Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Vote Trump?

I wish Bionic Mosquito would do a post about the pragmatist vs. purist debate currently being waged among libertarians. "To vote Trump or not to vote," if you will.

Your wish is my command, but I suspect my response won’t be tremendously satisfying.

I'm a parent. I haven't got the luxury of principles.
-        Benjamin Martin

Principles or pragmatism?  A choice that libertarians face numerous times every single day in life.  I am certain that every libertarian chooses pragmatism – not every time they face a choice, but enough times to matter.  We each individually choose when and for what reason we are willing to compromise.  We each decide every day what lines we are willing to cross.

Those who consider themselves the most principled are never shy about abusing those whom they self-righteously judge to be less so – all the while ignoring the planks in their own eyes.


Define a violation of the non-aggression principle.  Murder and robbery are easy.  We disagree on many other issues – are they violations or not? 

Define self-defense.  Define aggression.  Define punishment.  All subjective terms.  (This is where that pesky thing known as “culture” comes in – a real difficult subject for some self-labeled purists to grasp).  Given this…what is principled?  One libertarian’s “principled” might be another libertarian’s “pragmatic,” and neither be “wrong.”

Is voting a violation of the NAP?  The voter has shot no one, robbed no one.  He has voted.  Yet, he votes for someone who will shoot someone and rob someone….  So I understand fully why a principled libertarian would not vote.  But this doesn’t automatically lead to the conclusion that voting is a violation of the NAP.

There are those who found no problem with supporting or even voting for Ron Paul four or eight (or twenty-six) years ago, but find trouble doing the same with Trump.  The difference between voting for Ron Paul and voting for Donald Trump is…what exactly?  The levels of violation of the NAP between these two once in office is one of degree, not type (as are the definitions of aggression, etc.); further, the power for any president to change much of anything is limited.  Keep these thoughts in mind when you reply to my query.

Because with these thoughts in mind, all you will be left with is…


There is pragmatism in the idea about not voting at all because one vote doesn’t matter.  There is pragmatism in the idea of sending a message – the fewer the votes, the less legitimate the government.  While I agree with these, I do not intend to cover these aspects.  I only cover the choice: Trump or Hillary or don’t vote at all?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Legal Tender

Nick Badalamenti August 19, 2016 at 10:22 AM

In all the discussions surrounding FRB and its evil, it always seems like what is ignored is the role that "legal tender" laws play in all of this.

Under a system in which people are able to choose what currency they can use without compulsion (tax), penalties, etc.

I believe your second sentence makes clear that it is more than legal tender laws that present an issue; further, I am not sure legal tender laws present all of the obstacles attributed to it regarding the issue of competitive currencies / etc.

Legal tender is currency that cannot legally be refused in payment of debt. The Coinage Act of 1965, specifically Section 31 U.S.C. 5103, defines legal tender as "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues."

To my understanding, legal tender must be accepted for the reasons (and only the reasons) listed: all debts (public and private), public charges, taxes, and dues.

This does not preclude agreements for payment in other forms, nor does it force a vendor to accept legal tender in all cases for goods and service (where there is not debt to discharge):

This statute means that all United States money as identified above are a valid and legal offer of payment for debts when tendered to a creditor. There is, however, no federal statute requiring a private business, a person or an organization to accept currency or coins as for payment for goods and/or services. Private businesses may adopt their own policies on whether or not to accept cash as long it doesn't violate state law. For example, a business may refuses to accept payment in pennies or large denomination bills as a matter of policy. (Emphasis added)

One can certainly accept gold or anything else as payment, I am quite certain.  Of course, this raises issues that you mention in the second sentence (taxable event).  But this is not a legal tender issue, it is a tax issue.

To have a reasonably effective possibility of a competitive currency / money / credit / banking system I believe requires the following:

·        The government must end all monopoly-sustaining practices: government mandated central banking (private cartels will arise and I find these acceptable as long as private means private), government deposit insurance schemes, government regulation, etc.
·        The government must accept tax payment in any form – certainly at minimum in the form the income was earned / recorded.
·        Currency transactions are not taxable events.
·        End legal tender – the tool to force acceptance in a form of payment for debt, taxes, etc.

I suspect I am missing one or two items.

I regularly point out the monopoly as the problem because I believe it is the most pernicious component.  Without the monopoly protection the emperor will be exposed as naked.

Friday, August 19, 2016

More on Fractional Reserve Banking…and More!

