Sunday, April 23, 2006


Regular commenter Julius Blumfeld has an intriguing post on his blog asking whether or not left-libertarianism is right. He wrote,

The central thesis of the Left Libs seems to be that the State is the instrument of Big Business and that State activism is largely driven by and for the benefit of Big Business. They therefore see Big Business as the enemy as much as the State itself.

Are they right? Or was Rand right when she characterised Big Business as an oppressed minority?

And his conclusion is that "as a whole the left lib thesis strikes me as exagerrated."

And I think he has a point. The reason for this is that I think left libertarians may have misconstrued similarities between Marxist theory and the classical liberal position the left libertarians claim to have adopted from Rothbard, Nock, and Oppenheimer, and others. The danger is that it tries to make the whole nature of the class struggle to be one of business-men versus workers after all. But this is certainly not what Rothbard had in mind, so far as I can tell. For instance, Kevin Carson writes,

The chief act of coercion by which the state exploits labor, as our free market socialist school has understood it, is by restricting, on behalf of a ruling class, the laboring classes' access to the means of production. By setting up such barriers, the ruling class is able to charge tribute in the form of unpaid labor, for allowing access on its own terms.

Now, various aspects of this may be true. However, I will point out what is misleading: The claim that the state acts on behalf of a ruling class.

The first problem with this is that it leads us to ask, "well, who is the ruling class." All business people? This would seem to be the implication, and yet it cannot be, for many, indeed most of the historic forms of state intervention Carson himself crtiticises benefit some business people at the expense, not just of workers, but of other business people. So who is this ruling class, and how did they get to be ruling?

The second, and perhaps most glaring problem is that this description casts the state in the light of an instrument. This was one of the Marxists greatest errors: The criticised the state as an instrument of class rule. This makes the state essentially a neutral party with no interests of its own, but only to be directed in the interests of whomever happens to be the ruling class (the capitalists in today's society, the worker's in the socialist stage, according to Marx). And, of course, this error is, as anarchist socialists such as Bakunin and Proudhon predicted it would be, what lead to the abject failure of state socialist experiments: The state socialists neglected the fact that the state is not, and cannot be a neutral party, but is either part of the ruling class, or is the ruling class in its entirity.

The "state-as-instrument-of-class-rule" view is definitely not what Rothbard had in mind, when he developed his view of class that left libertarians praise so highly. Rothbard wrote,

If the State is a group of plunderers, who then constitutes the State? Clearly, the ruling elite consists at any time of (a) the full-time apparatus—the kings, politicians, and bureaucrats who man and operate the State; and (b) the groups who have maneuvered to gain privileges, subsidies, and benefices from the State. The remainder of society constitutes the ruled.

Here, contrary to Carson, there is no ruling class for the state to act on behalf of. There is simply the state itself, and then those whom it benefits. And, of course, whilst the latter may vary dramatically, the former has more (though obviously not total) rigidity.

The fact that the state cannot possibly a mere instrument, without interests of its own, is primarily due to two distinct features. Firstly, its monopoly over the legal apparatus, and secondly, the fact that it raises revenue by taxation.

On the former, for instance, see Joe Sobran's point:

no constitution could restrain the state. Once its monopoly of force was granted legitimacy, constitutional limits became mere fictions it could disregard; nobody could have the legal standing to enforce those limits. The state itself would decide, by force, what the constitution “meant,” steadily ruling in its own favor and increasing its own power. This was true a priori, and American history bore it out.

What if the Federal Government grossly violated the Constitution? Could states withdraw from the Union? Lincoln said no. The Union was “indissoluble” unless all the states agreed to dissolve it. As a practical matter, the Civil War settled that. The United States, plural, were really a single enormous state, as witness the new habit of speaking of “it” rather than “them.”

So the people are bound to obey the government even when the rulers betray their oath to uphold the Constitution. The door to escape is barred. Lincoln in effect claimed that it is not our rights but the state that is “unalienable.” And he made it stick by force of arms. No transgression of the Constitution can impair the Union’s inherited legitimacy. Once established on specific and limited terms, the U.S. Government is forever, even if it refuses to abide by those terms.

As Hoppe argues, this is the flaw in thinking the state can be controlled by a constitution. Once granted, state power naturally becomes absolute. Obedience is a one-way street. Notionally, “We the People” create a government and specify the powers it is allowed to exercise over us; our rulers swear before God that they will respect the limits we impose on them; but when they trample down those limits, our duty to obey them remains.

And on the latter, Rothbard frequently quoted John C Calhoun:

Few, comparatively, as they are, the agents and employees of the government constitute that portion of the community who are the exclusive recipients of the proceeds of the taxes. Whatever amount is taken from the community in the form of taxes, if not lost, goes to them in the shape of expenditures or disbursements. The two—disbursement and taxation—constitute the fiscal action of the government. They are correlatives. What the one takes from the commu­nity under the name of taxes is transferred to the portion of the community who are the recipients under that of disbursements. But as the recipients consti­tute only a portion of the community, it follows, taking the two parts of the fiscal process together, that its action must be unequal between the payers of the taxes and the recipients of their proceeds. Nor can it be otherwise; unless what is collected from each individual in the shape of taxes shall be returned to him in that of disbursements, which would make the process nugatory and absurd….

The necessary result, then, of the unequal fiscal action of the government is to divide the community into two great classes: one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes and, of course, bear exclusively the burden of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into tax-payers and tax-consumers.

But the effect of this is to place them in antagonistic relations in reference to the fiscal action of the government—and the entire course of policy therewith connected. For the greater the taxes and disbursements, the greater the gain of the one and the loss of the other, and vice versa…. The effect, then, of every increase is to enrich and strengthen the one, and impoverish and weaken the other.

