Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #45

It’s Sunday. Time to get as shameless as you wanna be.

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.

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135 replies to Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #45 Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Jeremy

    I have two posts this week. One on Ephemeral Communities and two edutaining videos. Enjoy!

  2. John

    I predicted that the next two bubbles our economy suffers from will be an automotive bubble and a “green” technology bubble.

  3. heather

    so i live in portland, oregon, where anarchism is accepted more than most places in the us, and where it’s heavily associated with urban bike activist culture. because of fibromyalgia, i have a hard time pedaling an ordinary bike. it’s hard to rely on cycling as a means of transport because my condition (which shows itself mostly in pain and fatigue) is unpredictable— i could get somewhere and feel too tired/sore to get home. i could also begin to feel unwell during traffic and have to slow down dramatically.

    i decided to get an electric bike as a way to cut down on depending on other people to give me rides, and because i feel like cycling is important to our local culture. insert worries about carbon footprint here.

    anyway, when i was thinking about which local business to patronize for my bike, i did what any portlander would do for bike advice — i googled the archives of http://bikeportland.org to look for reviews of shops or particular models that had just come in.

    i came across this article: http://bikeportland.org/2008/09/26/interbike-report-electric-bikes-and-a-new-twist-on-the-bakfiets/

    and it’s full of bilious comments about how electric bikes aren’t bikes, shouldn’t be allowed in the bike lane, that anyone who would ride such a device is lazy and breaking the rules. they were angry that a bike store was even selling electric assist bikes because they thought it would hurt portland’s cycling scene. which was all very odd because the existence of an electric bike is what was making me able to consider anything other than car transportation. the anti-electric people rant and rave about how fat (read: poor) and lazy (read: disabled) people putter around.

    i think this is what makes me leery of most bicycle culture: the primitivism. the survivalism. they don’t understand that the local economy they want to build by growing their own food, keeping chickens and riding bikes might sustain them (and they might even be way happier), but it would weed a lot of disabled people out. the heart medication a friend takes to stay alive? i don’t think you can make that on an urban farm. these peoploe the privilege of having few attachments to the order of things right now— to “the grid,” to global capitalism and the state. they can live the crimethinc dream of subversion and play. they can transport themselves everywhere they need to go with only their own human power. not everyone is so lucky.

    and this comes back to the bike, because, well, for me it’s either an electric bike or a car ride. my legs are weak. i am very stiff despite the regimens of medicine i take. riding a bike in traffic for me, for the rest of my life, will be painful and dangerous. i was surprised to find that my transit solution was so heavily ridiculed— surprised more still when “anarchist” bike activists called for electric bikes in the bike lanes to be outlawed.

    i feel good about cycling. i believe what i ride is a bike. there’s no need to delegitimte it by calling it a moped because my very typical bicycle frame has been modified to be powered in part by a battery when i need it to be! i wonder what reactions i’ll get. but, you know, i’m out of the wheelchair i was briefly confined to.

    i feel really disenchanted by those comments. if you’re going to throw a revolution, you should invite anybody who wants to come. i’m going to reduce my carbon footprint, get exercise, move toward a carfree society and have fun regardless of whether other riders think i’m fat, lazy and spoiling bike culture. my solution may not look the same as theirs, but it’s an earnest attempt to life better within my community (among those who are enjoying the privilege of being temporarily able-bodied). inevitably, there will be a few run-ins. the man who sold me my bike said one of his clients had been threatened with violence by a cyclist for bringing an electric assist bike onto the bike trails here (perfectly legal, by the way). the man had a heart condition and needed to be able to alternate between pedaling and not pedaling— he’d been a cyclist before. i think a lot of revolutionary movements have been derailed by being intolerant of the people who need political liberation the most. in a town where police violence and harassment is constant and brutal, particularly toward cyclists, this man was attacked for riding a bike that relied on slightly different mechanics.

    we should realize that liberation is only possible if everyone is liberated. we can’t have carfree cities unless all people can have their transportation needs met without cars. i can’t ride a bike without electric assist. i’ve made the right choice. the hostility toward that choice is astonishing and nonsensical. i can’t say i’m terribly surprised, though. i think many survivalist types don’t realize that when they say they could live without global capitalism, they’re just telling us that they’ve got a nice, priveleged enclave. the kind of self-reliance or human-power anybody has at his or her disposal is a privilege. there’s nothing wrong with it, being athletic. but that’s really all it is. in other words:

    i don’t lack political virtue. i just lack the ability to climb hills on my bike.

  4. anonymouse

    Heather, as a cyclist, I’d like to apologize on behalf of the greater cycling community, and to reassure you that we don’t all feel that way, and that some of us in fact think that these people are overprivileged twits, often suffering from testosterone poisoning, who can’t see beyond their own little bubble of privilege, and who have a very adversarial view of the world. Personally, I think that the important criteria for use of a bike lane is compatibility with a bicycle in size and speed, so anything from an electric assist bike to a Segway is fine by me, and the self-righteousness of the pedal-power brigade annoys me. I hope they don’t dissuade you from using an electric-assist bike: the ability to get places on your own two wheels is liberating, and even an electric bicycle is still a couple orders of magnitude lighter and more efficient than a car.

  5. David Z

    i blogged a bit about the urban farming initiative in detroit (and elsewhere), arguing instead for a homesteading approach.

    Homesteading Detroit: On Urban Farming

  6. Aster

    Does anyone else here listen to Radio Ecoshock?

    I am not an environmentalist, or at least I could only be one to the degree that environmentalism merely means intelligent (including sustainable) use of an environment for human purposes (including animal and aesthetic ones).

    But precisely from this humanist perspective, what I hear in environmental news is unspeakably appalling. And factually convincing.

    I don’t want to be convinced. I love cities. I find urban landscapes beautiful. The pastoral ideal makes me feel physically ill. Wild nature is pretty to look at while eating ice cream from a comfortable chair. Environmentalism and multiculturalism have been the two strains of left thought I’ve felt the least affinity with. But facts are facts, and some of them are very horrible facts.

    It is rationally indisputable at this point that climate change is real. You can’t fake satellite photographs of arctic sea ice. Animal populations are shifting towards the poles all over the world. Insurance companies have started taking it into account when assessing property values. The U.S. Defense Department did a study on the ‘security’ implications of global warming.

    It’s less certain to me that climate change is anthropogenic. But the more I think it over, the degree to which we are irrationally treating our material preconditions and biological life support system as a given is obvious and obviously unreasonable. We’ve eaten our way through 50% of the oil, 50% of the forests, and 90% of the fish. We’re currently causing the worst mass extinction ever recorded. We really have been systematically if mostly ignorantly eating through the planet. Given this, and the improbability that climate change would just happen to occur within a century of massive human alteration of the planet does seem to strongly suggest that the climate problem is of human origin. It seems reasonable in this case to trust even governmental scientific consensus as to the cause.

    And, leaving aside any other environmental issues, the effects of climate change are so horrific that they could make the early twentieth century look relatively pleasant. Not just the physical disasters. I’m more worried about the cultural disasters.

    Liberal civilisation is already in very serious trouble. Add this… I am bleached white terrified.

    *

    On a completely different issue: this is very bad for libertarianism.

  7. John

    This is a Cut & Paste I have been using trying to get more information out about the Hope Steffey case.

    This is the BCI report that Agent Christy S. Palmer sent to John D. Ferrero, Prosecuting Attorney Stark County Ohio. Dated April 16, 2008 BCI Case #: SI-76-08-14-0147

    This is part of page 3

    http://s2.photobucket.com/albums/y39…BCI-Report.jpg

    Sheriff Swanson has ALWAYS maintained that Steffey was ASKED & REFUSED to remove her cloths. But here’s the BCI’s OWN REPORT that PROVES this is a LIE!

    But apparently catching the sheriff’s dept in a lie isn’t a big deal to our “independent” BCI investigator, Christy Palmer, who seems ready to accept ANY excuse the sheriff’s dept wants to use.

    The report also goes on to say that they lowered Steffey in a slow controlled manner to the floor. Except that Steffey says she was thrown to the floor. She also told her husband in a phone call that she thought the cops had broken her nose. And she was treated by the nurse for the injury. And in page 4 of this report Christy Palmer even states that Steffey reported that her nose was making “crunching noises”.

    So I guess this is proof of a second LIE!

