Prayer Isn’t Welcomed in the Midst of a Tragedy?

I ranted a couple years ago on We Are Libertarians about the trend to switch prayers to “healing vibes” on social media. Somehow, prayer became a shameful act to display to social media friends despite Barna research saying 94% of Americans have prayed once in the last 3 days. Pew says 55% of Americans pray daily. In the wake of the Texas shooting, prayer has been mocked by progressives and Hollywood. Using their favorite weapons, shame and bullying, they are trying to silence public displays of the freedom of speech and religion.

Prayer to whomever or whatever is an act of contrition and reflection in an effort to become a better person. Some faiths say that signal of obedience makes God move in places he might not have before. Moments of tragedy are the best times to do a self-inventory and ask where we can change ourselves to be more loving and giving.

The vague “do something” where no policy is prescribed actually does nothing. It is vanity to show off for friends. Mock prayer, Keith Olbermann, but it is more effective than anything you’ve done in your “career.”

Prisons Without The State

Even in a stateless world based on the libertarian ideals of self-ownership and private property, prisons may be a necessary evil.  I’ve written many posts based on how criminal justice could look in such a world, all of which I’ll link to at the bottom of this post, but I’ve never dealt directly with prisons.  I put a few ideas in some of those posts, but this post will serve as a stand alone post dealing solely with how prisons could look without a government monopoly and funding through taxation.

What Prisons Won’t Look Like

In a stateless society, prisons would look nothing like they do today.  Even though there are “private” prisons in America, they aren’t private in any sense of the word.  They are completely funded by government and are completely tied to the government court system.  They have all the privileges of a government enforced monopoly.

Without a government to fund prisons, public or “private,” one would imagine that they couldn’t exist at all.  It would be impossible for the current business model of warehousing criminals in giant concrete buildings, for years on end, to exist without forcing people to pay for it.

With that in mind, we need to imagine a model where the prison would fund itself.  Most prisons would most likely be funded voluntarily by the prisoners themselves.

Voluntary Prisons

Before I go into the concept of voluntary prisons, first I have to answer the question of “Who the hell would voluntarily go to prison?!”

Let’s say we have a person that is found guilty of a violent crime and is found to owe $20,000 for restitution, court costs, and costs of capture.  Presumably, this criminal is broke so he won’t be able to pay it back.  The criminal, because of his own violent actions, would have no right to object to the victim from using force to acquire this restitution.  Basically, the criminal is at the mercy of his victim.  Even though the victim would be obligated to use the least amount of force necessary to acquire this restitution, it would probably be in the benefit of the criminal to negotiate favorable terms in paying back what is owed.

Possibly, if the debt is small enough and the criminal seems trustworthy enough (maybe he’s a teenager who is on track to have a productive life, but just made one mistake hanging with the wrong crowd), both sides might just agree to let the criminal go free so long as he agrees to pay a monthly payment until his debt is gone.

More than likely, this won’t be the case.  We can assume that the criminal would want to pay back his debt as soon as possible in order to be free.  We can also assume the criminal wants to be as safe and comfortable as possible while paying off this debt.  So why wouldn’t both sides work together in order to find a solution?  Based on whatever skills the criminal may have, there could be many competing prisons that would utilize his labor to pay for keeping him locked up, while at the same time paying off the debt the criminal owes.

Some prisons may even offer programs to teach new skills to prisoners.  This would attract more prisoners, allow the prison to make more profit, and allow the prisoner to pay off his debt sooner.  This has the added benefit of giving the prisoner a new skill he could utilize to make a living once he’s free.

Prisons would also compete based on safety and comfort.  The victim may not care much about this, but if the goal is to get restitution back as soon as possible, and get it back in a way that would involve little or no extra force (which could become costly and dangerous for all sides involved,) there would have to be some incentives for the criminal to want to voluntarily agree to go to a prison.

Will it always go down this easy?  Of course not!  Some criminals may agree to go to voluntary prisons, only to refuse to work or even purposely sabotage their work.  Others simply won’t agree to work to pay back their victims.  Violent criminals are often irrational or just downright evil.  They have no concern for their own safety, their own life, or the lives of the people they hurt.  How will they be dealt with?

Involuntary Prisons

When considering how a prison full of people who have no desire to work off their debt will be funded, the first thought that comes to mind is some kind of forced labor system.  However, I’m not convinced that such a system could be profitable.

We’re talking about the most violent and deranged people on the planet here.  If they are forced to work in some kind of factory, they would have access to any number of objects that could be used as deadly weapons against their captors.  The costs of constantly monitoring, housing, and generally keeping such a business going would far out way the benefits of free labor.

The same goes for any kind of agricultural based forced labor camp.  The costs of keeping these prisoners working and overseeing their every move would be astronomical compared to simply hiring some migrant workers who show up voluntarily, accept meager wages, and go on about their way.

Plus, the idea of forcing someone into slavery, no matter how evil his deeds, is something that people would widely view as wrong.  This could lead to people refusing to do business with forced labor prisons, thus making them even more unprofitable.

With forced labor out of the question, what options do we have left?

One way is charity.  There’s not many people alive who wouldn’t want the most deranged and evil people removed from their world.  With this overwhelming demand to see violent people locked away, we can imagine the market satisfying this demand with prisons funded through charity.  The bulk of this charity would probably come from businesses and individuals who benefit most from seeing violent people locked away somewhere.  Insurance companies and security companies immediately come to mind.

Another way for an involuntary prison to turn a profit without forced labor is by turning it into some kind of tourist attraction.  There is an almost endless fascination the general public has with evil people.  TV shows, movies, and documentaries are made every year showcasing crimes and the people who commit them.  Perhaps there could be a demand for some kind of tourist attraction called “Violent Criminal World.”

You could pay to see the worst of the worst up close and personal.

Another somewhat related idea is for an involuntary prison to have its own reality TV show.  They could produce and sell there own show based on the everyday happenings of the prison.  There could even be a market for people to pay for access to a 24/7 live stream of every camera in the prison.

A percentage of the profits from these ventures could then be dispersed out to the victims of the criminals locked up.

These are just a few ideas.  The beauty of a free market system is that absent of a government forced monopoly, there’s no limit to what entrepreneurs will come up with.  In order to meet the significant demand to keep violent criminals away from non-violent people, we can expect a plethora of options available to the victims of violent criminals.

Quick Overview of a Private Criminal Justice System

For an in depth overview of these topics, I’ll link to the individual posts below.  But I’ll try to give a quick summary of what would occur after a crime has taken place in a stateless society.

So you’re a victim of a violent crime.  A criminal broke into your house, stole valuables, and injured you in the process.  Perhaps they hit you several times and tied you up.  In a free market, we could get insurance that not only covers our property, but covers our body as well.  You can then file a claim with your insurance company for all damages resulting from this crime.

When the insurance company pays your claim, they’ve now bought the right to go after this criminal and recover the damages.  They are now incentivized to solve this crime and apprehend this criminal in order to recoup their losses.  Most likely, they would offer a bounty to anyone who can put enough evidence together in order to secure a conviction in a court that is widely viewed as reputable.

If and when they are able to apprehend the criminal and get enough evidence to secure a conviction, they could then negotiate with the criminal on the best way for him to pay back all the damages, court costs, and costs of capture.

If the criminal is willing, they could agree to a voluntary prison stay until the debt is paid.  If the prisoner is unwilling to negotiate or work, then they could go the involuntary prison route.  Perhaps the involuntary prison company could just pay the insurance company a one time, upfront fee for the right to have the prisoner in their custody.  Or more likely, they’d probably agree to pay a percentage of profits to have him in their prison until the debt is paid.

With competition for prisoners, the invisible hand of the market would steer the outcome toward maximum benefit of all parties, including the criminal.  This would insure that restitution would be paid back as quickly as possible and that prisoners wouldn’t be locked up for longer than they would have to be.  Only the truly heinous criminals would rack up enough damages to be locked away for life.  Other criminals, by working off their debt and possibly learning new skills in the process, would have an opportunity at true rehabilitation.

As always, we can never know exactly how things will shake out after the government monopoly is finally dissolved.  There will never be a perfect system.  Even in a stateless system there can be no guarantee that all criminals will be brought to justice.  There can be no guarantee that there will never be an innocent person locked up.  However, without a monopoly of powerful people in charge, any mistake or corrupt actor at any level of the criminal justice system will not have immunity from prosecution as the prosecutors, judges, politicians, and police officers enjoy today.  This alone will ensure much fairer and equitable results.  That along with unfettered competition will give us the most just and fair system mankind has ever seen.

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

For further reading on Criminal Justice without the State from Mike Tront:

7/20/2016 – A Private Criminal Justice System

7/29/2016 – Capital Punishment In a Libertarian Justice System

8/11/2016 – Crime Solving, Libertarian Style

1/27/2017 – But Without Government, Who Will Prosecute Criminals That Hurt The Poor?

2/03/2017 – Private Criminal Justice:  Who Will Protect The Homeless?

8/03/2017 – Libertarian Courts In a Stateless Society

Former progressive podcaster Jamie Kilstein of Citizen Radio was on Joe Rogan. He presents the prison that is living according to the rules of a progressive society. He also shows that a political commentator must always say what their audience needs to hear and not what they want to hear, or else they end up in a lonely and dangerous place. – Chris Spangle

236: Libertarian Documentarian Travis Irvine on Running for Mayor

Libertarian filmmaker and comedian Travis Irvine discusses his documentary “American Mayor” on Amazon Prime. Irvine also explains how the GOP killed the Libertarian Party of Ohio, and what it’s like to work with Roger Stone. Spangle also explains why he hates the Facebook audience. Watch the documentary: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074T571DT


Libertarians Can Solve The Abortion Issue With Evictionism

Abortion doesn’t just divide the left and right in America, it divides libertarians as well.  Libertarian economist Walter Block has come up with a solution called “evictionism” in an attempt to bring both sides together and to allow everyone’s rights to be respected.

