Recently a twitter user named “FreedomBookClub” began following me and asked me if I had read any books lately worth recommending. As simple as this question was, it really got my head spinning because all this time the blog has been up I should’ve had some kind of bibliography of recommended reads up.
I sure am glad that question came up, and so now begins the process of listing all the books I either have read or will read so I can perfect the content of the first draft for “State Exempt: Guide to a Voluntary Society.” This will be the first of a five-part series listing books that I think are relevant to the subject matter of the book. So here is the first list of books off the top of my head:
1. The Machinery of Freedom - David D. Friedman
2. Enterprise of Law - Bruce L. Benson
3. To Protect and Serve - Bruce L. Benson
4. Chaos Theory - Robert P. Murphy
5. The Market for Liberty - The Tannahills
6. For a New Liberty – Murray N. Rothbard
7. Anarchy & the Law - Edward P. Stringham (editor)
8. Law’s Order - David D. Friedman
9. The Law - Frédéric Bastiat
10. More Guns, Less Crime (3rd edition) – John R. Lott
11. The Bias Against Guns - John R. Lott
12. Shooting Blanks - Gottlieb & Workman
13. Wired for War - P.W. Singer
14. Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do - Peter McWilliams
15. The Myth of National Defense - Hans-Hermann Hoppe
16. Pursuit of Justice - Edward J. Lopez
17. License to Kill - Robert Pelton
18. Master of War - Suzanne Simons
So that just about does it for now. I likely will be linking to places where these can be purchased and/or downloaded but for now readers will have to Google these or judge them by their titles alone.
Of all the various talking points espoused by anyone critical of private protection services in place of government police, none are nearly as ubiquitous as the idea that the “private” defense company Blackwater (later “Xe” and now “Academi”) is somehow an example of how the market would handle protection in practice. But any question about whether it is the private or public sector’s fault that the firm even exists can be answered synonymously with the following question: Who is their biggest customer?
In case you have been isolated from current events over the past several years, Blackwater gained infamy through several incidents that involved the death of employees, or Iraqi citizens. The Former CEO (Erik Prince) had tried to downplay much of this by noting that these are just a few missions out of 16,500 or so that they took part in.
Whether or not this is actually the case is does not change the fact that this company still fought a government’s war of aggression that had no real justification to begin with. Also given the fact that the task Blackwater was given was to escort persons or equipment rather than directly pursue enemy combatants (which is what the military as a whole does), this incident rate could have been much higher if the company was tasked with the same kind of missions that the army or marines carried out. As a whole, it is nearly impossible to tell what the actual casualty rate was. But there are other criticisms I would have against the firm that go beyond the question of whether or not they were as reckless as our ordinary military (as if there actually was a clear distinction).
Which brings me back to the objection that they are a good example of the free market in action. Naomi Klein and other progressive critics tout Blackwater as exhibit “A” in their war against free markets. There is just one problem with this appeal: Blackwater as we know it would not have existed in the absence of government influence and support.
Let us look at the reasons Blackwater is the cause of the State and not the market:
1. The family fortune Erik Prince relied on to buy the land that later became Blackwater Headquarters was the result of a government-issued patent on lit sun visors. Without this government-granted monopoly, Prince would have lacked the resources to even start Blackwater in the first place. (1)
2. Erik Prince began his interest in military affairs by becoming a Navy SEAL. With this job title gone, as well as the pro-State nationalism that fuels it, it is highly unlikely Prince would have ever had an interest in starting what was essentially a target practice firm that evolved into a defense contractor. (2)
3. The original CIA contract to train the first batch of Blackwater employees was what first turned Prince’s training facility (which otherwise would have gone out of business) into the private military company it later became. This contract came about because an associate of Prince actually knew people in the CIA – an example of cronyism in action and not free market demand. (3)
4. Let us not forget the actual justification for this CIA contract: The war on terror had been launched, and the very event that helped spur that into action (the 9/11 WTC attacks) was the direct result of an interventionist foreign policy that did not make us safer. To get specific, consider why Osama Bin Laden was so upset in the first place:
5. The very conflict Blackwater gained the most notoriety for was a case of a government declaring war against another government. In the end, Blackwater/Xe/Academi exists because of actions by the government. Thus, anything Blackwater did wrong cannot be blamed on a capitalism because free market capitalism never created the firm. (4)
With all this in mind, I was particularly disgusted when Erik Prince claimed that he viewed Blackwater as the “FedEx” of the military. This analogy is wrong on so many levels; for one, FedEx actually acquires it’s wealth primarily by responding to consumer demand and not government mandates. Fedex actually generates value for paying customers by delivering goods – not by participating in the legalized widescale destruction of both resources and people.