    And still Christy Palmer, the “independent investigator” doesn’t think twice about accepting the word of the cops over the VICTIMS in spite of proof. BTW, Christy also references a video that she says “proves that she was lowered in a slow controlled manner to the floor”. As far as I know, THIS would have to be on the ‘non-existent’ beginning of the strip video. On May 5th when I asked about the “missing” video, I was told it would soon be released. Now here again it looks as though it’s referenced…even though they NOW claim it does not exist. Interesting. (I have filed a request for this video.)

    This isn’t so much an investigation report as it is a smear campaign against Hope Steffey.

    They are trying to say that Steffey was resisting enough that EIGHT people couldn’t take the chance of ASKING her to remove her cloths, or EVEN TELL HER WHAT WAS GOING ON!!! What a crock!!

    I did NOT see any resisting in the video, I saw eight cops parading her to the cell, with her in cuffs.

    In fact EVERY video I have seen she is in cuffs! And the ONLY times I have seen her react to the cops is after they have assaulted her or in the process of stripping her naked.

    The cops can polish this turd as much as want, this STILL STINKS!

    BTW I don’t know why they bothered to black out the names of Nurse Coren Lennon and the jail psychologist Thomas Anuszkiewicz, aren’t they PROUD of the work they do?

  8. anonymouse

    Aster: cities are by far the lowest impact way of living. For a given energy budget they allow a much higher standard of living than the “pastoral ideal”. Unfortunately, many of the environmental doomsayers are also romantic ruralists and are attracted to this whole idea of an imminent environmental catastrophe because they hope it will bring people back to a “simpler time”. But they’re wrong: the best way forward is for humans to concentrate themselves in a few enclaves and leave nature to do its thing in the vast majority of the landscape, not to spread back out over the land and poison as much of it as possible with our presence.

  9. Nick Manley

    I don’t think this is very bad for classical liberalism. The issue of externalized costs for environmental damage has been widely discussed. Individualism has answers for this, but if it’s in decline elsewhere, then you can’t expect it to be widely understood here.

    Gus DiZerega is a notable thinker of non-coercive reput and environmental concern too.

    Personally, I advise people who can’t do anything about this to not worry — if they can. There’s no point in being a psychological martyr. If the world is ending, then one should kill one’s self or enjoy it.

    Ain’t no other way. You wanna live then live.

  10. Aster

    Anonymouse-

    I agree with you. I don’t admire or trust most environmentalist intellectuals. Many are, as you say, romantic ruralists- and many are clearly motivated by warmed-over Christian moralism. I have in mind Wes Jackson, Bill McKibben, Robert Jensen (also a priggishly ignorant anti-porn crusader), Derrick Jensen (who has issues). The popular spokespeople are worse. By contrast, I think most environmentalist followers are well-motivated people with liberal instincts, strong feelings, deep appreciation for natural beauty… and an appalling and often sheltered ignorance of the miserable reality of human life without industrialism. At heart, I think environmentalism is a conservative philosophy inherently at odds with humanism and liberalism, even if it is today popularly associated with progressive causes. I find the worldview implicit in serious environmentalism extremely threatening to my own values.

    But the facts are what they are, or they are not. It is of course possible that our scientific institutions are functioning so poorly as to produce a false consensus, but I don’t think that they are, and the worst cases of corrupt and dishonest methodology I’ve heard about have been on the skeptic side. If my facts are wrong, I will gladly take correction.

    Nick-

    These are factual issues, and intended to be taken as rational arguments. I have never believed in separating either emotion or individuality from rational thought, but nothing above was intended as a psychological imposition.

    I was under the impression that Charles opened these weekly ‘shameless Sundays’ for open discussion. If he has any objection to the style or content of my writing, he has merely to speak and I will bow out.

    I absolutely agree with you that even the most pessimistic climate scenarios should not dissuade us from enjoying life as much as we can, while we can. I don’t intend to substantially alter my own life, except where signing on to collective action might promise measurable results- I’ve certainly no intention of mortifying my own flesh, especially where the causality is unclear. That said, I think that a curious awareness of reality is essential for the possibility of human happiness, and I at least find it very difficult to separate knowing reality from wanting to authentically express knowledge. I do not mean to counsel despair- we all knew we were mortal in the first place, so none of this really changes the general human condition. That said, the implications of climate change strike me as both extremely important and horrifying.

    My apologies if I have emotionally burdened you.

  11. Nick Manley

    It’s fine, Aster. Pay no heed. You’re well within the boundaries set by Charles — that’s what counts. I would not want to counsel someone to dampen their passion. The best writing is always the most authentic.

    On global warming: I honestly feel there are enough people who care about it. I confess I don’t really know anything about it. I was never an environmentalist during my time on the hardcore left. I focused more on foreign policy and economics. That said, the Obama admin. talks of transforming America’s energy infrastructure — much of which is “public” via regulated public-private monopolies. The foreign car companies sell green cars here — the U.S. based auto industry is bankrupt, so that says something.

    If it’s a real threat, then there are plenty of centre-left policies in place. My main concern is that the U.S. not approach it in a command and control fashion.

  12. Nick Manley

    Hah, that’s a bit America centric. I’d imagine the European countries and New Zealand are even more proactive then America — not a relative bastion of Progressive thinking.

  13. Soviet Onion

    I don’t think libertarians are at any worse a disadvantage when it comes to the potential threat of anthropogenic climate change, or at least we face a different set of disadvantages that on net aren’t any worse. If anything we’re actually in a better position for the simple reason our analysis allows us to target positive interventions for deletion that “mainstream” environmentalists don’t even recognize.

    Like the general “progressive” leftism of which they are a subgroup and manifestation, they implicitly assume that the existing conditions represent a “natural baseline” for reality that has no positive interventions built into it and from which it is only possible to deviate positively. They’ll hold to this paradigm even when acknowledging things that should lift the curtain and expose the wizard (ie subsidies to farming practices they don’t like).

    The result is to make any solution look like uphill battle to impose new things, whereas an honest and convincing libertarian, by singling things out for deletion, should make it look all easy and downhill. It’s so easy to say “abolish zoning laws and stop subsidizing the highways, we’ll become less dependent on long-distance transport and fossil fuel consumption will drop” that it’s almost effortless from a conceptual standpoint. It may actually be so simple that it appears flippant, and that’s why people discount it. That, and the popular conception that we’re just a wacko strain of conservatism.

    Now of course, things like property-based cost internalization are more complex, but the fact that we can begin from a position of pure deletion should give us a practical edge … in an idealized situation.

    Of course, the world isn’t ideal, and these solutions will always be passed over by reformers for the same reason that Keynesianism and Monetarism dominate the economic spheres. They’re tinkering mechanisms designed to produce stability without seriously compromising the position of the vested interests that adopt them (hence things like “clean energy” essentially means the government paying General Electric to built wind turbines that can’t pay for themselves). That’s practical from the standpoint of real world power-gaming, and from the standpoint of cynical center-left environmentalists, but radical environments take it at its “anti-corporate” face value (with the caveat that it “doesn’t go far enough”), and I just say that it’s a counter-productive approach. And yeah, that we’ll probably come across some problem where that approach couldn’t possibly go far enough, and what makes AGW scary is that it might it. That’s why I say the state and the power gamers will probably have to go first, but in any case neither would be likely to happen in time.

    I think the single best reforms that could be done and would have a wide enough impact on emissions are:

    1. An immediate to tax-based financing for all Highways, or at the very least those comprising Interstate Highway System. It’s just ridiculous that the “Progressive” EU is embarked on a massive construction campaign to “break down national barriers by knitting the respective countries’ infrastructures together while still deporting undocumented immigrants.

    Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

    2. No more subsidies agribusiness, particularly anything related to livestock, which are the primary producers of methane and nitrous oxide. The beef industry alone receives huge monetary incentives from the government to help cover the enormous costs in land, energy, water, and waste to raise animal-based foods. Each pound of beef also requires about 12,000 gallons of water, all told, to create. Without those incentives, beef would cost about $40 per pound.

    This is also not gonna happen, but unlike gas taxes you can remove yourself from the process through simple lifestyle change (to a lesser or greater degree), and which sacrifices no additional time or money like conventional activism does. I say this as a former vegan who’s considering going back. And no, I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing my pleasure, quality of life or enjoyment of food by doing so, although compared to the standard American diet I can see how people think that’s the case.

  14. Nick Manley

    Soviet Onion,

    Very thoughtful commentary! I am a bit too busy to ponder it deeply right now. I will surely return to it later.

