Saturday, December 26, 2009

How I *Really* Feel...

The last few days, I've been working on some VHS-to-DVD conversions for my parents, and in the process of capturing the video, color correcting, audio editing and DVD menu creation, I've had some time to kill. As a result, I did something I haven't done in ages: Flame war!


Over at Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog, there is a troll. His name is Tony. He's what Vladimir Lenin would have called a "useful idiot". Now, Tony himself is not evil per se... But he's catastrophically ignorant of history & philosophy. So he's what you'd call, a "statist" - and thus stemming from his ignorance supports massive amounts of evil all the time, frequently believing that he is doing good works.

He's also gay... By which I mean, homosexual. I mention this fact only to note that Mr. Tony is constantly shilling for the organization which expressly violates his liberty all over the world. When members of what one might view as oppressed groups work as ignorant advocates of their oppressor, I'm always shocked and a little dismayed.

I write about this now (when I most definitely should be going to sleep, or alternatively writing an article about James Cameron's Avatar) because I suspect that once I'm back home, comfortably in my own apartment, I will be far too busy to deal with this again and re-reading some of my comments, I find that it's a good repository of both libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosophy backed by solid history - and - it's a way to condense a lot of people's common complaints/arguments into one place.

So while it's fresh on my mind, I want to share some of these comments & responses with you all now. (Disclaimer: There may be some "adult" language... Hit & Run is often kind of a brawl and Tony and I go way back with these kinds of things - so I've certainly dropped the niceties.)

* * * * *
Tony: could try not being such a moralistic libertarian absolutist and stick with your friends and family and try to influence the pretty-good system you happen to live under.

First off, that is primarily what I'm doing, but it galls me to no end that I even have to. The America I was told about in history class in school not only doesn't exist now but it hasn't for over 100 years... The lessons of the Constitution I learned in my Civics class have been entirely abandoned.

I frankly, shouldn't have to work this hard to save sheep like you from destroying the very core of the system that provides you with "benefits". The US was at one time a nation that had liberty built into it's charter - that was the first time that's ever happened, and the US is unquestionably the most successful nation of all time. It's now declining because the framework that made our progress possible - i.e. well protected property rights, highly limited government that was based on actual laws rather than the whims of the rulers, and a comparatively massive amount of liberty for people to pursue their own values - is being systematically demolished. It's being demolished precisely by people like you who don't seem to be capable of understanding some very simple concepts, for instance: You cannot promise people a "right" (privilege) to have a good or a service without first denying the (actual) rights of those who create & provide it - meaning you are legitimizing theft. When you do stuff like this, the country moves from one based in evenly applied laws protecting the individual and his life, time, money & property into a kleptocracy where the currently favored group benefits at the expense of everyone else.

I shouldn't need to spend my life dealing with this shit, Tony - yet I do. I can't make any promises as to how much longer I will keep fighting though, at some point, I will give up and leave you to get exactly the economy & the society you deserve as a consequence of the government you've chosen and watch the rise of tyranny from somewhere else.

All I'm saying is that government(s) have jurisdiction over you because of the geographical place of your residence.

One of the weakest arguments for enslaving people of all time. It's also strangely, and annoyingly, American-centric... I guess if you live in North Korea... Tough luck, huh? You were born there, so Kim Jong Il owns your ass. Right, Tony?

You enjoy the benefits of that system immediately, and you also have obligations immediately (don't kill people).

If only the government also had the obligation not to kill people. Funny how one-sided these things are...

I get the obligation to pay about a 50% tithe or higher in perpetuity, I can have the obligation not to do anything that might piss off the ruling class, and the obligation to do what I'm told - or I can enjoy the benefit of watching as the rulers come with guns, lock me up, steal all of my things and then fine me for the pleasure.

Of course, if I had been born even 50 years ago, perhaps I would have had the actual benefit of being able to pursue some of my own ambitions in an environment that wasn't crushing and economically impossible. Perhaps the value of my currency would have still been worth something, and perhaps I wouldn't have been burdened against my consent with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to other nations - and thus there might have been capital available for starting the projects I actually want to start.