First, the state is the absolute arbiter of all disagreements, including those which involve itself, and secondly the state, however, minimal, lives at the expense of taxpayers. This implies it cannot possibly be a neutral, since it undermines the basic principle of neutrality central to a rule of law in the first case, and since, no matter how big, it exists by exploiting the productive efforts of others in the latter.

Again, Left-Libertarians approvingly cite Franz Oopenheimer, who wrote,

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others. Robbery! Forcible appropriation!... I propose i. the following discussion to call one's own labor and the equivalent exchange of one's own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means" for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the "political means."... The state is an organization of the political means. No state, therefore, can come into being until the economic means has created a definite number of objects for the satisfaction of needs, which objects may be taken away or appropriated by warlike robbery.

This, again, places the state at the centre of an exploitative relationship.

Now, it could be noted that Rothbard's definition of the ruling classes, cited above, includes certain beneficiaries. Could this be where big business comes in?

Actually, if the answer is to construe big business as a class, then the answer is no. Sure, there are numerous beneficiaries of state intervention who are big business people, or, rather, many instances of state intervention were/are promoted or defended by people in big business. No left libertarian would balk at this passage from Rothbard's For a New Liberty

Conservatives have often placed their central hopes in big business­men. This view of big business was most starkly expressed in Ayn Rand's dictum that "Big Business is America's most persecuted minority." Perse­cuted? With a few honorable exceptions, big business jostles one another eagerly to line up at the public trough. Does Lockheed, or General Dynamics, or AT&T, or Nelson Rockefeller feel persecuted?

Big business support for the Corporate Welfare-Warfare State is so blatant and so far-ranging, on all levels from the local to the federal, that even many conservatives have had to acknowledge it, at least to some extent. How then explain such fervent support from "America's most persecuted minority?" The only way out for conservatives is to assume (a) that these businessmen are dumb, and don't understand their own economic interests, and/or (b) that they have been brainwashed by left-liberal intellectuals, who have poisoned their souls with guilt and misguided altruism. Neither of these explanations will wash, how­ever, as only a glance at AT&T or Lockheed will amply show. Big businessmen tend to be admirers of statism, to be "corporate liberals," not because their souls have been poisoned by intellectuals, but because a good thing has thereby been coming their way. Ever since the accelera­tion of statism at the turn of the twentieth century, big businessmen have been using the great powers of State contracts, subsidies and carteli­zation to carve out privileges for themselves at the expense of the rest of the society. It is not too farfetched to assume that Nelson Rockefeller is guided far more by self-interest than he is by woolly-headed altruism. It is generally admitted even by liberals, for example, that the vast network of government regulatory agencies is being used to cartelize each industry on behalf of the large firms and at the expense of the public. But to salvage their New Deal world-view, liberals have to console them­selves with the thought that these agencies and similar "reforms," en­acted during the Progressive, Wilson, or Rooseveltian periods, were launched in good faith, with the "public weal" grandly in view. The idea and genesis of the agencies and other liberal reforms were therefore "good"; it was only in practice that the agencies somehow slipped into sin and into subservience to private, corporate interests. But what Kolko, Weinstein, Domhoff and other revisionist historians have shown, clearly and thoroughly, is that this is a piece of liberal mythology. In reality, all of these reforms, on the national and local levels alike, were conceived, written, and lobbied for by these very privileged groups themselves. The work of these historians reveals conclusively that there was no Gol­den Age of Reform before sin crept in; sin was there from the beginning, from the moment of conception. The liberal reforms of the Progressive-New Deal-Welfare State were designed to create what they did in fact create: a world of centralized statism, of "partnership" between govern­ment and industry, a world which subsists in granting subsidies and monopoly privileges to business and other favored groups.

No doubt much of these are true. In fact, I would recommend the work of Kevin Carson as of great importance in understanding this fact, especially, here, and and here. However, we should take note of the fact that Rothbard follows this passage up with a further:

Expecting the Rockefellers or the legion of other favored big business­men to convert to a libertarian or even a laissez-faire view is a vain and empty hope. But this is not to say that all big businessmen, or businessmen in general, must be written off. Contrary to the Marxists, not all businessmen, or even big businessmen, constitute a homogeneous economic class with identical class interests. On the contrary, when the CAB confers monopoly privileges on a few large airlines, or when the FCC confers a monopoly on AT&T, there are numerous other firms and businessmen, small and large, who are injured and excluded from the privileges. The conferring of a monopoly of communications on AT&T by the FCC, for example, for a long while kept the now rapidly growing data communications industry stagnating in infancy; it was only an FCC decision to allow competition that enabled the industry to grow by leaps and bounds. Privilege implies exclusion, so there will always be a host of businesses and businessmen, large and small, who will have a solid economic interest in ending State control over their industry. There are therefore a host of businessmen, especially those remote from the privileged "Eastern Establishment," who are potentially receptive to free-market and libertarian ideas.

This pretty much explicitly denies that big business can be seen as acting as a class, and so have a class interest in perpetuating state intervention. It is some big business people benefiing, often at the expense of, amongst others, other business people, large or small.

Indeed, suppose a local small corner shop mom and pop store would be put out of business were a large super market chain to open a branch nearby, because the super market could sell at much lower prices than the mom and pop store. So mom and pop, and their friends, lobby local government and get planning permission for the super market refused. In this case it would be the small business that is the monopolist.

Or take taxi cabs. It is well known that licensing taxis and their drivers restricts competition and so grants a monopolistic privilege to taxi cab owners or drivers. Sure, this makes it easier for them to cartelise, but even if they didn't, it means that the exploitative monopolists are, in fact, numerous small businesses in this case. The same goes for hairdressers, who (famously in several cases in New York) have used the fact that they are licensed to shut out competitors (New York hairdressers have shut out girls from racial minorities who charge for hair braiding on the grounds that the girls are not licensed hairdressers or barbers). These are numerous small business beneficiaries of monopolistic privileges.

