Monthly Archives: July 2013

Another Reason Why Due Process Is Important

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ICEThe ACLU blog (somewhat) recently had a blog post called, “Yes, the U.S. Wrongfully Deports Its Own Citizens.” It tells a short story about an individual named Mark Lyttle, who was deported to Mexico because of his brown skin, despite the fact that he had no Mexican lineage, had never been to Mexico, and didn’t speak any Spanish. Even worse, he had cognitive disabilities and was left at the border on foot with only $3. After spending months wandering through central America, he finally talked to a US consular officer in Guatemala who was able to confirm his US citizenship.

Immigration court does not allow any appointed legal counsel. And while some would argue that such provided counsel would be an additional drain of taxpayer resources by immigrants, consider the fact that “In Lyttle’s case, the government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to detain him, prosecute his removal proceedings and litigate against his federal court case…and ultimately pay him monetary damages.”

After hearing about injustices like this, one might wonder why Lyttle would want to come back to this police-state-of-a-country at all. Are the only reasons family ties and that the competition isn’t much better?

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The Best Analysis of Edward Snowden and the Security State I’ve Read

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Photo of Ben O'Neill

Ben O’Neill

Ben O’Neill has published a series of articles on mises.org, seriously analyzing the ethics of the Edward Snowden revelations and NSA spying. What I really like about it is that, unlike what you’ll see in the mainstream media or even many liberty-oriented blogs, it seriously analyzes the issue: did Snowden have the ethical requirement to maintain confidentiality? O’Neill points out the fact that, by definition, whistle blowers have to break non-disclosure agreements that they’ve signed, and thereby break government laws. Thus, all whistle blowers are law breakers.

But in contract law, there are certain situations that make contracts invalid, such as when they are signed under duress. Another example is confidentiality agreements that require the signer to not disclose illegal activities. Clearly, the spying that the NSA has been involved in is not legal – it does not satisfy the requirements of the 4th Amendment. Therefore, any non-disclosure agreement Edward Snowden may have signed is invalid.

But most ordinary Americans who are against what Snowden did aren’t against him because of their desire to uphold the rule of law (except Aaron’s grandma). If they did, they ought to be much more concerned about the disregard for rule of law by the NSA. Rather, their main concern is the security state, and the idea that this spying is necessary to keep Americans safe. But O’Neill destroys this idea as well. NSA documents show that they use their surveillance apparatus for political ends. It certainly seems strange to fear rag-tag bands of terrorists from third world countries more than a multi-billion dollar secret agency that claims it can legitimately spy on your electronic communications without a warrant, and also possesses the ability to kidnap and assassinate people.

People often compare what’s happening in America to the environment in 1984. What I found most interesting about 1984 wasn’t the surveillance of the totalitarian state, so much as the concept of doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts at once. It seems that many Americans who consider themselves “patriots” will defend any government action in the name of “security,” even if it contradicts their supposed fidelity to American principles and the Constitution. A member of the Oath Keepers forwarded me this article, for goodness sake! What enables the security state, more than any data center, spying program, or weapon, is the consent of the majority of the governed. By freeing minds, more than by winning elections, we will free ourselves.

“JAG” and the Military-Industrial Complex

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JAG

Hey Colonel, is that uniform regulation?

I’m not sure where my fascination with JAG comes from. Maybe I just watch it because Colonel McKenzie was in it. Maybe I find the workings of the US Navy fascinating. Maybe I wanted to see how ridiculous the plots would get, just so they would have an excuse for Rabb to fly F-14s and be the hero, no matter how farfetched.

Maybe it was a combination of all these things.

But these days I look at the show with a different perspective.

http://www.free-tv-video-online.me/player/gorillavid.php?id=4us6qo9ngox7

The above link goes to an episode involving the malfunction and crash of a military plane. There is subsequent investigation and dispute to whether the error was caused by negligence of the flight maintenance officers or malfeasance by the military contracting company providing plane upgrades. I won’t spoil the results (at least not explicitly), but I can’t say that I can recall a single JAG episode that ever questioned the Navy as an institution. To be sure, it does make clear that there are less savory realities of it, particularly the often political nature of how the Uniform Code of Military Justice is applied. Interestingly, though, this is presented as something almost outside of the Navy itself: when political pressure comes to decide cases one way or the other, it comes from the civilian Secretary of the Navy. Those in uniform are typically beyond reproach. If there are any bad apples, they are isolated incidents reflecting only the character of those involved.

