Wednesday, May 24, 2017

And the Dying Cheer



“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
-        Edward Grey, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, on the eve of the Great War

Prologue

Genesis 2: 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Genesis 3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

You know the story: they ate the fruit, their eyes were opened, God banished them from the Garden, and man has been cursed to toil and eternal damnation ever since.

Of course, I am not insisting that you believe the story. 

The Middle Ages


For us law needs only one attribute in order to give it validity; it must, directly or indirectly, be sanctioned by the State.  But in the Middle Ages, different attributes altogether were essential; mediaeval law must be “old” law and must be “good” law….If law were not old and good law, it was not law at all, even though it were formally enacted by the State.

Law was in fact custom.  Immemorial usage, testified to by the eldest and most credible people; the leges partum….

Where we moderns have erected three separate alters, to Law, to Politics, and to Conscience, and have sacrificed to each of them as sovereign godheads, for the mediaeval mind the goddess of Justice is enthroned, with only God and Faith above her, and no one beside her.

Another who has written of this time is Jacques Barzun, a phenomenal scholar of European history and culture.  His book, “From Dawn to Decadence,” is a must read for anyone interested in European history of the last 500 years.  Barzun offers, regarding the law of the Middle Ages and the Middle Ages generally:

The truth is that during the 1,000 years before 1500 a new civilization grew from beginnings that were uncommonly difficult….showing the world two renaissances before the one that has monopolized the name.

…the Germanic invaders brought a type of custom law that some later thinkers have credited with the idea of individual freedom.…no rule was held valid if not approved by those it affected.

Anglo-Saxon law…defined crime literally as breaking the peace.

Such was a nation of laws, not men; every noble vested with veto power; the king below the law, whose duty was limited to enforcing the law – not creating the law; law based on oath – sacred oath between the parties and including God.

All in a cultural milieu that fully incorporated the Church; kingly authority tempered by the competing governance structure that the Church offered. 

Returning to Kern:

For us, the actually valid or positive law is not immoral but amoral; its origin is not in conscience, God, nature, ideals, ideas, equity or the like, but simply in the will of the State, and its sanction is the coercive power of the State.  On the other hand, the State for us is something holier than for mediaeval people….

Such is our lot: legislation and regulation by men wiser than us and wiser than God.  I know many readers don’t like the “God” part of this; just stick to customary law as it was known in the Middle Ages: the old and good law, with crime defined as breaking the peace.  I can live with this if you can.

Law must come from somewhere.  Which of these two models is more predictable, less arbitrary, more libertarian?  To ask the question is to answer it; yet, many libertarians (and most everyone else) avoid (or even fight against the logical answer to) this question.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Enemies List



The only U.S. president to make Saudi Arabia his first foreign visit…

Trump signed a mega-deal with Saudi Arabia:

Running parallel to Trump's summit with Saudi King Salman on Saturday is a business forum that will include senior executives from about 45 U.S. companies. Defense contractors Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Raytheon (RTN) are due to attend. Also on the list: Boeing (BA), ExxonMobil (XOM), Dow Chemical (DOW), GE (GEK), Citigroup (C), Morgan Stanley (MS), oil services firms and investment groups.


Lockheed Martin President Marillyn Hewson praised the deal.  "At Lockheed Martin, we are proud to be part of this historic announcement that will strengthen the relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Hewson said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia's state oil giant Saudi Aramco signed $50 billion of deals with 11 U.S. oil companies, including Haliburton, Jacob's, Schlumberger, Emerson, Honeywell and McDermott International.

And to disabuse you of the notion that this is about jobs in the USA:

In the deal, Saudi Arabia agrees to buy military equipment from the United States and to hire American companies to build them in Saudi Arabia…

Enough of the enemies; let’s turn to the warmer side of the visit.  The family:

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner called the president of Lockheed Martin, a major supplier of U.S. military equipment, for a lower price for the radar system as part of the deal…

Spirits were high, with Kushner greeting national security adviser H.R. McMaster with a high-five…

And what is a presidential visit without a little humor thrown in?

On Sunday, Melania Trump will make some cultural visits, while Ivanka Trump plans to hold a roundtable session on “women’s economic empowerment.”

In Saudi Arabia!  Get the joke?

You are known by the company you keep:

During a ceremony, Salman placed the King Abdulaziz al Saud Collar -- Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honor -- around Trump's neck.  The gold medallion previously had been bestowed on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.

They say every president soon has you longing for the return of the last president:

What emerged as a veritable love fest between the two governments was a marked contrast to years of growing estrangement under President Barack Obama.

Obama, who sold about $115 billion in U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia during his eight years as president, had slowed military cooperation with the kingdom in large part because of what it considered Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Yemen.

Ahhhh.  The good old days.  “Growing estrangement” would be a good policy in this case.

Can we send a few hundred thousand snowflakes to the kingdom?