Another glaring problem is the role of the welfare state. This is one area Julius Blumfeld wondered what state intervention had to do with big business. well, of course, nationalised health care provides an alternative to employer based insurances and medical schemes, and so releives them of that cost were that a cost they would be likely to face in a free market. Likewise, state education may mean that employers get an educated workforce at the public expense - but this is only a subsidy if the normal course of events otherwise would be big business paying for education, which I doubt it would be.

Indeed, more plausible scenarios occur in the recent history of the welfare state, especially in Private Finance Initiatives, and contracting out: Management, janitorial roles, production of pharmeteuticals, etc, are undertaken by private companies selling goods and services to the state. As contractors they have a vested interest in the welfare state. Likewise, the shock-horror stories of companies like Coca-cola or Pepsi getting kids to wear corporate sponsered clothes, or only to drink their produce, etc, actually benefit from having a captive audience for their adverts as well as captive markets for their goods due to the local school monopolies and compulsory education.

However, we should certainly not forget the fact that direct employees of the welfare state have a vested interest in its continuance simulateously. Welfare and public health campaigns have created veritable industries, all dependent, largely, on state action for their incomes. The source of the welfare state was largely not pressure for some sort of social security from the working classes, sure. Much of it may have been to do with some business people, big or small, and some of its perpetuation may have to do with that. But the principle reasons for its growth and strength are surely, 1) feather-bedding by those that working in the welfare state as a whole, and 2)indoctrination as to its necessity and effectiveness on behalf of those vested interests.

Left Libertarians often draw on the great work of people such as Joseph Stronberg, but Stronberg implicitly denied that the class struggle in today's society was one of business people vs. workers or consumers. He wrote that, "A considerable body of literature now exists which points towards an analysis of the American political economy as a system of liberal (as opposed to fascist) corporatism dominated by a tripartite syndicalist oligarchy: Big Business, Big Labor and Big Government." Yes, big labour. So workers may, indeed, be a part of the problem. Corporatism, after all, unions and trade organisations are a basic feature of a corporate state. As the Wikipedia entry on Corporatism goes,

Historically, corporatism or corporativism (Italian corporativismo) is a political system in which legislative power is given to civic assemblies that represent economic, industrial, agrarian, and professional groups. Unlike pluralism, in which many groups must compete for control of the state, in corporatism, certain unelected bodies take a critical role in the decision-making process...

In the recent literature of political science and sociology, corporatism (or neo-corporatism) lacks negative connotation. In the writings of Philippe Schmitter, Gerhard Lehmbruch and their followers, "neo-corporatism" refers to social arrangements dominated by tri-partite bargaining between unions, the private sector (capital), and government. Such bargaining is oriented toward (a) dividing the productivity gains created in the economy "fairly" among the social partners and (b) gaining wage restraint in recessionary or inflationary periods.

Most political economists believe that such neo-corporatist arrangements are only possible in societies in which labor is highly organized and various labor unions are hierarchically organized in a single labor federation. Such "encompassing" unions bargain on behalf of all workers, and have a strong incentive to balance the employment cost of high wages against the real income consequences of small wage gains. Many of the small, open European economies, such as Sweden, Austria, Norway, Ireland, and the Netherlands fit this classification. In the work of some scholars, such as Peter J. Katzenstein, neo-corporatist arrangements enable small open economies to effectively manage their relationship with the global economy. The adjustment to trade shocks occurs through a bargaining process in which the costs of adjustment are distributed evenly ("fairly") among the social partners.

Examples of modern neocorporatism include the ILO Conference or in the Economic and Social Committee of the European Union, the collective agreement arrangements of the Scandinavian countries, the Dutch Poldermodel system of consensus, or the Republic of Ireland's system of Social Partnership. In Australia, the Labor Party governments of 1983-96 fostered a set of policies known as The Accord, under which the Australian Council of Trade Unions agreed to hold back demands for pay increases, the compensation being increased expenditure on the "social wage", Prime Minister Paul Keating's name for broad-based welfare programs. In Singapore, the National Wages Council and other state-created entities form a tripartite arrangement between the major trade unions (NTUC), employers and the Government that co-ordinates the national economy. In Italy, the Carlo Azeglio Ciampi administration inaugurated in July 23, 1993 a concertation (italian: concertazione) policy of peaceful agreement on salary rates between government, the three main trade unions and the Confindustria employers' federation. Before that, salary augmentations always were conquered by strike actions. In 2001 the Silvio Berlusconi administration put an end to concertation.

Most theorists agree that traditional neo-corporatism is undergoing a crisis. In many classically corporatist countries, traditional bargaining is on the retreat. This crisis is often attributed to globalization, with increasing labour mobility and competition from developing countries (see outsourcing). However, this claim is not undisputed with nations like Singapore still strongly following neo-corporatist models.

So Stronberg wrote,

A central figure in the postwar development of liberal corporatism was Herbert Hoover. In "The Hoover Myth," Murray Rothbard underscores the great extent to which Hoover actually laid the foundations of the corporatism of the New Deal—though he was smeared by New Dealers as a die-hard "laissezfaireist." Thus, in the 1920's, Hoover as Secretary of Commerce, worked busily to promote rationalization and cartellization through development of trade associations and the integration of organized labor with them. Thus, for example, in 1922, Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt formed the American Construction Council, a trade association that they hoped could impose a "fair practices" code on the industry and cartellize it. As President, Hoover continued the promotion of liberal corporatism, encouraging the states to pass proration laws restricting the production of oil, and establishing, in 1932, a tariff on oil imports (whence there arose a virtual cartel in the oil industry). Throughout his career he "sought to transform the American economy into one of collaborating, self-regulating monopoly groups, all under the benevolent aegis . . . of the federal government—a program essentially like "the corporate economy of fascism." (Out of fairness to Hoover, it should be admitted that of all recent Presidents he was perhaps the least willing to go to war to defend the corollary of domestic corporatism—Open Door Empire.)
(My emphasis)

Likewise, unions played an especially strong role in the post-war consensus in Britain, especially through the Trades Unions Congress. This period was characterised by partnership between business interests, unions, and government, with nationalisation, central planning via price and wage controls, and Keynsian fiscal policy.

