Posts from November 2008

Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #29

It’s Sunday, I’m back in Vegas, and we’re open line.

What have you been up to in the past week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

Happy Feast Day

So, I’m sojourning in Dallas for the holidays; I spent the past couple days driving through the desert and will be spending most of the day today visiting with my kinfolks. (If you’re wondering how I kept on posting to the blog while I was in a car in the middle of Indian Country, well, I have my ways.) In the process, I’ve accumulated quite a backlog of correspondence in just the past couple days, and I’m not likely to be able to get to it all for a few days yet. I do have plenty to say, including some things to say about some recent exchanges in the comments. It’s likely to get said sometime over the next several days, either during some downtime before I leave Texas or else once I’ve gotten back home and had some time to start working my way through the pile.

All this is just to say that if you haven’t heard from me yet about something you were hoping to hear from me from, well, you’ll be hearing from me on the flip side. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of warmth and love and a good old feast.

And, just as a holiday reminder, keep in mind that tomorrow is Buy Something (if you want it) Day.

Ridiculous Strawman Watch (Part 1 of ???)

Finance capital — possibly the single most heavily regulated market in the entire global economy, which is shaped by the dictates of literally hundreds of government central banks around the world, which is constantly carried on with a background promise of bail-outs by government agencies like the IMF, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the European Central Bank, etc., and which is overseen by so many different regulatory agencies that they often can’t even decide which is supposed to be regulating a particular subset of the market — is empirical proof that Financial markets have been given their freedom, and they have disgraced themselves. As my Scottish headmaster used to say [sic!], back in the 1950s, privileges that are abused will be withdrawn. The time has come to put markets back under strict controls and restrictions, such as those under which they laboured from the 1930s till the 1970s.

Also, little did I know how much cause I had to rejoice: I never realized it, but it turns out that the libertarian movement [conquered] the world at some point within the last 40 years. It’s true: I read it on the Internet.

See also:

Professional courtesy, part 2: thugs on patrol

Here’s what I said back in April about what professional courtesy means when it comes to law enforcers:

The term professional courtesy comes from the traditions of medicine: many doctors will not charge money when they treat another doctor’s immediate family. When doctors talk about professional courtesy they are talking about a very old system of mutual aid in which one doctor agrees to do a favor for another, at her own expense, for the sake of collegiality, out of concern for professional ethics (to offer doctors an alternative to having their own family as patients), and because she can count on getting similar services in return should she ever need them.

But when the Gangsters in Blue start talking about professional courtesy, they’re talking about something quite different: a favor done for a fellow gang member at no personal expense, with the bill sent to unwilling taxpayers who must pick up the tab for the roads and parking; and a favor done in order insulate the gangsters and their immediate family from any kind of ethical accountability to the unwilling victims that they sanctimoniously insist on serving and protecting. Professional courtesy in medicine means reciprocity in co-operative mutual aid in healing sick people; professional courtesy in government policing means reciprocity in a conspiracy to make sure that any cop can do just about anything she wants by way of free-riding, disruptive, dangerous or criminal treatment of innocent third parties, with complete impunity, and the rest of us will get the bill for it and a fuck you, civilian if we don’t like it.

It turns out that the Virginia State Patrol is stretched thin right now: money is tight because of the state’s economic and budgetary troubles, and — as a result — they’ve delayed a lot of new hiring and they’re having trouble getting up enough active cops for adding special agents to the Joint Terrorism Task forces, creating a Homeland Security Division and dedicating more troopers to investigate illegal firearms purchases at gun shows. (Well, good. Three cheers for the state’s budgetary troubles, if they make for a financial roadblock against ridiculous gun grabs and Stasi statism.) But now check out what the coppers at Officer.com have to say about the Virginia State Patrol in the comments:

Posted by JJS (09/24/08 – 10:41 AM)

VSP has a bad reputation for writing tickets to other officers.

How dare they? Cops deserve to be treated more considerately than everybody else when they are stopped by other cops.

Posted by People Are Sheep [sic!] in Maryland (09/24/08 – 11:19 AM)

VSP Anti-Courtesy

For years, I have heard rumors about VSP stopping and citing police officers both on and off duty. Whatever the circumstance, it is not in the professional interest (and sometimes legal interest) for ANY police officer/trooper to stop (or attempt to stop) any on duty marked police vehicle. In some states, it’s unlawful to do so … and in some states, an arrest warrant or state’s attorney consultation is required BEFORE a stop is made and charges are cited. Off duty officers/troopers should use common sense when driving. Period. On the same token, on duty officers/troopers should use common sense and professional courtesy when it appropriate. . . .