    Btw, I’ve invited Gus DiZerega to this thread. Gus is notable for his innovation in liberal political and social theory. You can read his blog at http://blog.beliefnet.com/apagansblog/bio.html.

  15. Soviet Onion

    I thought of something in regard to Aster’s comments on regressive collectivism and the environmental movement.

    It seems that both social anarchism and market libertarianism have respectively come to adopt forms of collectivism typical of either the statist left or right. That’s a result of the perceived cultural affinity they have with those larger groups, and partly also a function of the fact that they appeal to people of different backgrounds, priorities and sentiments (and these two factors tend to reinforce each other in a cyclical way, with new recruits further entrenching the internal movement culture and how it will be perceived by the following generation of recruits).

    On the “left” you have generic localists who feel that altruism entails loyalty to the people in immediate proximity (they’ll unusually use the term “organic community” to make it seem more natural and thus unquestionably legitimate). Most of them are former Marxists and social democrats, this is simply a way to recast communitarian obligations and tacitly authoritarian sentiments under the aegis of “community” rather than “state”. This comes as an obvious result of classical anarchism being eclipsed as THE radical socialist alternative by Leninism for most of the twentieth century. Now that it’s once again on the rise, it’s attracting people who would have otherwise been state-socialists, and who carry that baggage with them when they cross over.

    On the “right”, it’s a little more straightforward. Libertarians have adopted the conservative “State’s Rights” kind of localism as a holdover from their alliance with conservatives against Communism, to the point that it doesn’t even matter if the quality of freedom under that state is worse than the national average, just so long as it’s not the Federal Government. And with this, any claim to moral universality, or the utilitarian case for decentralism go right out the window. Like true parochialism, it hates the foreign and big just because it is foreign and big.

    That’s also one of the reasons why I think there’s a division between “social” and “market” anarchists; they each sense that they come from different political meta-groups and proceed from a different set of priorities; the established gap between right and left feels bigger than the gap between they and statists of their own variety. And the dogmatisms that say “we have to support the welfare state, workplace regulations and environmental laws until capitalism is abolished” or “we should vote Republican to keep taxes down and preserve school choice” are as much after-the-fact rationalizations of this feeling as they are honest attempts at practical assessment.

    The problem with left-libertarianism (or with the 21st century rebirth and recasting of 19th century individualism, if you want to imperfectly characterize it that way), is that instead of trying to transcend harmful notions of localism, it simply switches federalism for communitarianism. It does this partially as a attempt to ingratiate itself to social anarchists, and partly because, like social anarchists, it recognize that this idea is superficially more compatible with an anti-state position. But it also neglects the social anarchists’ cultural sensibilities; hence the more lax attitude toward things like National Anarchism.

    The proper position for us, and what could really set us apart from everyone and make us a more unique and consistent voice for individualism in the global Agora, is to recognize all cultures as nothing more than memetic prisons and always champion the unique and nonconforming against the arbitrary limitations that surround them, recognizing their destruction as barriers in the sense of being normative. And to that end there’s the instrumental insight that the free trade, competition, open movement and open communication are forces that pry open closed societies, not by force, but by giving those who chafe under them so many options to run to that they make control obsolete, and thus weaken control’s tenability as a foundation on which societies can reasonably base themselves. Think of it as “cultural Friedmanism”: the tenet that open economies dissolve social authority the same way they render political authority untenable.

    THAT’s what left-libertarianism needs to be about, not some half-baked federation of autarkic Southern towns filled with organic farms and worker co-operatives. It can still favor these things, but with a deeper grounding. It doesn’t ignore patriarchy, racism, heterosexism, but opposes them with a different and more consistent understanding of what liberation means. So far, the only anarchists I know who explicitly approach things from this perspective are Aster and Will Gillis.

    This rant probably doesn’t go anywhere, but to pathetically attempt a segway back to environmentalism, Will just posted this quote on his blog today:

    Humanity will enter into space to make the universe the playground of the last revolt: the revolt that will go against the limitations imposed by nature. Once the walls have been smashed that now separate people from science, the conquest of space will no longer be an economic or military “promotional” gimmick, but the blossoming of human freedoms and fullfilments, attained by a race of gods. We will not enter into space as employees of an astronautic administration or as “volunteers” of a state project, but as masters without slaves reviewing their domains: the entire universe pillaged for the workers councils.

    —Internationale Situationniste, 1969.

    Imagine what some environmental leftists would say about this aspiration. It’s a sad day when you have to rely on Marxists to keep Prometheanism alive.

  16. Aster

    Soviet Onion-

    Thank you, indeed, for your very thoughtful response. I greatly appreciate, and I hope Charles does not mind if I lay out my recent thoughts on these issues in this forum at some length.

    I agree with much of what you say here. Despite the common perception, it’s not clear to me that climate change presents a case of market failure. As Crooked Timber has pointed out, the current policies being proposed by governments and mainstream environmentalists to address climate change are often market-oriented, if not strictly libertarian. I think the broader errors leading to our present environmental disasters are primarily simply a product of civilisational ignorance and immaturity- industrial civilisation arose in the context of forseeably infinite resources and it has taken some time for us to reach the point where we can collectively grasp the fact that we are approaching our resource limits. This entails prudent material and spiritual changes to our pattern of enjoyment of life on Earth. It is not clear to me that abandonment or curtailment of markets is one of those changes. Even if this were the case, it is not clear that markets are specifically to blame.

    The moral intuitions of some Christians, socialists, and romantics encourage a great deal of prosperity-bashing as the reflex answer to any real or alleged problem. Some people just hate human industry or human happiness. Other people like to pretend that they break out in hives at the touch of money and scapegoat those who don’t make this pretense. Puritanism feels the same to me whether it is about sex and drugs or about money, cars, and food. The environmentalist movement contains way too much of all this. I do think environmentalists are largely right when what they want is a reimagination of human society that we may make it more liveable and sustainable; many of the problems are very real and serious. However, if their intention is to use climate or environmental issues as a means to scare humanity into abandoning the open society or industrial society, then their intentions ought to be proudly opposed by all individuals who enjoy living in this world.

    That said, I think climate change and other environmental issues pose serious problems for libertarians in at least 3 ways:

    1) Public relations. Please count me a cynical centre-leftist on this one. Human social relations work on the principle of how people are useful to others, not according to the truth they express in themselves. Or, at least, the exceptions are statistically negligible and nearly always practically useless.

    So far, the public impact of libertarianism has largely consisted in the provision of rhetorical cover for the mainstream right, usually with evil results. Neoliberal economics makes use of libertarian sentiments as an ideology to cover the private conquest of the economies of developing countries. Paleolibertarians twist a spontaneous order of private contracts into a rationale for segregation and feudalism under the control of traditional local elites. Orthodox Objectivists go on Fox News and cheerlead for oligarchy and imperialism.

    There are exceptions, but for the most part libertarians have so far made themselves into precisely what leftists expect them to be. To my mind, this heavily suggests that something is structurally wrong with libertarian understandings of the human situations, and that the left likely has a clue as to where those errors lie. At any rate, it’s enough to make me feel embarassed to have been a libertarian. I look at libertarianism, and I think I may understand how socialists felt when they looked at the Soviet Union. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be- and yet, you see that most of those you considered comrades are cheering on some aspect of the horror unfolding before you. When an ideal doesn’t produce the results advertised and is consistently supported by people who favour the actual and worse results, I tend to conclude that the ideal is fundamentally flawed by structural blindness to certain evils.

    Now we have climate change. Libertarians also have a very ugly record here. I believe the Cato Institute got caught putting together a grossly sake list of 100 climate skeptic scientific papers. The Heartland Institute recently held a skeptic conference that just dripped with corporate money and that special shine of quickly-bought-and-paid-for respectability (Yaron Brook gave a smugly awful speech there). And more broadly, establishment conservatives lean on libertarians to provide their anti-ecological rhetoric…. hardly surprising, given that conservatives are creatures of tradition and religion and aren’t suited for science, while their function as defenders of privelege and the status quo in industrialised countries forces them to take an anti-environmentalist stance. So when conservatives need someone to not care about the environment for them, they offer a cabinet positions to ex-libertarians. Libertarians have managed to become the intellectual bodyguard of the house of Exxon.

