Saturday, October 31, 2015

You Are a BIGger Man Than I, Tom Woods!

Tom Woods interviewed Matt Zwolinski on Matt’s Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) proposal, and Matt’s belief that it is a libertarian proposal.  It is worth listening to the discussion if you have an interest on this topic.  To make a long story short: if you think the idea is cuckoo, you will only think this all-the-more after listening to several of Matt’s responses.  If you think the idea is…libertarian, a critical listen should shake your belief.

I have written a few posts on Matt’s views: certainly regarding his BIG proposal; regarding his concerns about BIG as a libertarian proposal (don’t get your hopes up); also, he suggests libertarians reject the non-aggression principle (which, of course, is necessary if one wants to support BIG).

I have never been very kind or courteous in my writing on these topics; in the interview, Tom is much more a gentleman – a BIGger man than am I.  Tom asks many insightful questions, and leaves nothing unturned.

What is BIG?  Matt suggests that government cancel all existing welfare-type programs and replace these with a $10,000 annual stipend to every American adult.  He suggests that libertarians support this on two grounds:

First, practical: it is more efficient, less costly, and less intrusive than current programs.  When Tom points out that simple math suggests that Matt’s proposal is more than  twice as expensive as current welfare programs, Matt agrees and then suggests some form of means testing, etc. – which, of course, violates the “less intrusive” aspect of his proposal.

Second, on a moral basis: it is not appropriate to suggest – as some libertarians do – that it is assumed all current titles to property are legitimate unless direct evidence can be provided to the contrary: theft, documented expropriation on an individual level, etc.

Matt admits that figuring out precisely who owes what to who is difficult – if not impossible – practically speaking.  Therefore everybody should owe the $10,000 annually to everybody else (I know, I don’t get it either).  Matt also admits that his theory would require redistribution across the globe (as the poorest American is better off than the vast majority of the remaining world population) – requiring some kind of world body to establish and enforce (but he doesn’t want to call this global body a “government” – you know, because they will just ask nicely and everyone will voluntarily hand over the $10,000).

I suggest the following with 100% certainty: every single person on the planet has both gained from and been a victim of some form of property injustice somewhere in his past.  To attempt to resolve this in any method other than individual property claims based on individual circumstance is the ultimate war of all against all.

There is much more to the interview; but here you have it in a nutshell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dog of War

Dogs of war and men of hate
With no cause, we don't discriminate
Discovery is to be disowned
Our currency is flesh and bone
Hell opened up and put on sale
Gather 'round and haggle
For hard cash, we will lie and deceive
Even our masters don't know the web we weave

One dog has stuck his nose out from behind the curtain…barely.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he's sorry for "mistakes" made in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but he doesn't regret bringing down dictator Saddam Hussein.

What blabbering is this?  Without putting too fine a point on it, if you only wanted to take out Saddam, did you need to turn an entire region into hell?

"I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because, even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought," Blair said…

How much more passive can he be?  I apologize for the intelligence I received?  “I apologize that Tommy had the wrong answer when I copied his test.”

Blair told Zakaria that besides the flawed Iraq intelligence, he also apologizes "for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime."

Obviously no lessons were learned – as no one stopped removing (or trying to remove) regimes in Libya or Syria, for example.

But he stopped short of a full apology for the war.

"I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he's not there than that he is there," Blair said.

And with this statement, any possibility that Blair’s non-apologies were really meant to be apologies can be dismissed.  Regardless of the faulty intelligence, regardless of mistakes in planning or considering consequences, etc., he still would have supported invading Iraq and taking out Saddam.

Blair acknowledged to Zakaria that there are "elements of truth" in the view that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the principle cause of the rise of ISIS.

He tries to get you to believe that he is taking some blame – yet his “element” is microscopic; it goes about as far as there is an element of truth that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon results in higher gasoline prices in Cambodia.

"Of course, you can't say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015," he said. "But it's important also to realize, one, that the Arab Spring which began in 2011 would also have had its impact on Iraq today, and two, ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq."

So why didn’t you go after ISIS instead of going after Assad?  In any case, don’t ask about the West’s involvement behind the so-called Arab Spring.

More broadly, Blair said, the policy debate on Western intervention remains inconclusive.

