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Wars and Rumors of Wars

And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Welcome to C4SS’s newest regular blog, Wars and Rumors of Wars. Here, we will explore issues of war and peace, ranging from foreign and military affairs through the culture of militarism and the effects of war on soldiers and civilians to the details of anti-war activism. I will be your main writer, although others from within and without C4SS will contribute as well. As my byline says, I’m a veteran of the Iraq War and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, having fought as a medic in Baghdad in 2007 and having been an IVAW member since 2010.

What we want is peace and freedom – no war but class war – but to get there we must understand our enemy. Developing that understanding is going to be a major concern of this blog. If we wish to cut off the state’s supply of soldiers, we must understand soldiers and know why they fight. If we wish to eradicate militarism, we must understand its appeal and recognize its appearance. If we want to help the victims of war heal, we must hear their voices – finding and sharing the stories of the survivors of war will be a major focus for this blog. And if we want to work for peace, we must examine what has worked and what hasn’t, make the best arguments we can and be always willing to back our words with action.

From time to time – as in my recent article on Ukraine – it may appear that I am granting some or even all of the premises of the warmongers. I do this not because I do in fact agree with them – for example, I do not believe that “democracy” in a meaningful sense is any great concern of the planners at Foggy Bottom – but because I think making the strongest argument means meeting the enemy on his own ground. If we can show that war and intervention will not achieve the good things the warmongers claim to want, then we weaken their position and spur interest in what their actual motivations may be.

This year marks the centennial of the outbreak of the Great War, one of the greatest tragedies in European history that had one salutary effect. The Great War made crystal clear the futility and horror of war, and instilled in a generation a healthy and natural skepticism towards power. This skepticism led these men and women to be termed the “Lost Generation,” although no generation since has found a clearer image of the meaning of war. For this first post, I will leave you with one of the most moving iterations of that image, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.

Britten was a conscientious objector in the United Kingdom during World War II, refusing service even in a noncombatant capacity due to his firm belief in pacifism. While his pacifism was unpopular, he remained an successful composer. In 1961, he was commissioned to write a piece for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, a replacement for the original destroyed in an air raid in 1940. Rather than turn out a triumphalist piece celebrating the Allied victory, Britten turned to perhaps the greatest poet of the Great War, Wilfred Owen.

Britten wove Owen’s agonized lyric together with the traditional Latin setting of the Requiem Mass, creating a shattering remembrance of the tragedy of war. He inscribed the score with a quote from Owen himself:

My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity …
All a poet can do today is warn.

While this blog concerns a harsh and terrible subject, our fundamental position is hope. We believe peace can come. “For all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” I hope you’ll stay with us.

More Thoughts on Property Rights and Sit-Ins

In one of my blog posts; I discussed property rights and the Civil Rights era sit-ins. This post is a further exploration of the subject. I said the following in the previous post:

These bills make an Orwellian use of terms like freedom. The ability to exclude people for irrational and arbitrary reasons is not an instance of liberty. Libertarians will earn the wrath of decent LGBT people everywhere without offering a solution other than state force to the problem of discrimination. We have a chance to show that our individualist principles apply to persecuted minorities as much as non-minorities. It’s not something to botch.

Thomas L. Knapp responded with:

Not sure what you mean by “exclude.”

If I don’t want to bake a cake for you, it doesn’t matter what my reasons are. You don’t own me. I own me. I get to decide whether or not I bake a cake for you — and that decision IS an instance of liberty.

Knapp and I don’t disagree about the importance of personal freedom. I tend not to couch it in terms of ownership, but I understand the gist of it. I do however disagree with him on this one. Power is still being exercised when you deny someone a service for irrational bigoted reasons. It’s not a form of power based on physical violence, but it still counts as such. It represents social ostracism and economic reward/punishment. The latter involves the control of economic resources and selective distribution of them to effect changes in the character or behavior of another. Does this mean we should combat it with physical force? Not at all. There is still the principle of proportionality to consider. Non-violent controlling behavior is ethically met with non-violent means. Of course, if people violently assault peaceful sit in protesters they are entitled to use violence in self-defense.

Another point I made worth revisiting was:

What about the issues of private property rights and trespass? One way to approach that question is through contextual or dialectical libertarian methodology. Private property rights are contextual and relate to occupancy or use. They are one value among others to consider in assessing the morality of an action. In the context of bigots irrationally excluding people from spaces otherwise open to the public, the value of private property rights is trumped by the need for social inclusion.

Why does one have to choose between these two particular values? The sit-iners are not engaged in any aggressively violent actions, so they aren’t violating libertarian principle. As far as private property rights go, there isn’t any violent destruction of property involved. Social inclusion can be fought for through non-violent social activism. The practicality of which was shown by the Civil Rights Movement. In other words: these values are not mutually exclusive. They both serve as supports for genuine freedom.

If someone did destroy property during the course of a sit-down protest, we could still show sympathy and forgive them. This is dictated by the context of their actions. We could even socially pressure the property owner to do the same. A court could refuse to hear a restitution claim. It would be cruel to target the racially oppressed for prosecution in this context.

One final thing is left to address. Does this mean that all uses of coercion to defend property are unjust? Not at all. If a criminal gang tries to take your food, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to use force to defend it. This is due to the rationality of the action. As Ayn Rand could tell you, ethics and rationality run together. Let us work to make ethical rationality a reality.

