There is a huge contradiction in the witness' testimony!

False Dichotomies

ZeroHedge is an occasionally-reliable, often-interesting source for news from a vaguely libertarian perspective, in addition to financial news from a vaguely Austrian perspective and breathless reportage that, any day now, the stock market is going to go either down or up unless of course it stays the same, so you should probably buy futures contracts, gold, and bitcoin all at the same time.

Hey, things could be worse. They could start running openly communist claptrap about how capitalism has failed and needs to be replaced with something more "fair."


Peace From the Ground Up

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?


There Is No Right to Free Speech

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.


Second Helpings

I’m not letting go of this cake thing just yet. There’s much more to explore! First up, let’s take a look at the way economics is done. In economics, when we wish to elucidate a given concept, we often set up a simple thought experiment in which we hold all confounding factors constant, and just allow the one thing we’re interested in studying to vary. So to take a very simple example, we could propose the following:

Ron has a dollar in his pocket. He walks into a store that has twenty pieces of candy for sale. What is the highest price the store could charge that would allow Ron to buy all the candy?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this example in a vacuum. It does, however, make a ton of assumptions — that all the candy is interchangeable from both Ron’s and the store’s perspective, that Ron would be willing to spend all his money on candy, that Ron would want all twenty pieces of candy at any price, that no other potential customers are also attempting to buy the candy, and so forth — that, while totally sensible from the limited perspective of our experiment, make it completely inapplicable as, say, a basis for public policy. If anybody were to say the government ought to intervene and set a maximum price of five cents on all candy so Ron can always buy it all, and that this example "proves" it, I suspect that basically nobody would have trouble understanding why that makes no sense.


Sectarian Non-Violence

Robert Wenzel is highlighting an interesting Twitter exchange in which Justin Raimondo is taken to task by several other writers for his positive view of Donald Trump, and in particular his belief that Trump is better on war than the usual presidential candidate (it’s hard to imagine anybody being worse on war than Hillary Clinton, but that’s neither here nor there). Raimondo’s response is fairly typical: he accuses his interlocutors of exhibiting "sectarian blindness" and claims that it’s therefore useless to argue with them.

I’ll not be found second to anyone in my admiration for Justin Raimondo, but this all-too-common response of his is unhelpful at best. To begin our analysis, let’s define our terms; according to Merriam-Webster, "sectarian" means:

1: of, relating to, or characteristic of a sect or sectarian
2: limited in character or scope : parochial