What Is Evictionism

Block says that an unborn child, from the point of conception, is a human being with all the rights that any innocent human being has.  Block also says that a pregnant woman owns her body and her womb, and has every right to decide if an unborn child may or may not use her body and womb and for how long.

Block says that because the unborn child is an innocent human being, no one has a right to kill it.  However, since the Mother owns her body and her womb, she has every right to have the child removed at any time in the gentlest manner possible.  In other words, an evictionist couldn’t kill the baby and remove the body like abortionists do today.  They would have to keep the child alive and unharmed as much as medically possible.

What evictionism means for unborn children in today’s world is that most children evicted in the third trimester will survive.  Some evicted in the second trimester will survive.  And any child evicted in the first trimester will die.  For the babies evicted before they are viable outside the womb this is a tragedy.  They are innocent and helpless.  This tragedy, however, doesn’t change the fact that no one has the right to the body of another.  The woman is the owner of her body and she has the right to choose who can or can’t be inside of it or live off of it.

In the near future, however, medical technology will allow for babies evicted at even the earliest stages to survive and live full, healthy lives.

This is a quick and simple explanation of evictionism.  For a deeper understanding you can read a comprehensive essay penned by Block and Roy Whitehead here, or you can listen to a Podcast from the Lions of Liberty where they have a deep discussion with Block about evictionism here.  Otherwise I’ll attempt to quickly handle some objections and add some thoughts of my own.

Objections

The main objection is the idea that the unborn baby is not a trespasser, but was invited into the Mother’s womb by the woman and therefore she must be forced to carry it to term.  The argument is that by agreeing to have sex, the Mother took on the potential responsibility of a baby being created.

In the case of a voluntary sex act, this is a strong objection.  Libertarians don’t concede that positive obligations exist (no one has the right to force you to take care of them, for example), but they do concede that implied agreements can exist.  For example, if I take you up in my hot air balloon, I don’t have the right to kick you off while we’re in midair.  By taking you up in the balloon, it’s implied that I’m going to safely bring you back down!  In the abortion/evictionism debate, the act of sex is claimed to be an implied agreement with the child if a child is created.

There are two problems with this line of thinking.  The most obvious problem is that some pregnancies aren’t agreed to!  Rape is the main example used, but that’s only a small fraction of potential abortion/eviction cases.  There are also cases of birth control failure. There are cases where one of the parties was told by a doctor that they were infertile, but clearly the doctor was wrong!  There are also cases where the man agreed not to release his seed into the women but did so anyway.  In all of these cases, measures were taken to prevent a pregnancy or the woman simply had no choice.  How can the woman be forced to carry the unborn child to term in these cases where she clearly took appropriate measures to prevent a pregnancy or had no choice in the matter?

While it’s true that the unborn child is an innocent bystander in all these cases, that doesn’t mean it has the right to the woman’s body.  Imagine a scenario where you woke up one day and you find that someone surgically attached an innocent person to your body.  In this highly unlikely scenario, you’d have every right to remove this innocent person.  You wouldn’t have the right to kill the person, but no one could say that you should be forced to live with this arrangement, even if it could be proven that surgically removing this innocent person would lead to their death and keeping them surgically attached would mean they could survive.  In this tragic scenario, the innocent person attached to your body can’t force you to keep them since they have no claim to your body.

The second problem with the implied agreement argument is that the child didn’t even exist when this implied agreement was supposedly made.  For there to be an implied agreement between two or more parties, those parties have to exist!  When the voluntary sex act took place, the future child doesn’t exist and therefore can’t be apart of any implied agreement between it and the Mother.

One could still argue that someone engaging in the act of sex clearly knows that a child could be created.  Therefore they should be held accountable by being forced to carry the baby to term if one is created.  As a believer in the importance of personal responsibility, this argument is hard to combat.  On a base level, I agree with it.  I think people who act irresponsible should deal with the results of their actions.  But just because I think this way doesn’t mean I have the right to violate the person or property of someone when they act irresponsibly.

Take for example if I saw someone leave their car for several hours parked in a bad neighborhood, with the engine running, and the door wide open.  This is an incredibly irresponsible thing to do.  This is almost guaranteeing that someone will steal the car.  If I decided to take the car, does the owner still have a claim to it?  After all, I could claim that the person leaving the car was being irresponsible and should live with the outcome.  They knew something like this could happen!  This would be a ludicrous argument though.  The car is still not my property and it still belongs to the owner, even if they were being irresponsible with it.  We can all agree it was irresponsible for the person to leave it running for hours unattended, and we might not have any sympathy if it gets stolen, but that doesn’t negate the owners right to the car.  In the same way if a women is being irresponsible with her sex life.  At the end of the day, she is still the owner of her body with the right to decide if someone should live in it or not.

The only situation where it would be legitimate to punish a woman who gets an eviction is if there were an agreement between the man and woman prior to the pregnancy.  One example would be if the woman was hired to be a surrogate.  She agreed to rent her womb and body out to the person who paid her and thus would be breaking a contract by getting an eviction.

Another example would be if there were some sort of prior agreement between the couple.  They may have agreed that if she were to get pregnant, they must both consent if there was going to be a removal of an unborn child.  In this situation, the woman would have to get the man to sign off on the removal per their prior agreement.  If the man refused to sign off, but she got the unborn child removed anyway, she could be liable for whatever damages were laid out in the contract.

Guardianship Of The Removed Child

So an unwanted fetus is removed, can they simply ignore it and let it die?  If not, who is the guardian responsible for caring for the child?  This is perhaps the most important issue to be worked out for evictionism to be legitimate.  What I say is that whoever performs the eviction is taking over guardianship of the child.  Since the Mother gave up this right, the person agreeing to do the eviction is also agreeing to take on that responsibility.

Therefore, it is the evictionist who must do everything in their power to make sure that not only does the fetus survive the procedure, but that it is taken care of once it is safely out.  “But if libertarians don’t believe in positive obligations, how can the guardian be forced to care for the child?” you ask?

This is the same debate around the question of “Is it legitimate for a parent to neglect their child to the point of injury or death?”  It is not legitimate, because when the parent voluntarily took on the guardianship of a child, they have made an implied agreement to not only care for the child, but to make sure that they find someone else to care for the child if they decide to discontinue their guardianship role.

A parent can decide to stop being a guardian, but they can’t just simply let the child die.  By doing this, and not making an effort to drop the child off at an orphanage or with another suitable guardian, they are precluding others from taking on the guardianship of the child.  In essence, a parent can stop being a guardian of a child if they choose, but they can’t stop others from taking over guardianship of the child.  Therefore, they must seek out a new suitable guardian before they are legitimately able to stop caring for the child.

To wrap up this train of thought, anyone agreeing to perform an eviction procedure is also agreeing to become the guardian of the child until they can find another suitable guardian.  An evictionist who removed a child and let it die would be just as much of a criminal as any parent who neglected their child to the point of death.

The Future

Perhaps the best thing to come out of this theory is that in the not too distant future, all unborn children will be able to survive outside the womb.  Technology will soon allow for even the earliest fetuses to survive and develop normally without a human womb.  Once this is the case, both sides of the abortion issue will have no choice but to accept the evictionism argument.  If you’re pro-choice, how can you possibly advocate for the ability of a Mother to kill her fetus if it can just as easily be removed, saved, and survive?  If you’re pro-life, how can you argue that you have the right to force the Mother to carry her baby to term when she can just as easily and safely let an artificial womb incubate the baby?  If the evictionism theory is the only theory that respects the rights of all parties involved in the future, than we have to begrudgingly admit that it is legitimate today.  Our rights don’t change with the times.  They are the same whether we lived 100 years ago or live 100 years from now.

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

You may also like this by Mike Tront:

What Would It Look Like If The Federal Government Outlawed Abortion

Our Flag and Anthem Are Bigger than Just Our Military

I love and respect our Flag, Anthem, and nation because of American values embodied in the Declaration, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Our founding principles gave liberty and freedom an opportunity by flipping the relationship between ruler and citizen upside down. In America, citizens rule, and the government has to ask for permission when it wants to interfere in our life.

Our Founders knew our desire to give up our power and wrote down the values that would keep the spirit of Americanism alive.

The very first thing written? The freedom to speak and petition (protest) your government when citizens feel an injustice is taking place. Never again would a citizen be punished for doing their civic duty: speaking up when the government forgets its place. Nothing is more American than an American peacefully protesting injustices within the government. In my mind, there was no greater patriot in the 20th century than Martin Luther King Jr. Without firing a shot, he changed the hearts and minds of the American people, and they, in turn, changed our government.

Most of the Founders didn’t want a standing Army. They felt the homeland could be best protected by armed citizens who could protect their families, communities, and states. They didn’t dream Americans would have military bases in 170 countries while operating 7 fronts as we do today. I think many of the Founders would be absolutely puzzled that we are arguing over the common sense principle of self-protection coming under attack this week.

I think they’d be equally as shocked that half of our country have narrowed Americanism and the flag down to honoring a standing military and military intervention. Our Flag and Anthem mean so much more than the war powers of our current government.

I do believe our Flag and Anthem represent the fallen and our veterans, but not our policies. In my mind, Americanism is directly opposed to much of what this current government does. It stands for free markets, freedom of association, the right to peacefully live our lives without government agencies harassing us or killing us. Yes, it means honoring the memories of every person that gave their life for this unique experiment, both in and out of uniform. Many thousands of Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep this a shining beacon of hope. That includes those fighting in foreign wars as well as Americans like Emmitt Till.