C. Jay Engel has written a very thorough post on the topic of fractional reserve banking, entitled “Against Fractional Reserve Banking and the Curious Case of the Aleatory Contract: Deconstructing Michael Rozeff.”

The post is very thorough and exhaustive.  I will be clear up front – I will not address it in the manner it deserves to fully be addressed; let me explain why:

So then, as you can see very clearly, Rozeff’s conception of fractional reserve banking is not fractional reserve banking as it was historically practiced and which Rothbard heavily criticized.

If the discussion is entirely about historic practices, Engel and I have no disagreement.  While I have not studied this in any detail, I have no reason to doubt the claim that goldsmiths – charged with storing gold against a receipt for the gold – learned that they could surreptitiously produce multiple receipts for the same gold.

Charging for storage of gold and not actually storing the gold is a contractual breach – if you like, you can call it fraudulent.  You can also call this fractional reserve banking; I am as equally against such a practice as the most ardent critic of FRB.

For this reason (and also that the bulk of the post is directed at Rozeff), I find little benefit in going line by line through the post – while I encourage all interested in the topic to read it.

At the back of my mind is the desire to bring the wonderful and praiseworthy Bionic Mosquito closer to my side of things…

Engel need not concern himself with bringing me to his side of things.  If he is writing specifically about an historic practice, I will not argue and have never argued regarding this.  If his point is that history is specifically what “Mises, Rothbard, Hoppe, Salerno, de Soto, Hulsmann, Block, Bagus, Howden” are arguing, we can all have a beer and part as friends.

Engel need not concern with bring me to his side because I have asked the question multiple times: are we debating today’s practice or historical practice?  I accept the difference.  Engel makes clear that he does as well.  Perhaps I should welcome Jay to my side of things!

Yet there are many who claim that today’s practice is fractional reserve banking and it is fraud.  It is to them that I write and to them that I offer criticism.  Many of these are associated with the Austrian school and many of these claim to be citing Rothbard.  To their claim of leaning on Rothbard I have often disagreed, albeit for reasons different than what Engel suggests.

Engel tells me the paper might get published in a proper Austrian journal, as it well deserves to be.  I might suggest that he beefs up the distinction of historical practice vs. todays practice.  I find this the critical distinction and clarification in the paper.

The rest I offer as points to ponder or other intellectual wanderings…. I hope Engel takes them in the spirit intended – items he might consider as he moves his paper toward publishing.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Prelude to the Great War: The United States and Mexico

“Never before has any political assembly heard so fine a sermon on what human beings might be capable of accomplishing if only they weren’t human…He leaps forward far beyond the limits of time and space…way above material things, whose inferiority resides in the mere fact of there existence.”
-        Georges Clemenceau, commenting on Woodrow Wilson’s January 22, 1917 speech, proposing “peace without victory.”

Sadly for humanity, we remain cursed with the results of numerous of Wilson’s utopian-laced dreams.

It has been reasonably argued that the Great War would likely have ended in something closer to “peace without victory” had the United States not entered.  The people of both sides had grown tired of the fighting.  The Russians were soon enough going to withdraw from the battlefield.  A true stalemate might have resulted in something closer to a treaty designed for peace. 

Instead, we continue to reap the harvest of 1919 Paris.

I understand the role the United States played in this story, but Mexico?  I was barely familiar with the ongoing war in Mexico – Pancho Villa, Huerta, etc. – as well as the US interventions, most notoriously, Veracruz.  But what did any of this have to do with the US entry into the Great War?

The Telegram

I will start at the end.  Venustiano Carranza, the “First Chief of the Constitutionalist Army in Charge of Executive Power,” threatened war if Wilson did not evacuate “our territory.”  In January, 1917, a telegram was intercepted – Zimmerman’s telegram – proposing that Mexico join with Germany against the United States.  In exchange and after a successful outcome, Mexico would recover Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Once made public, many in the United States were enraged by this treachery from Germany.

According to Ray Stannard Baker, the journalist Wilson chose to write his biography, “No single more devastating blow was delivered against Wilson’s resistance to entering the war.”

Why would Germany have reason to believe that Mexico would care to join the fight against the United States?  Now we move to the beginning of the story….


Revolution had been raging in Mexico since 1910 – an uprising of the landless peasants.  For European and American mining and oil companies, fortunes were at risk.  For Wilson, Mexico was a moral proving ground.  Falling in with the little guy, Wilson fell in with Pancho Villa, who cast himself in whatever graven image Wilson wanted to see.