    Now, if mainstream science regarding climate change is true (and I’m pretty convinced it is), then libertarians have positioned themselves as defenders of habits and policies which could, in the next couple of centuries, cause the death of… well, very, very big numbers. Democidal numbers. Numbers big enough to shame the Nazis, the Communists, the Mongols, the imperialists and conquistadors and slave-traders. I can just imagine the history books of 2200, listing estimations of the number of lives and cities that could have been saved if it weren’t for the turn-of-the-century delays caused by those (shudder) ‘libertarians’. Traumatic historical events, or historical events perceived as traumatic, result in taboos which can last for millenia.

    May I politely suggest that if libertarianism wishes to survive the 21st century (and I’d like it to, given that the libertarian tradition is still strongly linked to the preservation of important strands of Enlightenment and American individualism), it would be prudent for libertarians to cease letting themselves be used as useful idealists for the energy industry?

    Most human beings react extremely badly towards any individual or group perceived as a threat towards the continuation of their society, not to meantion their lives. Insofar as I also care deeply about the preservation of human life as a precondition for the existence of an open society, I can sympathise. I love freedom more than I love most human beings, but we are talking about a lot of people dying. Amsterdam, Venice, and San Francisco are very close to sea level.

    2) Environmental problems heavily suggest the necessity of collective solutions and collective thinking which I at least find difficult as an egoist and individualist. This is a public goods problem of massive scale and importance. I know that I for one have immense trouble seeing it as in my self-interest to forego a car ride or a cheesecake because of the infintessimnal contribution my actions may have towards global warming.

    Yes, we can imagine a conscious change in the property-rights regime which would create new free-market incentives which would change this. And yes, I’d be perfectly willing to support such policy measures as long as they were rational, fair in distribution of burdens, and respectful of individual choice and freedom. Even if it sends the price of gas back to a natural market level which translates into more exercise and gardening. And I suspect that if a confirmed egoistic sociopath such as myself can see things this way, then the prospects for enlightened self-interest as a motivation to work on climate issues look reasonably good.

    But the form, if not the content, of the change, runs contrary to the sensibility of libertarianism. People following their own interests doesn’t just work; it has to be made to work, through the careful crafting of unnatural institutions. This isn’t a spontaneous order. This is a consciously planned and politically organised restructuring of society. It heavily suggests that human beings have an objective need for collective institutions which make binding decisions… i.e., a government. And once I admit that, I have trouble seeing how one can’t apply the same logic to the spontaneous order of handgun distribtution, or the availability of medical service, or whetever.

    Now, one might salvage a reconceptualised form of Randian minarchism out of that. Rand did say that she favoured ‘objective’ controls against pollution where ‘the problem is collective’ (this is the only place I know of where the mature Rand uses this language). The notion of state-created property rights (i.e., homesteading, the airwaves) isn’t entirely foreign to all libertarian traditions and, as someone noted, might even suggest further left-libertarian scrutiny of current state-created patterns of property ownership. Or one can go Georgist. I think there’s a fair argument that if a functioning environment is a precondition for human existence and flourish it makes sense to say we all have a vested right to a stable climate, standing forests, etc.

    But all of these proposals involve radical and conscious change. They don’t feel and sound like ‘leaving well enough alone’. and if this isn’t contrary to libertarianism is is contrary to the standing attitudes and paradigms of libertarianism. Barbara Ehrenreich describes socialism as human beings coming together to determine our own destiny, rather than just trusting human society to spontaneously work itself out. I personally distrust both the alleged wisdom of unconscious social processes and the inevitably authoritarian potential of collective social planning. I do generally trust people when they are self-interested, but environmental institutions underline out stake in the maintenance of established social institutions which set a framework for self-interested behaviour. And this just doesn’t feel like libertarianism to me.

    3) If a major climate disaster actually happens, the result will be the worst possible conditions for the flourishing of liberal civilisation. Libertarianism would very likely be a casualty if this occurred, as would religious liberty, free speech, democracy… not to mention more recent and shallowly rooted advances such as feminism or LBGT rights… and just about anything which makes human existence livable.

    This is true especially if reason, science, humanism, liberalism, markets, and the pursuit of happiness get blamed for it. This is what really terrifies me. And the overwhelmingly powerful instinct will be to blame modernity for the crisis, whether this is just or not. the misanthropy and anti-hellenism of some ecologists is just a symptom here. Much worse is the fact that the world’s religions and social systems nearly uniformly have evolved to preserve themselves at the expense of individual happiness and freedom. Our deepest cultural sentiments and attachments come from times in which freedom and individuality were mostly unknown and considered dangerous antisocial indulgences if they were known. Climate change would reproduce these conditions, as the first depression did in the last century. Under conditions of stress, poverty, panic, and lowering expectations everyone on Earth will be running to their holy books and tribal elders for advice. There will be a worldwide resurgence of authoritarianism, collectivism, tribalism, religion, and suspicion of all personal pleasure and profit.

    The average person enjoys the fruits of our relatively free and prosperous societies, but in their moral heart of hearts they deeply distrust the kind of mentality which makes it all possible. Take away those fruits for a moment, and people terrified for their lives and their childrens’ lives will quickly knot themselves into herds and mobs. They will not go after politicians and priests, but they will go after the entrepeneurs and independents on the day after they are finished with those who doubt the gods of the city and corrupt the young. Insecure societies in the grip of fear and want do not tolerate free thought, individual variation, or independent action.

    The only things giving me any hope here are that (1) both the elites and the people are turning to scientists, rather than priests or politicians, for answers here, and (2) the conventional identification of environmentalism with the left and its association with socially progressive movements might just allow for an environmentalist shift which is committed to the preservation of an open society.

    Climate change is bad for libertarianism simply because climate change is very bad for everything. Only the barb will benefit. A ruined planet would be a planet of wars, tribes, patriarchies, atrocities, and fanaticisms. General liberal democracy, let alone libertarianism, cannot survive in these conditions- and it will not take long for the many enemies of the open society to figure this out and make use of the situation. If individualism is to have any chance at all then every action to prevent, reduce, or ameliorate the impact of climate change is a very high priority.

  17. Nick Manley

    Aster,

    The environmental damage issue is not the same as handgun distribution. There are tons of people with handguns who never genuinely murder anyone. D.C. doesn’t have a handgun ban anymore. There has been no drastic increase in murders with or without handguns — as far as I know. I was in a bar with a Libertarian with a holstered pistol — nobody’s dead. You confuse spontanous order with a complete lack of legal institutions.

    The conservative mind distrusts freedom, because it views order/the fuzzy sounding “common good” as opposed to individual freedom. I don’t think I’ve ever met an anti-politically incorrect lifestyle statist whose argument can’t be reduced to the belief above. Incidentally, the belief above is a psuedo-intellectual justification for fear of unchained human beings. Unfortunately, the centre left is no different in this regard. Conservatives talk about gays and prostitutes. They talk about smokers and gun owners. It’s amusing to hear so called “tolerant” “liberals” engage in their own collective bashing without even realizing the contradiction. This isn’t true of everyone, but I’ve encountered it before.

    You error by failing to apply contextual thinking. A peaceful person buying a handgun without permission is not anywhere near an air polluter. The consistent application of collective responsibility always ends in tyranny. By such logic, the government’s claim that buying drugs feeds terrorism becomes true.

  18. Nick Manley

    Soviet Onion,

    You forgot to include me. I come from a more communalist background too. I am too vain not to mention this ( :

    Your insights above are very sound ones! Bravo. These are precisely the things I’d like to see ALLies promote at Porcfest.

  19. Aster

    Soviet Onion-

    Drop dead wow. I didn’t think anyone else believed in this.

    Thank you for the praise- it is much more than I deserve, but it does me feel nice. Please add the serene Angela Keaton to the list of people who get this- I owe some of my insights to her.

    I will look up Gillis.

  20. Soviet Onion

    Aster,

    It’s funny, because you and Will hit the same insightful perspective from very different and unique perspectives, him from a kind of Promethean transhumanism. Here’s his blog. This post makes a good introduction.

  21. Aster

    Nick-

    I don’t have a strong opinion on gun rights.

    I used to be strongly in favour of RKBA- in fact it used to be the one issue on which I distinctly agreed with the right. I certainly believe that where weapons are prevalent in society, those facing persecution should be encouraged to use access to them. I support Pink Pistols. I also think that if anyone shouldn’t have guns, it should be cops and soldiers, who do most of the killing and for the worst reasons.

