Did I meet him? At the open house?
I don’t think I’ve ever been so jazzed to slap that foam finger on an image before.
No doubt you’re familiar with Easter. It’s the holiest day in the Christian liturgical year, celebrating, as it does, the resurrection of Christ — something of a momentous event. Indeed, the entire week leading up to Easter is quite significant — Holy Week, it’s called — and is one of the seasons in which Christian spirit is riding its highest; arguably only Christmas week is a more important, and more religious time for most Christians.
Which makes it all the funnier that the perpetually clueless Libertarian Party chose to celebrate Holy Week by running this great ad aligning itself with the Satanic Temple.
Peace is probably going to be a pretty major theme around here for the near future, what with the recently-begun war in Syria and the upcoming war in North Korea, soon to be followed by World War III and then the nuclear obliteration of everybody. Good thing I don’t live at the closest possible missile target to both Russia and China! Not to mention I don’t even have Don Rickles to take my mind off of it anymore.
Where was I? Oh, right: peace. It’s a bit awkward for me to claim that peace is such a big deal — which claim I do intend to make — without first providing a definition of what, exactly, it is. What does peace consist of? Where does it come from? How can it be maintained, and why does it matter?
As the maniacs in Washington continue to drive us toward a war with Iran, even while the "opposition" has somehow managed to find the hero of the New Red Scare in no less perverse a personage than George W. Bush himself, it is perhaps worthwhile to step back from the madness for a few moments and consider what an alternative to all of this mayhem might actually look like.
My friend Luke Tatum posted on Gab quite some time ago that "peace requires anarchy." I countered him a bit; peace, I said, is anarchy. I wasn’t just being flip or cute, either; no, I maintain that, in a non-trivial sense, peace and anarchy are one and the same. In the wake of weeks of "antifa" violence, this can be a bit tough to understand, so let’s dive into it a bit.
I’m not prepared to let go of this Richard Spencer thing just yet. Sorry, everybody who’s desperately sick of it, but it’s hip, topical stuff that exposes a quite frankly worrying trend in the liberty movement. Quick recap for the benefit of anybody who has wisely ignored my previous diatribes on the subject but who has foolishly chosen to read this one: The International Students For Liberty Conference was this past weekend, and a faction of students in the SFL calling themselves the "Hoppe Caucus" invited Richard Spencer to come get together with them at a bar near the conference to discuss his ideas. Mayhem then ensued, Jeffrey Tucker got involved, and then everybody got kicked out, which is a win for liberty because it made it harder for Richard Spencer to talk to people who wanted to talk to Richard Spencer, and I guess we’re supposed to think that’s absolute aces.
That’s not really what I came to talk about today. I came to talk about this one narrow little concept that I’ve seen echoed in a lot of libertarish responses to the Spencer fiasco. Because he’s handy, I’ll pick on Robby Soave again, but this is purely illustrative; Soave is nowhere near the only person saying things like this.
Years back, I was arguing philosophy with a friend of mine, and he asserted that the difference between us was that he would be willing to embrace socialism in a heartbeat if it could be shown that people would be better off under socialism, but that he didn’t believe I would. Uncharacteristic though it may be, I had no response to that; on the one hand, I surely don’t want to believe that I would gladly condemn the human race to immiseration before I would back down from my libertarian purism, but, on the other hand, I really cannot conceive of a reality in which I would endorse socialism.
This gave me quite a bit of trouble. As I’ve written before, if there’s a conflict between your ethical system and the survival of mankind, surely the former and not the latter is the problem. How was this to be reconciled with deontological libertarianism, though? Am I compelled to become a utilitarian?
Lately, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with goofballs like Peter Van Buren and Robby Soave — goofballs who have persuaded themselves that there exists a "right to free speech" that libertarians must defend. This has put them in the awkward position of supporting governmental expropriation of private property in the former case, and saying word miasma like "the university is failing to cultivate an environment of maximally free speech" in the latter. Both could have been avoided with a few moments’ reflection, since the abstract "right to free speech" is a nonexistent right that finds no support in libertarian theory.
This seems unusual to people, since we’ve all had it drilled into our heads since childhood that the right to speak freely is the cornerstone of democracy and apple pie and mom and so on. Now, there’s a sense in which this sort of free speech rah-rahing is correct; it is the case that the government should not be policing speech, and if what you mean by "the right to free speech" is simply that the government doesn’t lock you in a box for saying unapproved things, then, sure, libertarians will get behind that. Pretty much anything that involves fewer people locked in government boxes is a winner with us. That’s not the way libertarians use the term "rights," though; since we have this stubborn tendency to view the state as illegitimate, we tend not to view rights as reprieves granted to us through the forbearance of our overlords.