I’m surrounded by political and religious refugees from Burma. They are wonderful neighbors, and they are adding a lot to our community. Storefronts that sat vacant for years are now thriving, for instance. America represents hope to them. They will lay down tonight in their secure and clean home without the fear of Burmese government agents killing or stealing from them. They will send their children to good schools tomorrow while they make more money than they’ve ever had in their life.

When I stand for the Anthem, my eyes water because of the hardship my great-great-great grandparents endured in leaving their German hometown and moving to a strange land so that one day their ancestors could be prosperous, healthy, clean, and endowed with all the rights given by our Creator. It’s for my Grandfather that nearly died in Okinawa fighting an Imperial menace that threatened the lives of millions of Americans. It’s tears of thanksgiving to God that I live in a country where I can start a media outlet that openly criticizes the ruling class without any fear of retribution.

So yes… the Flag and the Anthem ARE about soldiers that fought and died for this country. It’s about so much more. If Mike Pence and Donald Trump and any person reading this want to reduce it to only that, then they’re being decidedly unpatriotic. They’re being a propagandist, and that is UnAmerican.

Lenz: The Coming American Political Realignment

How The Activation Of The White Identity Will Disrupt American Politics

 

What does it mean when one proudly declares that they are an American? What are the shared cultural and philosophical beliefs they are trying to communicate when doing so? What defining historical events and corresponding beliefs are implied within their prideful declaration?

America, unlike virtually every other nation they call neighbors, has enjoyed the luxury of a relatively clean canvass in undertaking the political experiment that was the American Revolution. While political revolutions are by no means the norm, the American one has been considered by its people as one free from the influence of historical conflict and Old World cultural norms. If one were to poll most Americans, they would define the American identity as one unaffected by race, culture, or historical grudge. An identity something along the lines of an American creed as follows,

“The American identity is adventurous men and women willing to leave the known in pursuit of the unknown with little more than the promise of an opportunity to build a better life. A life better than the one their current one, and entirely of their own making.” 

While not incorrect in capturing the sentiment of those who forged such a creed, what is missing, is the ethnicity and nationality of the individuals responsible for defining this creed or American identity. Without that context, the American identity would seem to have been created by a group of early settlers each born of immaculate conception. While convenient for the purposes of avoiding discussions pertaining to race and culture in American politics, the reality is, the American identity was forged by white property owning European males who were both courageous, in chasing the unknown, and wildly ambitious in their uncertain pursuit of economic opportunity.

Why is that so important to remember when trying to understand America’s current political environment?

As America’s demographic future becomes increasingly less “white” and more “multicultural”, the American identity will become stop being an “American” one, and increasingly become a “white” one. What America has long believed to be its universal identity is slowly but surely becoming one belonging to the race of those responsible for its creation. One need not attend a Black Lives Matter rally to ask for their definition of the American identity in order to see it is wildly different than the one at a retirement community in Florida.

There’s a phrase among economists that “Demographics are destiny”, and while usually used as a commentary on the economic fate of a country, it is useful in understanding the election of Donald Trump and his ability to turn the industrial Midwest’s political allegiances from one of leaning Democrat, to toss up or leaning Republican.

As the definition of the “American” identity continues to shift to the “White” identity, the demographics of the American electorate will determine its fate. While for the first time ever the millennial generation represented a larger percentage of eligible voters in the 2016 Presidential election, Baby Boomer voter participation rates, as well as the majority of their generation being comprised of white voters, resulted in an electoral upset of epic proportions.

What did President Trump do that no other Republican had been able to in recent memory? e activated the dormant American White Identity. He endlessly alluded to the Baby Boomer’s preexisting perception of societal chaos and decay. President Trump’s entire campaign was one big foreshadowing of the demographic threat awaiting their definition of the American identity.

While not singularly responsible for achieving his electoral upset, as much was due to his opponent’s arrogant and calamitous performance, his decision to message around a theme of restoration struck a chord previously unheard in American politics. A chord which activated the perceived threat of a changing national identity among elderly white Americans, who in longing for the simpler times of days gone by, decided to turn out in droves and disrupt traditional voting patterns and electoral college alignments down racial lines.

What Happens Now?

Now that the American White Identity has been activated, the question becomes: how enthusiastic will their voting block be on election day?

The answer to that question can only be offered once the wedge issues of the election in question have been defined. Were the 2018 midterms held last week, during the height of the NFL Kneeling issue, one can be certain the White Identity voter would be wildly enthusiastic to show up on election day.

When electoral wedge issues center around patriotism, gender, long held cultural norms, religion, and immigration, the White Identity will activate on its highest setting. That high setting will result in a surge to whichever party or candidate panders most effectively on a message of cultural preservation. When electoral wedge issues are less pertinent to the perceived threat facing the white version of the American identity, political alignments will return to historical norms in the short run.

However in the long run, as the Baby Boomer generation’s electoral influence wanes and Generation X and Millennial voter participation rates rise, the American Identity will increasingly shift in a yet to be determined definition.

Multiculturalism’s ascent is an inevitably, as mentioned above, demographics are destiny, and the fate of the United States electorate is one of a multicultural demographic composition. Below is a hypothetical electoral map of the 2016 Presidential election if one removes Baby Boomer voters:

 

Hard to imagine a more bleak future for Republican and Libertarian voters than the sea of blue above, right? It is one thing for Detroit to decay under years of Democratic leadership, it is quite another to imagine the United States as Detroit on a grand scale…

 

What can Liberty Movement Republicans and Libertarians do in order to avoid a completely blue post Baby Boomer electoral map?

Not to be overly-apocalyptic, but should those who oppose the Detroitification of America fail to redefine the American Identity after the White Identity voters slowly pass away, the limited government constitutional republican political experiment the United States was originally conceived as, will become little more than a footnote in American history books. The stakes genuinely are that high.

With that being said, the opposition to progressive and American Left political ideas, will not resemble the Left-Right divide as it stands today. The divide will be drawn down lines much closer to those best debated by the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.

Progressive thought leaders embrace a worldview which pursues perfection. There’s is a world where constitutional limits, like the Bill of Rights, are an annoying encumbrance in their date with an egalitarian utopia. The election of President Trump has done little to cause the Left to rethink or abandon its embrace of centralizing power. Even when faced with the thought of handing over the keys of their beloved central planning tool to an unexpected Republican “monster”.

Why?

The Left is well aware demographics are on their side and, while the election of someone like President Trump is a nuisance to endure, it will not a cause them to reconsider their pursuit of centralizing federal power. One would think a Republican in charge of a centralized federal government, especially one like President Trump who seems to be impervious to shame and the traditionally reliable attacks of public humiliation, but his win has caused no such abandonment.

The American Left’s refusal to consider the downside of centralizing power should serve as a stark warning to those who favor limiting the power of the federal government through the dissemination of it to local and state governments.

While the Bill of Rights is most often pointed to as the quantum leap in preventing the abuses of government against the individual, the founders understood that while strict constitutional limitations were a radical shift in designing a system of government, the true weapon against a federal government’s unquenchable thirst for power was a decentralized system placing any powers not explicitly granted to the federal government in the Constitution to the state governments. Decentralization was the Founder’s intended weapon of last resort against the grand designs of central planners.

As the demographic destiny of American politics arrives, the true partisan divide will not be one fought over historical and cultural preservation, but the preservation of decentralized power. The progressive/Democrat movement will argue in favor of centralizing power with promises of universal health care, college, and cultural toleration. The future of the American Left resembles the ideas of Bernie Sanders more so than Hillary Clinton. Will those ideas and their endless pursuit of a egalitarian safe space utopia end up becoming the American Identity?

Or will the opposition successfully redefine the American Identity in a fashion more closely resembling its revolutionary founding? A definition premised upon a suspicion of government and preference for the uncertain, yet unrestrained pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness, as originally designed. Will what it means to call oneself an “American” communicate the principles of safety through equality, or the courageous decision to embrace uncertainty in exchange for the promise of opportunity?

While the future divisions of American politics have shifted after the activation of the white identity by President Trump, the American identity grows less attached to the existing white identity. If Liberty Movement Republicans and Libertarians hope to ever live underneath a government premised upon the principles and beliefs they espouse, they cannot begin redefining the American Identity soon enough.

The battle is not one over party, Republican vs. Libertarian, it is about resistance to government’s infinite appetite in acquiring power and preventing the grand designs of intellectuals who view society as a Utopian experiment, rather than the opportunity for each and every citizen under its rule to personally determine how best to pursue happiness.

These are the terms. All that remains to be seen is who will emerge victorious. Those who pursue power? Or those who define the American identity through a lens of suspicion toward it?

Free Speech is Under Attack; Republicans Respond by Going Socialist

With a new wave of political correctness sweeping through America, speech is being stifled at an alarming rate.  Expressing unpopular opinions is getting people banned from Facebook. It’s getting YouTube videos demonetized.  It’s getting websites kicked off of the servers that host them.  It’s getting websites delisted from Google searches.  It’s even getting people fired from their jobs.

Currently, the type of speech being stifled is confined mostly to ideas that I personally find wrong, ignorant, and in some cases completely antithetical to the type of anti-authoritarian free society I want to live in.  However, I also want to live in a society that allows bad ideas to be exposed to rigorous and open debate.  Plus, I’m afraid that once the censorship ball gets rolling, anti-authoritarian libertarian ideas will soon be blacklisted as well.