American country star Toby Keith performed at a men’s-only concert in Riyadh on Saturday night, coinciding with Trump’s visit.

And I bet they were all white men.  Well, very, very light brown.

And now we know what Trump meant by “drain the swamp”:

The minister went on to borrow one of Trump’s favorite campaign slogans, saying that a new relationship between the United States and the Arab world could “drain the swamps from which extremism and terrorism emanates.”

Does this mean Saudi Arabia and the CIA will be flushed down the toilet?  I doubt it.

Not when there are hundreds of billions of dollars of huuuuge deals at stake.  In this case, silence is golden…literally:

…there was public silence from the U.S. delegation on the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia…

Conclusion

Tillerson said the two nations have "like-minded" goals in the security and economic spheres.

“Like-minded”?  Yes; criminals, one and all.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Make America Hate Again



Despicable: deserving to be despised, or regarded with distaste, disgust, or disdain; contemptible

This is the word that comes to mind when I read the speech given by Trump while in Saudi Arabia, the land with one of the most heinous human rights records on the planet.  Forgive the length of the cites; I know you know this generally – take the time to read it specifically:

·        Through 2015 Saudi authorities continued arbitrary arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists continued to serve long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms.
·        In 2015, over a dozen prominent activists convicted on charges arising from their peaceful activities were serving prison sentences.
·        Saudi authorities publicly lashed prominent blogger Raif Badawi 50 times on January 9, 2015, as part of his 2014 sentence for setting up a liberal website and allegedly insulting religious authorities. On June 7, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court upheld Badawi’s sentence of 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.
·        Saudi Arabia does not tolerate public worship by adherents of religions other than Islam and systematically discriminates against Muslim religious minorities…
·        Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest. Judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.
·        Authorities do not always inform suspects of the crime with which they are charged, or allow them access to supporting evidence, sometimes even after trial sessions have begun.
·        Saudi Arabia dramatically increased the execution rate in 2015. According to Interior Ministry statements, Saudi Arabia executed 152 persons between January and November, mostly for murder and drug offenses. Sixty-two of those executed were convicted for non-violent drug crimes. Most executions are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public.
·        …ministerial policies and practices forbid women from obtaining a passport, marrying, travelling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son.
·        On March 26, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition of states began a campaign of airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen and instituted a naval and aerial blockade….Between March and July nearly 2,112 civilians were killed in Yemen as a result of the armed conflict, most from coalition airstrikes.
·        The coalition has used cluster munitions, banned by 117 states, in civilian-populated areas in Yemen, wounding and killing civilians.

And America’s response?

·        The United States largely did not criticize Saudi human rights violations beyond Congressionally-mandated annual reports…
·        The US provided logistics and intelligence support to Saudi-led coalition forces conducting airstrikes on Yemen…


I am honored to be received by such gracious hosts.

Gracious: pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous; indulgent or beneficent in a pleasantly condescending way, especially to inferiors; merciful or compassionate.

Remember the list.  Is there anything “gracious” about this host?  Well, yes; Trump’s meaning will be revealed in a few short sentences:

Now, there is even more blessed news I am pleased to share with you.

Blessed: consecrated; sacred; holy; sanctified; worthy of adoration, reverence, or worship; divinely or supremely favored.

Look at the list again – do the Trump-loving so-called Christians call anything on this list “blessed”?

Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

There it is – bombs for oil.  Gracious and blessed. 

This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.

Because 911, backing ISIS, destroying Yemen, and using Palestinians as a pawn are considered “security operations.”  One question: “security operations” for whom?

Later today, we will make history again with the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology – located right here, in this central part of the Islamic World.

This would be funny if it wasn’t.  Read something of Saudi Wahhabism; it is nothing if not “extremist.”  Extremely.

Young Muslim boys and girls should be able to grow up free from fear, safe from violence, and innocent of hatred.

Not in Saudi Arabia.

I am proud to announce that the nations here today will be signing an agreement to prevent the financing of terrorism, called the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center – co-chaired by the United States and Saudi Arabia…

The two biggest state sponsors of terrorism are putting themselves in charge of targeting the financiers of terrorism.  This would be funny if it wasn’t.

If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and YOUR SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED.

We can only pray.  Finally, some truth.  Look in the mirror; look to your hosts.

This is a battle between Good and Evil.

Trump makes clear which side he is on.

Conclusion

Grand strategy my ass.  Goldman bankers throughout the administration; nothing repealed, nothing implemented; raining bombs everywhere; forgiving Hillary; no China manipulation; no drain the swamp.

And now this.

Remember my 1%?  Down to 0.1%.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

They Call Us Civilized


Napalm showers
Showed the cowards
We weren't there to mess around

Through heat exhaustion
And mind distortion
A military victory mounted on innocent ground

Years and years of
Bloodshed and warfare
Our mission was only to get in and kill


Jeff Deist recently commented:

Re Jeff Bell's original point, it may make far more tactical sense to promote the spread of Christianity than liberty. One has existed for a few thousand years, and has a checkered but gainful history.