The IWW, Building Power with Your Help!

It’s been five months since we at C4SS launched the Entrepreneurial Anti-Capitalism project in a bid to provide some much needed support to people engaged in the construction of a new world. We sought projects that either lay the ground for, or skillfully employ, tools and techniques to uproot, undermine or obviate centralized and authoritarian systems of control, or that demonstrate through incontrovertible success the irrelevance and inefficiency of those systems in providing for human means, and realizing human dreams. And preferably ones whose enthusiasm far outstripped their current resources.

The project began with Unsystem‘s Dark Wallet, a browser application intended to safeguard the Bitcoin economy from the incipient movements toward regulation by providing users with additional layers of anonymity, packaged for easy application by users. Later, in the wake of Taiphoon Haiyan’s landfall in the Philippines, we were fortunate to come into contact with some truly amazing anarchists based out of Onsite Infoshop in Muntinlupa City and elsewhere, who were mobilizing to provide food, shelter, electricity and communications to people effected. Their future plans include the development of the mobile Solar Guerilla Autonomous Response Team to react to any sudden power collapse.

Mutual aid and counter-economics aside, we now have the opportunity to turn our attention to another project, small in size but global in scope; that of workplace resistance in China and Taiwan.

Workers in Taiwan have asked for organizer training from their allies abroad. IWW organizers Jm Wong and Erik Forman are heading there to meet them, to lend skills gleaned from their own workplace organizing experiences, and to collaborate with Taiwan IWW members on a Mandarin translation of the IWW Organizer Manual. They’ll also be traveling to Honk Kong to meet dock workers whose 2013 strike and blockade of port facilities in pursuit of higher wages and safer working conditions kicked off a mass occupation of downtown Hong Kong outside the offices of Li Ka-shing, the billionaire behind Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), which controls more than 70 percent of Hong Kong’s port container traffic.

The neoliberal shift of the 1970′s signaled the end of the “bigger slice” policy of Western nations cutting their work force larger and more satisfying slices of the wealth that post-war corporatist policies had helped centralize. With production facilities having been moved oversees, out of reach the original labor force whose obsolescence served to gut their social movements, the fight against state and capital is more obviously a global one (not that it ever wasn’t). Despite it’s global field, waging it must still be a distributed process; even when the actions taken involve thousands of people. Spotting exploits and leveraging that knowledge is not something that can be done by one group of people on behalf of another, but must necessarily be a bottom up endeavor by people on the ground, ones in possession of distributed knowledge, and who can move quickly.

The effects of success, the returns of solidarity, are also global. Extending support to those resisting economic regimentation isn’t just a moral imperative, it’s also an opportunity for disrupting a key node of the global supply chain, whose top down direction and centralized infrastructure leave it vulnerable to disruption at key points. This holds true for the factory and dock workers of Taiwan no less than anywhere else, and their success can open spaces for further resistance everywhere. With that in mind, we are happy to help the Jm Wong and Erik Forman on their way.

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The Weekly Abolitionist: Proportional Pizza

Whenever someone asks me about the problems of the prison state and why I would like to abolish the entire prison system, I just say, “read Nathan Goodman’s blog ya muppets!” I’m delighted to be writing this guest blog post for my pal Nathan, who does a wonderful job highlighting the problems and moral atrocities that occur in the United States of Incarceration. In addition to the horrible consequences of prisons, I believe there are conceptual reasons we ought to be opposed to them. When determining the ethical response to violence, we must account for the principle of proportionality.

Think about it like this. Suppose you’re hungry for some delicious pizza, like I am right now. When I finish writing this, I’m going to pick up the phone and place an order for some pizza. But I have to decide what size I want. As is the case with pizza, my eyes (or ears since I’m ordering on the phone) are bigger than my stomach and I’m tempted to order a large. Problem is, I won’t actually be able to finish the whole thing. It’s just too much pizza (this concept is actually incoherent, but this is only an analogy). Of course, I don’t want to order a small either. It won’t fill me up and I will want more pizza. Considering all the variables – my body type, my appetite, the size of my wallet, etc – I have to get the pizza that is proportional.

Proportional pizza is not actually a philosophical concept, which is a travesty. But we do have something like it that was developed by some guys named Socrates, Plato, and Aristote, among others. In the ancient Greek tradition, this is called the Golden Mean. According to Socrates, “man must know how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible.” In the Aristotelian tradition, a virtue such as courage is action that falls between acting too rash and too cowardly. Aristotle thought all the virtues depend upon a mean between two extremes. There is no doubt he would have ordered the medium pizza.

What can this tell us about non-aggression, proportionality, and justice? The Golden Mean shows us that acting just requires a sense of proportionality. It explains why when someone steals my television, killing them would be doing too much and doing nothing would be too little. Justice lies somewhere between the two. Responding to an act of aggression with a disproportionate amount of force misses the Golden Mean.

This idea means we are committed to a specific form of retaliation. We can act violent insofar as that violence is needed to defend ourselves or make ourselves whole. Taking my television back and breaking the thief’s arm is not needed to defend myself nor make myself whole – it’s not proportionate. Any action I take that goes beyond self-defense and restitution is, itself, aggression. In the case of the television, justice requires me taking back my television along with some compensation for what I had to go through (maybe I had to run after the thief and tore my shirt on a tree branch). Nothing more and nothing less.