After more than one hundred years of Anglo failure in the Middle East, is he about to call into question the entire program of Western intervention?  Don’t hold your breath:

"We have tried intervention and putting down troops in Iraq; we've tried intervention without putting in troops in Libya; and we've tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria," he said. "It's not clear to me that, even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better."

“Demanding regime change in Syria” – like they sent a diplomatic cable?  No intervention in Syria?  Really?

Asked by Zakaria how he feels about being branded a "war criminal" for his decision to go into Iraq, Blair said he did what he thought was right at the time.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Hitler did what he thought was right at the time; Stalin did what he thought was right at the time.  “Right” can be judged only via a specific value scale and ethical standard.

"Now, whether it's right or not, that's for -- everyone can have their judgment about that," he said.

Blair might consider standing trial in Fallujah to test this out.

Day of judgement, god is calling,
on their knees the war pigs crawling.
Begging mercy for their sins,
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings...Oh lord, yeah!

Day of judgement, oh Lord, yeah; from Ozzy’s lips to God’s ears (wow, think about that picture!).

Sunday, October 25, 2015


I have gone back and forth about writing this post.  The topic is presidential politics.  The topic is libertarian involvement in presidential politics.  The topic is libertarian endorsement of particular presidential candidates.  The topic inherently cannot avoid Rand Paul.

For all these reasons, I lean against writing the post.  But the topic is also war and foreign intervention.  This reason has carried the day, as there is not a single issue that offers a more egregious and all-encompassing violation of the NAP than this. 

Jaywalking, spying on my mobile phone, immigration, drug laws, etc.  None offer a principled libertarian as much fruit for complaint and protest as does the topic of war.

It is due to the topic of war and foreign intervention that Walter Block has endorsed and encouraged others to support Rand Paul.  I assume the same underlying reason for Justin Raimondo and his on again, off again (right now off, but am not sure) support for Rand – after all, Raimondo writes at a site call!

Despite Rand’s significant failing when it comes to taking a non-interventionist position – or even a position noticeably different than that of most of his competitors – I haven’t read anything from Block that suggests his advocacy for Rand has diminished.  At least Raimondo has backed off recently.

This post was prompted by a piece by Raimondo, Trump vs. Jeb: I know who I’m rooting for!  When I first saw the headline, it registered as “Trump vs. Rand.”  I even began reading the post that way.  I thought – finally, a libertarian writer was going to openly deal with this issue of Rand Paul’s failings regarding foreign interventionism (relative to other candidates) in this presidential primary season, and thereby perhaps change his support.  As Raimondo in the past supported Rand, he would now be obliged to change his support to Trump.

Well, that’s what I thought the post was about, until I read about a third of it, leading me to go back to the title…. Alas, no.

Raimondo offers several comments from Trump, highlighting his non-interventionist (not Ron Paulian, but noticeably more so than Rand) views.  Trump even questions a small portion of the orthodox 911 story, something I have not heard from any other “serious” contender.

I have not and will not suggest that anyone support any candidate for president.  I have not and will not suggest that anyone even care about who wins the nomination.  My interest on this topic is more as a view toward theater – but Lew Rockwell has already captured that angle.

But I do wonder: if Raimondo and Block felt it so important to suggest supporting Rand primarily for his antiwar views, why would they now not suggest supporting Trump?  Sure, Trump is a disaster on other issues, but this was not the criteria that Block spelled out; and Raimondo writes at

All the evils of a central state are to be found in war; there is no other state action that more completely violates the non-aggression principle.  If a libertarian felt it was important to endorse political action and there was a meaningful difference between two politicians on any issue such that one would receive an endorsement – that issue is war.

The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence ("aggress") against another man's person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another.

In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.

Is there anything more violent in a more widespread manner than modern war?  Is there anything more aggressive than aggression which results in death?  Does any other government intervention more completely violate the NAP on every measure?

All State wars, therefore, involve increased aggression against the State's own taxpayers, and almost all State wars (all, in modern warfare) involve the maximum aggression (murder) against the innocent civilians ruled by the enemy State.

No, no, and no.

The libertarian objective, then, should be, regardless of the specific causes of any conflict, to pressure States not to launch wars against other States and, should a war break out, to pressure them to sue for peace and negotiate a cease-fire and peace treaty as quickly as physically possible.

