Friday, June 24, 2016

"Après Nous le Déluge"


Brexit has won.  A joyous occasion for fans of decentralization.

Now what?  Markets are certainly in turmoil – the Pound is falling historically; gold is rising; equity markets everywhere are falling; volatility is all the rage.

But this will all pass…perhaps until the next vote.  The Dutch are already pushing; so are the French.  More will come. 

As an aside, take it further: not every county and city in Britain voted to leave.  Why not let each locality decide if it chooses to stay or go?  After this, why not each household?  Why not?

And why stop at the EU?  There are many in Europe concerned about supporting NATO’s antagonism toward Russia; equally as many who wish to see sanctions against Russia lifted.

Trump – win or lose – offers a statement.  So do those in so-called right-wing movements throughout Europe – better and more honestly described as national movements.

Sooner or later force fails; sooner or later, economic law takes hold and demands obedience; sooner or later, people say enough is enough; sooner or later people choose to serve no more.

Will it be peaceful?  Not likely.  Very powerful people have much invested in centralizing the world – one world government, a disaster for individual freedom.  Many in power will work to ensure the dire consequences predicted if Brexit were to pass bear some fruit.

After Us the Flood 

These words were (supposedly) spoken during the reign of Louis XV.  Fifteen years after his death…the guillotine claimed many bloody prizes.

There will be a flood: the movement toward decentralization will gain further traction, thanks to today’s historic event.  There will be a flood of a different sort: forces supportive of centralization will ensure that negative consequences of this citizen uprising are felt.

As the people are more and more seeing through the manipulation under which they have been held, it is likely that they will also see that these consequences are nothing but cynical moves by their would-be oppressors.

And hopefully things pass in relative peace – more Gorbachev, less Bastille Day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Refuge and Exile


I will grant that what I will describe in this post is not Carolingian in origin, nor has the practice subsided.  It is this latter point that brought a chuckle out of me while reading Struggle for Empire: Kingship and Conflict Under Louis the German, 817 – 876, by Eric J. Goldberg.

Louis the German, grandson of Charlemagne, was in constant struggle with his brothers regarding his grandfather’s empire.  His father, Louis the Pious, tried to divide the kingdom amongst his sons while at the same time naming Lothar as emperor – superior over his brothers. 

This attempt at partition resulted in never-ending conflict – not only between the brothers and not only in their lifetime over 1000 years ago.  Lothar’s kingdom – in between that of Louis to the east and Charles to the west – included today’s Lorraine in France (German: Lothringen and named after Lothar); this region has changed hands repeatedly since then, the last time (for now, at least) with the fall of Germany in World War II.

In this partition, Louis was granted Bavaria and – depending on his standing with his father – other neighboring regions, to extend – on and off – west to the Rhine River.  As Louis held the easternmost portion of Charlemagne’s empire, he had to deal with the Slavs, Danes and other peoples that surrounded his holdings on three sides.  Of course, he was also in regular intrigue and battle with and against his brothers to his west; he also had to deal with the Stellinga uprisings.

Goldberg describes several diplomatic tactics that – along with the military – Louis utilized to secure and expand his kingdom.  One diplomatic tactic was to offer refuge to the political rivals of those rulers on Louis’s borders:

Louis gave refuge to rivals of Horik, thereby signaling that he would back them against the Danish king if he broke the peace treaty and rebelled.

I have often wondered why so many foreign political leaders found London to be the place to live during their exile (try a search for all three of these terms: +living +exile +London.  The number of pages of results is without end.).  This simple sentence from Goldberg’s book makes clear what should have been painfully obvious to me all along: a threat to political leaders in puppet or enemy governments that London will unleash the rival unless the leader of said government supports the objectives of the west.

There are other diplomatic tactics offered by Goldberg: the offering and subsequent taking of hostages to ensure good behavior by the subject people; grants made by Louis to various dukes in regions of risk to secure loyalty.  In varying forms, and perhaps hidden in subtle ways, continuing to this day.

But the tactic of refuge – one of those “duh” moments for me.

Mainstream Media and Stupidity


Is it theirs, or what they think of ours?  Example 85,273,569.