I agree, on one condition and on one basis:

The condition: it is Christianity that includes Christ (and I know Jeff means this).  It sounds silly, doesn’t it, that I would write such a thing.  Yet – as Laurence Vance has demonstrated exactly 538, 243 times – so-called Christian churches are the first to cheer on behaviors that bring a smile to the anti-Christ.

The basis: the “Christian” that includes Christ is completely consistent with the non-aggression principle, and the non-aggression principle offers the only political roadmap consistent with the Christianity that includes Christ.

The problem: Christians boo Ron Paul when he speaks in terms that Christ would understand.  The other problem: many libertarians don’t like to think in terms of morality – instead they think of efficacy and efficiency; yet morality is the only thing that differentiates the NAP from every other political system – after all, once the argument is efficacy and efficiency, well…you can have an argument.

Conclusion

I see priests, politicians
Heroes in black plastic body-bags under nations' flags
I see children pleading with outstretched hands
Drenched in napalm, this is no Vietnam

I can't take any more, should we say goodbye
How can we justify?
They call us civilized!

-          Blind Curve, Marillion

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The One Percent President


Yes, I know…they are all presidents for the one percent.  But that isn’t what I am getting at.

Donald Trump makes for an interesting president.  Whatever one hoped, feared, dreamt or desired out of his presidency, what can be said – without fear of being labeled a liar or some form of degenerate (deplorable?) – is that he makes for great theater.  Right off the bat, I would say this makes him a one percent president; most are so boring.

But even this isn’t what I am getting at. 

We have now seen enough of Trump in action to make the statement: either he is one of the biggest political flip-floppers of the last fifty years or he has a grand and effective strategy that no one on earth can understand. 

Do you have a third possibility?  Neither do I.

Now, if he has a strategy that no one on earth can understand, more power to him.  In the meantime, he is doing a great job of alienating his support one slice at a time; of course, if – in the end – he strikes the grandest national and international bargain ever seen in 6000 years of diplomacy and politics, we will all bow down to him: “The Donald, how could we ever have doubted?”

But…but…so much of what Trump claimed he wanted to get done flies in the face of the establishment.  Because of this, no matter what he does he will never receive support in congress for his actions – all of the democrats and at least half of the republicans are against him.  He will never receive support from the court system – so far, every ruling has been against him.

From where does his support come?  Well, that’s obvious…it comes from those who voted for him based on what he said he would do: drain the swamp, put Hillary in jail, repeal Obamacare, make nice with Russia.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  Trump could keep doing crazy (i.e. politically incorrect) stuff as long as he stayed focused on doing the politically incorrect stuff he said he would do during the campaign.  Because his base would support him.  And this would be enough to succeed.

Yet…one by one…he turns on those “promises.”  Little by little, he erodes his only basis for power.  And instead of his enemies seeing that Trump can be a “team player,” they only see a wounded beast, capable of nothing more than waiting for the death blow…by impeachment or losing the re-election.

Who will be left to support him when he reveals his grand plan, when all is made good?  And without any support, what chance does his “super-grand-bargain-on-every-issue-I-ever-raised-in-the-campaign” have of seeing the light of day?  I say none.

Yet herein lies the one percent.  Maybe Trump has a grand plan; maybe he is the master negotiator (I have talked to some real master negotiators – they don’t see it).

For this, I say there may be a one percent chance.  So we watch, we laugh, we grimace, we wince.  Mostly, we suggest the burden of proof is now on him: show me, don’t tell me.  Even for the most faithful of Trump supporters, this is the only reasonable standard.

And therefore, there is your one percent president.  There is a one percent chance that he is the smartest guy in every room and that he has, in a few short weeks, mastered politics to such a degree that he knows how to bring the recalcitrant lifetime crooks and swindlers (i.e. politicians and elites) to their knees while all-the-while slowly destroying the support he received from his base and in any case convincing everyone he has to deal with that he is crazy.

I leave this door open…well, one percent open.

So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance….

Conclusion

Then again, there is a ninety-nine percent chance that this isn’t the case.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Success!




I cannot claim victory, but I achieved my primary objective.  I refer to my dialogue with Walter Block regarding the intersection of homesteading and immigration.  If you have not read it, begin there.

Walter has now replied by email on the specific point: the NAP does not offer an objective answer to how much labor must be mixed with the land to determine “ownership.”  From these, I conclude: given that even the so-called vacant stretches of desert and the mountaintops have “some” labor mixed into them by government employees – whom I have paid for; therefore the government controlled land is owned by me – and every other individual who has been forced to pay for the associated government labor.