Now, what kind of blog post would this be if I didn’t call for the abolition of prisons? One of the reasons I’m a prison abolitionist is because locking people in cages for months, years, or decades, is not needed for self-defense. Imprisoning the television thief goes beyond the proper form of retaliation because prison is all about punishment for punishment’s sake. Once I get my television back, the thief is no longer a threat and I have no claim to any of his property except the appropriate restitution.

Forcibly restraining someone for an extended period of time could only be justified if they are an on-going threat to society. Considering the few number of people who are actually a continual danger to others, this hardly justifies prisons. There are more effective and more moral alternatives for this small minority. Consider a system of house arrest. Or perhaps a rehabilitation clinic.

A proper concern for non-aggression and proportionality entails the absolute rejection of a system based on punishment for its own sake, which is what prisons are. It implies a system based on restitution, on making the victim whole. Let’s not forget Aristotle’s Golden Mean when we are ordering pizza or when we are discussing the proper treatment of criminals.

 

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist And Chess Review 25

Ivan Eland discusses U.S. security agencies.

Uri Avnery discusses changing the Israeli flag.

Eric Sommer discusses why journalists have blood on their hands.

Patrick Cockburn discusses Saudi Arabia’s regret over supporting terrorism.

Robin Philpot discusses Rwanda.

Matt Peppe discusses terrorism directed against Cuba.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses treating people like garbage.

Sheldon Richman discusses Ukraine.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses the lessons of the Egyptian coup for Americans.

Andrew Cockburn discusses why sanctions don’t work.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Nicola Nasser discusses Saudi Arabia.

Kevin Carson discusses Matt Ygelesias.

Sheldon Richman discusses Michael Moore.

Kevin Carson discusses the welfare state.

Aaron Cantu discusses corporate welfare.

Patrick Cockburn discusses the Al Qaeda involvement in the Syrian uprising.

Sheldon Richman discusses the American empire.

Lucy Steigerwald discusses domestic drones.

Richard Ebeling discusses individual self-determination vs nationalism.

Charles Pierson discusses the Wall Street Journal’s love of the Pakistani army.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses the drug war.

Stanton Peele discusses the hijacking of sobriety by the recovery movement.

Kevin Carson discusses magical thinking and authority.

David Stockman discusses the war in Syria.

Renee Parsons discusses regime change.

James O. Gallagher reviews Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State.

George H. Smith discusses intellectuals and the French Revolution.

Anthony Gregory counsels against a libertarian cold war and discusses the Russian invasion of Crimera.

Justin Raimondo discusses libertarianism in one country.

Sheldon Richman discusses the Iraqi fairy tale.

Sheldon Richman discusses the absence of an Iranian threat.

Nick Turse discusses American militarism in Africa.

Steve Horowtiz discusses inequality.

Conor Friedersdorf discusses the difference between neoconservatives and small government conservatives.

Alexander Alekhine defeats Aron Nimzowitsch.

Alexander Alekhine defeats Jose Raul Capablanca.

Missing Comma: Some Notes on Ethics

The Society of Professional Journalists is one of those institutions within journalism that can be counted on to almost never change. That’s why the release of their latest draft of their new ethics code is such a big deal.

If you remember back a ways, you’ll recall that I’ve brought up SPJ in the ethical context before – in the aftermath of Caleb Hannan’s “exposé” of Essay Vanderbilt, many turned to SPJ’s ethics code for guidance on what he should have done with the information he uncovered. It said, most notably:

Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

This line has been edited to include members of the public.

The new version of the code is aimed at a media that is increasingly based online, but its infrastructure is the same. Under the section “Seek Truth And Report It,” for example, they added this paragraph:

Aggressively gather and update information as the story unfolds and work to avoid error. Deliberate distortion and reporting unconfirmed rumors are never permissible. Remember that neither speed nor brevity excuses inaccuracy or mitigates the damage of error. [...] Work to put every story into context. In promoting, previewing or reporting a story live, take care not to misrepresent or oversimplify it. [...] Seek sources whose views are seldom used. Official and unofficial sources can be equally valid.

Other points of awesome:

Avoid stereotyping. Examine your own cultural values and avoid imposing those on others. …

Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance, irreverence or invasive behavior.

And finally, my favorite:

Recognize that legal access to information differs from ethical justification to publish. Journalists should balance the importance of information and potential effects on subjects and the public before publication.

~*~

Bonus round: here’s Jeremy Scahill talking about objectivity in journalism on MediaBistro’s Media Beat:

The Faux Withdrawal and Other Thoughts on Militarism

What do you call a “withdrawal” that doesn’t end drone strikes? A faux one. The term withdrawal implies an exit from the area. If U.S. drones will continue to kill people in Afghanistan, the military presence is not truly over. We should be worried about the continued and apparently indefinite use of imperial violence by the U.S. government.

A full exit from the area is the only ethical and practical course of action. There is no moral justification for the further killing of Afghans to prop up a local state. This is especially true of a state as corrupt as the Afghan one, but it would apply to any state. On the practical side of the equation, it isn’t safe to keep making enemies via military occupation. The U.S. government endangers countless people by doing this.