So unions form a basic part of the corporate state. But they don't do so simply for the good of workers versus capitalists. No, often it is for some workers against others. For instance, the idea of a minimum wage is lobbied for especially by trades unions. However, all libertarian writers know that whilst the minimum wage causes unemployment, it does so more amongst unskilled workers and poor immigrant workers. Unskilled workers tend not to be unionised, and immigrant workers represent competitors against unionised jobs. Hence, by disadvantaging especially the unskilled workers, unions favouring minimum wages ensure themselves a larger share of a nevertheless smaller market for labour. The minimum wgae, therefore, acts as a monopolistic privilege for the benefit of certain workers against others, as well as against employers.

So, in conclusion, the ruling class isn't simply big business, using state power against workers and consumers. It is, a) the state itself, and b) myriads of seperate interests, including some businessmen, some workers, etc. etc. against the productive members of society, including businessmen, workers, etc., in short, members of the same groups as also use state power.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Eminent Objectivist and Austrian economist George Reisman had a post over at the Mises Institute a while back. It addressed the profits raised by oil companies. The response to oil companies' tremendous rates of profits and soaring prices amongst environmentalists was rabid,

The article goes on to note that “New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Edward Markey, a senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, were others who quickly piled criticism on Big Oil. `The Bush policy of subsidizing wealthy oil companies has proven to be wildly effective in boosting oil company profits, but it continues to harm American consumers and threaten economic growth,’' Markey said in a statement.”

It then proceeds to give the environmentalists their say: “ExxposeExxon, a coalition of 15 environmental and other groups that banded together a few months back, used the record results to launch a fresh attack on Exxon and its policies. `A company like Exxon Mobil that is making record profits, and is making those profits off the back of American consumers, has a responsibility to invest those profits into responsible energy policies,’' said Shawnee Hoover, a campaign director for the coalition. `And that is precisely what Exxon is fighting.’''

Such statements demonstrate breathtaking disregard of facts, logic, and the science of economics.

True. However, it was at this stage that I responded:

Come on! Are we supposed to believe that the brave oil companies are the helpless victims of these environmental laws?! George Reisman writes,

"Let us begin with the fact that oil prices would be lower if the supply of oil were greater. The oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, have been doing their utmost to increase the supply of oil, including reinvesting a major portion of their profits precisely for that purpose. But time and again, they have been prevented from increasing the supply of oil by the environmental movement and the maze of governmental regulations and prohibitions that it has inspired."

In other words, government has supplied to oil companies a means of preventing supply from being increased when they raise their prices - in effect, a monopolistic privilege, in the Rothbardian sense... and we are to believe that Oil companies are very angry about this and are trying to increase supplies inspite of it?!

Rothbard pointed out that, "... the government regulation monopolizes and cartelizes much of industry, thereby driving up prices to consumers and restricting production, competitive alternatives, or improvements in products (eg... oil proration laws)" (For a New Liberty, p159). Likewise, David Friedman notes, "Today, although oil still comes out of the ground, federal and state governments have succeeded [at reducing supply] where the oil producers of 1872 failed. Through federal import quotas and state restrictions on production, they keep the price of oil high and production low." (Machinery of Freedom, p40)

Environmental laws are just some of the monopolistic privileges that oil companies enjoy, and it is laughable to suppose that they aren't happy with that!

Anyway, Professor Reisman honoured me with an entire article dedicated to my response! It is nice that the responses to Reisman's second article seem to support me, too!


The Misesian branch of the "Austrian" scool of economics claims to be able to deduce all economic principles from a single, undeniable axiom, thus making those principles themselves irrefutable (unless it can be shown that they don't follow from the axiom). This axiom is the claim that humans act. The claim is that this axiom is irrefutable, because denying that humans act is itself an action.

Of course, the tricky bit comes from the fact that Austrians have a particular meaning when they talk about "action"; they mean goal oriented action in a world of scarce means. The number of clauses in their definition of action, the more room for error.

However, this is not my point here. Instead, I am interested in a particular luminary in Austrian scholarship. Hans Herman Hoppe is famous amongst libertarians primarily for three positions. Firstly, for arguing that the state ought to limit immigration, because, controled immigration, he says, is the corollary of free trade. In a fully private world, all property will be private property, and nobody will trade with anybody unless they want to - they transfer property on the basis of having given permission. Likewise, he says, migration requires permission, so in a fully private world, migration will not be "free," but will have to be backed by the consent of whoever owns wherever migrants go. This is not original: Linda and Morris Tannehill say the same thing, as did Rothbard in The Ethics of Liberty.

However, Rothbard said that immigration controls were, on this basis, a violation of rights - not those of the migrant, who has no right to immigrate onto other's property, but of the right of owners who are now forbidden, thanks to immigration controls, to invite certain others onto their property. Hoppe, on the other hand, thinks that since the state is the de facto owner of all of a country's land, it should act like the de jure owner, and thus have, and excercise, a right to control immigration. Of course, this does not follow - nobody would want to claim that simply by being the de facto owner you get to act like you are the de jure owner.

Hoppe has also argued that monarchy is better than democracy, and hence that a dictatorship is, although, to his credit, he says that free market anarchism is better than either. The argument here again focuses on de facto ownership: A Monarch is the owner of a country. Like any private owner, he has an incentive to conserve the capital value, the long term value, of his property. Because of this, Hoppe argues, monarchies will have lower taxes, fewer controls and more productive economies, etc. etc. On the other hand, in democracies, rulers are simply caretakers of a country, and so get none of that long term value, and so have every incentive to destroy it, and that country's civilisation. Its an intriguing theory that I don't think stands up empirically, but there we go.