Instead, I was born more recently, and I have the distinct "benefit" of seeing government idiocy cause a 1000+% decline in the value of the dollar, politicians incurring heaping piles of debt on my behalf, economically illiterate policies push unemployment higher & higher, causing first a decline in the value of a college degree coupled with massive increases in education costs, then watching as the same thing happens in health care & housing - all the while watching everything else that the government has more or less left alone decline in price by huge percentages...

Yeah... Great benefits. Perhaps I should just have been born 30 years earlier.

And as a bonus you are free to renounce it all if you really feel that oppressed.

Right, which is great, since your options are Oppressive Place A, or marginally less Oppressive Place B.

Can you explain what system would be preferable?

Sure, Tony. It's simple... The system is to just get the hell out of everyone else's lives.

I'll take care of me - and my family, and my community, and everything else that I deem important to me - and you can take care of you. We respect each others' property, and agree that if either of us want something from each other, we obtain it by offering something in exchange - a trade - and we don't simply hire thugs with guns to take it. We back that up by protecting our own property with tools and hired help if need be, purely for defense, and if we have more complex dealings, we write contracts which stipulate how arbitration will be handled if one party was lying or causes damages.

If you simply must have a government for that purpose, then you limit that government exclusively to making sure people aren't initiating force against one another - they aren't stealing, killing, defrauding, or attacking each other. It's a small, but important roll which is, as it stands, pretty easy to achieve on very little money - which should only be raised by bond auctions or voluntary fund drives. No IRS, no taxes.

That at birth, every man is an island, with his own laws? How would that work out?

Repeat after me Tony: "Government and Society are not the same thing"

Don't conflate the two. No one is an island, we are all connected in one way or another and that's great. That doesn't give you the right to force other people to do what you want, in fact, since we know and can easily demonstrate that people have unique values, hopes, dreams & other goals or interests, forcing people to do what you want - to give you their time or their products, to give you their money, to behave how you want them to (provided, again, such behavior isn't attacking or harming anyone else) - is is not only immoral, but a disastrous condition socially & economically.

I would like to stop moving towards the disaster, and move back away from it. Quit doubling down on failed policies, go for more freedom.

[Here, Tony repeats his oft-mentioned belief in the "Social Contract" theory of government - that is, merely by product of the geographical location of a person's birth, there is an unwritten contract that each person has with his government to obey the laws of the land or move away.]

Now we're getting into social contract theory. According to the contract you have with your fellow citizens, which you became a party to upon birth according to the rules of the system you were born into, via custodianship of your citizen parents, there are certain rules you must obey and certain rights you enjoy. You have every right to renounce your citizenship and move abroad.

Really Tony, have you ever looked into how that works? You realize that it's nearly impossible to do this without already being a citizen of another country, right?

What if, for argument's sake, you actually didn't want to be the property of *any* government? What then?


There are about 200 governments to choose from. In any marketplace that would be considered a large enough pool of competition. I may want a flying Hummer but if one doesn't exist, that's just too bad. In the marketplace of goods and the marketplace of governments there is no guarantee that you'll get everything exactly as you want.


It seems you're missing the point, Tony - as usual.

Let me repeat what I wrote for you so it can sink in one more time:

What if, for argument's sake, you actually didn't want to be the property of *any* government? What then?

What if I find the idea that someone else having the power to take my time & effort and the products of my labor by force is immoral and unacceptable? What if I actually want a life where I get to choose who I deal with, why I deal with them, and under what terms, without having a gun at my back compelling me to do what rulers I didn't elect & haven't asked for want me to do?

Attaching myself to one of the other 200 Governments around the world doesn't exactly help that situation, does it?

[Tony fails to grasp this concept again... He proceeds to equate choosing which government to be subject to with a marketplace - so, double fail there. Continuing on with Tony's "Social Contract"...]