Drone strikes are particularly noxious. They allow for easy remote control killing of suspected enemies of the state anywhere in the world. There are very few obstacles placed in the way of these death machines. Radicals are preferably the ones leading the charge against these killer devices. We left-libertarians can lead the way in opposing the death and destruction created by these monsters.

In the absence of ground troops and drones, the U.S. can still maintain control through a local client regime. This proxy force can wreak plenty of death and destruction too. It is preferable to be resolute in our opposition to both forms of control or occupation; both deserve condemnation for furthering coercive power exercised against Afghans and anyone else who happens to walk into territory claimed by the Afghan state. Power will not stand down without a determined opposition. We left-libertarians can take the lead in furthering that opposition.

What are the implications of continued U.S. drone strikes for the domestic front? At home, we can expect the importation of drones as a method of control. They can be used to surveil people anywhere on Earth. Such invasions of privacy are unacceptable and represent the growth of unaccountable concentrated power. This power will be exercised against all who displease the ruling class in some way or another. The time to fight back is now.

The state’s expansive military power is a threat not only to world peace, but the lives of those in the “homeland” too. The present superpower status of the U.S. does nothing but foment empire. We know that empires wreak death and destruction on a massive scale. Let’s put an end to the U.S. one.

The Weekly Abolitionist: Prison State Roundup

There’s a lot of news and information related to prisons, policing, borders, and other facets of the prison state. In previous editions of the Weekly Abolitionist, I have tried to fit multiple stories into one theme or analytic frame. This week, however, I’ve encountered a diverse enough range of articles relating to these issues that I’ll be compiling them into a roundup.

  • Over at the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, Ilya Somin has an excellent reply to the argument that undocumented immigrants have acted immorally by violating the law. As an anarchist I reject the idea that one has a moral obligation to obey the state’s laws. But Somin persuasively argues that even with a presumption in favor of obedience to laws, there are good reasons to believe that other factors make it moral to cross borders without legal permission.
  • In other news related to the criminalization of migrants, protests continue across the nation to oppose the ongoing harms of mass deportations. April 5th marked a National Day of Action Against Deportations. Over at PanAm Post, Fergus Hodgson has a good article on the protests.
  • Deportations continue to destroy lives and break up families in my home state of Utah. Ana Cañenguez, who I have mentioned previously at this blog, was just told by ICE that her application for humanitarian exemption was denied. This means she will be deported back to El Salvador and her family will be split apart by state coercion. As Ana told reporters,  “I don’t understand why this President can tear families apart.”  We must fight for a world where no presidents or other state actors have that horrible power. As Anthony Gregory puts it, “End deportations now. This is beyond cruel, and such horrors occur hundreds of times a day in the name of immigration control. Obama’s presidency has topped all others on deportations in absolute terms, at least in modern history.”
  • Another horror inflicted by the prison state is rape by state actors like police and prison guards. These rapists act with virtual impunity thanks to the state’s institutional power, ideological euphemisms, and the state’s monopoly on law. One of these rapists, Kansas City police officer Jeffrey Holmes, was actually convicted of a crime on Friday. Holmes raped two women, both of whom he accused of prostitution. While prosecutors alleged that he used his position as an officer to coerce the women into sex, prosecutors charged him not with rape or assault but with “corruption.” He was convicted of these charges and sentenced to “15 days in jail and a fine.” This is incredibly lenient compared to typical sentences for rape and sexual assault, and it is yet another example of euphemism being used to shield a state actor from accountability for rape.
  • To  understand more about how the prison state enables rape, I highly recommend The Shame of Our Prisons: New Evidence, an article by David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow from last October’s New York Review of Books. The article summarizes lots of recent research on prison rape from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and I find it immensely useful for understanding the specifics of the problem.
  • As I write this, I’m listening to a talk by Jonathan Nitzan titled No Way Out: Crime, Punishment & the Capitalization of Power. Nitzan is one of the authors of Capital as Power, and this talk analyzes mass incarceration and punishment through the lens of his analysis of capitalism. This provides an explanation for the seemingly unusual phenomenon of liberal capitalist states incarcerating on a mass scale.
  • For another economic perspective on prisons, I also recommend Daniel D’Amico’s talk The American Prison State. D’Amico looks at incarceration and punishment through the lens of free market economics, specifically the Austrian school.

I hope you find these links interesting and informative. I’ll leave you with something you can do to help those imprisoned by the American state. Writing to prisoners can make their life inside the prison slightly less monotonous and more livable. For a good way to start writing letters to prisoners, I recommend writing to prisoners on their birthdays. You can find some information on political prisoner birthdays for April here.

“The New Economy and the Cost Principle” on C4SS Media

C4SS Media presents ‘s “The New Economy and the Cost Principle” read by James Tuttle and edited by Nick Ford.

“As free marketers, decentralists and individualists, we occupy a corner of the libertarian movement. At the same time, as critics of wealth inequality and champions of the poor and working classes, we find ourselves within today’s anti-capitalist movements for economic justice. Given the most commonly repeated terms of debate, the false dichotomies bleated on cable news and opinion pages day after day, these commitments may seem to present a contradiction. Free marketers are regarded as defenders of a plutocratic economic status quo, with the state cast as bulwark against cutthroat competition and protector of the little guy.”

