resulted in earning more.

A few final thoughts. A young lady named Victoria in the lectures brought into question if individuals, living within a society, truly have self-ownership. That is, that we may in fact not have true ownership over ourselves but are fully or partially owned by the state. Although she was attempting a critique of libertarianism, this reinforces a libertarian premise – state slavery. If we are owned, in full or part, by the state then we are fully or partially slaves of the state. This raises many ethical and political questions, one of which is if we are slaves if we have a right to be free of our chains. The American Revolution centered around the issue of taxation and the role of individuals as subjects – not individuals in a state of self-ownership. This also implies that slavery is permissible today, in the given context of the government owning slaves.