If you are still convinced that Blackwater would still exist in the absence of all these government-granted privileges – namely providing the demand for such a firm – then you have placed yourself on some pretty shaky ground. Unlike the private protection services I and other Voluntaryists would advocate, Blackwater did not have to worry about not having a demand for it’s “services” let alone a limited budget.
Despite the government factors listed above that led to Blackwater even existing, the bigger hypocrisy in using Blackwater as an argument against free market protection services is that any atrocities they committed do not come close to that of the US military as a whole. If the abuses committed by Blackwater count against the private sector – which they do not for reasons highlighted above – then abuses committed by all branches of the military as well as the mismanagement of the Executive Branch of our government should be held to the same standard.
1. See page 10 of “Master of War: Blackwater USA’s Erik Prince and the Business of War” for details.
2. Master of War is also a great reference on this, see also pages 290-291 in “Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror”
3. See 36-41 of “Licensed to Kill”
4. This one is pretty self-explanatory – Blackwater’s primary roles have been in Iraq. They have also been in Afghanistan but the same logic applies: it was the government that hired them.
I have failed to keep up with this site as much as I intended to (what else is new). But then again, this delay happened during the holiday season so I cannot put the blame all on myself. This year I want to do something differently for once. Each week I will force myself to throw together a draft of a given section from the State Exempt book notes and let people give input. Nothing radical or unusual, except for the fact that it would actually gear this site towards what I started it around in the first place. Aside from this blog, I have also started using Twitter.
In the meantime I hope anyone familiar with recent calls to renew the “assault” weapons ban in new form has taken a look at what a group calling itself “Defense Distributed” has managed to accomplish in recent times:
I call this a ray of hope because this looks like an excellent way to render heavy firearms prohibitions meaningless. While I cannot cover in a single post why I think this is a good thing, I will say that this seems to be a key example of how not everything is going to hell in a handbasket these days. Yes, I know that claim needs a fair share of defending too. If anything, check out my previous posts on both “assault” weapons and my next post which makes the case for eliminating nearly all gun regulations in general.
In my last post I covered various political labels that have been used to describe the means of association that I advocate – all of which I rejected for reasons covered there. Now I want to cover terms that I do have some sympathy with and explain my preference for them.
“Polycentric Law” seems to be a term used by those who admit that voluntary market associations lead to better legal structures, but are worried about alienating anyone with any reference to “anarchy.” To be honest, I think the term is too unfamiliar to the general public, but then again most who cannot grasp what this term means would likely have trouble grasping how the system it refers to would operate in practice anyway. I actually like this label enough to possibly use it to describe what I advocate. The reason being is that explaining what the term means leads to giving a straight-forward explanation of how my preferred system works: You would not be stuck with a single provider of dispute resolution or protection based on your place of residency – simple enough.
A much less common phrase that has popped up from time to time is “Panarchism.” At face value, this term seems extremely similar to “anarchism” but there is a critical distinction: Panarchism is actually a form of government that allows you to opt ought in favor of competing states or no government at all – without having to relocate.
Now comes the two terms I personally identify with most: “Voluntaryism” and “Market Anarchy.” While they both communicate more or less the same general means of association, they place greater emphasis on different elements in the process. Market Anarchy simply means an absence of government with free market interactions providing law and other goods/services. Voluntaryism expresses support for any system that allows people to associate in whatever means possible that does not involve coercion.
At face value, there seems to be very little difference between any of these, but the subtle message that each of these terms communicate does differ slightly. Sure this is all semantics, but with such a plethora of terms that essentially mean the same thing, I figured it would make sense to clarify why I prefer two labels in particular.
Things have been pretty busy lately for the past few weeks. In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, many have reacted hastily to suggest that a more strict renewal of the “assault” weapons ban should be put in place with no chance of expiration. But what exactly does this cover and what would it accomplish? This video illustrates why the term “assault weapon” is misleading:
The clip of the officer that was edited in was made shortly after the Stockton shooting in California. After all these years the media and the public at large is still confused about basic terminology. So far as I know, the term “assault weapon” first entered the language of the debate in the 1990′s when the Brady Campaign decided it would be a useful way to confuse the public at large. The label conjures up an image of a fully-automatic weapon that continues to fire rounds as long as the trigger remains depressed. This is not what the previous or prospective ban covers at all; those sorts of weapons have been illegal since the mid-30′s.