What's truly scary about the horrifying attacks that have recently taken place in Orlando, England and France isn't just the number of victims -- it's that the acts themselves are impossible to understand.

This being the summary, offered just below the subject post at Spiegel.  I suspect I don’t have to do much more writing for you to know where this post is headed.  But here goes....

It's been 10 years since the Football World Cup transformed Germany into a "summer fairytale," as it was referred to by Germans. During the weeks of that tournament, the world seemed like a more peaceful place.

Not for people living in Iraq or Afghanistan.  And since then, not for people pretty much anywhere in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.  Do you wonder why those who didn’t find the world so peaceful ten years ago (and with more added since) might be upset by those who hold such attitudes? 

During the third day of this year's European championship tournament, the worst "mass shooting" in US history took place in a gay club called Pulse in Orlando, where 49 people were killed and dozens were injured.

You know what’s impossible to understand?  Why is this event labeled as the worst mass shooting in US history?  I know, I know – mass shootings performed by men with badges or uniforms don’t really count.

But why is this act “impossible to understand”?  Assuming it wasn’t a false flag (and taking the mainstream narrative as given), why not just take the murderer’s word for it – stop bombing his country!

The author doesn’t begin with this example of violence in any case.  She starts here:

On Thursday, Jo Cox, a young British Labour MP, was shot and stabbed in a public street. A few hours later, she was dead.

Let’s see what Martin Armstrong thinks about this murder / assassination:

So is there a conspiracy? Perhaps. They would never investigate themselves, so all this is has been suspicion. What is clear, has been that the EU will collapse if BREXIT is allowed. There is far too much at stake to allow this vote. The burning question will be, just how they cover it up and at what cost?

I agree – after BREXIT comes the fall.  This would be troubling for many of the elite.  Armstrong’s thought – and he is by no means alone – is worth considering.  Have you seen the swing in the polls since this event?

The [European Championship] matches themselves were accompanied by rioting English, Russian and German hooligans.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Walter Block Errs on Fractional Reserve Banking


It is an error common to many in the Austrian school.

It has been some time since I have written on this topic (here are over 60 posts on this topic), but here Block has offered a simple example for examination:

In fractional reserve banking, A lends $100 to B, the bank. B gives A a demand deposit for that $100. B keeps a reserve of 10%. B lends out $90 to C. B gives C a demand deposit for that $90. Thus, both A and C are the “proper” owners of that $90. This is incompatible with libertarian law, since only one person may own one thing at a particular time.

There are two words in the above that, when properly examined and understood, demonstrate in very simple terms the flaw of the fractional-reserve-banking-is-fraud concept.  These are “lends” and “own.”  Person A “owns” something.  In Walter’s case, he owns $100.  He “lends” this $100 to bank B.  In this, the flaws of the FRB-as-fraud claims are fully exposed.

What happens when someone “lends” something he “owns” to another?  He gives up the use of the item during the time it is lent.  He still owns the item – that is, he has certain rights in property of the item – but he has also given up certain rights in the property.

A simple example is a home rental contract.  I understand the differences of this and FRB, and don’t intend to debate why the example isn’t perfect.  It is merely sufficient for my purpose.

Does the homeowner give up ownership of the home when he rents it to a tenant?  No, the home is still his.  However, the homeowner has given up the right to live in the home for the duration of the lease.  The homeowner still has rights in the property (the home) while giving up certain rights (occupancy).

Depositor A has given up $100 cash from his pocket.  He lends this to the bank; this term, lends, should not be overlooked – and unlike many critics of FRB, Block does not overlook it.  Depositor A has lent the bank $100 – he did not ask the bank to store $100 as a bailment; he lent the bank $100.

By doing so, he gave up certain aspects of the property – he no longer has the $100 in his pocket.  Instead, he has a document from the bank stating that the bank will return $100 on demand. 

(As an aside, this demand is conditional, as stated in the contract; I have written about this too many times to count, and so won’t get into it here.  Yes, yes, yes…if everyone with a demand deposit demanded their deposits at the same time, the bank would be unable to fulfill the requests.  Business failure isn’t always fraud – sometimes it is just poor entrepreneurship.  Suffice it to say, since the founding of the FDIC, banks have made good on this contract virtually 100% of the time – a level of performance unmatched by virtually every other industry.)

