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."

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There is a huge contradiction in the witness' testimony!

With Friends Like These

Contra Reason’s Nick Gillespie, the best thing that happened for the liberty movement in 2016 — indeed, arguably the only good thing in what was otherwise a catastrophic year — was the sudden explosion in popularity of the wonderful libertarian mantra "taxation is theft." In addition to being absolutely true and correct, this is also a powerful slogan that portrays libertarianism at its best, as a philosophy that does not waver and does not compromise with evil for political expediency.

So, naturally, there are libertarishes who hate it.

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Glad I could help!

Last Week in Weird

Olha, que coisa mais linda, mais cheia de graça

Rio de Janeiro has a bit of an image problem lately. Tourists getting murdered on the beach will do that to you, to say nothing of this year’s Plague That Will Destroy Civilization, the dreaded zika virus. Still and all, Rio’s newly-elected mayor has a bold plan that will restore the city to its well-deserved place as the crown jewel of Latin tourism. No, he does. Listen:

"Rio de Janeiro cannot continue treating its tourists as if they were an afterthought," Mr. Crivella, 59, told the audience, emphasizing the need to "shatter" Rio’s "negative image."

"This is something we need to discuss," he said.

You’re on to me, aren’t you. You’ve already guessed that this is going to be something absurd. Still and all, your humble narrator is willing to bet you aren’t guessing anything quite as absurd as the mayor’s actual plan, which is to pay reparations to tourists who are mugged while in Rio. Now, understand this: I don’t mean to say the mayor is setting aside a block of money to pay people who’ve been mugged recently, along with maybe some plan to reduce the muggings going forward. No, the plan is evidently to tell everybody "come to Rio! Sure, you’ll get mugged, but we’ll pay you back!" which I’m not a hundred percent sure is a good sales pitch.

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The Tale of a Thief

(With apologies to Robert Nozick)

Let us begin at the beginning. We stipulate that you live in a house, and in your house is a television. You own this television free and clear. One day, you go away on vacation, and I (without your permission, of course) smash in your front window, take the television, and leave. I submit that this is a clear case of theft: I have stolen your television. Your television, which is unambiguously your property, has been ferreted away in the dark of night without your consent.

Now let’s mix things up a bit and see what shakes out.

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Adam Weishaupt illuminating a boat

Presidential Rankings #22: George Washington

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government

The Father of His Country, George Washington was, of course, the first president of the United States (under the Constitution, at least), and his words and deeds would have an outsized effect on American history, for good or for ill. As such, it is unfortunate that the general was so thoroughly under the sway of Alexander Hamilton, that tireless enemy of liberty and solvency. Many of the presidential traditions that have been passed down through the years originated with George Washington, from the annual "State of the Union" address to the two-term limit (violated only once, by the megalomaniacal Franklin Roosevelt) to, sadly, the use of military power to collect taxes. It is there that we begin our analysis.

At the dawn of 1791, at the suggestion of then-treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton, the Washington administration asked for (and received) the first excise tax in American history: a tax on domestically-produced spirits. Hamilton viewed this as a win-win proposition; it would bring in money for the federal government (which still owed tens of millions of dollars to creditors who helped finance the Revolutionary War), while, as a "sin tax," would discourage people from consuming spirits. In traditional Hamiltonian fashion, of course, the tax was designed such that it benefited large, entrenched interests at the expense of everybody else, since the tax was assessed by the gallon or as one large flat fee. The largest producers of spirits, obviously, would pay the flat fee, which pushed their per-gallon tax burden far below that borne by the smaller producers, thus artificially strengthening the large firms’ ability to compete on the market. Worse still, for many people living on the American frontier, whiskey wasn’t just a recreation; Spanish silver (the widely-accepted coin of the realm) didn’t often make its way out far from the urban northeast, and whiskey, due to its comparatively long life, ease of divisibility, and ubiquity became the de facto currency. A tax on whiskey, therefore, wasn’t just a "sin tax" that would discourage people from behaving in ways the eastern elite didn’t approve of; rather, it was a tax on every facet of daily life. Americans responded to this tax the same way they responded to the onerous excise taxes imposed by the British in the days leading up to the revolution: they ignored it.

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Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do

Last Week(s) in Weird

(We’ve been dark for a few weeks, so, to celebrate the return of Last Week in Weird, we bring you a collection of weird and wonderful tidbits from the last several weeks!)

Vaporizeware

A few months ago, I bought a USB floppy drive. I know what you’re thinking: what’s a floppy drive? See, back in the dark age of technology, data was stored on removable media that could hold up to — up to, mind you — 1.44 megabytes. I distinctly recall carrying all the data I owned in the world around in my breast pocket on three such diskettes. Nowadays this technology has fallen by the wayside, and only crusty old codgers like your humble narrator still remember it.

Crustier even than I is the United States Department of Defense, which recently revealed that the coordination of the nation’s entire nuclear arsenal — which amounts to more than five thousand warheads — is performed by software loaded on original 8-inch floppy disks running on a 1976 IBM Series/1 minicomputer.

Defense has plans to upgrade its nuclear-related technology system soon. Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, department spokeswoman, said: "This system remains in use because, in short, it still works. However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with Secure Digital devices by the end of 2017. Modernization across the entire Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) enterprise remains ongoing."

I’ll be honest with you: it’s fun to pick on the government, but the argument "this system remains in use because… it still works" carries a lot of weight with me, especially considering that you and I will be paying the tab for any upgrades. Honestly, I want these things (assuming they must exist at all, of course) upgraded as infrequently as possible. Since CNBC is shocked at the downright gaucheness of the government using "creaky" technology, I would like to suggest that CNBC foot the bill for upgrading it and leave the rest of us alone.

On second thought, I’d like to suggest that it not be upgraded at all; do we really want the Treasury Department’s ability to assess tax liability to be more efficient or (God forbid) user friendly? Do we really want the tax system or the nuclear launch codes to be an option when the next Guccifer decides to take the United States government for a ride?

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Jay Ward, creator of Rocky & Bullwinkle

Presidential Rankings #25: William Howard Taft

Enthusiasm for a cause sometimes warps judgment.

In the popular recollection, the Progressive Era is dominated by the madness of Theodore Roosevelt and the evil of Woodrow Wilson. Stuck in between them is the forgotten progressive, William Howard Taft — Roosevelt’s protégé, though later disowned. Taft is often regarded as a more conservative interlude in between two bastions of progressivism, but nothing could be farther from the truth; in reality, Taft was, in many ways, far more progressive than either of his better-known contemporaries; he was more aggressive about regulation and trust-busting, for example, and far more willing to meddle in the affairs of foreign countries to serve American interests. Taft was, however, not a warmonger — this may seem odd, considering that Taft was not only Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor but also his Secretary of War, but he alone among the progressives truly appeared to desire peace.

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