The issue I mainly am focusing on here is Hoppe's "argumentation ethics." In this he claims to be able to base libertarianism on a single undeniable axiom, just as Mises tried to ground economics. Hoppe's claim is that self-ownership is irrefutible. The argument is that one cannot claim that one does not own oneself without using some part of yourself. And this, Hoppe thinks, involves some sort of contradiction.

Anyway, I tackled him on this issue in an email:

Dear Professor Hoppe,

Doesn't your argumentation ethics confuse de jure and de facto control over ones self? Sure, denying that I have any control over myself would be contradictory, because I would have to have control over myself to do so. But it doesn't follow from that that I have any sort of right to control myself. And without such a right, I have no self-ownership.

What is your solution to this quandary?

Richard Garner

Hoppe sent this extremely short reply:

You also cannot, without falling into contradiction, argue that you have no right to argue (and self-ownership).

My response was thus:

Can I not? First off, if it proves I have any right at all, does it not simply prove that I have the right to argue with you? We have not proved that I have any other rights over myself, or any right to do anything else.

But, that is even if we go that far: Perhaps, rather than a right to argue against you, I have simply a duty. Or maybe it is a privilege. For instance, suppose I don't own myself, but am a slave, and as a slave, I am instructed by my owner to argue against you. Now I would be arguing against you, but the issue of who owns me has not altered.


For some reason, maybe he just forgot to, Hoppe never replied to me.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Liberty Forum having been taken over by Nazis, as I have said, every other post appears to be about Jews. Jews do this, Jews do that. It is a constant barrage about how the Jews really run the world, in some big conspiracy.

Needless to say, this all gets a bit tiresome. They all get annoyed when I ask how this conspiracy is managed, because none of my Jewish freinds get any of the memo's for the meetings! How could they be conspiring whaen they don't even know about the conspiracy?!!!!

Anyway, I got so sick of this shit that I decided to fight fire with fire: One lousey nut job conspiracy theory deserved another. When the boss isn't watching, I like to read the books at work, especially ones that are split into brief segments so I don't miss much if work obliges me to put it down. Under this description fell a book, an encyclodaedia of conspiracy theories (it didn't mention holocaust revisionism, btw, but we have a different but similar book that does). Based on information I got from there, I created this post, in response to somebody's tired objections to the volume of anti-semitism on LF:

Its all a front and the anti-Jew brigade are simply covering for their real masters.

After all - there could not be a real Jewish conspiracy, since the Knights Templar would not allow it.

Yes, that is right, the Knights Templar. This group were the original international banking cartel, setting up some of the earliest banks and money exchanges. Kings of Europe feared them, and eventually tried to hunt them down and kill them because the power of the temple rivaled that of kingdoms. So we have a powerful organisation, setting up international banking.

The Knights templar, history books will tell, were wiped out in a wave of religious persecution. However, it is also known that some knights fled to Scotland - a church they established there features in the Da Vinci Code (of course, they also worked to hide the true legacy of Christ's lineage).

The Free masons were established in Britain, and it is known that, amongst other things admittedly, their rituals include rituals carried over from the Knights Templar, indicating the influence of the Order on the Masons. So, the Knights Templar run the free masons.

In addition to this, though, in 1771 in Bavaria, Adam Weishaupt started an organisation of free thinkers. This organisation believed in creating a world government of enlightened despotism, with the greatest free thinking minds, scientists, philosophers, and the such, bringing an enlightened rule to the world. They called themselves "The Enlightened Ones" or the "Illuminated Ones": The Illuminati, better known as the Bavarian Illuminati. The group was outlawed, along with other secret societies, in 1778.

What is the connection to the Knights of the Temple? Well, firstly, most of the original membership of the illuminati was drawn from masons, who, we know, may well have been under the control of the Knights. However, beyond this, a powerful off shoot of Knights Templar were the Bavarian Knights. Bavarian Knights, Bavarian Illuminati... the connection is obvious.

The KGB, it is well known, tried to infiltrate the free masons, since so many western leaders were masons. But what may also have been the case is that the inflitration was reciprocal: The Masons infiltrated the KGB. This would put the KGB under control of the Knights Templar, via the Masons - and the Bavarian connection, handy for East Germany, strengthens this. Many Conspirologists suspect that after the fall of the USSR the KGB survived as a secret organisation going underground.

So, the world is actually run by the Knights Templar, and they obviously would not allow competition from a Jewish conspiracy, which is why there is not likely to be such a thing.

All ridiculous, I know. Interesting stuff, and fun digging up "evidence," or stuff that can be interpretted as evidence, but nonsense speculation in the end...

...Except that the nut jobs believed me!

Some were Skeptical, and I had to work at defending the "theory." One guy, in response to my claim that the Templars ruled the world, said "And of course you KNOW that. Right? Didn't you take Dan Brown a bit too seriously (:-)?"

I responded, thusly:

On the contrary, Nothing of what I said came from Dan Brown (Though people also claim that the Knights are behind the Priory of Sion. There are the rites of the Knights Templar and the Order of the Templar in the masons, French Knights Templar did flee to Scotland, and they are suspected of creating a group of stone masons there. The free masons started as a network of Masons in the UK, federations of local guilds, as masons needed to travel all over the country finding work.

Other conspiracy theories link the Knights Templar to the Skulls society that Bush and Kerry are part of. In the mid eighties an organisation was also started claiming to be able to trace its routes back to the templars.