“Assault” looks like it will continue to be an adjective placed on whatever politicians at large feel like banning at any given time. Perhaps we will see a call for bans on “assault pistols” in the next decade or two? Now more food for thought:
In particular I think the fact highlighted at 1:45 in the video is pretty telling when it comes to calls for bans on magazines holding more than ten rounds. What is that supposed to accomplish given that a two-second delay is meaningless for someone who need not worry about other people shooting back?
And last but not least, we have the issue of just how lethal these “assault” weapons (whatever that means at this point) actually are. This next video is dated but still makes an important point…
…that important point is the fact that the cartridge used by the firearm in question is more relevant to it’s firepower than the actual gun itself. In any shooting that involves victims within a confined room it makes little difference if an AR-style firearm is used or a Glock 19. Shooters can easily hit vital organs at that such short distances if they are psychopathic enough to do so.
The common talking point that comes up from everyone in support of gun prohibition is that no one “needs” whatever these “assault” weapons are supposed to be. In that case, who defines need? Are we supposed to ban the ownership of everything but food and water or is this vague standard supposed to be used more arbitrarily?
Needless to say, these types of weapons are not the choice of criminals at large. As highlighted in one of the videos above, less than 2% of all crimes are committed with them. If anything this administration is simply trying to put another useless law on the books that affects millions of legitimate gun owners who are a risk to no one while doing nothing to save lives. Perhaps we should focus on drone control instead?
This looks like an excellent overview of why the war on drugs has largely been a failure. If anything, this should be mandatory viewing for conservatives who would vow to vote down any candidate that supports drug legalization. This is one policy area the modern right could use some improvement on:
Very nicely done in my opinion, and I am sure the late “conservative” hero William F. Buckley would approve.
In my last posts critiquing “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” I pointed out the problem of finding an accurate label for any given political ideology. This especially seems to be a problem for any anarchist views given that there are so many variants that can vastly differ from each other in terms of what each is supposed to implement. The views I happen to hold are no exception to this rule whatsoever.
Anarcho-Capitalist. Market Anarchist. Libertarian Anarchist. Stateless Libertarianism. Free Market Anarchism. Private Property Anarchism. Polycentric Law. Hell, allow us to throw in Agorist while we are at it.
There are so many words that can communicate things that are so similar that it makes me dislike the concept of labels altogether. All of this was so much simpler when I first decided that there was a better option beyond the typical Liberal/Conservative divide. Deciding that maximum freedom in both economic and social issues was something worth pursuing, the term “Libertarian” was an easy label to adopt when I did so in the summer of 2008. Things became much more complicated in mid-fall of that same year.
Boy was that a complicated time in my life. I have no plans to go into great detail here about why, but I will say that coming to the conclusion that government was unnecessary for everyone to live the best lives possible did not make things any simpler. The first term that came to my attention for such a viewpoint was “Anarcho-Capitalism.” Simple enough from what I could tell. “Anarcho” referred to no government and “Capitalism” referred to allowing for private ownership and exchange. Good enough for me I thought.
Shortly after that the term “Market Anarchist” started appearing in some of the material I would read online. Fine, I can deal with synonyms even if they might be confusing to newcomers. While I have read before that Market Anarchist tends to be more opposed to economic hierarchies (CEOs and the like), this label seems to be perfectly interchangeable with Anarcho-Capitalist. If there is a distinction between the two, it appears to be too trivial for most people in the radical Libertarian camp to even care. In my next post I will explain why I favor this term over many others. For now I want to cover terms I do not use.
Libertarian Anarchy is another term that seems to simply be another way of restating what the first two labels I just covered. The only crucial difference lies in what laws would actually be in place. David D. Friedman noted in chapter 31 of his classic book, “The Machinery of Freedom” that Anarcho-Capitalism is not necessarily the same thing as Libertarian Anarchy. In this chapter he notes that private legal systems could lead to laws that are not necessarily Libertarian. Drug prohibition might still exist for example, but those who want such laws in place would have to pay arbitrators and protection services to actually enforce such laws – meaning that any non-Libertarian law would come at a cost to those who promote such laws. This means that an economic incentive would exist for Libertarian law to be the default view – but such law may not be the norm in all cases.
You could say this was the epicenter of the whole “Rothbard vs. Friedman” interpretation of what laws would be in place in the absence of government. The former says we must all agree to Libertarian law and not prohibit victimless crimes in any circumstances while the latter says that whatever laws people are willing to pay for should prevail. I cannot go into detail here about which camp I find myself in, but I will say that in practical terms the resulting differences between the two are probably more trivial than most people would realize.