Yet Another Article Attacking Libertarianism

Alternet just can’t stop publishing attacks on libertarianism. The article is titled “10 Reasons Americans Should be Wary of Rand Paul’s Libertarianism, Especially Young People“. It mistakenly labels Rand Paul a libertarian. He has stated he isn’t one:

They thought all along that they could call me a libertarian and hang that label around my neck like an albatross, but I’m not a libertarian.

He has also displayed a less than libertarian attitude on the War on Drugs:

“He made it very clear that he does not support legalization of drugs like marijuana and that he supports traditional marriage,” [said Brad Sherman of the Solid Rock Christian Church in Coralville, Iowa].

Let us address several of the most important points in this piece. The author writes:

Rand Paul’s brand of libertarian believes that “liberty” is freedom from an oppressive government. But in a democracy the government is us. The real oppressors in today’s economic and political system are the corporations which increasingly dominate all aspects of our public and private lives

One need not choose between opposing government power or corporate power, both deserve our condemnation. They also tend to work together as the author acknowledges in her mention of the corporate state. The author also repeats the tired old fallacy of the government being us. If this were true, when the government kills us it would be suicide rather than murder. It also ignores that there is never total agreement about government policies. Elections always contain a minority that doesn’t get its way. In what meaningful sense are they part of the government? It also supposes a singular social super organism.

The author also contends:

Said Paul, “I would introduce and support legislation to send Roe v. Wade back to the states.”

Why? So that decisions about what a woman does with her body can be made by politicians like that guy in Virginia wanted mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds for any woman who wanted to terminate a pregnancy?

The author is wrong to implicitly ascribe this position to libertarianism. Libertarianism is about individual rights and not states rights, No government has rights; only individuals do. On this issue, I agree with the criticism, but it has nothing to do with libertarian principle.

The final contention we address goes as follows:

Those of us who are fighting for jobs programs and infrastructure investment—two things that would help the millennial generation significantly—have a fierce opponent in Rand Paul. Paul believes government spending is inherently bad, and tax cuts are inherently good. There are jobs proposals that target millennials for assistance. Rand Paul is against them.

The author apparently thinks jobs are something that should be handed down by a governing class. We left-libertarians seek to create our own workplace. As far as infrastructure goes, state funded infrastructure is a way to externalize costs of business onto the general taxpayer. An example is roads used predominantly by corporations engaged in long distance shipping. We bear the costs of their business model. Let us work to put an end to this.

“Eleven Years of War” on C4SS Media

C4SS Media presents ‘s “Eleven Years of War” read by James Tuttle and edited by Nick Ford.

“The Iraq War was, as wars go, not an especially harsh or brutal one, and was largely conducted according to all the latest precepts of “humanitarian intervention.” The free-fire zones of Vietnam were largely absent, as were the brutalities of massed, prolonged aerial and artillery bombardment. And yet, the results are unimaginably horrific to us in our First World comfort. Sandy Hook and Columbine reverberate to this day in America; in the hell into which we plunged Iraq, neither would even make the front page. There is no war without horrific violence and nightmarish suffering. Never forget.”

The Weekly Libertarian Leftist and Chess Review 24

Justin Raimondo discusses the pattern of disaster in U.S. foreign policy.

Charles R. Pierce discusses the torture scandal and the Obama admin.

Brian Cloughley discusses the warmongering of NATO.

Alexander Reid Ross discusses Hollande’s trip to Nigeria.

Brian Doherty discusses five gun rights cases to watch.

Raphael Cohen and Gabriel Scheinmann discuss the Libyan war.

Chase Madar discusses Micah Zenko.

David S. D’Amato discusses the new economy and the cost principle.

Alex Miller defends Jeffrey Tucker.

Thomas L. Knapp discusses Jeffrey Tucker’s use of the term brutalism.

Kent McManigal discusses road signs.

Timothy J. Taylor discusses statists in libertarian clothing.

Paul Detrick discusses the killing of Kelly Thomas.

Jim Davies discusses Murray Rothbard vs Robert LeFevre.

Paul Bonneua discusses reasons for not rejecting the non-aggression principle.

Jim Davies discusses Murray’s missing plan for change.

Alex R. Knight the third reviews the book Everything Voluntary.

Jacob G. Hornberger discusses the disbanding of NATO.

Jacob Sullum discusses the GOP abuse of executive power.

David Cole discusses the CIA’s abuse.

Robert A. Levy discusses libertarianism 101.

Christian Elderhorst discusses taxation.

Mark Thornton discusses how the drug war failed Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Hugh Gusterson discusses the forgotten Iraq War.

Gareth Porter discusses the crisis with Iran.

Scott Horton discusses John Rizzo’s new book on the CIA.

Nathan Smith discusses zoning laws.

Jeffrey Tucker discusses wages.

Levon Aronian plays a great game against Anand.

Levon Aronian plays Alexey Shirov.

Inclined Labor

It was a cool, blustery, October morning in 2007 when I realized the difference between work and labor. I was standing on the side of a country road in Tumwater, Washington waiting for my work crew to come pick me up. I had moved from Tennessee to the area just days before – a recent graduate with a service year ahead of me. I had accepted a contract position with the Washington Conservation Corps, a program dedicated to salmon habitat conservation and restoration ecology. I was soon picked up by my fellow corps members and taken to our lock-up. Here, we loaded our rig with numerous tools for trail construction – Pulaski’s, Macleod’s, chain saws and more. By that evening we had bagged Eagle’s Peak in Mount Rainier National Park, completing the fall drainage on the trail. It was my first day of “spike,” eight days in the back country digging re-routes and building trail – my first vivid memory of inclined labor.