Ain’t no rest for the wicked
Bumbling Bees loves you. You know that. And Bumbling Bees is good to you. Other web sites are phoning it in this time of year — wasting your time with boring retrospectives and "Best of 2016" lists, as though said lists don’t begin and end with the utter annihilation of Hillary Clinton. Well, you’ll have none of that here. We’ll be soldiering boldly onward into 2017, because the weird don’t rest, so neither do we.
And neither does Slate, which has just published the absolute worst opinion piece of the year. I know what you’re thinking: mighty bold claim for January second. Still and all, I am confident this piece will survive 363 days of challenges. It’s a piece about a big problem with self-driving cars. Now, let’s play a little game. Take a minute or so and think about what this piece could possibly be saying. What could be this big problem with self-driving cars? What mind-bogglingly stupid thing do you suppose Slate has chosen to ring in the new year? Think of the dumbest thing you can possibly imagine, and then check and see how close you were.
Walter Block is at it again. I do understand that I’m running the risk of turning this site into a commentary volume on the collected works of Walter Block; I soldier on regardless, since Dr. Block is once again staking out a position that many libertarians find repellent, in this case the spanking of one’s children. Among many libertarians, spanking is held to be an obvious violation of the non-aggression principle, and it’s not hard to see why; the actual hitting of another human being does appear to be a fairly clear case of aggression. Here, however, Dr. Block makes the case that not only is spanking not necessarily a violation of the NAP, but that it would be defensible even if it were.
Children (and the mentally handicapped, the senile, etc.) are not yet (will never be, unless somehow cured) full rights bearing human beings. It is licit to use force, violence, whatever, "against" them, for their own good, of course. To not do so is to abnegate parental, guardianship obligations.
On the face of it, this seems rather stark and no small amount arbitrary. After all, the argument could well run, at what point do "children" become "not-children" and therefore acquire full rights? At what stage of mental handicap do rights begin to decay? Set aside the borderline cases for the moment, though, and consider the other extreme. To allow Dr. Block to explain:
In the early stages of her career, Agatha Christie was known for writing engaging whodunits full of lively characters and utterly madcap plot twists. As she matured as a writer, however, Dame Agatha became less interested in zany new ways to kill the dead bodies, and more interested in pursuing heady philosophical investigations about the nature of justice. Many of the stories from her middle period have barely any mystery to them at all; the cast is so small and the events so clear that the focus becomes less on trying to figure out who the killer is and more on investigating the killer’s motivation and that of the detective exposing the truth — as often as not that indefatigable Belgian, Hercule Poirot.
All of which brings us to Curtain. Written at the peak of Dame Agatha’s career (though not published until the end), Curtain opposes Poirot with a villain who is utterly and unapologetically evil, who commits heinous crimes for the sheer pleasure of it, who cannot be dissuaded, and whose crimes, by their very nature, are beyond the reach of the law. If you’ve never read Curtain, beware the rest of this post, as it will be filled with spoilers. If you have, however (or if you don’t care), read on as we explore what Dame Agatha had to teach us about the relationship of justice, the non-aggression principle, and morality.
One of the foundational questions libertarians need to have a response to is the ever-popular "who will build the roads?" The question has a sort of superficial plausibility to it; most of the roads we see in our daily lives, after all, were built by, and are allegedly maintained by, some government or other. There is, however, no substance to the idea; the best and most concise explanation of how absurd this question is was given by Tom Woods, who said:
"Who will build the roads?" is the question that belongs at the top of every libertarian drinking game. If we didn’t have forced labor, the argument runs, there would be no roads. There’d be a Sears store over there, and your house over here, and everyone involved would just be standing there scratching their heads.
Clearly roads are a socially desirable good, and, given that it’s rather a challenge for people to get to work or go shopping — which is to say: produce or consume — without them, there’s quite an obvious and powerful incentive to build them. It should go without saying that, even in the absence of coercion, roads would get built. As to the specific question of who would build them, here it’s important for libertarians to be cautious; there’s a natural tendency to push the argument too far and attempt to outline some scheme by which we imagine the roads could be built, but, in reality, the most a libertarian can say in response to "who would build the roads if not the government" is "somebody else."