Friday, December 2, 2016

He Has Learned Nothing and Forgotten Nothing*

This last election offered a great lesson – in both party primaries and certainly for the Libertarian Party.

What won?  Different.  What lost?  The same.

In the Republican primaries, there is no doubt that different won.  Out of seventeen (or however many initial) candidates, only one sounded different.  He won.

On the Democratic side, different made a big dent, and there is much to suggest that he might have won had not the entire democratic establishment and press conspired against him.

For the Libertarian Party, merging some of the best and worst of the Republicans and Democrats only offered…more of the same.

What is my point?

When he first came on the stage, many thought Rand Paul would be that different candidate.  By the time he was on the first presidential debate stage, it was clear to most but the most ardent Rand supporters that this was not the case.

What does this have to do with the great line that Telleyrand did not originate?

Today the US Senate voted 99-0 — unanimously — to continue the idiotic, counterproductive, economically-disastrous, and anachronistic sanctions regime against an Iranian government that has proven willing to do business with the United States.

One senator did not vote: Bernie Sanders – different at a time when different wins.  Not voting is not really great, but at least different.


An Obscure Corner of the World

Last April, violence erupted in a place known as Nagorno-Karabakh.  If this doesn’t sound familiar, how about Armenia and Azerbaijan?  No?  Perhaps the furthest southwest corner of the former Soviet Union, just east of Eastern Turkey?  OK, try this: the other side of the world?

When hearing of this outbreak of violence and reading something of the history, it struck me that the situation offered a real-time opportunity to consider secession, decentralization and property rights; further, the issue of culture binding people together for purposes of defense and security.  But I am getting ahead of myself – first some background about the place:

Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, lying between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur and covering the southeastern range of the Lesser Caucasus mountains. The region is mostly mountainous and forested.

It may be landlocked, mountainous and forested, but I don’t believe anyone will confuse it with Switzerland.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but most of the region is governed by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, a de facto independent nation established on the basis of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Azerbaijan has not exercised political authority over the region since the advent of the Karabakh movement in 1988. Since the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1994, representatives of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been holding peace talks mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group on the region's disputed status.

The history of the place is the history of the region – Ottoman, Russian, Persian forces; land regularly changing hands; lines drawn to achieve political ends – think Stalin; religion – Christian and Muslim.  Do you want to go back further?  Turks for a thousand years and dominant for much of it, Armenians for three thousand years and dominant rarely.

Armenia, a Christian nation, is surrounded west and east by Muslim Turkic countries (Turkey and Azerbaijan, respectively), and to the south by Muslim Iran; to the north, a less-than-friendly Georgia (no, not the one with peaches).

So what of this Nagorno-Karabakh Republic?

Nagorno-Karabakh, officially the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Artsakh Republic or Republic of Artsakh is a republic in the South Caucasus recognised only by three non-United Nations (UN) states. The region is considered by the UN to be part of Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh controls most of the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and some of the surrounding area, giving it a border with Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. It functions as de facto part of Armenia.

The population was and remains predominantly Armenian.

Finally, what of this war that came during the early 1990s?

The Nagorno-Karabakh War, referred to as the Artsakh Liberation War by Armenians, was an ethnic conflict that took place in the late 1980s to May 1994, in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

I will skip over the reports of atrocities that occurred during the dying days of the Soviet Union.  To make a long story short, in the dying days of the communist empire a referendum was held in Karabakh.  The majority Armenian population voted to join with the Armenian Republic; the minority Azeris boycotted the election.  One thing led to another…then war.  Armenians – with memories of genocide at the hands of Muslim Ottoman Turks – did not want to live through genocide at the hands of Muslim Turkic Azerbaijan.

A cease fire was declared in 1994.  Since then, sporadic gunfire has been a regular feature in the region; this changed last April with the major confrontation along the disputed regions.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Libertarian: Left, Center, and Right

From a most wonderful comment to the post Borders, Culture, and Decentralization:

Nomad Soul April 11, 2016 at 1:40 PM

I really like this line of inquiry you have been pursuing lately. The evolution of the argument beyond theory is a very important and long-neglected aspect of realizing the NAP.