Needless to say, “Libertarian Anarchy” is not a term I favor in part because “Anarchy” is a term people use to refer to chaos. It almost sounds like a pejorative term if you ask me. “Stateless Libertarianism” also seems a little undesirable as a term due to the fact that the average person may have no idea what the term “Stateless” even refers to. Does this mean no “status” or no government?
All of the terms I have covered in this post are labels I would never see myself using to describe my views. In my next post I want to cover some terms that I do find to be much more favorable and explain why.
A few weeks ago I made a post that gave a formal overview of the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against.” The main highlight of that post was describing the five tenets that the book defended which were characteristic of Collectivist Anarchism.**
Out of the five tenets, the one which I concluded was the least solid was perhaps the most critical of them all – at least when it comes to establishing collectivist anarchy as superior to anything that supports private ownership. The tenet is as follows: “As Slavery is Murder, so Property is Theft.” To really grasp why this is a logical impossibility, one must define the terms used in this statement.
Theft is the taking of property without the owner’s consent. For theft to even be a possible action in the first place, one must recognize that property is valid. Without property, there can be no theft in the first place. The self-refuting tenet of the book is the perfect example of what analytic philosophers call the fallacy of self exclusion. It involves making a statement that undermines one of the premises it relies upon.
Some additional examples of this could potentially include, “language is meaningless” (that statement undermines itself by using what it claims to be meaningless – namely language) or “art is the only means of communication” (so if that is the case, that sentence communicated nothing because it does not appear to be art). All of those statements contain a claim that undermines the sentence as a whole – making them self refuting in the process.
In short, if this is what distinguishes collectivist anarchism from various forms of anarchy that allow for private ownership of goods, then I think it can be safely said that the logical case for it is completely non-existent. Aside from this tenet in the book, there is another aspect of left-anarchy that undermines itself.
Anarchy is widely known to be the rejection of authoritarian rule. Demarcating when something no longer authoritarian would vary depending on the definition, but imposing a means of association upon those that do not wish to operate under it sure sounds authoritarian to me. Someone might argue that free markets “impose” values upon those who take part in it, but these are simply values that prohibit initiating force upon others. No theft, no assault, no murder, etc. If this is “authoritarian” then so is any other system one could possibly imagine that prohibits aggression.
To illustrate with a simple example why I hold that collectivist anarchists are far more authoritarian than Voluntaryists, consider the following questions: Would a left-anarchist allow people to associate via free market means? In other words, would they allow people to trade goods and labor when both parties desire to do so, or would they require that they change residency for this to happen?
I suspect the answer to the first is no, and the latter would be the case for the second question. Any system that says you must leave your residence in order to “opt out” presumes that whoever is promoting it has rightful authority over the populace in question. In that sense, I would argue that the anarchy defended in the book, “Anarchism: Arguments for and Against” promotes precisely what it claims to be against – namely authority over what other people may do.
**Fortunately for this post, I actually have a name for what the book advocated. That will definitely save a lot of trouble describing what I am referring to from this point on.
In the constant debate about the delivery of healthcare in America, one of the most common talking points espoused by those who want government to play a bigger role is to say that leaving it up to the market leads to increasing costs. But does that make sense in theory?
One key counterpoint is the fact that we really never had much of a free market healthcare system to begin with – primarily because the regulations on the healthcare industry as a whole have led to a system that relies almost entirely on third-party payment. This means that instead of patients paying for the cost of their treatments up front like any other good or service, either insurance companies or the government (through medicare & medicaid) pays the cost. As a result no one under such a system has any incentive to shop around for better prices, and healthcare providers have no incentive to cut costs.
I could go on about how a variety of regulations that were put in place over the last several decades led to less quality care and higher prices. On top of that, I could even go on about how many of the statistics used to suggest that Canada or other countries with socialized medicine are at best misleading. But for now, take a look at what one center has done in Oklahoma City to use the free market price system to deliver better treatment at a lower cost:
The differences between what Keith Smith does and the rest of the healthcare industry are pretty straightforward. One stands out above them all: He actually lists the prices of various procedures so patients actually know what they are getting for what amount. Price transparency plays a necessary role in the allocation of goods as well as the lowering of costs. The latter occurs when healthcare providers compete to provide better service at a lower cost – something our current system (with or without the “Affordable” Care Act) does not allow.