“At any rate, the book sales lost as a result of Google are surely dwarfed by the book sales lost as a result of libraries. Yet far from crusading against libraries, writers regularly campaign on their behalf. Most authors appreciate the fact that libraries help us far more than they hurt us. I just wish the folks who run the Authors Guild understood that the same is true of Google.”
At yesterday’s Book Club meeting, we had quite a bit of discussion about gun rights. The discussion centered around whether ownership of powerful weapons constitutes and implicit threat to others, and whether various restrictions on types of guns, or where they can be carried, are justified to make society safer.
One of the problems of gun rights is that guns are intended for situations we don’t expect, and hope never to encounter. This makes it difficult to determine in advance what sort of restrictions or limits may be reasonable. There is the additional problem that, even if you agree that certain limits are reasonable, you need to empower an authority to enforce those limits, and that power is vulnerable to abuse.
Ultimately, the reason for gun rights is to empower people to defend themselves without being reliant on government, whether against muggers, rapists, home invaders, lunatics, angry mobs, or anyone else who may attack them. Check out the video below for a dramatic presentation of this argument:
“It is always hard to design licensing systems to stop dangerous behaviors like driving automobiles, controlling the sale of hard drugs, or using guns. The root of the problem is this: The ‘ex post’ remedy that goes after wrongdoers runs only a small risk of over-breadth, which can usually be limited by having suitable punishment procedures. Licensing regimes, in contrast, are always overbroad. They will result in social losses by stopping the use of guns, cars, or drugs (think medical marijuana) by people who will make perfectly legitimate use of the dangerous instrument in question.”
This reminds me of our provincial Drinking Driving Counterattack program, which impedes so many innocent people, rather than using the same resources to pursue only those who have committed a crime. The courts justify this over-broad tactic as satisfying a “compelling interest” of the state’s. I would think that the state would have an even more compelling interest in maintaining respect for the law, but it appears that practices which aim for deterrence garner more votes, regardless of outcomes.
I just learned something new today, after watching a music video linked by Lew Rockwell. Apparently Anarcho-Capitalism, and Voluntaryism, have their own flag. It is black and yellow, black for anarchism, yellow symbolizing the free market’s typically favoured exchange commodity gold. So what could be more fitting than a remix of the song “Black & Yellow” with anarcho-capitalist lyrics? It’s quite a funny song, but strangely catchy. Enjoy!
There is a railway in Cambodia on which a passenger train ran once a week, taking 16 hours to complete a journey done by a bus in 5 hours. That was until last year, since when the passenger train has stopped running at all. Now, anyone interested in traveling by train must rely on the norry –
“A norry is basically a breadbox-size motor on top of a bed-size bamboo platform on top of two independent sets of metal wheels—all held together by gravity. It’s built from bamboo, old tank parts and motors ripped from broken motorbikes, rice harvesters and tractors. To accelerate, the driver slides the motor backward, using a stick as a lever, to create enough tension in the rubber belt to rotate the rear axle. Though no two norries are identical, a failing part can be swapped with a replacement in a few seconds. Norries are technically illegal but nonetheless vital and, if you know where to look, ubiquitous.”
SInce the rails are state-owned and norry operation is illegal, you might think that co-operation between competing norry operators would be impossible. You might think that the strongest would make adherence to rules a wishful fantasy. You might think that solving impasses was possible only through violence. You might think all that, but the norry operators do not –
“A bit up the track, I saw four men loading a norry with the parts of a much bigger one built out of two-by-fours. The driver told us that the big norry was used to carry lumber from Pursat to Moung Roessei, Phnum Thippadei and Battambang, but that it was cheaper to transport the big norry back to Pursat on the smaller one. He said we could join them for the roughly 50-mile trip, no charge, though I insisted we pay, $10 for the two of us.
Less than a mile out, a norry stacked high with timber came clacking at us head-on. Fortunately, norry crews have developed an etiquette for dealing with such situations: the crew from the more heavily laden norry is obliged to help disassemble the lighter one, and, after passing it, reassemble it on the track.”