Oh yeah, also, I think we've covered this in the past, but last I checked, "Social Contract" theory is bullshit.

I've neither signed, nor agreed to, nor ever read, nor authorized any such contract and legitimate contracts can only exist between parties who are freely able to choose to enter into them. And supposing that I did accept the horrendously flawed premise that simply because I was *born* in a particular geographical location, I am a subject of such a government that exists there... Then the only sensible conclusion would be that the terms of the "contract" would be the written Constitution. In the case of hte United States, the Constitution as written has been clearly violated a thousand times over. So it's the *government*, and not me or anyone else who's displeased with the way things are going, who has broken the terms of the deal. I still pay my taxes, I pay for parking tickets and register my car... I live up to my end of the non-existent contract every day of my life. But the government does not. So how does that get addressed?

Unfortunately, they're the ones with the big guns.


No provision of the social contract says that because Sean W. Malone declares something unlawful, it is so. The contract, which yes includes the constitution, provides for the means to arbitrate these questions.


Again, you raving f***tard, the Constitution is in EASY TO UNDERSTAND language! The fact that you can't understand it is sad, but it doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of [y]our government's actions over the past 100 years have been completely against the Constitution.

Let me give you a simple one: To go to war according to the US Constitution, the Congress must ratify a declaration of war. Name me the last time that's happened with respect to US military action internationally?

Think back, Tony... Think back real hard there...

I don't feel the need to provide you with the 10s of thousands of other examples, both large & small, that fit this category of unconstitutional problem.

Another fundamental issue for you - is that you clearly don't understand the flaw in the judicial & legislative system that allows easier access to unconstitutional laws. That flaw is simple: Laws aren't reviewed for constitutionality as they are written, and are only struck down after the fact by the Supreme Court. So it takes years, sometimes 10-15 for that process to play itself out... In the meantime, legislators write *other* laws around the first one (i.e. Dept. of Homeland Security and associated offshoots like the TSA) and it becomes harder and harder to reverse the problem. This doesn't make the initial legislation any more Constitutional than it was when it was written, but it does make it increasingly difficult to strike down.

Unfortunately, your lack of understanding of this problem seems to have lead you to this bizarre and very naive position that actually does beg the question and puts you in the position of essentially asserting that all laws are constitutional, and we know that because there can't be any laws that aren't which the Supreme Court hasn't eliminated.

It's naive, it's stupid, it's perfectly predictable from you...

But it doesn't have a damn thing to do with "my" declarations. It has everything to do with decent reading comprehension and a cursory understanding of history & 18th Century political philosophy... Sadly, you lack all of the above.


Also, of course, you see how your answer precludes the possibility of ever being wrong, right?

Your arguments work like this:

1. There is a social contract you are born into which obligates you to do everything the government says.
2. If you disagree with what the government is telling you to do, too bad, you're contractually obligated to obey anyway.
3. Fuck you.

If the government does something against the contract - in your world - it's legitimate 100% of the time, because by mere product of being the government, anything they do is lawful and thus acceptable.

If you don't like it... Move somewhere else. Awesome.

The universe you live in makes my brain hurt.


Obviously governments can overstep their bounds. Our system is set up to at least attempt to prevent that, with checks and balances and its system of jurisprudence.

But you try violating a law and trying to escape punishment because you declare the law illegitimate and see how far that gets you. You are only obligated to follow the rules of the system insofar as you care about the consequences of not doing so. That's why it's a contract.


AGAIN, Tony. Try to understand this.

The GOVERNMENT is the one that violated the "contract", insofar as that contract is on display as the US Constitution. They have done so repeatedly. The language used to explain their powers in the Constitution is quite clear overall... You like to pick "gray" areas like the Social Welfare clause while ignoring virtually everything else that is so clearly spelled out you cannot possibly "interpret" it.