If there is any political objective toward which a libertarian spends his energy in the modern world, the objective is to reduce the likelihood of war.  For this reason, I was somewhat sympathetic to Block’s position – because even a difference of one degree between Rand and the others might mean a few thousand lives not lost.

Yet today we have Trump.  I won’t suggest that libertarians support him.  However, other libertarians – noticeably Block and Raimondo – have suggested supporting Rand when they believed Rand was better on war.

But Rand isn’t better on war; returning to Raimondo:

You may not like Donald Trump, for any one of a number of reasons, but anti-interventionists have to give him some credit for opening up the presidential debate to a critique of US foreign policy that hasn’t been seen or heard since the Ron Paul campaign.

For those libertarians who feel the need to advocate for a politician, it is time to change horses.  Unfortunately, Raimondo does not:

No, you don’t have to be a Trump supporter – and I am not – to see the benefits of his campaign for the noninterventionist cause.

What other more important cause is there for a libertarian to concern himself with?  Jaywalking?  Privatizing garbage collection?

I look forward to hearing from Walter.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Should School Test Standards be Changed?

Well, maybe yes, maybe no, maybe both.

It seems the Obama administration is deciding that maybe standardized testing in K – 12 education has gone too far:

Faced with mounting and bipartisan opposition to increased and often high-stakes testing in the nation’s public schools, the Obama administration declared Saturday that the push had gone too far, acknowledged its own role in the proliferation of tests, and urged schools to step back and make exams less onerous and more purposeful.

While a similar statement (followed by concrete action) on foreign military adventurism might offer an unequivocal cheer from lovers of less government intrusion everywhere, I cannot say that this is always and everywhere true for standardized testing.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

The so-called Common Core standards seem to have broken the camel’s back:

States, led by the National Governors Association and advised by local educators, created the so-called Common Core standards, which outlined the skills students should have upon graduation, and signed on to tests tied to those standards.

As a new generation of tests tied to the Common Core was rolled out last spring, several states abandoned plans to use the tests, while others renounced the Common Core…

What is motivating this change?

… “I can’t tell you how many conversations I’m in with educators who are understandably stressed and concerned about an overemphasis on testing in some places and how much time testing and test prep are taking from instruction.”

It is the educators.  So says Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

Teachers’ unions, which had led the opposition on the left to the amount of testing, declared the reversal of sorts a victory.

On the left, parents and unions objected to tying tests to teacher evaluations…

More precisely, it is the teachers’ unions.

Considered the lusciousness of this – the reason the federal government wants to reduce standardized testing has nothing to do with the students; it is because the teachers are failing the test.

Now, returning to the question that is the title of this post, and my answer to this question: Should school test standards be changed?  Well, maybe yes, maybe no, maybe both.

There is something close to 55 million K – 12 students in the United States.  55 million.  Let the number sink in.

Those of you who are parents consider – even in your small sample size of about two children per family: does one size fit both of your children when it comes to their interests, how they learn, how they study, how they progress, etc.?  To ask the question is to answer it.  Yet here we have a one-size-fits-all testing regimen for 55 million.

For some students, the regimen may be just fine; for most, I am certain that the regimen is wrong.

Just remember, they aren’t changing it because of the failure of 55 million students to conform to a one-size-fits-all curriculum, they are changing it because the test score are used to grade the teachers, and the teachers are failing.

You see, they aren’t giving up on one-size-fits-all 55 million – they just want to try on a different size:

“I still have no question that we need to check at least once a year to make sure our kids are on track or identify areas where they need support,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, who has announced that he will leave office in December.

How would he know – does he have a close relationship with each one of 55 million of them?

“What happens if somebody puts a cap on testing, and to meet the cap ends up eliminating tests that could actually be helpful, or leaves the redundancy in the test and gets rid of a test that teachers can use to inform their instruction?” asked Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization that represents about 70 large urban school districts.

Who can say what is “helpful” for each one of 55 million students? 

The administration said it would issue “clear guidance” on testing by January.

Apparently the federal government can say.

Rest assured, nothing in the new testing regimen will come close to examining the pillars of the religion that is the American state.