Back to Block’s example: Depositor A gave up certain uses of his property.  The bank has acquired these uses in exchange for something valued by A.  While A “owns” the $100, he lent it to the bank for the bank to use.  The bank uses the $100 to lend to a third party – borrower C.  Something like a sub-lease on the aforementioned home.

A and C do not own the same property at the same time – Walter is just plain wrong about this.  A owns the property but gave up certain rights to the use of his property when he lent it to the bank.  The bank gave those rights to C.  C does not “own” the $90 any more than a tenant “owns” the house he is renting.  The tenant merely has use of the house, as C merely has use of the $90.  Both the tenant and C are obliged to return the property under the conditions of the respective contracts.

A doesn’t have use of the $100 cash no longer in his pocket – he has a contract from the bank instead.  A gave up $100 cash in exchange for the terms in the contract with the bank.  One of these terms (but not the only one, else A would likely not enter into the agreement) is that the bank would return $100 to A on demand (with certain exceptions, again I won’t get into these here).  A still owns the property; C does not.

Conclusion

The control, use, and disposition of property is divisible – and can be separated from ownership via agreement of the owner.  As Walter states, property can be legally owned by only one individual (or an entity established for property ownership).  However, that individual can give up control and use of the property in exchange for something valued by the property owner – the ownership is now conditioned as is the use of the property.

I thank Walter for offering a simple example to demonstrate this point.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

More on Freedom of Speech


I have chosen to address several of the comments to my original post on this topic at one time, via this new post.  I thank each one of you as you have provided very good feedback and conversation on this topic.

While I began the original post on the trail of dealing with the lack of freedom of speech as an issue in this freedom award, I obviously wandered further – into self-censorship; it is in this “further” where much of the feedback to the original post was focused.

C. Stayton June 10, 2016 at 9:20 AM

…just as liberty affects the development of culture, so can culture affect the development (or preservation) of liberty.

This touches on a point discussed on and off between Unhappy Conservative and me.  He suggests (and I paraphrase) that a common culture (and of a certain type) is necessary before one can begin building a libertarian society.  I had not thought much about sequence before he raised this discussion.

Ever since this discussion began, I have been moving slowly toward his view.  I think the reasons are three-fold: first, UC is well thought-out on this matter he presents his reasoning in a logical and rational manner.  Second, I observe the world around me.  Finally, in all of my writing about culture and liberty, the responses from too many defenders of libertarianism have been – let’s just say, less reasoned and less rational.  In my words: they chant “NAP, NAP, NAP” and believe this is the answer to every problem in a world filled with humans.  In UC’s words, they are autistic.

In other words, the libertarian community – to the extent it has given considered thought to the issue of culture – has recognized its importance in the development and maintenance of a libertarian society (see Hoppe).  Unfortunately, there are many who have given the subject no thought and cannot believe it is worthy of any thought (the list is too long); for them, nothing more is required than chanting “NAP” and offering rote answers for every question.  In other words, they offer no reasonable arguments, objections or alternatives.

The question for me is, if liberty is negative in nature, then the goal of liberty cannot only be "more liberty." The goal must be a more moral society.

I have not thought about it this way – at least not in such direct terms.

How do libertarians, as libertarians, view this thing called “morality”?  Some libertarians see “morality” as nothing more than the removal of coercion in all relationships – state and otherwise (business and family relationships, for example); call this the libertine anarchist/communist (my label, not theirs).  It is impossible for me to consider this, as there is nothing in human history to suggest that human society can flourish – or even function – without hierarchy of some sort.

For other libertarians, it means removal of state initiated force.  In my thinking, this is all that the NAP offers – and it is enough to have earned a gold star in the thought of political philosophy.  But, is this enough of a foundation on which to build a functioning and flourishing libertarian society?  It is inconceivable to me.  The NAP does not pretend to offer an answer to every question – no matter what some libertarians want to believe.

So, what is left of the term “moral society”?  If it is not to be found in the libertine anarchist/communist, if it is not to be found solely in the absence of state-initiated force, then where is it to be found?  What is left is cultural and religious norms.  I find no definition that can integrate both the libertine view of morality and the views of any cultural / religious norms.