For now, stifling “objectionable” conservative opinions is the trend of the day.  This is being met with stiff resistance and condemnation from virtually everyone on the right. Sadly, this has also led many prominent republicans to look to the government for a solution.

The Republican Solution

After Google fired James Damore, prominent republican talk show host Tucker Carlson had this to say:

Google should be regulated like the public utility it is to make sure it doesn’t further distort the free flow of information.

Carlson isn’t the only republican thinking this way.  According to this recent article from The Daily Caller, even otherwise pro-market republicans like Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon are on the anti-free market train in regards to Google and other social media platforms.

So what would it look like if popular social media sites became public utilities?  I’m sure if you ask these republicans, they’d assure us that there’d be no government takeover, just a bit more regulation to make things more fair and equal.

Anyone who studies history knows that whenever you give government regulators an inch, they take ten miles!  In order to get the level playing field these republicans want, they’d have to empower government to take over the Google search algorithm to ensure a more fair algorithm for right-leaning sites.  They’d have to take over YouTube’s monetization policy to ensure every creator gets the same pay rate.  They’d have to rewrite Facebook’s user agreement to make sure that no one gets banned for having a conservative opinion.  They’d have to take over Twitter’s algorithm to make sure certain people don’t get shadow banned for having unpopular opinions.

What could be more socialist than the government stepping in to level the playing field and make sure all views and parties have equal representation, regardless of the desires of the actual platform owners?

Problems With Government Takeover of Social Media

Just the above words should send a chill down anyone’s spine, regardless of their political affiliation.  Even if there was a way for a completely fair and open commission (ha!) to be set up to simply make sure the free flow of information isn’t restricted, does anyone really believe it’ll stay that way?  How many times do we have to witness a well-intended government program get perverted for political and financial gains before we understand that government is never a solution?

Once government takes over the search algorithms and social media user agreements, it’s only a matter of time before they’re tweaked to suit the needs of the people and lobbyists in power.  In fact, there are numerous exceptions to the 1st Amendment, so why wouldn’t the government alter the search algorithms of all search engines to help stamp out potentially unlawful speech?  This would allow government to hide, or even eliminate, vast amounts of content that might fit into such categories as “obscenity,” “false statements of facts,” “fighting words,” “incitement,” and many forms of commercial speech (which is considered less protected.)

Is it really hard to imagine the major news outlets lobbying government to hide independent news outlets because they made “false statements of facts?” (#FakeNews!) Is it really hard to imagine the government hiding or eliminating websites that are generally anti-state under the claim that they may incite people to do violent acts against state actors?  Is it really hard to imagine wealthy corporations lobbying government to make it harder for new companies to advertise on social media sites?

Perhaps the biggest problem with government turning search engines and social media platforms into public utilities is that it turns these social media platforms into legal monopolies, thus preventing any further innovation in this incredibly important field.

The Free Market Solution

Competition is the ultimate equalizer.  No matter how big and influential a company gets, it will never be immune from the constant pressure of competition.  Just in my short lifetime, many corporate giants have been decimated from competition.  Giants like General Motors went from being one of the largest companies in the world to filing for bankruptcy.  Only a government bailout saved it from going out of business completely.  IBM went from being the top computer company on the planet to posting record breaking losses.  Sears was once the largest retailer in America.  Today it’s fighting to stay profitable while closing stores all across the country.  MySpace went from being the largest social media site in the world to being nothing more than a punchline.

What happened to these giants?  Why did they fall so far so fast?  As companies grow, so do their expenses and potential liabilities.  Their workforce becomes bloated.  Their infrastructure, factories, and stores become out of date or obsolete.  They become targets for lawsuits.  Sometimes, even if a company does everything right and makes all the right moves, consumers just change their desires and tastes.

As companies and industries become more profitable, other entrepreneurs are tempted to enter their field in search of some of that juicy profit.  These new competitors have the advantage of being much more nimble and adaptable to the changing needs and desires of consumers.  They aren’t saddled down with layers of bureaucracy.  Even when the top dogs adapt and stay profitable, no one has ever stayed on top forever.

The new wave of social media censorship is just that, new.  Already we’re seeing the market react.  Gab was created last year as a alternative to Twitter. Gab promises no censorship of its users.  DuckDuckGo is a rising alternative to Google.  It’s main selling point is that it doesn’t track its user like Google does.  Not only does it keep your search terms private, but it eliminates the Filter Bubble that plagues other platforms.

It may seem impossible to imagine any company taking over the markets currently dominated by Google, Facebook, and YouTube, but it was once impossible to predict the fall (and the rise again!) of GM and IBM.  There’s no way to predict who or what will knock over these behemoth’s of the Internet, and there’s no way to predict how long it will take.  One prediction I will make is that if the government turns them into public utilities things will only get worse for free speech.  With public utility status also comes the status of legal monopoly.  If you think it’ll be hard for competition to take down popular social media platforms due to their network effects, just wait until they have the power of government behind them as well.

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

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Confederate Statues, Funding For the Arts, and Left/Right Hypocrisy

In the wake of the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Confederate monuments and statues are being taken down across the U.S. Predictably, the standard right wing response is outrage and the standard left wing response is jubilation.

I can sympathize with both sides here.  Monuments, even of bad events or people, shouldn’t necessarily be forced to be taken down.  However, people who have no desire to fund a particular monument or statue shouldn’t be forced to fund it.

The libertarian solution is pretty simple, but before I delve too deep into how this can easily be solved with libertarian principles, I’d like to look at the hypocrisy on both the right and left that this controversy has exposed.

Right Wing Hypocrisy

For his 2018 budget, Donald Trump is planning on eliminating funding for several federal programs that subsidize the arts.  Including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  The response from republicans is overwhelmingly positive.  The main reasoning for right wing support was summed up by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney:

“Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?” he asked. “The answer was no.”

So this week it was interesting to see Trump abandon this logic when it came to the removal of publicly funded Confederate art.  He had this to say on Twitter:

Nowhere did he say that public funding should be cut for these statues and nowhere did he echo Mulvaney’s point about it being wrong to make a “coal miner” or “single mom” pay for these Confederate Monument Programs. As usual in politics there’s no principle, only tribes.  The right wing tribe views the NEA as overwhelmingly subsidizing liberals and their pet art projects.  On the other hand, they have no problem using public funds for monuments and statues that glorify people and events that liberals hate and conservatives are more likely to enjoy!

Left Wing Hypocrisy

Going back to Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the arts, there’s no shortage of left wing outrage.  It’s hard to find anyone on the left who favors cutting government funding to any arts programs.  But therein lies the hypocrisy.  Aren’t Confederate monuments art?  Regardless of any objectionable actions taken by the Confederates, many of these statues and monuments can be seen as aesthetically pleasing, right?  I’m sure many local artisans were paid well for their work in creating these monuments, what liberal could object to that?

It’s easy to see how people who’ve had ancestors suffer through slavery would object to Confederate monuments, but many religious conservatives could easily object to some of the risque art that’s been funded through the NEA.  Additionally, if democracy is to be held up as an ideal, a majority of Americans believe the Confederate monuments should stay!

It seems a bit hypocritical for liberals to champion funding for arts that largely benefit their constituents and donors, but advocate for public art that doesn’t satisfy their constituents and donors to be torn down.  Especially when a majority of Americans want those particular monuments and statues to stay!

Libertarian Solution

If you’ve read anything I’ve posted before, I’m sure you can guess what the solution is.  Privatization!  The only moral and satisfactory solution to this issue is a complete separation of art and the state.  The conservatives are completely correct in their idea that the “coal miner” and the “single mom” shouldn’t be forced to fund art projects.  The liberals are completely correct in their idea that ancestors of slaves shouldn’t be forced to fund Confederate monuments and statues.

To this end, all funding to the NEA and any similar government programs should be cut immediately.  If you happen to value the type of art that the NEA funds, you are free to donate your own time and money to support these artists and galleries. Similarly, all publicly funded monuments and statues should be defunded.

Additionally, all statues and monuments should be sold off to the highest bidder.  Are you a person who hates what the Confederacy stood for?  Do you want to see these statues destroyed?  Great, I’m sure there will be many fundraisers to buy and destroy these statues.  Are you a Confederacy lover and do you want to see these monuments preserved?  Awesome, there will be plenty of fundraisers to buy and preserve these monuments as well.  You can fund any project you want, or no project at all.  The revenue generated in these sales should then be given back to the taxpayers they were taken from.

The tragedy of government funding the arts is that we are all forced to pay for art we may never view and in some cases we’re forced to pay for art that we find terribly objectionable.  This forces people to take sides and fight, since whichever side wins gets to control where the funds go.  Conversely, whichever side loses has to suffer the consequences of their conqueror possibly using the spoils directly against them.

The libertarian principle of non-aggression tells us that you have no right to force others to pay for your wants.  The libertarian principle of private property tells us that others have no right to stop you from pursuing your own wants on your own property or with your own money.  The beauty of these principles is that it allows all of us to directly fund and pursue the art we personally find enjoyable and important, and it allows those of us that don’t particularly enjoy art to use our funds for something that we do enjoy.

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

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Lenz: Charlottesville And The Sins Of Our Fathers

 

Why does it always seem to be the case that on matters pertaining to free speech and assembly, the situation ends up devolving into a state of absurdity? Or, as was the case in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, fatal tragedy?

Is the right to voice an opinion so absolute, that it warrants the full protection of the right to do so, no matter how incendiary the opinion, and now matter how likely its expression will instigate a harmful physical altercation?

As a civilized people, can we not all agree that freedom of speech should not be extended to hate spewing racists who oppose the removal of symbols glorifying a belief that skin color determines whether or not one was, and still is, better off as property, rather than a person? We can all agree on that, can we not?