From Walter’s email:

This is brilliant on your part, brilliant. I never thought of that counter argument to my position, and I thank you for it. I never even realized there could be any counter argument to my position, so sure was I in its favor

Like I said, the earlier piece will give context to this one.

But, I don’t think it suffices.

But it does suffice for my purposes, certainly my primary purpose.

No, I of course cannot give you any exact criteria for successful homesteading, such as two months per acre, or anything like that. In Murray’s view, to which I fully subscribe, it all depends upon context, history, past practices.

This was my primary purpose.  The answer cannot be derived objectively from the NAP; therefore any answer – like the answer to every question regarding definitions of “aggression” and “property” – requires “context, history, past practices.”  In other words, custom.  One cannot speak of the non-aggression principle without also considering custom.

But, I think you let a good thing, for your side of this debate, get the better of you. You take a reasonable principle, and run too far with it.

So, my principle is sound….

Nice try, but I don’t think your position is correct.

…I just took it too far.

Just keep in mind: my first objective was to get Walter off of his mark.  Why is this important?  In the context of immigration, it is not as simple to say (as Walter has said) that immigrants are free to homestead government controlled land. 

Speaking of taking something too far:

Suppose there were no Indians when Columbus came along to the New World. He then plants a Spanish flag somewhere in what is now the US. He builds a few roads nearby. Etc. According to your argument, this would be legitimate homesteading over the entire country.

The US lands an astronaut on Mars or the Moon. He plants a US flag there. He builds a few roads, etc, claims the entire heavenly body as the private property of the US govt, and stands ready to protect this claim by force. According to your argument, he’d be in the right.

But I am making neither of those arguments.  I refer to Walter’s statement earlier:

In Murray’s view, to which I fully subscribe, it all depends upon context, history, past practices.

I am not speaking to the context of Columbus; I am not speaking regarding the man on the moon or Mars.  These can be debates for another day.  I am speaking of land-ownership within the context, history and past practices of the United States specifically.

So, it is possible that I took a sound principle and went too far with it…or not.  In theory, I could agree with Walter…or disagree.  My point is that I do so – either way – on principles other than the non-aggression principle.  And so does Walter.

Let’s Examine This Further

So what of the “context, history, past practices.”  Again, from Walter’s email:

The idea that because the govt builds a few roads 1000 miles away from an uninhabited part of Alaska, claims ownership over it, it willing to fight to protect it, seems to me so far away from legitimate homesteading as to be totally unrelated to it.

Let’s not speak of a thousand miles between roads; let’s look at something bite-sized – private landholdings, in some cases larger than some states.  Each of the following individuals own land larger than Rhode Island and in some cases larger than Delaware.  In total, the top 25 private owners of land hold over 19.5 million acres – more land than each of eleven states of the fifty, and more than the six smallest combined.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How Much Mixing of Labor with Land?


I recently had an email exchange with Walter Block; the conversation began on the topic of culture as raised in this essay of mine – with which Walter approved: “Another magnificent essay of yours….”

I have asked Walter’s permission to use our email exchange publicly, to which he agreed.

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I began by expressing some confusion regarding Walter’s positive comments to the referenced post:

I have been thinking about your initial email to me, at the beginning of this chain.  I must admit, I am confused - and I am sure this is on me and not on you. 

You are an advocate of open borders - or something resembling this.  Yet my post is not strictly about culture, as it also describes the risks to liberty associated with open borders.

What am I missing – at minimum, certainly misunderstanding?

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Walter responded with a clarification, breaking the issue into two component parts:

In my analysis, we can have our cake and eat it too. We can adhere, rigidly, to libertarian principle (open borders is the ONLY view compatible with libertiaranism, since the outsider who starts homesteading virgin land, or govt claimed land, violates no rights, and anyone who stops him is acting incompatibly with libertarianism), and, also, keep hordes of undesirables from our borders (by privatizing every single square inch of territory.) See below. Thus, you, Murray, Hans, most scholars associated with the MI are wrong. You, they are satisfied with the second of these desiderata, but give up on the first. I argue we’ve got to keep BOTH (I applauded your recent excellent defense of the second of these; but what about the first???)

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My reply:

As to government controlled land...I own it.  I know you disagree, and I suspect we will forever remain stuck with this chasm between us.

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Walter:

Ok, forget about government parks, streets, stuff like that. How about totally virgin land, never touched by humans, like in the middle of Wyoming, Alaska. This land is govt controlled, to be sure. But, according to Locke, Rothbard, Hoppe, on homesteading, no one owns it. How can you, or anyone else, own this land?

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And this entire preamble was for the benefit of background for my answer to Walter, focused on homesteading: 

Let’s expand the definition, from an expert; here, I found one:

Block: In the latter, correct homesteading view, you own only that which you mix your labor with.

So, I think I can safely say that homesteading is the mixing of labor with virgin land, land never before touched by human hands.  Is this a fair definition?