The Bavarian Illuminatti was an historical fact - Jefferson was an admirer, and it is also a fact that most members were masons. There is no evidence that the illuminati was a part of the Free Masons, though, only that people were members of both. Both were persecuted in the late 1880s. There is no evidence that the Knights Templar really survived, or that they are running the Masons. KGB infiltration of the masons is fact, but reciprocation is speculation. So too is the idea that the KGB survived the fall of the USSR.

But then, the idea of a Jewish conspiracy is crap, too.

Unfortunately, he didn't take note of my admission that what I said was nonsense as much as was the idea of a Jewish conspiracy, since he further stated,

I am not saying that these entities didn't exist. I am saying that I can't believe that any such organization had plans more than thousand years ahead of time.

In defense of my "theory," though, I never said that the Templars planned a thousand years ahead, only that they still existed as an organisation, and ruled the world via the international banking cartel, the free masons, the illuminatti, and the KGB - and now the society of Skulls!

One guy responded to my original post saying, "Interesting post. I'll have to put on my thinking hat in order to consider it" with a link to a picture of a Templar cap, to make his pun evident. He went on,

The Templars get blamed for a great deal. They were equalled by the Hospitallers of the order of St John. Then there were the latecomers, the Teutonic Order, of the Rule of St John.


The one to look at is the Teutonic Order. That and other quasi-masonic societies were part of a huge rennaissance in mysticism in the late 19th Century. It errupted in the face of Darwinism, embracing it; growing emancipation of working classes, rejecting that, plus the new philosophies.

Similar occured in Britain with the Cambridge Set, resulting in the growth of the Society for Psychical Research, some of whose members were highly influencial in the formation of the Fabian Society, which adopted a structure based on the Jesuit Order (Not surprising given the backing by Rockefeller/Morgan).

In Germany, the Teutonic Order sprouted an offshoot, the Thule Society, which formed the NAZI party. That in turn founded the SS, structured along the lines of the Jesuit Order, and which founded Ahnenerbe.

Ahnenerbe spent more money on Psychic Research than the US spent on the Manhatten Project.

If there is a "New World Order", this is its recent history (without mention of its political, industrial and economic side). A sort of "dark side".

In the end I had to email him and tell him privately that I was joking to wind up the anti-semites! It goes to show that it takes a particular mindset to be an Anti-semitic Nazi! That of being a gullible moron!


On a newbie asked what Contractarianism was, so I gave my answer. It gets a bit complicated, when I mention distributing freedom. This is basically about how we are free to perform an action if that action is not rendered impossible, so another another person makes my action impossible if his action and mine are incompossible (they can't both be possible at the same time). This is because all actions are events and so involve specific usage of given spacio-temporal locations, and so an action's being possible means that one possesses the relevant spacio-temporal locations, either actually or subjuntively. So if somebody else's actions make mine impossible, she, and not I, am in possession of a sufficient quantity of the relevant spacio-temporal locations.

Given this, coupled with the fact that resources are scarce, that spacio-temporal locations are finite, etc. etc., we get the fact that liberty cannot be increased or decreased on net, just dispersed or contracted. We cannot either praise a gain in liberty per se, or complain about a loss of it. For instance, freeing the slaves doesn't mean that there is more liberty in the world, since it necessarily implies that if the slaves are free to do now what they once were before, others, specifically former slave owners, are now unfree to do various things.

So, if we cannot complain about alterations in liberty, what can we complain about? Well, take the slave example: What we either complain about or praise is whether the freedoms that the slaves gain are freedoms to which they are entitled. Likewise with the freedoms lost by the slave owner. In this sense, we start talking about distributing freedom, or freedoms, and saying "this freedom is for you, this for him, this for her," basically establishing what freedoms people have. And in so doing, we create rights: Rights are distributions of freedom. So, this explains why I started talking about distributing freedom, and it relates to Hobbesian contractarianism specifically, because that is almost the very language he uses. His social contract is about giving up certain freedoms in exchange for others; it is an account of how freedom ought to be distributed, and the reasons why. So, here is my explaination of contractarianism:

Contractarianism is basically the view that moral principles are prescriptive, and so have to be rules for all of us to follow rather than ones that are simply for me, and also that the correct principles are those that would, hypothetically, be agreed to by rational people.

Modern forms basically have two forms, Kantian and Hobbesian. In the Kantian form, contractarianism enters as a formulation of Kants universalisability thesis. Kant's general formulation of the categorical imperative (a categorical imperative is a rule to be followed for no more reason than that it is the rule) is "Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." But the specific formulation of this that he produced, which Kantian contractarians have picked up on, is "So act as if you were by your maxim in every case a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends." The "ends" part comes from another formulation wherein people ought to be treated not simply as means but also as ends. The idea of a hypothetical" community of people treated as ends, sharing in "legislation" (producing the moral code) gives us the contractarian basis.

The most famous Kantian contractarian was John Rawls.

The other form of contractarianism is called "Hobbesian." It regards the Kantian method as flawed since it incorporates moral intutitions that aren't themselves justified by the contractarian method (such as Rawl's "Justice as fairness" impartiality rule" Rawls basically announced later, that what he was doing was writing a code of justice that would persuade those who already agreed with it, and he had rigged his "hypothetical contract" scenario to get the answers he wants.)

The Hobbesian position starts from Hobbes basic assumption of moral sceptisism: There are no objective moral values, any more than there are objective tastes. In fact, that is all the word "Good" means - that you have a taste for whatever it is you are saying is good. Everybody has different opinions about what is good and bad and right and wrong. In fact, if you notice most arguments about moral issues, they basically proceed like this: "You can't believe X, because X is a form of Y, or implies Y, and you oppose Y." In short, they appeal to some sort of intution, which is useful if that intution is held, but if it is rejected the argument fails.

So, everybody has their own view of what is right and wrong, and it is very hard to prove to those that disagree with yours why yours is the best and theirs isn't. But, contractarians say, that doesn't mean we should give up.