Surely, suppressing the opinions of those who seek to preserve a monument which dishonors the courageous Americans that gave their life to defeat slavery, is a rightly earned respect owed to their sacrifice? At a bare minimum, do we not owe it to their memory to remove memorials honoring treasonous Confederates? It is the least we can do as a society, is it not?

The questions above undoubtedly seem reasonable, and to all but the most of principled of free speech defenders, seem like a worthy accommodation in an effort to atone for the United States’ original sin: Slavery.

Regardless of how much societal progress it may feel the United States has made in righting the sins of our fathers, if the death of a thirty-two year old female counter-protester exercising her explicitly granted right to peacefully assemble and protest has taught us anything, it is that the sin of slavery is one this country may never be able to fully reconcile.

Nationalism, and its fanatical byproduct: rabid patriotism protected from dissent, are viewed by most as politically toxic and to an extent, taboo. When one hears the term “nationalism”, the first image that comes to mind is usually one belonging to the extended and slightly raised right arm of Adolf Hitler.

Unlike many political movements within modern American politics, the Alt-Right/Ethno-Nationalist/Traditionalist/White-Nationalist movement has embraced the formerly taboo terminology rather than disavowing the toxic association. Why is that? For the most part, it has to do with the philosophical groundings of their belief system: ethnicities have long standing cultures and traditions, and as such, they should serve as a sort of political guidance system in the legislative formation of a harmonious state.

On its face, such a belief does not seem inherently racist or even, if one were to believe the majority of sociology professors, a terribly inaccurate description of the United States and the defining Judaeo-Christian values its legislative and judicial system reside upon. However, when a political philosophy stops being a theoretical governing framework for societal harmony, and starts being used as a cloak for racists, when they advocate and carry out “justified” criminal acts, is the same moment it loses all credibility and ceases being useful in understanding our world. Such is the current status of America’s “Alt-Right”.

The idea that a monument democratically commissioned and erected by community representatives to memorialize a Confederate General deemed worthy of remembrance, cannot also be removed via the democratic process, is absurd. That is, unless of course one opposes its removal on grounds of the legitimacy of the decision. But the #UniteTheRight rally voiced no such concerns of legitimacy in opposition to removal of the statue. Their concerns are grounded in the growing dilution of cultural and political dominance by white Americans within the political system they have grown accustomed to controlling.

The calls for cultural preservation by white voters is a relatively new phenomenon in American politics. However, it has long been brewing in Europe and other predominantly “white” nations, especially those whose history of colonialism resulted in a unintended flood of formerly colonist immigrants. As Sir Isaac Newton discovered, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Societies possess no such immunity from the laws of the physical realm. When those who dominate the power structure of a democratic institution foresee a time when they will be outnumbered, the inevitable response is always seclusion and legislation mandating preservation. As America’s demographic dominance of white Americans grows increasingly less certain, so too will the appeal of laws making mandatory that which they hold dear.

The intellectuals responsible for spearheading this movement see it as having little to do with the color of one’s skin, and everything to do with philosophical principles those of a certain skin color held and allowed western civilization to flourish. Principles starting with those taught and discussed in Athens by the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Principles such as virtue and order, as well as answers to the questions: “What is a good life?” and “What is the best form of government for one to be able to live a good life?”

What today’s cultural preservationists miss is that those Athenian philosophers who laid the original groundwork for Thomas Jefferson’s call for life, liberty, and they pursuit of happiness, is their contributions were not “right” because they were white. They were “right” because their work sparked civilization’s explosion of human freedom as they defined it. It just so happens they were white…and male, but those two characteristics had nothing to do with the importance and adoption of their work.

One cannot help but imagine that if the intellectual founders of western civilization had been in attendance at the events in Charlottesville, they would have looked on in horror as the acts of those claiming to preserve their lessons were based upon a disgusting and ignorant perversion of everything they had ever hoped to leave behind. Human freedom, protected by the democratic process, was their goal. A monument glorifying a champion of slavery, is not one they would have ever supported the construction of in the first place. Let alone oppose its democratically decided removal.

The tragic irony of the “Alt-Right” is that they are not desperately trying to preserve western civilization’s march toward democracy and human freedom, but the power to control the lives of others they believe are ill-suited to do so. As such is the case, their opposition to the removal of a monument honoring Robert E. Lee exposes their true desire, control in the name of tradition sounds an awful lot like slavery as the Southern way of life.

Slavery is America’s original sin, and while the United States has not fully overcome its lasting effects, honoring an individual who seceded in protest to its end, is owed no memory of treason or opposition to human freedom. Just as General Lee disassociated from his country, his country has every right to democratically disassociate from his memory.

In the end, the monument will be taken down with the hope of further atoning for slavery. And just like General Lee at Appomattox, the flag the Alt-Right will be forced to wave will most appropriately match the color of their preferred skin. After all, how better to honor the memory of their heroic figure, than to continue his legacy of surrender…

Libertarian Courts In A Stateless Society

Previously I’ve written about how a private criminal justice system might look, you can find it here.  However, in that piece I didn’t go much into the nuts and bolts of how private courts might work in a libertarian society.

Objections To Private Courts

There are numerous potential issues we can imagine if all courts were private.  Who decides which courts are legitimate?  How do courts get authority?  What happens if a corrupt court takes a bribe?  Who pays for the court?  What if an accused person doesn’t want to participate in a trial?  How does a poor person get legal representation?

In this piece I’d like to quickly offer some solutions that entrepreneurs may come up with if we had a free market in courts.

Voluntary Courts

If a dispute can’t be settled outside of court, the best case scenario would be for all sides to voluntarily agree to let a court decide the outcome.

So let’s look at a scenario.  You get carjacked and roughed up.  Your insurance company pays you restitution through a violent crime insurance policy.  The insurance company then wants to find out who committed this crime, take them to court to make sure they’re guilty, then extract restitution from the criminal to cover their losses.  They hire someone to gather evidence and put together a case.  They find out that the evidence points to me being the criminal.  They approach me and claim I own them $100,000 in damages for the restitution they had to pay as well as the costs of gathering evidence and finding me.

At this point, we could settle out of court and agree to have me pay them back over time.  Or if I’m viewed as untrustworthy, they could offer to let me join a prison work camp that keeps my salary and pays my debt for me.  Or I could refuse to pay them.

If I refuse to pay, they’re going to want to find a way to justify using force against me without upsetting the public and without starting a war between them and the security service I may have hired to protect me.  If I do have a subscription with a security service to protect me, I’m sure that service wouldn’t want to protect me against the victims of my violent acts.  So they would probably have a clause in their contract with me that voids their responsibility to protect me if I’m found guilty of a crime by a reliable court.

So at this point I’m refusing to pay restitution and the insurance company can’t risk using force against me. They need a reliable court to find me guilty before they can proceed in extracting restitution from me by force.  How do they get me to voluntarily agree to go to court and abide by the ruling?  Even if I’m innocent, the deck would appear to be stacked against me.  Couldn’t they just hire the best attorneys and make me pay for their costs after I lose?  Wouldn’t they have a friendly relationships with most courts and judges?

Even if I were innocent, I wouldn’t want to take my chances under this scenario…unless my accuser lets me pick the judge and their prosecutor!  What if the insurance company is so confident in their evidence that they believe any competent attorney in the world could prosecute the case and any competent judge/jury in the world would unanimously find me guilty?  Why wouldn’t they let me pick their prosecutor?  Of course they’d make sure it would be an attorney that has a certain level of certification from a reliable certification company.  I couldn’t just pull in a bum off the street.

If an accuser gives me the terms that I get to pick my own attorney, I get to pick their prosecutor, and I get to pick the judge/jury with the understanding that I immediately agree to surrender myself if I’m found guilty, I’d say these are pretty good terms whether I’m guilty or innocent.  Of course the loser of the trial would also agree to pay all attorney and court costs.

If this offer became standard in criminal trials, it eliminates almost all possible objections to a private court system.  The wealthy can’t push around the poor with superior attorneys or with friendly local judges.  And since both sides are voluntarily agreeing to the outcome, they are establishing authority in the court’s decision.

This also has the added benefit of protecting innocent people.  With this extremely high standard, I can’t image many accusers bringing people into trial unless they have overwhelming evidence.

Forcing Someone Into A Trial

No one would have the right to force someone to participate in a trial.  Such an act would be considered nothing less than kidnapping if anyone other than a government did it today.  Now I’m not saying that it won’t happen, just that it wouldn’t be standard practice.

One example of a possible scenario where a defendant might be kidnapped and held against his will is in the case of a particularly heinous crime with clear evidence of who the guilty party is.  For example, if someone walks into a crowded area and opens fire on a crowd of innocent people, but is apprehended without getting killed himself, he would probably be held captive until a court rules on his guilt and liability.  In this case it’s clear who committed the crime as he was apprehended in the act with numerous witnesses!

So who decides which defendants get held captive before trial and which don’t?  There won’t be a universal standard, but the decision would be based on potential risk and liability.  If someone is held hostage, and is later found not guilty, the people who held him hostage have committed a grievous rights violation.  One which would call for a potentially huge restitution payment to the person who was held against his will.  So if someone is to be held against his will before a trial, the people holding him better be sure of his guilt!  Money isn’t the only consideration.  If an organization gets the reputation of consistently getting it wrong and violating innocent people’s rights, I can’t imagine they’d stay in business long.

Trial In Absentia

The final issue I’ll address is what happens when someone doesn’t willingly participate in a trial?  We’re assuming here that the accused wasn’t caught in the act of a heinous crime like the above example.