In nearly two decades as a police officer, I have stopped many, many off duty police officers for traffic violations. During those times, I have issued no tickets and made no arrests. There are alternatives to citing and arresting off duty cops: verbal warning, calling their supervisor or just assisting the officer reach their destination safely. All options are, of course, dependent upon the violation at hand.

Remember, we are all that we have out there on the street … each other. The legendary conversation between an overzealous on duty officer and the off duty officer during a traffic stop bears truth: After signing the ticket, the off duty officer says, Just remember, I could be your closest backup out here.

In other words, this sanctimonious server and protector has spent the past two decades completely abdicating his supposed professional responsibilities when they involved holding a fellow cop accountable for endangering the safety of the people he and they are supposedly hired to protect. Because he thinks it’s important never to forget that some day he may need his gang brothers to get his back.

Posted by Harry in District of Columbia (09/24/08 – 04:09 PM)

VSP Anti-Courtesy an understatement

I can in contact with a vehicle that struck a fix object at 21st and Washington Circle NW Washington, D.C. The vehicle was an unmarked VSP vehicle occuppied by 4 VSP officer. All of them had been drinking. knowing what there fate would be if I’d taken a report I had them make a call and two other off duty VSP officer responded to my location, sober, and I allow all to leave. I figured it was up to them to explain to there supervisor the damage to the unmarked cruiser. Now if they had struck another vehicle civilian driver or pedestrian there would have been a different outcome.

Shortly after that I was driving southbound on Rt.29 in Nelson County, VA at 0300hrs and was stopped by a VSP for doing 67 in a 55. I never identified myself as a police officer, probably because I had FOP licence plate, and he never inquiried, and wrote me a speeding ticket. He never spoke a word.

A month later I stoped a civilain vehicle driven by a off duty VSP trooper for a traffic violation, he immediately produced ID and I told him to that a nice day.

VSP is really short on professional courtesy.

A Texas Highway Patrol enforcer defends the honor of his crew from the allegations of a Houston cop:

Posted by TXTroop in TEXAS (09/25/08 – 11:36 AM)

VA & TX

Let me first start off by saying that RICK G in Houston is an idiot. We DO NOT get uniformed officers out of their vehicles to stand on the side of the road. If this happens in Houston it is because Houston PD officers have a habit of holding their badges out the window when they are being stopped. Very UNPROFESSIONAL. As far as our stupid cowboy hats go, even the hood is affraid of the HATS. Now that the idiots comments have been addressed, if VA Troopers are writing other officers, on or off duty shame on them! The only reason any state has a shortage of Troops is PAY. Troopers all over the Nation are reveered as the best officers in their state, they should be paid as such. Sounds like VA needs to up their pay and implement the DONT PUT COPS ON PAPER – TICKETS OR WARNING plan!!!

TXCOP in the DFW area scratches their backs and expects them to scratch his:

Posted by TXCOP in DFW AREA, Texas (09/25/08 – 11:16 PM)

Wow sounds like Rick G. got really upset. Before I moved to Texas I was a LEO in Baltimore City, Md. The only contact I had with VSP was being stopped for speeding something like 80 in 60 or something its been a few years now. But the trooper (an older older officer) made me for a cop and after showing my ID he asked me to slow down and to cut him and his friends a break next time they visit the city for a Ravens or orioles game. Now on that same trip (enroute to visit family in Texas) I was stopped about 40 miles into Texas from arkansas on I 30 by a Texas State Trooper he pulled up next to me hit the alley light and motioned to me so of course I waved at him and continued driving after a minute he motioned again so i figured he wanted me stopped so I shook my head and slowed down he then proceeded to hit the red lights and stop me and the guy in front of me. So here I am the officer stopped between both of us he came to me first and I told him I’m a Leo and have a gun so that he would not be surprised. He asked me to stay with him while he finished the other stop and then he would let me be on my way. He wrote the other guy a citation came back wrote me a warning to get his stat and then I gave him a Uniform patch and was gone.