JAG does seem to try to delve into controversial issues, mostly those having to do with women in the military (though it did have an episode with a gay Navy SEAL who had another SEAL flack him in a firefight because he was diagnosed with AIDS and didn’t want to live with the shame of it). But I would really like JAG to wrestle some other institutional things about military life that have been around for so long that nobody questions them. More than one episode involves cases of desertion. But why is it “desertion” and not simply “resignation”? As Jeffrey Tucker brilliantly points out in “The Myth of the Voluntary Military,” one is not free to leave. In any private business contract, you may be subject to civil penalties for not fulfilling it but you cannot be forced to work. So should we think of what the military does as forced labor (that is, slavery) or as a necessary measure to protect the lives and property of Americans? (After reading this last sentence, I feel as though I have presented a false dichotomy, as the latter assumes that protection is the primary purpose of the military, rather than to carry out the orders of the politicians.)

Or, better yet, why doesn’t JAG question US involvement in Bosnia or other conflicts during the 1990s? Staying out of those kinds of issues was probably better for the show.

After mulling it over, I think that JAG is no apologist for the military-industrial complex, but it seems to underestimate the influence it has. Indeed, the episode in season six involving a mishap with the Osprey aircraft and the zealous Congresswoman Bobbie Latham demonstrates this. Whereas in TV world, a lone Congresswoman trying to make sure the military doesn’t waste money on equipment can be seen as a well-intentioned budget hawk, in reality, anybody in Congress seriously questioning military spending is usually painted as anti-military. That is why unpopular measures are connected to military spending bills – if someone votes against them they risk being accused of being “against the troops.”

In the end, though, JAG presents the Navy much like it does Cmdr. Rabb. If he has any faults whatsoever, it is that he is too tenacious and obsessed with accomplishing his goals. It’s an oversimplified view of the military, one I wish would be challenged.

A Libertarian Culture?

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Wilhelm Röpke and Social Order

I recently read a piece by Wilhelm Röpke called “Free Economy and Social Order.” It was part of “The 30 Day Reading List that will Lead You to Becoming a Knowledgeable Libertarian.” His basic point in it (at least from what I could gather) is that the market system cannot be something thought of independently from the people who participate in it; there is a certain kind of culture required. He states:

Libertarian Wilhelm Röpke

Wilhelm Röpke

It illustrates the fact that the market economy is a form of economic order that is correlated to a concept of life and a socio-moral pattern which, for want of an appropriate English or French term, we may call buergerliche in the wide sense of this German word, which is largely free of the disparaging associations of the adjective “bourgeois.”

This buergerliche foundation of the market economy must be frankly acknowledged. All the more so because a century of Marxist propaganda and intellectualist romanticism has been astonishingly and alarmingly successful in spreading a parody of this concept. In fact, the market economy can thrive only as part of and surrounded by a buergerliche social order.

Its place is in a society where certain elementary things are respected and are coloring the whole life of the community: individual responsibility; respect of certain indisputable norms; the individual’s honest and serious struggle to get ahead and develop his faculties; independence anchored in property; responsible planning of one’s own life and that of one’s family; thriftiness; enterprise; assuming well calculated risks; the sense of workmanship; the right relation to nature and the community; the sense of continuity and tradition; the courage to brave the uncertainties of life on one’s own account; the sense of the natural order of things.

Is that the case? I’ve been trying to answer the question of who and what ideological foundations can be appropriately put under the “libertarian” umbrella. I think one of the obvious tenets is acceptance of the free market system as legitimate (this would include all voluntary human interaction, including communes that are mutually agreed upon by their members). I would also say that full consistency would require the application of the non-aggression principle to all human relationships. Anything beyond that ceases to be solely libertarian. For example, one can consistently be ardently opposed to the use of narcotics for recreation yet also be opposed to the criminalization of such activity. Libertarians only need be “socially liberal” in the sense that they tolerate people doing things that aren’t aggressions against others’ person or property, not that they accept them as morally upright.