    I personally dislike guns (except in an occasional romantic context), primarily because they’ve become symbols of patriachy and a violent and possessive kind of masculinity. But this of course isn’t a rational justification for banning them. I love swords, and I don’t like the idea that I can’t carry a 16th century Italian rapier around if I don’t hurt anyone. I imagine some very reasonably people feel quite the same way about guns, and I don’t like preemptively banning something because some people use it irresponsibly or in an authoritarian manner.

    But I feel far less certain since moving to NZ. Guns are fairly tightly controlled here and are not available for self-defense. A crime involving guns is treated as a major and very serious news items. The police seldom carry guns, much less the average person. And it is MUCH more safe. It makes an incredible difference to one’s quality of life when violence is just not a major part of the social atmosphere- and while the causality isn’t clear to me, the taboo on guns in definitely an element of the picture. Even the gangs fight with knives.

    The situation is different from the U.S in that gun restrictions (whether they are a good idea or not) do certainly work- it’s small, an island, and there aren’t zillions of firearms already in circulation (outside of hunting rifles in the bush).

    If we’re dealing with libertarian principle: do you favour private ownership of nuclear weapons? Tanks? Grenade launchers? Machine guns in the vending machines? I certainly don’t love the idea of governments owning these things either- some of these things still fail my common sense test. At this point, the question is where or on what grounds to draw the line. One might draw it at personal self-defense, or at objects whose exclusive purpose is to kill people, but won’t there be some line?

    If the purpose of firearms is to resist tyranny, then the reasoning clearly seems to be outdated. At the time the 2nd Amendment was drafted, the right to bear arms covered the typical military weapon of the day. That reasoning just doesn’t seem to work the same way in our times- to be taken seriously it would logically require private ownership of military-grade firearms. Our ability to mete out destruction has increased by many, many levels of magnitude. You can’t resist a modern state with handguns, and the methods that do successfully bring down contemporary tyrannies don’t seem to rely primarily on force of arms. (If anyone wishes to cite counterexamples, I’ll accept correction)

    Now one might argue that we really should have private access to nuclear weapons and such, on the grounds that it is better to have individuals control the means of violence than for states to do the same. Here I would strongly disagree- the society I want is one which institutionalises protection of individual rights, not one which leaves private power well enough alone. I’m open to anarchism, but not if it means replacing the state with the law of the jungle. Bureaucrats and corporations are at least better than warlords.

    Perhaps the best answer to gun-control might be to stop government subsidies for guns in the first place- i.e., let’s cut private ownership of the means of violence from the top down, starting with the Pentagon.

    And, for the record, I am firmly against bagel oontrol. It is perfectly OK to throw sun-hardened bagels at attendees of a National Front rally.

    In other news, the NZ customs people recently confiscated a dagger which I (accidentally, in all truth) tried to import into the country. They also stole two books, a videotape, and a laptop computer. They searched every box, including one box which was nested inside another box due to the fragile contents. I will admit, they were extremely careful and managed not to damage some extremely breakable items. They’re still goons.

  22. Nick Manley

    Aster,

    Throwing bagels at people over political disagreements is petty.

    In more important news: New Missouri anti-abortion law destroys women’s rights

    Denise Tiller, Midwest Voices 2008

    The new Missouri anti-abortion law is a travesty. It forces doctors to declare pregnant women who want abortion incompetent or face felony charges. Declaring anyone mentally incompetent is a gigantic legal step. It means they are unable to care for themselves or their families. A mentally incompetent person is unable to work or handle their finances. Are we going to institutionalize pregnant women and take away their children? That’s what mentally incompetent means. If pregnancy is the cause of this incompetence, then pregnant women won’t be able to work or raise their children.

    There are two ways to stop abortions—either give women adequate sex education and access to birth control or throw the men in prison.

    Denise Tiller, Midwest Voices 2008

    There goes my former state! ) :

  23. Soviet Onion

    Aster,

    Count me as one of those people who finds some guns romantic. I love Western-style firearms, even though the mythos surrounding them represents a violent and possessive masculinity. Revolvers are classy in a way that automatics can never be. As immature as it might sound, Malcolm Reynolds is the reason I finally went out and bought a Ruger Blackhawk and holster setup, in addition to my utilitarian Glock. I would never carry it, except maybe unloaded and as part of a costume. It’s just for enjoyment, and I don’t see why that’s not a good enough reason in itself. There are certainly more dangerous kinds of fun to be had.

    I can’t see myself owning an automatic weapon in the context this society, but I might in a condition of anarchy. Certainly a lot of Americans own them, and many more own semi-automatic rifles that are still considered to be combat weapons; they’re certainly not for hunting or on-the-spot defense. So do Canadians, so do the Swiss and all of the Scandinavian countries, and they have some of the lowest homicide rates in the world. In Sweden, every home is required to have a semi-automatic rifle for militia purposes. A lot of these countries have mandatory military service, too; they don’t just give you the tools to take out a room full of people, they teach you how to use them. The Finnish system is explicitly guerrilla-oriented as a result of their historically asymmetric conflict with Russia, teaching people sniper tactics and how to plant bombs on bridges.

    I get your point about not wanting to live in an environment of fear; nobody to have to endure that. Maybe for you it’s a factor of the weapons themselves, but for me it’s the mentality surrounding them, and expectations that arise from their most common use (and if you find the stern and patriarchal machismo of some gun owners threatening in itself, I can understand how that also rubs off). If you live in an urban environment where guns are only associated with gang violence or abusive cops, then I can see how the very image of a gun is more threatening. In a rural setting guns are more just tools for hunting or recreation. In Switzerland, where marksmanship is a recreational past time even for urbanites, and people volunteer for militia training (in a less authoritarian setting than standard European military training), it’s just a normal part of life. And truth be told, aside from conscription, the Swiss probably have the most anarchistic defense system in the world.

    I don’t buy the argument that more guns automatically equals less crime, anymore than I believe gun control automatically reduces it (Russia, Columbia, Brazil and South Africa all have catastrophic homicide rates despite near-total bans, but they’re not “developed”, so of course control advocates exclude them from their statistics). Whether violence happens or not is a matter of memes and fluid social consciousness, crisis situations and the entrenchment of group identity and hatred. Warlords happen when people exploit these fault lines for popular support, by presenting them selves as saviors until they are strong enough to build a power base on fear, wherein no member of the group challenges them for fear or being reigned in by the others. The best way avoid this is to erase those fault lines to begin with and cultivate a general skepticism toward authority figures, included anyone who tries to play savior or claims to have all the answers.

    What’s more, none of these weapons are necessarily more dangerous than some of the other tool we commonly allow people to own, except in their intended purpose. Hitting someone with a car can do a lot more damage than a bullet, and massive numbers of people are dying on the roads each year from exactly that. People have access to explosive material every time they turn on their stove. Anybody who owns a gas station has an inventory of potential napalm under their feet (and don’t think you can’t improvise a flamethrower; the Polish resistance used them all the time against the Nazis). Any number of industries using hazardous chemicals have the capacity to poison thousands, and lots of unscrupulous companies do, every day. Even things like lawnmowers and nail guns can do a more objective level of harm than some of the small-caliber pistols used for CCW.

    You say that 2nd Amendment is outdated because nobody can take out a tank with a handgun. Well, nobody in 1776 owned a 64-gun Man O’ War, either. We beat the British Navy by using cheaper tools in a more intelligent fashion, as all insurgencies do. An American Abrams battle tank costs $4.35 million; the IED that disables it will be built in a basement for under $50. Professional militaries are inefficient because they spend money on things that have no direct relation to that defense of a sympathetic populace, but that are necessary to power projection and occupation of an unsympathetic populace. Hence it isn’t really reasonable to judge an anarchist society’s “military” strength by how closely it approximates that of a superpower state. “In anarchy, who will build the aircraft carriers?” Who cares?!

    Should we allows machine guns to be sold from vending machines? Well, how about cocaine and heroin? Should they be sold openly, knowing the certain harm they cause? Just because something’s available doesn’t mean everybody’s gonna rush out and do it. I certainly don’t have the need, desire, or means to own and maintain a .50 machine gun. And anybody with a gas line to their house has access to more powerful explosives than are contained in an anti-tank weapon. If I can have that, why shouldn’t I be able to own a bazooka? Presumably these things are so expensive that they’d have to be owned in joint by larger defensive associations anyway, who would hopefully exercise some common sense as to their usage.

    In the interest of sanity, I’m willing be a little less than hardcore on the issue of nukes. No privately-owned nukes. I really don’t have a rational argument for this. Just no … for now. Although again, do we accept the potential existence of nuclear power plants? What about if fusion ever becomes viable as the ultimate clean energy source?