I had of course labored before this day, but this experience sticks out because I was fortunate enough during my time on the mountain to wake up every day and enjoy my labor. I enjoyed the manual exercise, crafting trail, working lightly on the land and exploring the forest. These activities were required of the job, but they did not feel like work. I viewed these tasks favorably, I was disposed towards these activities – to labor with the rock and soil of Earth. The job felt different from anything I had done before, it fit with my belief system and attitude towards life. I was practicing conservation and further developing a sense of wildness.

During this service year I befriended a fellow corps member by the name of Nicholas Wooten. We would talk science and philosophy, argue politics, talk about how things could/should be and would sometimes just get wild and drunk. Most of the time, however, Nick and I talked philosophy (and still do). During one of our conversations, Nick shared with me a quote that is rather important to him – it is now rather important to me. It is from the work of Marcus Aurelius in his piece The Meditations:

In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present- I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm?- But this is more pleasant.- Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature?- But it is necessary to take rest also.- It is necessary: however nature has fixed bounds to this too: she has fixed bounds both to eating and drinking, and yet thou goest beyond these bounds, beyond what is sufficient; yet in thy acts it is not so, but thou stoppest short of what thou canst do. So thou lovest not thyself, for if thou didst, thou wouldst love thy nature and her will. But those who love their several arts exhaust themselves in working at them unwashed and without food; but thou valuest thy own own nature less than the turner values the turning art, or the dancer the dancing art, or the lover of money values his money, or the vainglorious man his little glory. And such men, when they have a violent affection to a thing, choose neither to eat nor to sleep rather than to perfect the things which they care for. But are the acts which concern society more vile in thy eyes and less worthy of thy labour?

How easy it is to repel and to wipe away every impression which is troublesome or unsuitable, and immediately to be in all tranquility

There is much to say about this quote. Personally, it has helped me mold together an idea that I call inclined labor. I write about inclined labor often but I have never defined the concept. It is my wish to do so in this blog post.

To be inclined is to feel a willing to accomplish, or a drawing toward, a particular action belief or attitude. Labor is physical or mental exertion – but it is very different from work. Work is a series of tasks that must be completed to achieve a certain goal – be it to gain a wage or to see that something functions properly. Labor is categorically different. Individual labor happens on its own terms, willed by the desire to complete a task. Work must be done, it is an intended activity. Inclined labor, however, is the physical and mental exertion that human beings are drawn to.

Inclined labor, then, is directly tied to the opening of Marcus Aurelius’s passage:

In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present- I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world?

Inclined labor is the true work of a human being – and it can only be actualized in liberty.

Today we work plenty but struggle to find time and energy to award ourselves the opportunity to truly labor. Work for economical means is a relatively new activity of human beings. Every civilization has had to work – chores need to be carried out for society to function. For the vast majority of our 200,000 year history as a modern species, however, our societies were much more egalitarian. In our early history there was much more labor – individuals knew their interests and carried out their functions and roles within their communities. It was not until the rise of power structures in the age of the ancients that human labor was viewed as something to command and control. Such authority has only exacerbated under the rise and fall of nation-states. Work as we know it today has only been dominant across the whole of society since the advent of industrial capitalism. Work is no longer something that is shared cooperatively for the functioning of society – work now defines a controlled economic system.

But we are a vigilant species. Over the millenia, and ever persistent today, human beings have continued to labor. How could we not when labor is inclined?

Imagine an economic system crafted by liberated human beings. What are the possibilities of humanity? How would the products of self directed labor progress and build society? What can we craft together during our time in the sun? What will liberated labor gift to future generations as we progress for millenia to come? How wondrous our civilizations and progress will be!

Inclined labor, whether a physical or mental exercise, is the creative expression of our interests and ingenuity – it is what we are driven to do. Our labor deserves to be liberated for it is ours and solely ours. Inclined labor is the true calling of human beings.

“Bitcoin Must Self-Regulate — The State Can Only Destroy” On C4SS Media

C4SS Media presents ‘s “Bitcoin Must Self-Regulate — The State Can Only Destroy” read by James Tuttle and edited by Nick Ford.

“Currently there is no system by which Bitcoin marketplaces can be held accountable. Resorting to government legal systems might indeed be the only way by which Mt.Gox customers can receive the restitution they deserve. What does have to be kept in mind is that this option is far from optimal. Further talk of government regulation of crytocurrencies will not be a surprising result. In fact it seems inevitable. In the future the digital counter-economy will have to find ways to regulate itself. The ingenious online methods that are bound to come up might lead to insights by which we can regulate our own “analog” communities as well. One day government regulation of the marketplace will be a thing of the past as the self-regulating counter-economy replaces it entirely.”

Kontinued Keystone Konfusion

I continue to be confused by “libertarian” support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

As I noted last month, my objection to Keystone is simple: It can’t be built without having the government steal land to build it on, from people who don’t care to sell.

For anyone operating under the label “libertarian,” that should be the end of the matter.

But I keep seeing “libertarian” calls for Keystone to be built.

Two things strike me as odd about these “libertarian” calls for Keystone:

  1. They usually don’t address the libertarian objection — eminent domain — at all; and
  2. The arguments they make are not only not libertarian arguments, but are in some cases just completely nonsensical.