Hobbes and his followers say, "well, imagine what a terrible place it would be if everybody went around doing exactly what they wanted, or exactly what they felt was right by their morality. In such a world, nobody would have any rights to anything, with the implication that if you are strong enough, you can have anything, provided you can keep it. So everybody would have a right to anything, including things other people had expended effort producing or finding, or that they were using... in fact, everybody would have a right to everybody else - they could do what they wanted with anything they wanted, including each other, provided they were strong enough. In such a world, nobody would bother to produce anything, since it would be pointless to expend much effort only to have it stolen, or pointless to to produce if you can simply steal; nobody would be secure in their possessions, or in their person, or in the knowledge that various actions they value would be open to them." In short, Hobbes said, is would be a state of war of each against each, and life would be "nasty, brutal and short."

The solution to a state of war, then, as Hobbes said, carrying the analogy across, are articles of peace, and these, contractarians claim, provide the moral code. And first off, we have to know that if there is to be peace, then the artciles must provide two things: They must be better than the state of war; and they must be mutually beneficial.

So what are the articles of peace? Hobbes produced a list, but said that they were derivable from two basic ones, which he called the first and second laws of nature.

The first proceeds from the fact that in the state of war, one of the disadvantages was that everyone had a right (power) to use force, for anything they wanted. Hobbes said that the first articles of peace, then, should be that "every man, ought to endeavour peace, as far as he has hope of obtaining it; and when he cannot obtain it, that he may seek, and use, all helps and advantages of war." Basically put, in the state of nature, everybody can use force to get what they want. And the only alternative to everybody giving up this right (power), is either nobody, or just some people giving it up. If nobody gave it up, the state of war would continue. But why would I give up my right (power) to use force against you, unless I knew you could not use force against me? I wouldn't. It is not in my interest to accept such an agreement. Therefore, we should all give up our right to use force against each other to get what we want, but instead try to deal with each other peacefully. The exception, however, is that we can deal forcibly with those that deal forcibly with us - we can defend ourselves. Were this not the case then the situation would be like, either the one under which only some people give up their ability to use force against each other, or it would be as though the person who used force was breaking the agreement and so returning to the state of nature anyway.

The second principle has to do with the fact that anybody can do anything they want with anything they want, at any time they want. Because of this, my freedom to do X at time t is tremendously insecure, because you (or someone else) may be doing Y at time t with the same, or sufficeintly many of the same spatio-temporal locations of my action X, thus rendering me unfree to do X at time t.

What is wanted, then, in order for me to be free to act in varius ways, is you (and others) to give up your freedom to act in various ways that would render my acting impossible. But you would not agree to give up such freedoms unless I reciprocally gave up some so that you were free to do the things you found valuable. Hence, Hobbes second law, distributing freedom: "that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far-forth, as for peace, and defence of himself he shal think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself." In other words, equal freedom.

It is also important to note that on this conception of freedom, one person's gain in freedom is another person's loss. Remember that my being free to do X at time t required that you were not free to do any act with the same spatio-temporal locations, since were you able to do so, my act would be rendered impossible, and so I would not be free to do it. Given this fact, there can be no net increases in freedom, though there can be alterations in its concentration. because of this, then, it is not meaningful to criticise lossess of gains of freedom per se. After all, a gain of freedom to do various things for the slave means a loss for the slave owner. Instead, it is only meaningful to ask whether the loss or gain in freedom was of a proportion to which one was entitled (entitlement set, first, by the second article of peace in the social contract above).

Hence we talk about distributions of freedom. And when we do so, we talk about rights. So Hobbes' second law tells us what the distribution of initial rights ought to be. However, we can also note that an objection to this contract will be that not everybody will want to give up certain freedoms, especially if they are freedoms to carry out acts they think are of great moral importance. How might the contractarian answer this?

Well, one way would be to say, "but if you don't give some up to me, why would I give up some to you?" In other words, in order to secure peace, you just have to give some up, or I will never agree to peace with you.

Another answer, though, is to say, "fine, lets us trade our freedoms. Let it be that I own my freedom to do various acts, and so I will give up my freedom to do that act (that is, which is the same thing, I will waive my duty against you that you do not act in a way that prevents me performing that act), but you have to compensate me if I do.

According to a Coasian analysis, whatever the initial distribution of freedoms in this case, a trade will be mutually advantageous so long as transaction costs are low enough.

All this very roughly accords with libertarian principles, especially wherein all rights are property rights, which may be why leading modern Hobbesian contractarian scholars, like David Gauthier and Jan Narveson, have been either libertarian or sympathetic to it. The difference between them and Hobbes is not in the formulation of moral principles, but in how morality, or justice is to be maintained. Gauthier is roughly liberal, advocating deomcratic constitutional government. Narveson is an anarchist. Hobbes was for an absolute state.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Immigration is a big issue in the US again, with all sorts of talk about illegals and legals, etc. Liberty Forum now being largely a Populist/Nazi forum, there have been lots of rants about immigration as a result. I have, naturally, engaged in such debates - in fact, I get flagged to them, either by opponents of immigration, who want to wind me up, or by defenders, because everybody knows it is an issue I enjoy discussing (I often do on the Libertarian Alliance forum too).

Now, I have often debated a pure economic case for free immigration. Here the concern is that immigrants are "stealing jobs" that they will cause low wages or unemployment of the indigenous population. For a refutation of that view I would suggest you check out my archives here and look at my defense of outsourcing: People that employ immigrants are outsourcing in a more local way! Or check out the chapter on government grants of monopolistic privilege in Rothbard's Power and Market.