  24. Nick Manley

    Blog readers,

    Anything I say is addressed to the whole blog.

    Er not to derail this interesting conversation, but the news story I posted is from 05…

    Here’s a piece covering the actual abortion rights situation: http://rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/04/01/missouri-legislature-coerced-pregnancy-fine-voluntary-abortion-no-way

    On bagels again: the petty judgment was a snap one. That’s not the right word. A more accurate criticism is that even fascists have a right of free assembly free of coercion — not as fascists but as members of the polity they oppose.

    Soviet Onion writes a decent response on the gun issue!

  25. Nick Manley

    Nukes can’t be used in any pinpointed fashion whatsoever.

  26. Soviet Onion

    We’ll still have to dispose of the nukes we already have “after teh Revolution”. I say we use em to carve a giant smiley face into the moon.

  27. Nick Manley

    LOL

    I actually agree with Aster that a top down weapon reduction is not a bad idea. It doesn’t violate my sense of individualist ethics to pressure the state to do away with unnecessary lethal devices. If people want to philosophically promote the idea that private citizens need not carry weapons either, then that is certainly their right.

    I would like to see a working treaty/commitment among the governments of the world focused on nuclear weapons reduction. Unfortunately, the quality of most governmental leadership in the world is not very good, so I am not hopeful here. There is some twisted logic to the MAD doctrine on this force ridden planet — although, I can’t imagine what the psychology of a person who used a nuke would be like..or I can: and it’s not pretty.

  28. Soviet Onion

    Nick,

    You know, some evil laws are so simple that I think they just arise out of the common mindset of government officials, as a matter of business as usual, without any self-consciousness on their part. This one I can’t see happening without some people deliberately crouching around a table in the poorly lit room of a mansion somewhere.

    General Audience,

    I found this Reason mag article on Switzerland circa 1998. It gives a good account of their defense strategy, and how, despite being a trilingual country, they managed to maintain an open and liberal society and avoid a breakup along nationalist fault lines at a time when that was happening to the rest of Europe.

    An excerpt on the military:

    “Again and again, Hitler ordered his generals to draw up plans to invade Switzerland — but never followed through. Why didn’t he? One reason was that military crises elsewhere kept intervening. But another was Switzerland’s convincing, if purely defensive, military posture. German troops referred to Switzerland as a porcupine (Stachelschwein); the Swiss air force consisted of 250 planes, none of them bombers. The most famous element of Swiss defense were the sabotage plans: At the moment of German invasion, the Simplon and St. Gotthard tunnels would be blown up, as well as all bridges over the Rhine, power stations, and air fields. Avalanches and landslides would be set off to block armor and infantry movement.

    Another key deterrent factor, Halbrook suggests, was Switzerland’s tradition of a popular army — “the people in arms.” At one point an astonishing 20 percent of the Swiss population was under arms, a figure unheard of in a modern country officially at peace — or even most countries at war. Every Swiss home had a rifle. Sharpshooting was and is the national sport; each weekend the hills are alive with the sound of gunfire, with fathers delighting in instructing their kids in proper technique. Swiss youths were trained to shoot at 300 meters, Germans at 100. German generals had to consider the example of the Finns, another small nation of skiers and riflemen who had recently held off a Russian invasion far more tenaciously than outsiders expected.

    Finally, Swiss defensive preparations drew strength from an unrivaled display of the spirit of resistance. Soldiers were ordered to hold their positions to the last cartridge and then fight on with bayonets. Secret munitions caches were distributed through the countryside, and the populace was trained in how to organize partisan warfare. Unlike any other country in Europe, Halbrook says, Switzerland proclaimed that any reports that the federal council or army high command had agreed to surrender were to be ignored as inventions of enemy propaganda. This remarkable policy tied the leadership’s own hands for the sake of maximum deterrent effect, and was thinkable only in a nation where a long tradition of decentralization had distributed the spirit of initiative far and wide. By way of contrast, “Hitler was able to conquer much of Europe by bluffing the central authority of various countries into capitulation,” as when the Belgian king surrendered at a point where many of his countrymen would have preferred to fight on. “Switzerland was the only country in Europe that had no political leader with the authority to surrender the people to the Nazis.”

    Aster,

    As I probably should have mentioned, I agree with you that there’s a lot more to rebuffing an oppressive power than just violent action. I used the American Revolution as an example, and that too involved large elements of education, public discussion (where possible), non-violent civil disobedience and counter-economics, both during the war and in the period leading up to it.

  29. Nick Manley

    Yes, Soviet Onion. There is also the issue of national defense to consider — a consequence of certain tribalisms/nation-statism. It would be impossible to talk about humantarian intervention without some kind of military infrastructure too.

    I was going to mention the Swiss example to Aster too. In fact, Michael Moore’s movie about guns/gun control lists Canada as having a much lower homicide rate — as you mention, there are plenty of guns in Canada. Honestly, I see culture as more of a determinant here. I would not characterize U.S. culture as peacenik. Let us look to the work of Alice Miller on the origins of violence for answers.

    Insofar as New Zealand prosceutes people for engaging in clearcut objective cases of self-defense with guns, then I am strongly opposed. The individual right to life necessitates the freedom to defend yourself using your best judgment about means — provided they can be pinpointed. I am sure there are creative non-coercive ways for people to come together and talk about reducing arms in society. That said, it’s profundly evil to engage in human sacrifice to pursue that aim.

  30. Soviet Onion

    Pictures and a story of modern Swiss gun culture:

    Girl Beats Guys: A Swiss Teen Rifle Festival

    The funny thing about Finland is that while they have a slightly higher homicide rate than most Western European countries (just slightly), fewer of those homicides involve guns, even though they have more guns too. They have a lower gun homicide rate than France even with the same rate of ownership, and a much lower rate than Britain.

  31. Nick Manley

    Soviet Onion,

    Your knowledge does seem to indicate that there is no solid transnational correlation between gun violence and presence of guns. I confess I know less about it then you though. I will have to read and research further.

    What are we to make of Switzerland? A country of multiple cultures with state mandated military training/semi-auto assault rifles. I am not aware of any Swiss warlords or degrees of gun violence comparable to other nations with higher levels of gun ownership.

    I remain unimpressed with notions of guns=necessary ruin. In fact, I’d say that it’s implicitly based on a Hobbesian understanding of human existence. There is some truth to the refrain of the NRA. Guns are really just inanimate objects that require a certain state of mind and conviction on the part of human beings to use destructively.

    And frankly: it would take much less then a gun to kill a gentle guy like me. If enough New Zealanders train themselves in expert knife fighting, then will we be discussing knife control to save the like minded there? Like Soviet Onion says, you can kill people with tons of things. It takes a violent culture to turn those things into instruments of extreme aggression.

    Rand always counseled us to focus on the role philosophy plays in the structure of society. That means treating human beings as agents of conscious conviction/introspection. I am not going to forcibly or peacefully shun the decent people I know who own semi-automatic weapons. Insofar as making guns a taboo or removing them from society via a top-down approach involves that, then I will condemn it for what it is: village fascism. By the same logic, we already shun select drug users, because they allegedly contribute to a culture of violent crime committed by addicts. This is the concrete that people really have used to justify drug controls to me.

  32. Soviet Onion

    Hopefully Aster sees the importance of at least letting the Swiss have guns. If the whole world goes to hell, at least the strategic chocolate reserves will remain safe.

  33. Nick Manley

    LOL

    Don’t think Aster is really gung ho about grabbing the guns of peaceful honest folk like you or many undoubtedly good Swiss.

    How do you figure about the chocolate? Is that all in the Switzerland?

  34. Nick Manley

    LOL

    Don’t think Aster is really gung ho about grabbing the guns of peaceful honest folk like you or many undoubtedly good Swiss.

    How do you figure about the chocolate? Is that all in Switzerland?

  35. Soviet Onion

    Switzerland, Belgium and Germany. Germany ain’t what it use to be, and if history has taught us is anything it’s that Belgium always get screwed.