The U. S. lacks pawns to be a leader in the foreign policy chess game — insufficient oil and natural gas production. Years of neglect in pushing fossil fuel production left the country unable to assist allies in times of emergency.

Russia provides substantial natural gas, oil, and coal to Europe that gives it leverage in the Ukraine Crises due to Europe’s fear of energy supply cutoff. The European Union has assisted in its servitude by resisting natural gas production by fracking and shutting down and curtailing future use of nuclear power plants.

The Ukraine Crises is an example of future events until the United States develops fossil fuel energy production superiority.

So the argument for Keystone is that it’s necessary to have it so the US government can dictate the affairs and relationships of other nations. That’s not a “libertarian” argument — libertarians are non-interventionists.

But even setting that aside, which we most manifestly should not, there are two major problems with the argument:

  1. The US already has “fossil fuel energy production superiority.” In 2013, the US produced 12.5 million barrels of oil per day versus Russia’s 10.5 million barrels per day. In fact, the US is now the world’s leading energy producer and a net energy exporter (it achieved both those distinctions during the “anti-energy” Obama administration, by the way).
  2. Keystone has nothing whatsoever to do with US energy production. It is a pipeline to trans-ship CANADIAN oil across the US to Gulf Coast refineries for CANADIAN export. It will increase neither US oil production nor US energy export by so much as a single calorie.

Over the years, I’ve been skeptical of lefty claims that prominent “libertarian” think tanks just shill for whatever corporations are willing to write checks for favorable “analysis.” But this kind of thing makes me wonder.

[cross-posted from KN@PPSTER -- this piece is in the public domain]

Volume 1, Issue 1 of THE NEW LEVELLER now online!
The-New-Leveller-masthead

“Are you interested in individualist anarchism, or at least so frightened by it that you want to keep an eye on its progress? Are you frustrated by capitalism’s love for central planning and communism’s conservative view of human potential? Do you suspect that abolishing the institution responsible for war, police brutality, and mass incarceration might not be so dangerous after all?

Then The New Leveller is for you!”

The first issue of the Students for a Stateless Society‘s brand-new newsletter, The New Leveller is now online.

For a link to a PDF of the entire issue (recommended!), click here.
For links to an HTML version of each individual article, along with the official announcement on the S4SS page, click here.

In this issue:
“For a New Levelling” explains the mission of The New Leveller, connecting the mission of the original levellers to that of contemporary individualist anarchism.
“The Cult of the Constitution” by Cory Massimino laments the love many libertarians have for the document that holds them in bondage.
“Markets in Law” by Jeff Ricketson reminds us that anarchy is order, and argues that our rights would be better protected in a world without police.
“No Dialogue with War Criminals” by Grayson English discusses our recent protest at the University of Oklahoma (with various other student groups) against international murderer John Brennan.
“Toward an Anarchy of Production, Pt. I” by Jason Lee Byas (hey, that’s me!) is the first part in a series of arguments for why anti-capitalists, leftists, and anarchists ought to support markets. This installment explores the ways in which markets can create institutional arrangements that work against various kinds of social oppression.
“Consumer Protection in a Free Society” by Gregory Boyle examines what black market sites like Silk Road can tell us about how consumer protection might be achieved in a free society.

Informe del Coordinador de Medios Hispanos, Marzo de 2014

En marzo logramos un gran total de cuatro reproducciones de nuestros artículos de opinión, lo cual no es nada como para tirar la casa por la ventana, pero hay que tener en cuenta que mi lista de contactos mediáticos todavía es muy corta–72 direcciones de correo electrónico en total.

Esto se debe a que estoy siguiendo una estrategia de priorizar la calidad sobre la cantidad para construir la lista. Así que a pesar de que no obtuvimos muchas reproducciones, este mes recibí respuestas entusiastas de varios medios prominentes que expresaron su interés en publicar varios de nuestros artículos durante las próximas semanas:

  • El editor ejecutivo de la edición colombiana de la revista Vice me dijo que iban a reproducir “Bitcoin Debe Autorregularse, el Estado Solo Puede Destruirlo”, de Christiaan Elderhorst.
  • El editor de Pijama Surf, un blog mexicano de noticias alternativas sumamente popular, dijo que iba a reproducir “Brasil Arderá de Nuevo” de Erick Vasconcelos.
  • El subdirector de medios digitales de América Economía, una revista argentina de negocios muy establecida que es leída a lo largo y ancho de América Latina, me escribió diciendo que le gustaba nuestro material y que quiere publicar nuestros artículos de opinión regularmente.

En marzo también empecé por fin a trabajar en la traducción de The Iron Fist Behnid the Invisible Hand de Kevin Carson, por lo que espero poder terminarla durante las próximas dos semanas.

Así que se seguimos bajando duro para dar a conocer al centro en el mundo de habla hispana. Aunque España y México se encuentran entre los veinte países que más tráfico generan a nuestro sitio web, el potencial de crecimiento es enorme.

Por último, aunque no menos importante, por favor considera hacer una donación dentro de tus posibilidades. Hay millones de hispanohablantes en el mundo que están hambrientos de contenido como el nuestro, y dándonos una propina todos los meses puedes contribuir enormemente a nuestra capacidad de llegar a ellos.

¡Salud y libertad!