Libertarianism defines what isn’t – it does not define what is.  You cannot replace something with nothing.

In other words, we are not free simply to be free; rather, we are free to willingly (non-coercively) bear the burdens of our neighbor. That is, to be a decent person who genuinely cares about others. This is where I feel the anarchists fall short. They see the removal of the State as the ultimate goal, whereas I believe the true libertarian desires the removal of the State IN ORDER THAT we may have a more prosperous and virtuous society.

It is something to weigh: consider the libertine libertarian society on the one hand, and a society built on family and community relationships – generally free from state coercion (with a society committed to keep it this way), but not “pure” libertarian / anarchic – on the other.

In which would I rather live?  The answer is easy – not because I am afraid of freedom, but because I enjoy and appreciate life; because I want to live in a society that offers a future.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Fear


We've got nothing to fear...but fear itself?
Not pain, not failure, not fatal tragedy?
Not the faulty units in this mad machinery?
Not the broken contacts in emotional chemistry?

-          The Weapon, Neil Peart

Michael S. Rozeff has written a blog post at LRC, entitled Clinton’s and Trump’s Hatred.  There is one aspect I would like to address:

There is a certain number of libertarians who favor one candidate or another of the two major parties, especially Trump. This has sometimes been explicitly linked to a fear, the fear that Clinton will start another world war.

I fall into this camp; Walter Block is far more outspoken on this topic.

I do not have that fear. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister and a thoughtful diplomat, has made his non-belief in a world war explicit.

Sergey Lavrov is not everything – and as thoughtful as he is, are we so sure what he will do if taken to the extreme?  And is there not a war party in Russia?  Are there not people – powerful people as well as the masses – that will someday, and maybe soon, say enough is enough regarding western encroachment and either force Putin’s hand or force him out?  Can any rational western observer blame such Russians for taking such an action if they do so?

Rozeff believes acting on the basis of fear is nothing more than an instinct:

Fear, like hatred, is an instinct too. It’s at the root of hatred or closely linked to it and anger. It’s fear that grips people and leads directly into identifying enemies and then lashing out at them.  If libertarians really believe in peace, then they should not proceed in this election contest to pick a candidate on the basis of fear. That’s not progress.

I will gladly pick a candidate that advances freedom (not suggesting that anyone votes or not, but that I would write favorably toward this candidate).  Once you find one, let me know.  In this election and at this time – and concerning these two candidates (Clinton and Trump) – on what criteria do I find even the possibility of differentiation and distinction?  Only the most important topic for continuing life on earth.

Call that a lack of progress; if I have to choose between the possibility of life and progress, I guess I know what I would choose.  Call that fear if you like.

I really believe in peace.  So I don’t get it.  If one candidate offers zero chance of peace and the other offers at least one percent chance of peace – where the absence of peace can lead to nuclear war – what does Rozeff suggest?

Rational Fear

Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events. Fear in human beings may occur in response to a specific stimulus occurring in the present, or in anticipation or expectation of a future threat perceived as a risk to body or life.

Is it an irrational expectation to consider Clinton’s certain warmongering ways and conclude that – while he may not be better – Trump cannot be any worse?

In humans and animals, fear is modulated by the process of cognition and learning. Thus fear is judged as rational or appropriate and irrational or inappropriate. An irrational fear is called a phobia.

Fear can be a very rational emotion.  It is reasonable for one to act on the basis of fear, if that fear is based on reasonable considerations.

It isn’t the “fear” that should be questioned as rational or irrational, but the factors leading one to be fearful.  On this, I have not read anything from Rozeff.

We Have Something to Fear But Fear Itself

The faulty units in this mad machinery….

I am certain Clinton will press on with the neocon expansion of NATO and pressuring Russia.  I am certain Trump cannot be any worse than Clinton on this topic – he may not be better, but he cannot be any worse.  Even Patrick Smith at the left-leaning Salon understands this:

Trump may well be dangerous. But know what you're getting with Hillary: American hegemony that's hated worldwide.

Hillary Clinton has no new ideas on American foreign policy. That is not her product. Clinton sells continuity, more of the same only more of it because it is so good. In continuity we are supposed to find safety, certainty and security.