  36. Soviet Onion

    Here’s the stats from my personal collection. All homicide and robbery rates are per 100,000 people:

    UK stats from the U.N. International Study on Firearm Regulation (1996)

    -Homicide rate: 1.4 (9% involving firearms) -Robbery rate: 116

    USA stats from same source

    -Homicide rate: 9.0 (70% involving firearms) -Robbery rate: 234

    Swiss stats from the Swiss Federal Police Office report (1997)

    -Homicide rate: 1.2 (48% involving firearms) -Robbery rate: 36 (22% involving firearms)

  37. Soviet Onion

    Hmm, the robbery stats didn’t show up. I’ll try again

    Here’s the stats from my personal collection. All homicide and robbery rates are per 100,000 people:

    UK stats from the U.N. International Study on Firearm Regulation (1996)

    -Homicide rate: 1.4 (9% involving firearms)

    -Robbery rate: 116

    USA stats from same source

    -Homicide rate: 9.0 (70% involving firearms)

    -Robbery rate: 234

    Swiss stats from the Swiss Federal Police Office report (1997)

    -Homicide rate: 1.2 (48% involving firearms)

    -Robbery rate: 36 (22% involving firearms)

  38. Aster

    Soviet Onion-

    [I wrote most of this early yesterday, but due to internet issues I couldn’t post it until now.]

    Thank you for taking the time to make such a detailed and rationally persuasive argument. I’m going to forward your post [edit: much of this discussion] to the couple of Kiwi friends who have helped influence me away from a libertarian RKBA position. If you wish, I’ll be glad to continue this discussion after I’ve seen what they would say.

    Please let me emphasise that I’m not decidedly against the libertarian position on this issue- I’m merely uncertain and undecided, on this and many other things. I feel as if libertarianism has failed me, or more precisely that the libertarian understanding of the human condition simply has not agreed with reality as I have experienced it. As a result, I’ve been looking elsewhere, primarily to social democracy, (left-)anarchism, and modern liberalism, partially to Objectivism. I’m very aware that at present, I don’t have a political philosophy which properly integrates my views as to what kind of society encourages the flourishing of human life. I do know that the (right-)libertarian approach has led to so many nasty places and dead ends that the ideology has ceased to be of any useful or meaningful guidance.

    I want a society where every individual is as free to live his or her own life as is maximally possible, but it’s no longer clear to me what precisely this means or where the boundaries should be drawn between people- I think we may just be objectively stuck with public spaces, overlapping boundaries, and shared responsibility- and the only answer may be to make the most lenient possible common rules.

    I don’t like this conclusion, but the ‘every man king of his own castle’ approach peculiar to America often seems to overshoot the goal of protection of individual space and ends up protecting certain kinds of means by which a a person can dominate others. On a macro scale, this usually can be expressed as the ‘what’s so bad about capitalism?’ issue. On a personal scale, I think of the attitude of those for whom the right to be racist and sexist completely eclipses the cruelty (and irrationality) of racism and sexism. On the gun issue, it comes out as mostly symbolic- owning a gun doesn’t hurt anyone, but for so many people the psychic investment in gun rights is about an individual potency proven by one’s ability to project power- not to hurt, but to prove one is capable of being hurtful.

    There is something here that needs its proper place for respect- the human enjoyment of power is not going away, and to simply damn and suppress this is a false, abusive, and impractical method of civilisation.

    There is also something importantly wrong here that goes to the heart of libertarianism- and Randianism- and America- and ‘Western civilisation’ (which I wish to emphasise is not the same as ‘liberal civilisation’ or cosmopolis- too often an unknown ideal). There’s a conflation of violence and autonomy (and materialism) in continual self-reinforcing tension with an equally unnecessary conflation of relational harmony and Christian love (and ecstatic immaterialism). Camille Paglia gets the issues, altho’ she writes the conflict, starkly written into her, too deeply into human nature. Orlando Patterson also gets it, altho’ he makes embarrassing childhood attachment excuses for Christianity. Anne Rice (may she be blessed) gets it and thoroughly explores the sinister side of the dualism. Ken Wilbur tries to rise above these conflicts but his synthesis is too partial to really understand or include the Promethean element on its own terms.

    Please understand- I deeply respect and admire this Faustian paradigm, and anyone who doesn’t like being a miserable peasant in subjection to lord, community, culture, myth, and nature ahould be thankful for what it has done. Most of the critics refuse to fully recognise this spiritual or the material greatness and many of them ressentfully loathe it. Most of don’t even comprehend that there is a passion and spirituality in Promethean humanism- that we selfish materialists also have love and friendship, philosophy and poetry, interiority, or (possibly) experiences which break the rules.

    And at the end of the day, most anti-Faustians resort to tossing trite and tiresome moralisms which feel, to some of us, to be hardly a stone’s throw away from Christianity. Usually, if you look hard enough, you can find where it clearly does come from something distinctly Christian. I can’t help but find it interesting that the Jesus of the gospels was less inflexibly dualistic (accounts, of course, differ).

    But the critics do have a point- the Promethean legacy is tainted with a tinge of blood and a craze for power, a disembodied sense of self acting abstractly upon inert matter, and a set of assumptions and emphases which imply that someone else is growing the food and doing the dishes. I fear that if people who care about the ‘Western’ legacy do not carefully tease out this splinter it will work its way in until the whole affair comes crashing down. The ecological disaster is a glaring sign of the omissions built into the system. There’s something very homologous in libertarian theory- this crystalline structure of individual freedoms which denies the irreducably interrelational… for which people will deny reality and reality’s abuse, oppression and catastrophe.

    The gun issue illustrates these problems- if again, mostly for symbolic reasons. Can we really separate an individual’s ability to cause vast harm to others from their effect on others, or from others’ sense of the world and themselves? Is it really going to encourage a maximally free society if we consider ability to harm others as part of the package of the ease and enjoyment of one’s personal space? I just begin to doubt that the libertarian project of resolving the matter by carving up the world into sovereign personal spaces structured by contracts can ever work, or can ever describe the true situation of human beings who are, among other things, animals in nature.

    I don’t have an answer here. I’d like one. For the moment, I’m open to any answer- any answer compatible with reason and my own experience and happiness.

    I should note, for the record, there is one hard and clear distinction between heroin and firearms- very, simply, one usually doesn’t try to shoot heroin at unwilling victims. This certainly doesn’t answer you or the issue, but it’s worth noting that a liberal could make a reasonable distinction here.

    Otherwise, I’d like to see what my Kiwi friends think of this, and then possibly return to this discussion. [I’d like to note, in passing, that my German Swiss>Kiwi friend found Switzerland to be a rather rigid and uptight with little space for individuals to go their own way.]

    Nick (On bagels)-

    Oh, technically I agree with you. The bagels comment was tongue and cheek. It referred to an anti-fascist counter-demonstration I was at where a very small number in a group of around 50-75 of the protesters were arrested for allegedly throwing bagels at attendees at a National Front rally. I ate mine… or tried to; dumpstered bagels can be really tough.

    I agree that you can’t have a civil society where violence is selectively socially acceptable. I don’t really blame the police for arresting the alleged bagel-throwers, tho’ I blame them a great deal for the absolutely egregious brutality of at least one arrest- they broke someone’s arm. Now, I do think it might be wise if some minor acts of violence were to be more-or-less ignored (there is no justice or sense in turning every bar fight into a court case that ruins someone’s life and puts someone in a cage). But political cases like this are fair times to be ultra-sensitive. So, yes, I technically agree with the libertarians here.

    I did write this piece

    http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/116256/index.php

    and this piece

    http://indymedia.org.nz/mod/comments/display/117380/index.php

    arguing against what I felt were other illiberal tactics proposed against the NFs.

    Emotionaly, however, I wish the bagels had been wrapped around drek-fouled shurikens. The primary reason I attended, other than a general love of new experience, was to stand up to a value system which has caused me an immense amount of pain. People who join the National Front consider force a globally acceptable tool and consider some of us rightless untermenschen. Their whole point is that some of us need to be denied social citizenship (and life, eventually) for the good of the national tribe. I would far rather keep solidarity with anarchists who violate the letter of freedom by allegedly throwing a few bagels at Nazis than keep solidarity with libertarians who (with a few honourable exceptions) say and do nothing to protest hateful tribalism, and today often help spread the broader mentality and worldview which undergirds fascism.

    General audience-

    We must protect the chocolate supplies. Thankfully, Cadbury is headquartered in New Zealand. When the Revolution comes and we seize the means of production, I’m going after the chocolate factories.

  39. Nick Manley

    Aster,

    I thought long and hard about the bagel issue — although, it seems such a small and minor thing to focus on. I don’t like the idea of turning every minor incident into a legalistic affair either. In the greater scheme of things, the bagel throwing is minor — and am not surprised that the police were more brutal then the protesters. There may be contexts where bagel throwing isn’t uncalled for, but I doubt New Zealand is on the verge of being overtaken by Nazis. Of course, I would support a nominally “liberal” state against the reincarnation of Adolf Hitler — with no better options around.