Such is the world of anarchy; violent conflict is bad business, so peace prevails where ever coercive government doesn’t prevent cooperation.
Our book club’s current book The Market For Liberty makes the point that the source of the state’s power ultimately rest on its monopoly on use of force. It is not the fact that the state imposes taxes, or controls the money supply, that gives it power, but the fact that it prohibits competition in the areas of security, defence and justice. Even under a “voluntary government” with “voluntary taxation”, a monopoly on security still entrenches power in the state. The monopoly on force is what allows the state to initiate aggression. Without this monopoly, individuals could hire other security firms to protect themselves from taxes and other state interventions. The state would then have to compete for their business, becoming effectively just another firm in the market.
The more of a market there is in the provision of security, the more free people can be to choose alternatives that are better for them. This is why the decentralization of political power should be favoured by libertarians. Smaller independent states give people more freedom to move to better jurisdictions. Within states, moving policing under the control of local municipalities or communities allows for more options to live in areas with better policing, and to keep their budgets in check.
In the book Guns Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond speculates as to why Europe became a dominant empire, whereas in China, which had been much more advanced earlier, progress stagnated. He speculates that the reason was the fractured nature of the European nation states. This allowed persecuted groups to move from one country to another, fleeing tyrannical rulers for freer jurisdictions. Merchants could also move around to avoid taxes and regulation, leading to the flourishing of trade and prosperity in a succession of small European nations. This prevented a single ruler from completely shutting down progress and trade, as happened in China.
This “Atlas Shrugged” effect, in which businessmen and entrepreneurs flee stifling jurisdictions, can also be seen occurring today with record numbers of wealthy Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship, as Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin recently did in relocating to Singapore.
This idea also explains why the concept of parallel institutions could be a path towards a more free society. This is the concept of creating private institutions to provide services currently monopolized by the state. Some examples would be FedEx competing with the post office, or judge.me competing with the state court system. These parallel institutions give people real options to choose better services, and reduce their dependence on the state. These parallel institutions not only improve people’s lives immediately, they also demonstrate that these services can be provided on the free market, without needing a government to furnish them. In the longer run, these institutions could take on an increasingly large role in the economy while the state apparatus fades into the sunset of history.
I have never been much of a drinker, and I have never understood how people can acquire a taste for things like beer, whiskey, scotch, etc. No, when I drink, I drink for the funny feeling, which means I’m chiefly a shot-and-a-chaser kind of guy. If I could get drunk on something that didn’t taste of alcohol, but of coke, or root beer, or Dr. Pepper, I would enjoy the whole experience that much more. Sadly, the market hasn’t delivered that, yet. But at least I can now have booze that tastes like… nothing –
“Air is a Water + Alcohol. Carbonated. It’s All Natural. 95 Calories*. New. Perfect for getting your evening started, keeping the night going or just taking a quick break. Come Up for Air. Enjoy responsibly.”
It seems Air is fermented so as to be odourless, colourless, and tasteless, so it will be very boring to drink. Perhaps one could add it to something tasty, like coke, but then the drink will just taste like watery coke. I suppose if you were a whiskey and water drinker, you could mix Air and whiskey, but the ramifications are too horrible to contemplate.
“So the very concepts imports and exports are founded on an arbitrary construct that has little practical consequence for people’s economic activities. Back in the 1980s, when neomercantilists feared Japan’s economic success at selling us stuff (seems a little crazy now, no?), I used to ask what would happen to the trade deficit if Japan were made the 51st state. Obviously, the deficit would have disappeared because we don’t reckon trade imbalances between states. Why not?
In reality there are no imports and exports. From my point of view, there is only what I make and what everyone else makes.”
I have long recognized that imaginary political boundaries have terribly negative consequences for liberty, but I never realized the distortionary effect they have on the way we view our world. Without people like Richman, would it ever occur to most of us that imports and exports are figments of the imagination? I think not.