In 1913, Huerta had claimed to Taft that he had restored the government.  Before negotiations toward recognition of this government could be completed, Taft was out of office and Wilson was in.  Wilson was not satisfied with the situation, for example insisting on an election in order to determine the proper government (an election to bring an end to an ongoing revolution?).  Wilson did not recognize the Huerta government.

In early 1914, Wilson lifted the arms embargo to Mexico, previously imposed by Taft:

No sooner had the president reassured a doubting senator that this step would not trigger a “bloodbath” than Pancho Villa bathed his name in blood.

It seems this idea of arming moderate terrorists did not begin with Hillary Clinton.

A Matter of Honor…or Imperialism?

A Mexican federal officer briefly detains American sailors.  The Mexican Commander of this federal officer sets the sailors free, jails the errant officer, and apologizes to the American Admiral.  This was not enough for the Admiral.  To make a long story short, Wilson exploited this incident as irreverence by Huerta and his “disregard for the dignity and rights of this Government.”

Hence, the US occupation of Veracruz.  In one stroke, Wilson turned a divided Mexico into one focused on the imperialism of the American government.  Of all of the leaders of all of the factions, only Pancho Villa praised this occupation of Veracruz by US Marines.

“Three years of fratricidal war was forgotten in a day,” the London Daily Telegraph reported from Mexico City…

Many of those with Villa and formerly against Huerta now sided with Huerta – factory workers, railroad workers, beggars; all united against the American imperialists (and seeing Villa as a tool of those same Americans).  Anti-American demonstrations were regularly on display.  In Europe, this action by Wilson was seen as nothing but economic imperialism:

“For the first time the veil is torn away from the pretense behind which the designs of American imperialism have been hiding,” the Paris Journal thundered.

There is an interesting backstory to this imperialism: in November, 1913, one William F. Buckley, Sr. wrote to Colonel Edward House regarding the damage inflicted by Mexican rebels on American oil companies.  Buckley demanded intervention.

Whether for honor or imperialism, Wilson set the stage for Mexico to look to a European power for salvation.


Next came the telegram.

And Pancho Villa, the loser as a result of Veracruz, named his mule Woodrow Wilson.

Beatty suggests the possibility that had Wilson not thrown in his lot with Villa and instead just stayed out of the Mexican war as Taft had done, there would have been no cause for the telegram and therefore no pressure on Wilson to enter the Great War.  I am not so sure, as Wilson’s idealism (and other political pressures) would likely have driven him to the same end one way or another.

But what an interesting story!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Something Hillary Would Never Say

But Donald Trump did (PDF):

Trump recently gave a speech on Radical Islam.  In it, I can identify dozens of things that make him no different than Hillary Clinton – in other words, a tough-talking war-monger.  However, there a few things he said which make him different.  I only care about one of these:

I also believe that we could find common ground with Russia in the fight against ISIS. They too have much at stake in the outcome in Syria, and have had their own battles with Islamic terrorism.

Any “common ground” to be found with Russia will be a good thing, a building block for more common ground.  The more “common ground” found with Russia, the less chance for glowing-in-the-dark ground for all of us.

Do I believe him?  I believe he is sincere.  I cannot say if he will be able to achieve anything like this in the face of a military-industrial complex that wants the opposite.

Do I wish he would say something else, something more?  Certainly.  But Ron Paul isn’t an option in this election.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Next Color Revolution?

What was once a relatively straightforward internal political matter may now be used to foment the next color revolution on the borders of Russia:

The 31 armed men who took over a police station in Armenia’s capital of Yerevan on July 17 made two demands that got widespread news coverage.

The two demands?  First, that the government releases Jirair Sefilian, held on charges of plotting a coup.  The second, that Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan resign.  The government gave in to neither demand, and after a couple of weeks of being deprived of food, water and internet, the occupiers gave up.

This, it seems, isn’t the end of the story.  Apparently, after giving up, the now-arrested men (or others speaking / writing in their name) claim that their true mission is to free Armenia from under the yoke of “Russian colonialism.”  Consistent with a planned coup and demanding the president’s resignation; yet whether or not this was the sentiment behind storming the police station in the first place, it is the message now being delivered.

It is claimed, at least in this Huffington Post piece, that many Armenians do not like the president’s turn away from the EU and toward Russia.  Ignoring the geographic, political, and linguistic reality (while Armenians have their own language, Russian continues to be taught and spoken) of Armenia (even more so than in Ukraine or Georgia), the EU and the west might be a good option for the country.  But that is ignoring a lot.

In any case, such sentiments have turned into massive bloodshed throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.

It might be Armenia’s turn soon.