At this point there’s no choice but to try him anyway.  This posses a very real problem though.  How do we get the authority and justification to use force against him if he’s found guilty?  After all, if I’m picking the judge, jury, and attorneys wouldn’t it seem like I’d intentionally try and stack the deck?  Or at least wouldn’t it be viewed that way even if I was completely fair?

When thinking about this problem, one thing to keep in mind is that there would be no immunity like there is today with government.  If a court today finds someone guilty and throws him in prison, but later it’s discovered they’ve made a mistake, the people that threw him in prison and found him guilty can’t be held accountable.  In a stateless society, there is no immunity.  So if I do stack the deck and railroad an innocent man, I’m liable for any damages I caused him.  Even the attorneys and judges involved could have some liability if it’s shown that they were negligent in trying the case.  This accountability alone will force an accuser to attempt to put on the fairest trial possible.  The last thing they need is to take more losses by violating the rights of an innocent person.

How would the process look?  The best thing to do to make sure it’s a fair trial is to find some kind of service that specializes in representing people who refuse to participate.  There could be any number of law firms out there competing with each other to prove how fair they are.  Various rating and certification agencies could exist to rate these firms.

Once the accuser picks a firm that has a good reputation in representing people in absentia, the same standard could apply as if the defendant participated.  The firm representing the absent defendant could be offered to pick the prosecuting attorney, court, and judge/jury.  This also has the added benefit of reducing or eliminating liability for the accuser if they do convict an innocent person.  The accuser could claim that they did everything possible to put on a fair trial and that the bulk of the liability falls on the law firm that unsuccessfully defended the innocent person.  This potential liability could also ensure a vigorous defense.

Corruption

Corruption will always be a concern when money and force are present.  A private court system will not be immune from people attempting to pervert the scales of justice .  If there’s a law suit that involves a large amount of money, why wouldn’t one side or the other attempt to buy off someone?  If my side could win millions, it’d be worth a several hundred thousand dollar “investment” to buy off a juror or to pay the opposing lawyer to throw the case, right?  And if a juror or lawyer could get a large payday so easily, why not take it?

I’ll admit this could happen, but with full liability I can’t imagine it happening very often.  If a bribe is taken and is discovered, the bribe taker would be liable for all damages done.  If an innocent man was forced to pay a settlement, the bribe taker would owe that innocent man back the money he was forced to pay along with any other damages he suffered as a result of being put in such a position.  The briber would also be in the same boat when it comes to liability.  Even a hint of someone taking a bribe could ruin someone’s reputation and career, whether or not any actual evidence is ever discovered of a bribe.

These disincentives would make bribery a rare occurrence.

No Perfect System

In thinking about if society should be organized with a central government in some capacity or if it should be completely left up to the market, we have to realize that no system will be perfect.  Mistakes will be made.  Bad people will do bad things.

The idea here is to find a way to eliminate all systematic violence.  Even the smallest government rests on the ability to use taxes to finance it.  Even the smallest government necessitates a monopoly of the courts, thus forcibly keeping competition from innovating and providing superior services to consenting adults.  Perhaps worst of all, even the smallest government will be its own final arbitrator in whether or not one of its decisions is just and whether one of its agents is liable for their actions.

When government is allowed to be the final arbitrator of all rights and wrongs, even the smallest and most well checked government will abuse this power and grow.  Only a completely stateless and private court system will prevent this inevitable erosion of individual liberty.

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

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Lenz: Remembering Our Tie That Binds

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced into Congress a resolution, which would be adopted on July, that asserted the United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. While this resolution was being discussed, on June 11, 1776 a committee, consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston , and Roger Sherman was appointed to draft what would go onto become America’s foundational document. A document declaring the United Colonies’ independence from the chains of the British Empire.

Through the authority granted from the consent of the governed, those men would adopt the final draft of the Declaration of Independence and fired a gunshot heard around the world in pursuit of mankind’s desire for self-rule.

No longer would the restrictive chains of their colonial masters remain shackled without resistance. While the adoption of the beautifully articulated declaration of war would explode like a powder keg on the minds of all in search of self-governance, the reception of said declaration would knowingly fall upon the formerly deaf, now rabidly hostile ears of their former masters.

The signatories of the Declaration surely knew that while the self-evidence of their creator’s divinely granted right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, would appear far less self-evident to King George and his empire’s military.

Especially when one considers that King George’s authority hailed from the same “God” he pointed to in ruling by the divine right of kings. From such a vantage, it is rather easy to see why what began as a simple disagreement over the correct assessment on one’s proclaimed divine right, lead to a fully fledged war, is it not?

While many a philosopher and priest have debated the theoretical origin of rights, be they natural or divinely granted, the freedoms they allow are felt in the physical world.

So while those Congressmen in Philadelphia, tasked with drafting our nation’s Declaration of Independence, put pen to paper and announced the existence of rights to which they and those they represented felt entitled, they must have known that any benefit offered by the written word, would only be felt once the United States demonstrated their ability to defend them against intrusion.

As with all conflicts resulting from adversaries in opposition to mankind’s quest for freedom, and regardless of the philosophical justification or ethical superiority of the principle said quest is premised upon, the inescapable truth remains: might determines the existence of right. Divinely endowed or not.

As today marks our nation’s two hundred and forty-first anniversary of independence, it is gravely important to remember the historical significance of our anniversary. Appreciating the significance of today is lost on most, as the majority will likely only recall the facts, such as the date and actors involved, rather than the lessons.

Such is the inevitable byproduct of America’s education system in its current state. One which prefers the recitation of facts to the application of reason. Alas, let us ignore that preference and spend the day contemplating the lessons and lasting societal impact the Declaration had upon the psyche of the revolutionary generation.

It is oft-forgotten the United States of America, in its current form, was not born until the ratification of the Constitution on June 21, 1788. Nearly a full twelve years after its announcement of independence. In considering that, one cannot help  but wonder about the lasting psychological effect created by declaring independence had upon the psyche of the revolutionary generation. Their concept of self was defined first as a united collection of independent free men and women no longer subject to the crown, and second as citizens to a unified nation.

Traditionally, the most oft-cited original American beliefs are those of equality and justice. Undoubtedly resulting from being taught the adoption of the rule of law, via the ratification of a list of constitutional protections, is our original premise. One founded upon the application of justice derived by equality under the law. Yet, that would be incorrect.

While equality and justice played a vital role in the psychological composition of how first “Americans” defined themselves, those ideals were layered atop a different foundational principle or belief. The one which bonds us all uniquely together:

Independence, or in another word: rebellion.

America was conceived in rebellion. Birthed by men and women who defined their sense of self through a lens of rebellious independent free thinking individuals.

The type of individuals who, when presented with the choice of a blanket of security provided by constrained freedoms or the promise of unencumbered, yet wildly uncertain and potentially fatal freedom gained by treasonous independence, leapt head first into the abyss of uncertainty. Despite the known risk of death by hanging for treasonous acts, they chose the dangerous adventure in their quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That choice, rebellious independence, would go on to become the cornerstone of the American identity and all the additional ideas it is built upon.

Rebellious independence is the bond which ties us all. One universally shared by those whose forefathers successfully beat back an oppressive intrusion upon their battle earned right to determine destiny. The very moment King George finished reading the finalized and adopted draft of Mr. Jefferson’s eloquent letter from Philadelphia, an independent spirit of rebellion would become forever imprinted upon each American soul thereafter.

It is our common bond. Our shared thread tying together our distinctively patched American quilt. It is the tie which unites us all. As you celebrate our Independence Day, remember that bond. Despite our toxic political environment, one in which the patches of our distinct quilt seems held together with the most frayed of thread, remember our shared history. A history defined by the freedoms gained through the courage and blood of our rebellious forefathers. Men who closed their declaration to King George with a pledge:

“We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Happy Fourth of July.

 

 

Below is a transcript of the Declaration of Independence:

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Television News Isn’t Journalism

TV News isn’t journalism, so we need to stop pretending it is. At best, it is entertainment, and at worst it is propaganda. Either way, there is nothing wrong with questioning everything you see or read or hear. People that earn paychecks from news organizations sanctimoniously preach about journalists that died “in the line of duty” and public trust and expect that places them above criticism.

In 2007, Indianapolis had a mayoral race where the Democrat was the likely winner with millions in the bank. The Republican was an unknown with less than $100,000 in the bank the August before the election. The Mayor was going for a third term and was the favorite. He gave a controversial budget address, and his challenger offered a rebuttal in the public section.

That night, I was chatting up a cute reporter (no doubt hired for her journalistic skills) from the local Fox tv affiliate on the way out of the address. I asked if they’d use the challenger’s address. She then uttered a phrase that dropped the scales from my eyes when it came to American television news.

“Nothing. My editors said that since he isn’t buying ad time, we don’t want to give him free advertising.”

Puerto Pobre – How Government has Guaranteed Puerto Rico’s Economic Failure

By Clyde Myers

Though Puerto Rico has been held as a US territory since 1889, it wasn’t until 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson needed to find a way to force Puerto Ricans to fight in WWI that they were granted a pseudo-citizenship that came with many caveats and limitations… sort of a ‘friends without benefits’ arrangement. Hence, the Jones-Shafroth Act was born and given the status of US Citizen to all Puerto Ricans, which granted them the privilege of dying in their oppressors’ wars.

Puerto Rico has never really flourished under US control, though it has certainly seen better days. Government regulations have always stifled their small economy, but it just seems to keep getting worse. Local policies aren’t the only ones to blame either. Several US federal policies are among the largest contributors to the hardships felt by ordinary residents of the small, Caribbean island. I want to call these policies antiquated, but that word implies that there was ever a time when the policies were fair or proper, and it would be impossible to make that case.