But, at root, the issue is not an economic one. It is a property rights issue: The state simply has no right to limit or control immigration. I made this argument on Liberty Forum, to an American, and so it is in an American context:

My point is this: If Billy Bob Stevens owns a Ranch on the Texas/Mexico border, and an immigrant puts a foot over the border, that foot does not land on Texan land, or US land, but on Billy Bob's land. Whether that immigrant gets to be there or not, then, ought to be up to Billy Bob, not the Texas state government, not the federal government, or anybody else.

And imagine that the immigrant sets foot, not on private property, but on public property? Well, public property is paid for by taxes, on eminent domain seized land, and so is actually stolen property - stolen by either local, state or federal governments. Therefore, since thieves again do not get to decide over the property they have stolen, the local, state, and federal government does not have a right to decide whether an immigrant can set foot on that land.

What is sad is seeing so called libertarians defend immigration controls. They often concede that immigration doesn't lead to jobs being stolen, or falling wages (only it does, of course, when those jobs are currently occupied by workers being paid too much and who use immigration controls as a tariff wall to protect their monopoly prices). But they are concerned about immigrants coming to the country to abuse its welfare system. In this case, they say "well I am all for free immigration, but after the welfare state is gone, or else you will get all these free loaders."

Well, why not apply the same argument to drug decriminalisation? The reason I don't want to take hard drugs is because they scare me: They are dangerous to my health. Others may think differently, or be prepared to risk their health. If they are paying for their own treatments, they may change their minds of course: If they have to pay for insurance, etc. And even then, nobody is likely to insure them if they actively go out and seek risks, so they are likely to end up footing the bill. So, in a world of privatised health care, people who normally wouldn't, may think twice about drug taking.

But in a world with tax funded, free at the point of access health care and long term coverage and support, why should they? The costs of their actions are forced on everybody else, and not on them. The result then, would surely be that we would get more people willing to take the risk of taking drugs under a system of nationalised health care than under a private one. And this would mean more burden on hapless tax payers, just, as the anti-immigrationists tell us, allowing free immigration would.

So, logically, the anti-immigration libertarian should be an anti-drug decriminalisation libertarian, too. In fact, we could extend the argument to any risky behaviour, at which point the libertarian who opposes decriminalising immigration "in the here-and-now, whilst the welfare state exists, and so immigrants are a burden on tax payers," is pretty much a criminalise everything libertarian! It is a plain case of "gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice." Someone who says, "no, we should keep X feature of the state until we get rid of Y" is an apologist for the X feature, and not an anti-statist at all!

Likewise the, "we need immigration controls to keep out illiberal or unlibertarian cultures" libertarian is no libertarian at all. Sure, if ten million Moslems immigrate to the UK, the UK would quickly cease to be a liberal country, and would no doubt become some sort of hell hole. But likewise, if ten million people started reading the Communist Manifesto, or Mein Kampf the result would be the same. So what was a case for restrictimg immigration would then become a case for restricting the publication of illiberal books. Basically, these libertarians are defending a position wherein libertarianism is the belief that force is only legitimate when used to protect person and property or to punish people for not agreeing with libertarianism!


Over at Liberty Forum it is a noticable fact that what started out as a discussion board and fora for discussing and promoting libertarian ideas has become a place where libertarians are a drastic minority, and most people are conservative populists or Nazis, seeing Jewish conspiracies every where. I don't know why I stay there, but I do, so there we go.

Because of this populist takeover, criticisms of homosexuality are common. Usually these are religiously grounded. Or they make assertions about nature. However, what I always note is that they often come down to complaints about anal sex. These complaints are varied: That anal sex is risky, endangering particpants with long term damage, or with risk of disease. Or that it is simply gross and distasteful to put a penis near shit. Or that it is not what is "intended," that the anus is a "waste chute" not a sex organ. I have even been told that anal sex messes up a person's aura, or some New Age crap like that. Whatever the complaint, these arguments for the immorality of homosexuality generally deduce this immorality by claiming that all these criticisms of anal sex make it immoral.

Of course, one can refute this argument by refuting these criticisms, or the idea that these criticisms imply the immorality of anal sex. For instance, if anal sex is immoral because it is risky, then all risky behaviour is immoral; so crossing the road is immoral. If anal sex is immoral because it is distatseful, well then... well this argument is nonsense anyway, since it cannot be proved objectively; whilst one can make a prescriptive rule about never being distasteful, particular applications would be imposible because it is subjective. If anal sex is immoral because it is using something (body parts) in ways they were not intended, then using things in ways in which they were not intended is immoral: Nobody should use a knife to jimmy the lid off a paint tin, for instance. Woe betide me, because I have sat on tables when teaching. And anyway, there is no intention behind the design of human body parts, and even if there were, I own me now, so he can but out.

But all these refutations of why anal sex is immoral are beside the point. This is because discussion anal sex is beside the point. In a resent debate on Liberty Forum I basically explained that anybody who started a debate about the morality of homosexuality and then started using arguments as to why anal sex was immoral to prove his point is changing the subject.

My argument was this: Straight people as well as gays engage in anal sex. Maybe not as many, but there are straight people that engage in it and enjoy it. Given this fact, anybody that wants to have an argument that homosexuality is immoral, who doesn't also what to condemn heterosexuality will have to have some other argument besides this anal sex argument with which to condemn homosexuality. But if he has such an argument, the anal sex argument is redundant, it is not necessary to prove his case.

In addition to this, though, it is also true that not all gays participate in or enjoy anal sex. Not many, perhaps, but some. Beyond this, it is possible to be homosexual and not have anal sex at all. Given this, showing that anal sex is immoral will not serve to show why those people who don't do it and yet are gay are immoral.

Given both of these points, it is evident that proving the immorality of anal sex, were this even possible, is neither necessary nor sufficient to proving that homosexuality is immoral. On these grounds, any discussion of anal sex in a debate about the morality or homosexuality is quite simply beside the point, and irrelevant issue. Those who do it are changing the subject, and should be told to get back to the discussion and shut up about such irrelevancies.