Attempting to apply libertarian theory in today’s world (which is, at minimum, complicated on the issue of open borders and immigration) without recognizing that the world is populated by humans is rather pointless.  But this isn’t the most wonderful part of the comment; I just wanted to take the pat on the back. 

This is:

If not shared culture, then how shall people organize themselves?

Forgive the generalizations, but I have addressed in the past (sometimes more than once) each of the following types:

Left-libertarians, at least of the left-anarchist type, believe no means of organization is necessary – the world will consist of 7 billion equally sovereign individuals; under the authority of no one, in any sense.  Not only involuntarily (the monopoly state) but voluntarily – no boss, no customers, no landlord.  Even the role of the family has come into question.  Further, culture is not merely ignored – it is gleefully mocked.

Never, anywhere on earth, has this fantasy come to reality (maybe a hermit on a mountaintop, if you like that sort of thing).

Center (or thin) libertarians believe nothing is necessary for a peaceful world beyond the NAP; culture doesn’t matter, governance – even voluntarily chosen – is not necessary.  To introduce culture is to introduce some form of statism.  But if not cultural norms, then what (or who) will govern?  Don’t you wonder why the state works so hard to destroy culture – an alternative (and reasonably voluntary) governance mechanism? 

Returning to the comment:

Forcing the anti-culture people to answer this will reveal the underpinnings of their argument, which is Statism (top down control) and force without consent dictated by a ruling class.

Without a generally accepted culture, how will people organize themselves?  For the left, absent governance via hierarchy of some sort…well, there is no such thing and never has such a thing been demonstrated; family and kin is a far preferred method to any alternative since devised.  For the center, the NAP does not apply itself and cannot answer every question between and amongst humans. 

People will demand that something fills the voids left by lack of hierarchy and lack of clearly defined and accepted terms.  That something is statism – not liberty.

What of the remaining “right” libertarians?  Let the leftists have whatever “culture” they choose – as long as they stay in their own sandbox.  They will kill themselves off soon enough.  The “anything goes” libertine lifestyle – while presenting no violation of the NAP – has never sustained, let alone advanced, civilization.  That they cannot understand this demonstrates the futility of their future: they have none.

The only concern (and it is not a small one) is that they drag the rest of society down with them.  The other concern is that they destroy interest in libertarianism.

As to a future for center – or so-called “thin” – libertarians?  There is none.  The non-aggression principle is not the answer to every question.

The libertarian right understands that culture matters, and a certain culture. 


Libertarian theory is thin – it is the non-aggression principle.  Thin leaves the most room in the tent, making room for the most people to join.  When it comes to writing about and defending libertarian theory, I will put my “thin” credentials next to anyone.  But libertarian theory is not everything.

Application of libertarian theory in this world requires taking into account human realities.  Achieving and then sustaining a libertarian future (or even moving in that direction) requires the same.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Liberty Schmiberty

I have been thinking about this post for some time; given some of the dialogue in my recent posts, it seems about time to get it out.

From the article, I summarize: days to travel across country; no air-conditioning in your private rail car; weeks to travel overseas; no overnight mail; no entertainment on demand; no air-conditioning in many of the places you visit every day – maybe not even in your own home; poor heating; no radio; your limo constantly breaking down; no falafel; Wi-Fi?  Ha; your wife dies in child-birth; your children not living past two years of age.

Everything about technology, comfort, travel, entertainment and information is overwhelmingly better today than one hundred years ago.  But it isn’t only in the private world where life has improved.

In some rather important matters, we are under less government oppression than during much of the last century: from 1914 – 1918 and from 1941 – 1945; during the 1960s and early 1970s if you were male and of the right age there was a good likelihood you would be forced to go overseas to die.  However one describes today’s economic condition, it is not as bad as during the 1930s. 

All-in-all, even poor Americans and Europeans live better than 98% of the people who ever lived on earth.  In the last 50 years, more people globally have been pulled into the middle-class than during any time in recorded history – just consider China and India.

All of this has happened under the watchful eye of the Federal Reserve and an increasingly active federal government.  Maybe more government and more intervention are not so bad.  “Life would be even better if we had more liberty,” they say. 

Maybe.  But given the historic human condition, how does one complain about life and the level of liberty today?