I do not find any such things in the idea that our foreign policy cliques under a Clinton administration will simply keep doing what they have been doing for many decades. The thought frightens me, and I do not say this for mere effect. In my estimation, and it is no more than that, the world is approaching maximum tolerance of America’s post–Cold War insistence on hegemony. As regular readers will know, this is why I stand among those who consider Clinton’s foreign policy thinking, borne out by the record, the most dangerous thing about her. And there are many of us, by the evidence.

While I am certain what Clinton will do, I am not completely sure what Russia as a nation will do: they might decide to be overtaken by the western hegemon; they might not.

Rozeff accepts FDR’s words – we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  It seems to me there are other things to fear as well – like Russia deciding not to be another outpost of the empire.

If Russia as a nation decides to fight this, who can blame them?

This is what I fear.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Freedom of Speech



NB: I understand well the NAP applied to this topic.  I also understand that just because something is allowable within the NAP doesn’t mean it is conducive toward a civil society, and therefore even conducive toward developing and maintaining a free society. 

Expanding freedom is possible in the long run only within a society that understands what is necessary to maintain freedom.  I keep in mind: the less civil and the less respectful the society – while such behavior is perhaps perfectly compatible with the NAP – the more demand for more government.

I know some libertarians don’t like to think about culture; I do not understand how it can be avoided when the subject is freedom.  There is a reason that western governments do all they can to destroy culture – the reason should be obvious to those who claim to want to be free of state violence.

-----------------------------------------------

Freedom of speech is the right to communicate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship.

This is a clear and simple definition of freedom of speech.  The “right” is an individual’s right against the government; there is no such “right” against other individuals.  Of course, as Rothbard has very well explained, the phrase “freedom of speech” only confuses the matter – the issue is one of property rights.

On his property, a property owner has the right to both speak his mind and limit the speech of others.  And while the “right” of freedom of speech is intended to keep one free from government retaliation and censorship, it is silent on the matter of retaliation and censorship by private individuals (outside of rights in property and therefore the NAP). 

Retaliation or censorship taken by a private individual for offensive speech might take a form that violates the speaker’s rights (like a punch in the nose).  A retaliatory (private) punch in the nose is not a freedom of speech issue; it is possibly an issue of violating the non-aggression principle.  But private retaliation has nothing to do with freedom of speech.

Advancing Human Freedom?

The Cato Institute announced today [May 11, 2016] that Flemming Rose, Danish journalist and author of The Tyranny of Silence, will receive the 2016 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, a $250,000 biennial award presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to advance human freedom.

In 2005, Rose, then an editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, sparked worldwide controversy when he commissioned and published 12 cartoons meant to depict the prophet Muhammad.

Flemming Rose criticized no government, nor was he persecuted or censored by his government for this action. 

The illustrations, intended to draw attention to the issue of self-censorship and the threat that intimidation poses to free speech, provoked deadly chaos in the Islamic world and put Rose in the center of a global debate about the limits to free speech in the 21st century.

I don’t see how Rose advanced human freedom in any meaningful or sustainable way.  I do see that he advanced “deadly chaos” – precisely that which governments thrive upon for sustenance. 

I find nothing to suggest that his action has anything to do with the concept of freedom of speech.  What did he say against the government?  Did the speech violate a government censor?  Was he persecuted by the government in some manner for his cartoons? 

Nothing.  No.  No.  Yet it is for advancing freedom of speech that he is receiving this award. 

What does Rose have to say about these cartoons?  He offers that there are two narratives, the first being about self-censorship – the narrative he holds:

Then, you have another narrative saying: This was not about free speech or self-censorship; it was about a powerful newspaper insulting a minority. This was a fair argument until the moment when the threats were issued.”

If it is a fair argument then it is a fair argument.  How do subsequent threats change this?  Do threats by a few eliminate the fair argument for the many?  Don’t believe me?  Take Rose’s word for it, in another interview:

"There are those who viewed the cartoons that I published as a form of incitement, but I don't think a statement should be measured by the response it yields, especially if the response is irrational and stupid."

The response does not change the fair argument.

Self-censorship is an important concept in the realm of speech among and between private individuals – it demonstrates both respect and humility.  To not self-censor is a sign of immaturity.