MINIMUM WAGE LAWS

Puerto Rico is a part of the United States. The dollar is their currency, and they are bound by US laws, including the federal minimum wage. But how is that a bad thing? Don’t people in Puerto Rico deserve a living wage? I would argue that certainly, they do and it is exactly the minimum wage need that prevents them from earning one.

Though only 46 percent of the 3.7 million population of Puerto Rico participates in the workforce, as compared to about 60% in the mainland US, their median household income is just under $20,000 per year. Compare that to the almost $52,000 US median, which is slightly lower in my home state of Indiana’s at $50,532. A person making the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would make $14,500 per year based on a 40-hour workweek for 50 weeks per year. That sounds like nothing and, even compared to a very modest $50k per year. But consider that minimum wage in Puerto Rico is 74.3% of the median, things start to come into perspective. Since prices are higher in Puerto Rico, it’s kind of like if we were to have an $18.50 per hour minimum wage here on the mainland, except that $18.50 would only buy you $10 worth of goods and services.

So, Puerto Rico has an idle workforce that can’t go to work because it’s illegal for them to work for less than minimum wage. Yes, people who make minimum wage are poor, especially in a place where everything costs more, but to make it illegal to pay people below a living wage, minimum wage laws have forced many Puerto Ricans into living on no wage at all. In its attempts to outlaw poverty, the government has created more poverty and made it more severe.

THE MERCHANT MARINE ACT OF 1920 (The Jones Act)

This federal statute is intended to make sure that maritime commerce between US ports is conducted using US ships, which also must be constructed in America and owned by Americans. This protectionism keeps Puerto Rico from being able to import or export anything unless they use the US Merchant Marine, which means US ships, constructed in the US, and crewed by US staff. This makes imports cost twice as much as they do in neighboring Caribbean nations. Their incentive to export is likewise reduced as Puerto Rico’s goods are more expensive and less competitive than mainland consumers and wholesalers can get elsewhere.

EXCESSIVE TAXATION

As it is not officially a state and therefore does not have representation in US Congress, they are not subject to the federal income tax. This often plants the notion that Puerto Rico is some tax haven in the minds of typical mainlanders. This is not the case. Puerto Rico imposes its income tax and sales tax. Still, the biggest blow to Puerto Rican prosperity came in the form of Section 936 of US Internal Revenue Code, which removed tax exemptions for US companies with subsidiaries in Puerto Rico. Former President Bill Clinton signed legislation in 1996 that scaled back these exemptions over a ten year period. This effective tax hike went into full effect in 2006 and had since led to massive job losses, and Puerto Rico has endured 12 consecutive years of economic depression across the island.

ENORMOUS GOVERNMENT AND SOCIAL FUNDING
One-third of Puerto Rico’s workforce is employed by the government. One-third of Puerto Ricans are on food stamps, not to mention other forms of help. Let’s assume that there’s no convergence between those groups for the sake of this article, though I suppose it is entirely possible that government employees may also be on some forms of assistance.

The largest employer on the Island is the government, because there is so much support that needs to be distributed. More help means less incentive to work, and the fewer people work, the more they need help. The more aid they need, the more government programs and employees are needed yet, with the decrease in jobs, the less money there is flowing into the government to pay those government salaries and cover the program budgets, creating a massively unsustainable situation that will lead to a crash.

Like much of the world, they will most likely see the failures of government as a pressing need for more and more government, and they will suffer more and more unintended consequences. I’m rooting for Puerto Rican statehood if that’s what they want. They deserve proper representation, but I fear that the United States and its own twenty billion dollar debt and thousands of unsustainable public programs could never save them from the consequences of the US’s poor decision-making and underhanded dealings that put Puerto Rico in this situation in the first place. If they could resist the call of socialism, they’d be better off pursuing independence.

Clyde Myers is a columnist and blogger from Columbus, Indiana where he serves in the leadership of the local Libertarian Party.

References:
https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-17.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rican_government-debt_crisis
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode46a/usc_sup_05_46_10_24.html
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/936
https://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/1898/chronpr.html

Tax Policy Helped Create Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Crisis

4 Reasons Why The Grenfell Tower Fire Would Have Been Avoided In A Libertarian Society

The Grenfell Tower Fire in London was a horrendous and preventable disaster that, as of this writing, has claimed 79 lives. In a libertarian free market based society, this tragedy would have been avoided.

From what we know, a small fire broke out in one of the apartment units and spread rapidly. The rapid spread of the fire appeared to be fueled by a recent renovation that left the building with sub-par cladding. This cladding apparently was not fire resistant and may have even been quite combustible. This, along with the complete lack of a sprinkler system in the individual units, doomed the building and its unfortunate inhabitants to suffer the tragic consequences we all witnessed.

Whenever something like this happens, especially when it claims innocent human lives, my thought goes to “Could this have been avoided?” My second thought is usually “Would the outcome have been any better in a libertarian free market society?”

After looking into what we know so far, it’s clear that government incentivized the neglect necessary for this terrible event to happen. Here are four reasons why this would not have happened in a libertarian free market society.

1: The Grenfell Tower Was Government Owned

In a totally free market, there are no government owned assets. When the government owns something, no one is directly responsible for its proper or safe use. There are people who oversee its use, of course. And in the case of The Grenfell Tower, a government funded non-profit property management group known as KCTMO was tasked to oversee the everyday operations of the Tower. But the buck doesn’t stop anywhere.

With government owned housing, no one put up their personal wealth to build it.  No one stands to lose money or clients if a building is managed poorly or engulfed in a preventable fire. No one is held accountable. Worst case scenario for the government is that someone loses their job. Even then, they could easily use their contacts and friendships within government to get another cushy gig.

In most cases, citizens aren’t even allowed to sue the government in these situations. And if they do end up getting some kind of settlement, it’s not coming out of the pockets of the people responsible for the mismanagement and negligence, it’s coming from the taxpayers.

This overall lack of accountability incentivizes negligence, corner-cutting, favoritism, and bribes.

In a free market, whoever built such a building would have to risk their own money, credit, assets, and reputation. If their building is unsafe or is ran negligently, they stand to lose the millions of dollars they invested. They could also be sued. Their reputation could also be tarnished to the point of being put out of business permanently. In a free market, incentives are in place to insure that people build safe buildings.

In spite of all these incentives to do right in a free market, what if someone does want to build an unsafe building?

2. Insurance

Insurance companies would be a huge problem for the perspective builder of unsafe buildings. In a free market, insurance companies would have a lot more latitude than they have today in deciding who they choose to insure and under what terms.

With that in mind, can you imagine an insurance company risking potentially tens of millions of dollars without sending a team of inspectors to assess the safety of a building? Not just for fire risks, but any number of risks that could cause harm to customers which could lead to lawsuits that the insurance company would have to cover.

I view this as the biggest check and balance against unsafe building in a free market society. Any insurance company that insures unsafe buildings would quickly be bankrupted with claims. And with no government to bail them out, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business to continue insuring unsafe buildings.

3. Inspections

When people think about a world without government, one horror they imagine is a world without building codes and inspectors. They imagine people and companies cutting corners in their construction in order to save money. However, I see the opposite happening.

Today, government has a monopoly on building codes. If their department puts their stamp of approval on a building, we assume it’s safe. But because it’s a government monopoly, it can’t go out of business. If they employ a building inspector that is incompetent, or lazy, or just going through motions and passing buildings that are unsafe, we’re stuck with it. Same goes for cases of bribery or favors to friends of those in power.

In a free market, building inspectors would face competition and would be judged on their track record. For example, if a building inspection company gave The Grenfell Tower a passing grade on fire safety, chances are they’d be out of business right now. Not only that, but since they are obviously incompetent and/or untrustworthy, all their former clients would have to get re-inspections immediately from a more reputable company in order to satisfy their customers. After all, if my building had a seal of approval from the same company that gave The Grenfell Tower a seal of approval, I’d be demanding a new inspection immediately or threatening to move out. Wouldn’t you? Today, we don’t have that luxury. Some government agency signed off on The Grenfell Tower at some point, and that same agency is out right now signing off on another building.

But if the government isn’t there to force buildings to be inspected, why would greedy owners pay money out of their own pocket to get them inspected, you ask?

First, we go back to insurance companies. In order to get the best possible premium, insurance companies could offer discounts based on how often buildings got inspected by trusted inspection companies. Plus, it’s safe to assume that insurance companies would have their own inspectors on staff doing their own due diligence. And if a building owner refused to get inspections, how many insurance companies do you think would insure them?  My guess in none, unless the owners are willing to pay outrageous premiums, which would defeat the entire purpose of cutting corners in order to save money.

Second, to attract customers. If you’re looking for an apartment and you find several that are similarly priced, but some have a very recent seal of approval from a reputable inspection company, and others have no seal of approval or approvals from ten years ago, which building would you want to live in? Or one may have a seal of approval from a reputable company, and another from a company that just got caught taking bribes and approving unsafe buildings. Again, which would you trust? Apartment buildings would compete with one another to prove how safe they are to you.

4. Personal Liability

For centuries, wealthy businessmen have been finding ways to use the coercive power of government to protect their assets and businesses.  Perhaps one of the most effective policies they’ve managed to put in place is the idea of limited liability.  This means that when someone goes into business as a corporation, they are now personally off the hook for any losses, debts, lawsuits, and any other possible negative consequences from the action of their business.