If the argument for liberty is that you will have more stuff or you are free to do more things, it is a losing argument.  In the developed world, especially in the west, we already have more “more stuff” and can do more “more things” than most people have or can do anywhere else in the world.  Compared to all of history?  Incomparable.

The argument for liberty that works is the moral argument.  The argument for libertarianism is the non-aggression principle with its uncompromising respect for private property.

The “more stuff” argument will not be very persuasive to most living in the developed world – and those in the less-developed world have bigger problems to think about.

The moral argument will work with moral people.  This is something to consider when one contemplates strategies to increase liberty.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The List

By now you have all likely seen the list, published by some heretofore unknown group, of a hundred or more websites that are tools of Russian propaganda.  I won’t bother linking to it or identifying any of the supposed offenders – suffice it to say, many sites on the list are those that I frequent often.

I was not aware of this list when I wrote this earlier piece on fake news.  Had I been, I would have referenced it then and been done with it.  As it is, I won’t write much even now.  Others have done some good work: if you haven’t seen it, take a look at this video by James Corbett; also, this piece by Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald. 

The entire episode is so amateur and transparent, I struggle with figuring out what, exactly, is going on.  The first thought that comes to mind is that it is a report created by those who want to further discredit mainstream media – for the Washington Post or other mainstream outlets to run with this as credible given the lack of discipline behind the “study” and lack of information about the group behind it screams of amateur hour and desperation.  The people behind the list believed that desperate outlets would take the bait.

My second thought is that this was planned in anticipation of a Clinton victory, in which case life might have grown very difficult for those behind some of the listed sites.  Given that Clinton lost – well, why not float it out there anyway…again, desperation.  The more I think about it, the more I lean on this second possibility.

In any case, with Trump in office (maybe…let’s wait until January to confirm), I don’t think that the life of this list is long.  And in four years – whether it is Trump or someone else in office – I don’t think it will matter.  By then, outlets like the New York Times will actually report honestly (as they recently promised) or they will shrivel to uninteresting nothingness.

The cat is out of the bag, and without Clinton in office this list is going nowhere.  As I concluded in my post regarding fake news:

…if you can’t tell: no one cares what you think.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fake News Exposed

Well, word is out. 

Disagreements over policy have always existed—but disagreements over basic facts have not.

It's a phenomenon that RAND CEO Michael Rich calls “truth decay.” And it's been on his mind since long before the election results brought the topic into sharp relief, he told the audience Friday night as part of a Politics Aside discussion called Erosion of Truth.

“This is to me really a dangerous and unusual time in history. Because Americans not only feel entitled to their opinions—and rightly so—but many of them, a growing number of them, frankly, across the political spectrum also feel entitled to cherry pick facts to support their opinion, or even commission up new 'facts' if necessary,” Rich said. “…When everyone has their own facts, then nobody really has any facts at all.”

Type “fake news” into google and you receive about 2.8MM hits.

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton…

…they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

OK, got it.

So, let me understand the true facts:

·        The Ukraine is not adjacent to Russia; in fact, it is closer to Washington DC than it is to Moscow
·        Russia had no presence or even history in Crimea prior to violently invading the peninsula
·        NATO is not moving ever-closer to Russian borders
·        These aren’t NATO exercises in the Baltics
·        NATO ships adjacent to Kaliningrad?  Just hallucinations
·        Russia is not staring at the largest military build-up on its borders since 1941
·        The Clinton Foundation is spotless: no conflicts-of-interest, no quid-pro-quo with questionable actors, no slush fund for a lavish Clinton friends-and-family lifestyle
·        Hillary followed the law regarding her email account
·        Hillary wasn’t sick that day she stumbled into her car
·        Bill and Hillary haven’t been paid tens of millions of dollars for a few twenty minute speeches to Wall Street bankers
·        Hillary never threatened Syria – and thereby Russia – with imposing a no-fly zone over the country
·        Russia doesn’t have nuclear weapons
·        All the pollsters just made honest mistakes leading up to the election
·        There is no bias in mainstream media reporting

That’s just in the last year or two.


If those at the RAND Corporation can support these facts, as opposed to the “fake news” that was prevalent during this election cycle, perhaps they could defend these facts.

Until then, if you can’t tell: no one cares what you think.