So when the Government's "checks and balances" have all but been eliminated (which is largely true in the US), and they do things blatantly in violation of the contract - exactly what is the recourse for the average person (who isn't in control of a 3 million+ member army with tanks & aircraft) who is getting screwed by that abrogation of contracted duty?

You're right Tony, if I try to violate illegitimate laws, I get a boot up my ass. If government violates the law, then - according to your circular reasoning - the violation is the new law.

This is precisely how we wind up torturing and wiretapping people, not to mention converting a somewhat competitive market into pure socialist fascism, and the government gets to hide behind the facade of everything being "legal", as if A. it is remotely legal to begin with, and B. that the supposed legality isn't created by those individuals seeking the power, and C. that legality somehow translates into moral acceptability.


I believe torture was illegal. I hope that the system is strong enough to punish any and all responsible for the illegal act. But it's not my job to declare it illegal, it's for our system of jurisprudence. I'm not prepared to be as cynical and nihilistic as you. Our government isn't perfect but it could be a lot worse. There could be no consent of the governed at all, just a king and his arbitrary will.


Well Tony, I think it's time that you wake the f*** up and realize that that's nearly what we have now.

Massive, society altering legislation happens every year that has no public support what so ever. The bailouts of 2008-2009 being an obvious example, the Iraq War being a wonderful example, the current health care bill being a pretty huge example... It doesn't matter. Neither does your vote. Welcome to the real world

The state can justify its own existence without social contract theory. "I get my authority to enslave you from God" is a common one. Social contract theory provides a framework for people to enact a legitimate government that exists via their consent.

False. I didn't give my consent - neither did anyone else I've ever met.

Your consent comes from when your parents, acting as your custodian, chose your place of citizenship upon your birth. No further action is required to continue the agreement, and you can renounce your citizenship at any time and thereby dissolve your agreement. Or you may have explicitly entered into the contract yourself by becoming a naturalized citizen.

There are many contracts that take this form; that is, the agreement remains until explicitly revoked.


And yet again, here we have you arguing that a contract can exist which I never gave consent to, nor signed, nor have any way out of without abandoning my family, friends and life - purely because you assert that a government has the power to control me on the basis that that's where I was born.


You know what else Tony? The Bible is true & provides all moral and legal authority, because God wrote the Bible, and we know God is true because the Bible says so...

[And now for the final - and worst - part of what I wanted to share here... The part where Tony's ridiculous confusion comes to a full boil and he fails to understand the U.S. Constitution itself and is utterly baffled by the concept of rights...]


The other question is what does our government have the power to do given its own rules. My answer is that the rules themselves have provisions for deciding this very question. I don't have to arbitrarily decide whether an action is in the service of the general welfare or is necessary and proper because that's what the courts are for. The constitutional language is simply too vague to provide an unarguable definition of government's proper role.

Tony, I hope you realize that Jefferson, Wilson, Paine, and Madison in particular deliberately went out of their way to write the Constitution in plain language so that the common person would be able to understand it.

They did this because they were of the opinion that any government who's fundamental principles could not be easily understood by the average citizen was going to be intrinsically tyrannical.

Funny how you are now arguing that it's totally ok if the meaning is willfully obscured, failing entirely to realize that the more it becomes obscured the more the document legitimizes precisely the kind of tyranny (and in fact on a much grander scale) than anything the Founding Father's had to deal with.

Here is a group of people who started a revolution over *the principle* of a 2% excise tax and you seem to think the document that came out of that revolution legitimizes the theft of 90+% of some people's earnings?

What PLANET are you on, Tony?


Earth, what about you? Here, the complaint was a lack of representation, not the very idea of taxation. On the planet earth any idiot knows that taxes are necessary to the maintenance of human civilization. Except libertarian crazies who want a free lunch out of everything while condemning everyone else for being parasites.


That's absurd Tony, how can you be so retarded? You're the one sitting here advocating that people can have a "right" to other people's hard earned money, time & products - and you're accusing *US* of wanting a free lunch?