Thin and Thick Libertarianism

Libertarian Matt Zwolinski

Matt Zwolinski

This idea of only needing to accept the non-aggression principle is called “thin libertarianism” (please see Zwolinski’s argument for why he thinks libertarianism rests upon a “thicker” foundation). Zwolinski is critical of Rothbard’s foundational arguments for libertarianism, but I am sympathetic to the idea that libertarianism as such deals solely with when the use of force is justified. But I would like to comment on Zwolinski’s idea that libertarianism “rests on more foundational  beliefs about individualism, tolerance, skepticism about power, respect for spontaneous order, and  belief in the importance of property rights…” What I find interesting is that both libertarians of the left and right variety believe that certain cultural norms and attitudes are required for a free society to operate beyond only a respect for property rights (though this may be the most important).

A difficulty I have is finding out where left and right libertarians diverge in their beliefs. According to Gary Chartier, the “left” in left-libertarian is marked by an opposition to subordination, deprivation, and exclusion. Of course, these aren’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but it gives us a start. However, I don’t imagine libertarians who don’t consider themselves left-libertarians would disagree with these positions, but might give them a different importance in terms of priority or importance. Come to think of it, I don’t really notice many people self-identifying as “right-libertarian.” Just looking at the Wiki for it, it’s hard to come up with a definition of it at all. The first sentence says that right-libertarians are libertarians who believe in limited government, free markets, and self-ownership, yet left-libertarians also support free markets, self-ownership, and if they support the existence of government at all it is as a strictly limited entity. Strangely, if I didn’t know any better, I would say that the existence of left-libertarians leads us to naturally believe there must be such a thing as right-libertarians, not that there actually is such a thing that necessitates a delineation with left-libertarianism.

Thus, the way I think about libertarianism is this: I think that the “thin” idea of libertarianism is the proper one: that libertarianism is largely based in non-aggression. Anything beyond that, like having the social goals of, say, decreasing racial prejudice, is something beyond libertarianism. Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not an all-encompassing moral theory. Thus, though there are traits we would like all libertarians to have (such as being friendly to all races, treating women respectfully, and so forth) those are things beyond libertarianism. So, I regard the “thick” brand of libertarianism as being “libertarianism plus something else.”

Libertarian Cultural Values

As to whether libertarianism requires some types of cultural values, I would say it is undoubtedly so. As Röpke states above, I think personal responsibility, a certain amount of thriftiness and industriousness, as well as familial and community ties will help ensure the health of a libertarian society. Indeed, the fewer people who have any desire or need for the welfare state, the less likely it is to exist. As well, the greater tolerance and consideration we have for others, the less likely that conflicts will occur. So, while libertarianism gives us insight as to what proper legal rules are, there are certain moral behaviors that will help reinforce these rules.

My Radio Interview on “The Nomad Capitalist Report”

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Recently, I was invited by the Nomad Capitalist to be a guest on his radio show to talk about the government’s monopoly on money. You can listen to it here.

If you haven’t seen what NomadCapitalist.com has to offer, you are missing out. It is run by Andrew Henderson, who specializes in several aspects of international diversification, including offshore banking, obtaining a second passport, expatriation, and lifestyle design. He travels all over the world and provides interesting and actionable information about freedom and opportunities in other countries.

Please take a look at his website and tell him that Anarcho-Buddy! sent you.

How Rich Could We All Be?

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How Rich Could We All BeI recently wrote an essay called, How Rich Could We All Be? for a site I started with a friend I met at Mises University and I thought you might like to read it. It was inspired by an excerpt from “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature” published on mises.org.

For Murray Rothbard, the ultimate justification for libertarianism is natural rights: you own your self and you own your justly acquired property. To be certain, a libertarian society would also have many other benefits, not the least of which is the increased material prosperity due to the totally unhampered free market economy. But Rothbard says such a consideration is not only not good enough to be the basis of libertarianism, but it also would not be enough of a long-term motivation for people to support libertarianism. He seems to discount the degree to which a truly free market would increase human well-being. I take issue with this.

It is my contention that the masses would be overwhelmingly more wealthy in an unhampered free market economy. To show this, I invite the reader to engage in a though experiment that takes into account the costs of the leviathan US government and then asks, “What would happen if all the money spent on wars, useless projects, and redistribution to the wealthy, were instead spent on things that actually create wealth, like start-ups and capital goods?” It also takes account of the costs of extracting and spending the wealth of the American people, as well as the costs imposed by onerous regulation.

I’d love to know what you think. Do I overestimate how rich we could all be?