Spanish Media Coordinator Update, March 2014

In March we achieved a grand total of four Spanish-lang pickups, which is nothing to go crazy about, but bear in mind my media contacts list is still very short–72 email addresses only.

I am following a strategy of quality over quantity to build the list, so despite the few pickups, this month I received enthusiastic responses of several prominent media expressing their interest in publishing several of our articles within the next couple of weeks:

  • The Managing Editor of the Colombian edition of Vice magazine, told me they were going to publish the translation of Christiaan Elderhorst’s “Bitcoin Must Self-Regulate — The State Can Only Destroy“.
  • The publisher of Pijama Surf, a quite big alternative news Mexican blog, said he was going to run the translation of Erick Vasconcelos’ “Brasil is Going to Burn, Again.”
  • The Sub-Director for Digital Media of América Economía, a very well established Argentinean business magazine that is read across Latin America, wrote me an email saying he liked our material and would like to publish our op-eds regularly.

In March I also started working on the translation of Kevin Carson’s “The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand,” so hopefully I’ll have it ready within the next two weeks.

So we are working hard to make C4SS well known in the Spanish speaking world. Although Spain and Mexico are among the top 20 traffic-generating countries for our site, the potential for growth is still enormous.

Last but not least, please consider making a donation within your posibilities. There are millions of Spanish speakers out there in the world hungry for our content, and throwing a few bucks at us every month makes a huge difference in terms of boosting our capacity to reach them!.

¡Salud y libertad!

Missing Comma: Concerning “Horizontal Loyalty”

Last week’s blog excerpted a piece from Ann Friedman over at the Columbia Journalism Review that mentioned the term, “horizontal loyalty.” Coined by Radiolab host and longtime public radio producer Robert Krulwich during a commencement speech he gave to UC Berkeley grads in 2011, Friedman used the term as a way to challenge perceptions on networking:

Think of your network as a community—a group of professional collaborators with whom you share skills and ideas, contacts and advice—that you invest in whether or not you’re looking for a new job.

I mentioned that I thought this concept seemed almost stigmergic in nature, and it turned out that I wasn’t too far off.

From Krulwich’s speech:

So for this age, for your time, I want you to just think about this: Think about NOT waiting your turn.

Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy.  Think about entrepeneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.

And when it comes to security, to protection, your friends may take better care of you than CBS took care of Charles Kuralt in the end. In every career, your job is to make and tell stories, of course. You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection, with the people you’ve helped who’ve helped you back.

And maybe that’s your way into Troy.

I think, for a long time, we’ve been trying to look for new ways to talk about concepts like mutual aid and solidarity; horizontal loyalty, at least as Krulwich describes it (and as Friedman uses it), serves exactly this kind of function. Instead of waiting for power to grant us seats at the table, we create our own tables and work to help each other out. Insofar as journalism is concerned, this is especially crucial – as my latest op-ed shows, the journalism cartel has no intention or desire to embrace independent media. They are offering us no quarter, so we should take the point and set up lodgings elsewhere. Or better, build those lodgings ourselves.

Thoughts On Consumerism

Consumerism is often derided by leftists. It’s viewed as an outgrowth of capitalism and markets more generally. There is truth in the notion that commercialism is a product of markets, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. As Ellen Willis stated:

First of all, there is nothing inherently wrong with consumption. Shopping and consuming are enjoyable human activities and the marketplace has been a center of social life for thousands of years.

There is much enjoyment to be found in consuming the products of human beings and nature. My personal favorites include books, food, and computer games.

The alternative to consumerism is often considered to be a gift economy. What difference does it make whether you consume what you receive as a gift or what you purchase with money? No discernible one. What is really at work in opposition to consumerism is objection to commerce per se. People who can’t stand markets tend not to be able to handle commerce at all.

We have to consume to survive in this world. A human being who never ate or drank would quickly die off. Life would also be exceedingly boring without the products of human productivity to consume and otherwise make use of. Where would we be without the consumption of entertaining television programs, movies, and books? Not in a very happy place.

One has to consume pretty continuously to remain functional. There is a constant need for food and water. Not to mention the nourishment of the mind through intellectual activities. There can be no happy human existence without the above. Those who denigrate consumption are essentially attacking human life. The veneration of human life requires respect for what it requires to last.

In the final analysis; consumption is an essential part of markets. Market freedom includes both the liberty to produce as one pleases and freedom to consume as one wishes. There can be no justifiable constraints coercively imposed upon this. Both are important for the liberty of individuals. Economic freedom is an important part of the larger conception of liberty to which we left-libertarians subscribe.

Let us work towards a world of economic abundance where unabashed materialism can exist alongside mutual aid or social support. It would be the best of both worlds. The untrammeled pursuit of material welfare coupled with the empathy of social support. A humane and rational alternative to egotism or self-abnegation. Liberty requires we realize this vision.

Future Of Bitcoin “In Doubt?” I Doubt It. On C4SS Media

C4SS Media presents ‘s “Future Of Bitcoin “In Doubt?” I Doubt It.” read by James Tuttle and edited by Nick Ford.

“The only entities and organizations with anything to fear from Bitcoin and its offspring are governments (which rely on the ability to tax) and the political class (including pseudo-”private” parasites who make their livings sucking off the tax teat). And they SHOULD be afraid. Their day is coming to an end.”