We're the bunch who invented TINSTAAFL [There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - for the uninitiated] for f***s sake!

I don't want a free lunch Tony, I want you to quit taking my stuff, quit pretending I owe you and whoever else you deem worthy a living off the back of my labor. Without governments or with extremely minimal ones, people have gotten along exceedingly well many times throughout history, and with technology as it is today largely as a result of particularly America's previously pro-liberty, pro-competition marketplace, it's easier now than ever before.

But all that we built America on, you and your ideological flock are busy destroying. Good luck with the results.


Where do rights come from? And how do they persist without an institution in place to defend them?

You can't get beyond the mystical explanation that rights somehow come from God or the universe. That may be a useful bit of rhetoric employed in the declaration of independence, but it's just not adequate.


Tony, I'm an atheist too - as most people know - have been forever. I don't accept that "god" or a "creator" in any specific sense granted me any rights, I'm flat out saying that because I am an autonomous self-owner (meaning, I am the final arbiter of all my actions), at the very most basic level of discussion - I OWN ME.

You don't.

Thus, I (not you) get to decide what I spend my time doing, who I spend that time with, what I do with the things that I create or have a hand in creating and by extension, what things I trade my labor for.

It's fundamentally that simple. You don't own me. You don't get to place a lien on my life or demand that I pay you for any reason. What you get to do is offer me the possibility of voluntary exchange. If you've made something I want, and i have something you want, we may agree to trade - if not, you don't get to cry to Big Brother and have him point a gun in my face and take whatever you want from me anyway. That's the deal.

You "own" you. I "own" me. I don't steal from you, control your actions or enslave you, you don't steal from me, control my actions and enslave me. We get along as a society partially due to our biological proclivity to be social, and partly because we rely on each other physically for the means of survival. When what you want collides with what I want, the solution is recognizing ownership - which in about 99/100 cases is pretty cut and dry.

God is unnecessary in that picture.


I don't have an agreement with you to loot my house. I do have an agreement with government to pay taxes as required by law and receive in return services only it can provide. Pretty simple arrangement. And if I don't like it I'm free to bitch all day long or leave. Is there some other way to go about things?


There's a LOT of other ways to go about things, starting with the idea that there are any services "only [government] can provide".

I reject that notion out of hand. Everything that the government does can be handled better, cheaper, more efficiently and non-coercively by private actors.

And if that were the case then instead of "bitching all day long", or "leaving" you would have option #3: Hire an alternate service provider, or option #4: Start your own business offering a service.

I can currently hire private security, private legal arbitrators to deal with contract disputes, I can buy bottled water or have a pump built on my property, I can hire a firm to build a sewer or septic system for my house, I can generate electricity to power my needs quite easily without any government run power plant (though I'd be much happier to pay for power services from a competitive market of power providers), I can and have driven on private roads and I could (and probably will) send whatever children I eventually have to private schools.

It doesn't matter what you name, a private option would be better - first because economically; market competition and a free price system produces far superior results simply because rational calculation is possible... and secondly, because morally; no one is forced to contribute to anything they don't wish to pay for.

The moral side has some secondary upsides as well in my opinion - people learning to be more self-sufficient and autonomous is good for society overall because they must rely on critical thinking & problem solving skills to succeed, rather than relying on being able to force others to support them and make decisions for them...

Tony, unfortunately, desperately wants someone to make all his decisions for him. Weak.


Since most of the history of humanity has consisted of mass enslavement rather than societies of free rugged individualists, the idea that you own yourself isn't totally self-evident. It's a moral principle based on an article of faith.

Do you really expect to be able to enjoy the freedoms and luxuries of the civilization you happened to be born in and not contribute anything back? As I said, you're free to give up your citizenship, but as long as you're here you are compelled to live by the same rules as everyone else. What exactly do you want? You can't be this autonomous being here, there are too many taxpayer funded services you encounter daily. You are free to try other countries, but good luck finding much more freedom. Might try Europe, at least they are free from worrying about healthcare bankruptcy.