From a Virginia sheriff’s deputy:

Posted by VA Deputy (09/26/08 – 04:58 AM)

As for professional courtesey… I have worked for a PD and a S.O. and for all you out of town guys, not everyone in VA is into writing LEO’s… professional courtesey ia alive and well in the local jurisdictions… Too many people on the outside are trying to hang us on a daily basis for no reason, we shouldn’t be hanging ourselves. As long as you don’t come out of your vehicle swinging at me, you got a pass here… Stay Safe.

That’s As long as you don’t come out of your vehicle swinging at me and you wear the same gang colors I do, of course. Those passes are not for mere civilians.

I should say that when I refer to cops as a street gang or Gangsters in Blue or what have you, I’m not indulging in metaphor. I don’t mean that cops act kinda like gangsters (as if this were just a matter of personal vices or institutional failures); I mean that they are gangsters — that is the policing system operating successfully according to its normal function — that they are the organized hired muscle of the State, and that the outfit operates just like any other street gang in terms of their commitments, their attitudes, their practices, and their idea of professional ethics. And if you wonder why, it may help to ask yourself what kind of person, and what kind of outfit, you’d need to have for this kind of talk, and this notion of professional courtesy, to make any kind of sense.

Left-Libertarian Engagement

  • Lew Rockwell’s recent interview of Naomi Wolf for his podcast — the scare quotes are there because it quickly turns into a very two-sided conversation, and works very differently from a conventional interview — is really remarkable, and a paradigm for the kind of engagement that could build a vibrant libertarian Left. Naomi Wolf is not my favorite feminist, and Lew Rockwell is certainly not my favorite libertarian, but this is great stuff. Naomi Wolf now says she thinks she’s been a secret libertarian for many years in many, many ways and mentions that she’s feeling increasingly sympathetic toward radical libertarianism; she insists on the importance of challenging both Democratic- and Republican-sponsored power grabs, and expresses sympathy for the libertarian case for abolishing federal control over schooling. Rockwell does a tolerable job of explaining the libertarian case against the Fed as a instrument of class warfare, does a good job of cautioning against premature jumps into statist political action, and comes out that the conservative movement has been an engine of fascism for the past 50 years. Also, Wolf has some great material at about 23:45 in the interview about the way in which media producers deliberately encourage false-alternative shouting matches and instruct their guests that serious deliberation is not good television.

  • Socialist Alexander Cockburn writes a libertarian article for the Buchananite newsjournal The American Conservative, discussing the ongoing bipartisan assault on civil liberties, in which he points out the continuity between Clinton’s and Bush’s anti-terrorism and drug war rackets, decrying Social Security Numbers and the Kelo decision, while praising the defense of the individualist reading of the Second Amendment in Heller.

  • There’s been a lot more discussion of Roderick’s Corporations Versus the Market piece on Cato Unbound. Roderick’s Keeping Libertarian, Keeping Left replies to the initial responses from the Danny Bonaduce of the Blogosphere, Steven Horwitz, and Dean Baker. Roderick’s Owning Ideas Means Owning People makes the case for libertarian radicalism against Intellectual Protectionism (indeed, for a position even more radical than those advocated by Cato minimal-statist Tim Lee and by anti-IP, but pro-governmental Leftist Dean Baker).

    Yglesias, in reply to Roderick and Steven Horwitz, says he is a bit puzzled by pragmatic arguments for left-libertarianism, based on the claim that markets do more for human flourishing than government programs, writing: If this means that the absence of governance à la Joseph Stalin is a more important determinant of our well-being than is, say, the existence of unemployment insurance then, yes, of course this is true. But the question facing government programs is not whether they are more or less beneficial than the existence of a market economy, the question is whether the programs are more beneficial than would be the absence of programs. Roderick does a great job of responding to Yglesias (as well as to some another reply by Dean Baker) here. Let me just add a bit more about the fundamental problem with Yglesias’s proposed methods for assessing whether or not a given government program is warranted.

    The problem here is that Yglesias seems to be treating this as a ceteris paribus comparison: as if the right question to ask is whether people would be better off with the government program in place or in a situation which is exactly identical, but without the government program.