So if a wealthy person had owned The Grenfell Tower, the victims of his neglectful business practices couldn’t sue him personally.  They could only sue the actual corporation that owned the Tower.  And if the corporation’s assets were limited to the Tower and the land it sat on, the victims would be fighting over scraps while the owner’s other assets would be shielded from lawsuits. This lack of personal liability makes it easier for an already wealthy business owner to engage in potentially risky and negligent business practices.  Practices they would never imagine engaging in if they were personally on the hook for any harm that these practices caused to innocent people and property.

In a libertarian free market society, there is no government to shield business owners from liability.  If your negligence causes great harm to other persons and property, you are responsible.  It doesn’t matter if you do it as an individual or as a business owner.

Fear is a wonderful motivator.  If business owners were afraid that their actions as a business owner could possibly harm their personal assets, we can easily see that that business owners would take greater care in running their businesses.

But Couldn’t It Still Happen?

We can never say for sure that something wouldn’t happen under different circumstances.  All we can do is speculate on how people would act given different incentives.  We can clearly see that a free market would greatly disincentivize the type of negligence that was necessary for a Grenfell Tower type of tragedy to take place.  And if someone did happen to build such a building, they and everyone involved in building, insuring, and inspecting this building would be quickly put out of business and their personal fortunes would be subject to lawsuits from the victims of their negligence.  Nothing can bring someone back from the dead, but at least in a market based society there wouldn’t be a government to stop victims from seeking full restitution and there wouldn’t be government monopolies that prevent bad actors from going out of business.

Originally published on Mike’s website here.  Check out his blog levelheadedlibertarian.com for more!

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Please Hide This Post: How Mass Customization Drives Mass Casualty

What Happened This Morning?

Police have reported one suspect is in custody following a shooting this morning in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. The officers responded within three minutes and, upon arrival, fired multiple shots at the gunman. In addition to the Alexandria Police officers, Two Capitol Police officers who were assigned to the security detail GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

Sen. Rand Paul told MSNBC after the attack that the officers were the security detail for GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise, adding that his presence at the practice therefore most likely prevented the incident from becoming a massacre.

“Everybody would’ve died except for the fact that Capitol Hill police were there,” Paul said. “Had they not been there, it would have been a massacre.”

“When you have no way to defend yourself … the field was essentially a killing field,” Paul later told CNN.

The FBI and police officials said they would not yet share any information about the suspect’s motivation at a press conference. The FBI special agent in charge of the Washington field office said it was too early to rule out terrorism, or whether the gunman deliberately targeted Republican members of Congress.

Scalise’s office said in a statement that the congressman is in stable condition at MedStar Washington Hospital. He was shot in the hip and is undergoing surgery, the statement said.

Rep. Roger Williams, who was at the baseball practice, said a member of his staff was shot and is receiving medical attention. A female Capitol Police officer is also reportedly being treated at Washington’s MedStar hospital. George Washington University Hospital confirmed that it received two patients from the shooting, both in critical condition.


Who Was The Shooter?

Law-enforcement officials named 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, as the suspect in the congressional baseball practice shooting on Wednesday morning, multiple outlets reported.

Hodgkinson’s wife told ABC that he had been living in Alexandra for the past two months. A Facebook page linked to Hodgkinson lists him as the owner of JTH Inspections. A Yelp page for JTH Inspections has pictures of Hodgkinson and locates the company in Belleville, IL.

Hodgkinson posted content favorable to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on his page and signed a Change.org petition for the removal of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.,” Hodgkinson wrote in a March 22 post.

The former mayor of Alexandria, Virginia Bill Euille, said he had spoken with the suspected congressional baseball practice shooter almost every morning for more than a month, and had discovered the man was living out of his gym bag. The forer mayor lost his reelection bid last year, but told the Washington Post he first met Hodgkinson during their morning workouts at the local YMCA. Euille said he frequently saw Hodgkins in the lobby using his laptop.

Euille said Hodgkinson approached him after hearing people greeting Euille as “mayor.”

“After the first or second week, he asked about good places to eat … within walking distance,” Euille said. “He was a very friendly person.”

“But what I did notice about this gentleman is he’d open up his gym bag and in it, he had everything he owned. He was living out of his gym bag. That, and he sat in the Y’s lobby for hours and hours. Outside of myself, I don’t think he knew anyone else is in town.”

Mayor Euille said Hodgkinson had told him he was a home inspector and asked about available jobs, but said he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree.

Hodgkinson, whose social media accounts show him to be a fierce critic of President Donald Trump and a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, did not discuss politics directly, Euille said. But when people at the gym would openly criticize Trump, Hodgkinson “indicated he agreed with us.”

According to multiple outlets, after his suspected shoot out with law enforcement, Hodgkinson died of his injuries in hospital. In an interview with Hodgkinson’s wife, Suzanne, told ABC that he had taken a trip and had been living in Alexandria for the last two months. He is survived by his wife and brother Michael.


The Most Important Question:

What caused James Hodgkinson to believe a mass shooting of Republican Congressman, who were practicing for a charity baseball game against Congressional Democrats, was an act of justice when their “crime” was daring to hold political beliefs in opposition to his own?

 

With each passing day, the American experience grows more disturbing and less familiar.

Today’s shooting is an alarming reminder that the political climate we inhabit has long since passed a state of passionate engagement and descended into one of rabid obsession. In the midst of shock, it is important to identify the root cause of tragedy before the nightly news commentariat begin the exploitative framing of the discussion with hopes of electoral and fundraising gain. Admittedly, there is little that can be done to prevent the politicization of today’s shooting, but what we can do, is uncover the true culprit responsible for our toxic political environment.

So the question remains, what drove James Hodgkinson’s enthusiastic civic engagement to develop into an irrational bloodthirsty desire?

At what point did he stop pursuing the political process in lieu of an attempted mass murder against those who held political beliefs different than his own? What was the breaking point which caused his well-incubated political beliefs to birth a lethal act of vengeance?

Clearly, his acts were not those of a well adjusted individual with a sound grasp on reality. At some point, he tossed aside any sense of civic duty felt while volunteering for Senator Bernie Sander’s Presidential campaign. What is the yet to be identified leap he made from handing out flyers to shooting up the batting practice of democratically elected Republicans?

For the purpose of understanding the motivation behind Mr. Hodgkinson’s act, it is useful to call upon the words of poet C.J. Heck,

“We are all products of our environment; every person we meet, every new experience or adventure, every book we read, touches and changes us, making us the unique being we are.”

Mr. Hodgkinson, just like every individual reading this, was entirely a result of his environment. An environment, which upon further inquiry into his social media posts, will reveal a digital experience built on algorithms designed to curate the content he consumed to his exact tastes. It is hard to understate the effect algorithms built to learn a user’s tastes and preferences have had on society. The more consumers have grown expectant of mass customization in virtually every area of their lives, the more sheltered they become from tastes and preferences they do not like.

These algorithms are designed to prevent exposure. Their very purpose is to create a perfectly curtailed user experience cocoon protecting them from any information they have expressed dislike or disinterest in the past. As the algorithm learns more, the exposure to any source of information or product, other than ones which amplify the user’s confirmation bias in the form of user preference, is detrimental to the success of the algorithm.

The technological achievements in machine learning and artificial intelligence allowing our ability to customize, has also created a human experience wildly susceptible to confirmation bias. We are constantly bombarded with an endless number of highly customized sources of news and information. Theoretically, humans have never had a more hospitable environment for diversity of thought and exposure to alternative views, but our reality bears no resemblance to the theoretical realm.

The truth, each one of us has inadvertently built a personal information silo designed to filter out the plethora of information sources available so we can reaffirm our preferences and biases with each click. Is it any surprise our political climate has grown so polarized? During the Civil War, the majority of American polarization was over slavery and state sovereignty.

In the era of mass customization, polarization is not so easily categorized with clear lines of division. In this era, even outrage is customized. Imagine if President Lincoln had to make a customized Gettysburg Address to each individual he sought to convince? Such is the enormity of the problem…

What can be done to temper the rabid hostility and polarization of our political climate?

The solution to our problem has two parts. First, we have to acknowledge the severity of the problem and admit we each bear some responsibility for not making a proactive effort in exposing ourselves to opinions and beliefs we oppose.  One would hope all are willing after the tragedy of today.

Second, we have to accept the responsibility which accompanies life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right to self-governance is not enough. We must also practice self-care if we are to continue enjoying the fruits born from the tree of individual liberty. We cannot go on in harmony as a society if keep trying to force our idea of how best to live one’s life upon one another. Mr. Hodgkinson’s radicalized beliefs were a result of the self-imposed echo chamber he chose to inhabit. His acts, undoubtedly justified as appropriate because his worldview was the correct one for us all, a sentiment ironically shared by those he opposed most.

If America continues down the path of imposing the views of a simple majority upon an electoral minority, desperate attempts at mass casualty as witnessed today will increase. Such a future is far too bleak to accept. In order to prevent that fate each of us must practice self-care by exposing ourselves to, and accepting the existence of, opinions we abhor while working to reign in the absolute ability of government to impose those beliefs upon one another.

That is the lesson and the burden of today. If we are to avoid the bloodthirst Mr. Hodgkinson developed, we have to stop viewing those who have different beliefs as an abstraction and start working to understand them as individuals. While at the same time having the presence of mind to limit their ability to impose those views upon us, regardless of any vindictive urge to retaliate after electoral success.

The only question that remains, is will each one of us accept the burden to self-care in order to enjoy the freedoms of self-governance?

 

 

Marshall Fritz Library: The Ransberger Pivot – How to get hostile questioners to have an open mind

The Ransberger Pivot: How to get hostile questioners to have an open mind by Marshall Fritz. Recorded in 1988.

Copyright 1988, 1997, Advocates for Self-Government. Permission is granted to make gift copies of the work so long as this copyright message and attribution remain intact.