Someone Else:

Who owns you, Tony? You, or the government? Or do we ALL own a piece of Tony?

Ew. Forget I suggested the last bit.

I'm nobody's property. My body, my choice. Sound familiar?


You own your personhood, unless you forfeit it by breaking laws. Then not only does government own your ass, your big hairy cell mate does too. Anyway, being an autonomous individual doesn't = having the right to possess every cent you manage to get your hands on.


Why do you make this about "cents" when you clearly don't understand what money is?

To break this down for you Tony, money is nothing more or less than a voucher you get for your labor or the products thereof, which you can trade for someone else's labor or products.

So the chain of logic is quite simple:

Premise 1: I own me & every action I take as an individual - productive or otherwise.
Conclusion 1: I control my time, my associations, and have ownership of all property I've used my time to either create myself or through voluntary arrangements with others, traded for.


Premise 2: Money is representational of human labor & productive effort
Conclusion 2: I do get to keep "every cent" I acquire through this process because I own 100% of my time and labor.

See how this works, Tony? It's quite simple.

You own exactly 0% of me.

I own exactly 100% of me.

Since money is merely an abstract, widely-accepted and easy to transport reflection of my time & labor, assuming my money has been acquired without coercion, then in fact I do get to keep all of it... And then, I can use all those cents to pay for things *I* deem necessary.

Don't worry Tony, I pay my own insurance, I would gladly pay for some sort of personal physical protection (there's alarms in my apartment and lo-jack on my car already so that shouldn't be a huge issue)... I wouldn't, in that case, have to pay for military bases in 120 countries, or for you to have the brain replacement surgery you so desperately need.

So once more, with feeling: I'll handle me. You handle you. Quit advocating the theft of my time & stuff. I don't appreciate it.

* * * * *
So............. It goes on actually (it's a pretty long thread if you actually read through it), and Tony gets into health care and other issues... But now that we've come full circle I just want to make one final comment here.

Tony's position is fundamentally that government - which he mistakenly conflates with "society" - owns it's citizens. Additionally, relying on profoundly circular reasoning, Tony is saying that whatever laws exist are - by product of existing and having not been struck down by the Supreme Court - "Constitutional" and therefore legal. As a consequence, you'll note that Tony finds himself accepting torture as just another law he's required to obey. Unless, of course, it gets struck down by the court system.

It seems to me that Tony is representative of the kinds of sheep that wound up making the infamous Milgram experiment possible.

But look at the above exchange! Tony's arguments are largely easily-refuted nonsense, filled with question begging and completely circular rasoning. But he winds up painting himself into a corner where he has to defend torture and suggest that (purely because of one's geographical birthplace) everyone must obey all laws no matter what, even when they are clearly unconstitutional or even worse, entirely immoral. So Tony - someone who's right are violated across the United States and much more severely around the world, insofar as his freedom to contract and associate has been abridged with anti-marriage laws, and in many states even activities he might wish to engage with in the privacy of his own home are illegal as well - winds up defending the government which is his oppressor.

Isn't that sad? I really think so...


I was reading through another comments thread and found this great exchange too..

"Elective procedures would obviously be more subject to market forces than necessary ones."
"Obviously. That's why, for example, food continues to be so expensive--it's necessary, therefore relatively insensitive to market forces."
"Totally apples and oranges. Food is cheap, necessary medical procedures rarely are. And people don't act like rational consumers when their health or life is on the line."
Hazel Meade:
"Ugh, Tony. Do you even bother to think through the things you say?"
"Tony-"Food is cheap, necessary medical procedures rarely are. And people don't act like rational consumers when their health or life is on the line."

Gee Tony, could the socialist delivery system of the last 70 years have anything to do with that.

Are you Prog Party Hack, or are you really this big of a dumbsh*t?"

Ohh... He is most definitely both. Ugh!

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