    There are two problems with this. First, unless there is some strong reason to believe that ceteris will stay paribus in the absence of a government program, the real alternative is between a government program and market alternatives to that program. So, for example, Yglesias mentions ex ante environmental regulations. But he rigs the match by apparently comparing outcomes with ex ante environmental regulations to outcomes from a market situation which is basically the same as the present, but in which corporate polluters are free to go on polluting with impunity. An un-rigged comparison would be one between ex ante environmental regulations and free market means of addressing pollution that the ex ante regulations have either directly suppressed or crowded out — like the use of pollution nuisance suits or a more robust use of free market grassroots activism, through boycotts, sustainability certification, social investing, and so on. Maybe these kind of tactics would not be as effective as ex ante regulation, or maybe they would be more effective; but in either case, this is the comparison that actually needs to be made, and as far as I can tell Yglesias hasn’t given any argument to support a claim that market methods would do worse. Indeed, there’s some good reasons to think that they might do better. Since freed-market methods are by their nature decentralized, and not dependent on political lobbying or electioneering, they are also not subject to the same problems of regulatory capture by those who can put a lot of money and political influence behind their interests.

    Second, Yglesias also more or less explicitly suggests that, when you’re deliberating over whether to favor government programs or freed-market alternatives, any given government program ought to be assessed in isolation from all the others (on a case-by-case basis). But of course libertarian Leftists have repeatedly stressed the importance of seeing particular social or political processes in the context of how many different processes interlock and interact with each other. So, for example, as Roderick has repeatedly stressed, if you want to know about whether to prefer unfettered free markets or regulatory command-and-control in financial markets, it doesn’t make sense to compare a rigged market where finance capital is tightly regulated and can reasonably expect government bail-outs in case of failure to a rigged market where finance capital is loosely regulated but can still reasonably expect government bail-outs in case of failure. Whether the latter or the former turns out to have better results is a question we could debate, but the important point, from a left-libertarian point of view, is that it would be more interesting and fruitful to compare the rigged markets to a free market with neither ex ante regulation nor bail-outs. Similarly, if we are looking at environmental regulations then we have to consider not only market alternatives to ex ante environmental regulation; we also have to consider other government programs which may indirectly contribute to environmentally destructive practices — like subsidizing corporate centralization and capital-intensive production; or stealing land from homeowners and small businesses for large, polluting manufacturing plants, garbage incinerators, and other forced-modernization boondoggles; or subsidizing fossil fuel dependence; or highway-driven suburban sprawl — and whether the absence of those other programs, taken together with the absence of ex ante environmental regulation, would make freed-market alternatives to ex ante environmental regulation even more palatable than they would be when considered in isolation. (For some similar points in the context of health care, see GT 2007-10-25: Radical healthcare reform.)

    Meanwhile, Roderick’s article has also prompted a lot of discussion outside of Cato Unbound, most notably interesting but misguided replies from Peter Klein, Will Wilkinson, and an extremely ill-conceived response by Walter Block and J.H. Huebert. I’ve already discussed Block’s and Huebert’s comments, with a focus on their distortion of my own expressed views (cited favorably by Roderick) on radical labor unionism.. There’s a lot of fascinating exchange among Klein, some other right-libertarians and agnostic-libertarians, and a number of libertarian Leftists in the comments thread on Klein’s article; note especially the exchange among Araglin, Klein, P.M. Lawrence and others over the legitimacy and viability of the corporate form, limited liability, etc., under freed markets, and this short comment by Jesse Walker: It seems clear to me that, at the very least, the “more local and more numerous” claim is correct, if not in every sector than certainly in the economy as a whole. Removing occupational licensing laws alone would unleash such a flood of tiny enterprises — many of them one-man or one-woman shows, sometimes run part-time — that I doubt the elimination of antitrust law and small-business setasides would offset it. Especially when large businesses have proven so adept at using antitrust and setasides for their own purposes. . . . . (Jesse promises a more detailed follow-up at Hit and Run; I look forward to it.)

    Meanwhile, as promsied, Roderick has added his own (detailed, excellent) reply on most of the points raised by Klein, Wilkinson, Huebert, and Block back over at Cato Unbound, entitled Free Market Firms: Smaller, Flatter, and More Crowded.

    Read the whole damn thread. It’s great.

  • On the activist front, this past Monday, New Jersey ALLy Darian Worden announced a new series of Alliance of the Libertarian Left outreach flyers and subversion squares available from the NJ ALL website. Enjoy! (I also think there will be some interesting news in the near future about ALL in Southern California, England, Denver, and some new activities for ALL in Las Vegas. But I’m not going to tip my hand more than that in public, just yet. If you’re curious — and especially if you are in one or more of those geographical areas — drop me a line in private.