    I guess we live in different worlds. I spend more time around libertarians then left-anarchists — although, I briefly entered “their” world and sort of know some of them around here. I was a left-anarchist at one time, but I no longer feel comfortable with the hardcore communalism associated with the ideology. I don’t really want to go to endless neighborhood meetings where majorities impose their will on minorities. I also would agree with Adam Reed that it’s naive to imagine such communes being free places in today’s world — perhaps, this is less true of New Zealand.

    The list of things supported by anarcho-communists posted by Soviet Onion confirms my fears about village fascism posturing as “anti-statism”. I frankly do just want to be left alone in my metaphorical “castle” — I say metaphorical, because I am not an atomist and don’t live as such. I will engage in social activities, but I will not allow someone to garner my support through the use of force or do so to others. Like Charles, I have a strong emotional and intellectually principled revulsion to aiding the cause of statism in any way whatsoever. I’d be much happier being at some risk of death from handguns then in enforcing laws that harm entirely well intentioned peaceful people. This is not a mere political issue for me. I know more than a few people with guns who deserve no prison time whatsoever — one of them has guns affected by the assault weapons ban.

    Let me say I respect your judgment and have no doubt that your friends are of good intention. That said, I still cannot fathom how a person becomes comfortable with coercing the “gun heretics”. I suspect your friends are of a more nuanced and kind character. They are no doubt interested in peaceful social change. I would not explode upon them in uber moralistic libertarian fashion when discussing this ( :

    I honestly see a lot of principled parallels between conservative lifestyle tribalism and left-liberal lifestyle tribalism. Oh yes: there are contextual inductive distinctions to be made. A gun is not the same as homosexuality. The collectivist dynamic is still the same. Gun owners become no longer human in sense of rational beings. All of contemporary politics seems to be one thinly veiled civil war between fearful tribalists.

    Still: I agree with Rand that statism feeds on fear and that faith in force is no different than faith in God. Why should I distrust a rational sane person with a gun? I would rather die bringing philosophical truth to the world then live by pragmatically suppressing people whose lifestyle makes me uneasy. In a pluralistic society, there is no escape from feelings of uneasiness. I have lived in areas where shootings occurred a block up or so. I still enjoyed myself and rarely thought of them.

    Alas, I am not a stoic, so I do feel for the plight of those who have more trouble coping. That said, the conceptual mentality requires we investigate the philosophic roots of violence — not stay mired in concrete statistics about gun violence and pragmatic turns to state power. In Mexico, there is pretty much no legal gun market, but they have drug cartels whose military strength rivals that of the Mexcian government — ironically, I’ve read that state military power provides them with their arms.

    On machine guns and heroin:

    Oh: it is possible to easily kill someone with tainted heroin. Most deaths from it in the U.S. are due to it being adulterated — not to a pure dosage.

    I still sense that Aster’s implied higher level principles presuppose some kind of organicism here — not that she personally accepts them. People argue for drug controls on the grounds of interrelation. It really does affect someone else when a person becomes an addict — friends, family, and so on. Somebody else may take your shift at work and do the dishes.

  40. Jeremy

    The problem with left-libertarianism (or with the 21st century rebirth and recasting of 19th century individualism, if you want to imperfectly characterize it that way), is that instead of trying to transcend harmful notions of localism, it simply switches federalism for communitarianism. It does this partially as a attempt to ingratiate itself to social anarchists, and partly because, like social anarchists, it recognize that this idea is superficially more compatible with an anti-state position. But it also neglects the social anarchists’ cultural sensibilities; hence the more lax attitude toward things like National Anarchism.

    The proper position for us, and what could really set us apart from everyone and make us a more unique and consistent voice for individualism in the global Agora, is to recognize all cultures as nothing more than memetic prisons and always champion the unique and nonconforming against the arbitrary limitations that surround them, recognizing their destruction as barriers in the sense of being normative. And to that end there’s the instrumental insight that the free trade, competition, open movement and open communication are forces that pry open closed societies, not by force, but by giving those who chafe under them so many options to run to that they make control obsolete, and thus weaken control’s tenability as a foundation on which societies can reasonably base themselves. Think of it as “cultural Friedmanism”: the tenet that open economies dissolve social authority the same way they render political authority untenable.

    THAT’s what left-libertarianism needs to be about, not some half-baked federation of autarkic Southern towns filled with organic farms and worker co-operatives. It can still favor these things, but with a deeper grounding. It doesn’t ignore patriarchy, racism, heterosexism, but opposes them with a different and more consistent understanding of what liberation means. So far, the only anarchists I know who explicitly approach things from this perspective are Aster and Will Gillis.

    Soviet Onion, I’d love to hear you expand on your position vis a vis what left libertarianism should be about. I disagree with some of the framing of priorities - to my mind, I think the biggest obstacle to tackle is the consolidation of authority and power occurring, with individualism among the values underlying the critique and alternative proposed. But I appreciate a clear statement of the other side’s argument so a real conversation can occur.

  41. Rad Geek

    As usual, speaking only for myself and my own reasoned understanding of libertarian principle. And presuming that, in what follows, when you say favor you mean oppose the forcible prohibition of, rather than personally approve of or personally recommend to others.

    Aster:

    If we’re dealing with libertarian principle: do you favour private ownership of nuclear weapons?

    No, because there are at present no plausible peaceful uses of nuclear weapons (retaliatory threats to use, or actual use of nuclear weapons necessarily involves threatening or committing the murder of tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent third parties). As such I’d argue that possessing one constitutes a standing threat which can be answered by force proportional to the threat.

    Of course, the same goes for governments — the only terrorist organizations in the history of the world actually to have used nuclear weapons on human targets — as goes for private individuals.

    Tanks?

    Yes, why not? What’s wrong with individual people owning tanks, if they have a non-aggressive use for them?

    Grenade launchers?

    Yes, certainly, why not? RPGs are an important defensive weapon against mechanized assaults.

    Machine guns in the vending machines?

    Sure, if there’s a market for it. Why not? (But I doubt there will be a market for it. You could sell cars out of an automat if you wanted to, but nobody does.)

    If the purpose of firearms is to resist tyranny, then the reasoning clearly seems to be outdated.

    Really? If the claim is supposed to be that irregular forces armed with substantially less hardware than the government military cannot defeat an invasion, then I’d say that recent history in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, etc. would tend to empirically falsify this claim.

    If the claim is that it’s obviously not appropriate for individual people to claim a right to own the level of armament that irregular forces have used in conflicts like those (e.g. military grade weapons like Kalashnikovs, RPGs, or small explosives), then I’d want to know the justification for that. I see no reason why these should be ruled out as obviously inappropriate for individuals to keep and bear in defense of their own, or others’, person and property.

    You can’t resist a modern state with handguns, and the methods that do successfully bring down contemporary tyrannies don’t seem to rely primarily on force of arms.

    I certainly agree with that, but the primarily there seems awfully important. And the fact that keeping and bearing arms isn’t the sole or even the best means of resisting tyranny hardly justifies a further inference that it is useless, or that the cause of resisting tyranny would somehow be helped by forbidding the keeping and bearing of arms.

    Now one might argue that we really should have private access to nuclear weapons and such, on the grounds that it is better to have individuals control the means of violence than for states to do the same. Here I would strongly disagree- the society I want is one which institutionalises protection of individual rights, not one which leaves private power well enough alone.

    How does that last clause — about institutionalizing the protection of individual rights — support the conclusion that comes before it — that it is not better for individuals outside the State to control the means of violence than for individuals acting as agents of states to do the same? That only follows if States in fact institutionalized the protection of individual rights, and if, in turn, the only way for an institution protecting individual rights to successfully do so is if the people acting on its behalf can outgun every other actor in the society. But the latter claim is directly in conflict with your earlier claim that the best methods of resisting tyranny don’t depend primarily on force of arms. And the former claim is directly in conflict with empirical reality and the nature of the State as such. States don’t institutionalize the protection of individual rights; their primary work, in every nation in the world and in every age of history, has been to institutionalize the violation of individual rights, through government taxes, borders, prohibitions, crusades, enclosures, wars, terror-famines and holocausts.

  42. Nick Manley

    Damn, Charles.

    You make my responses look dumb ( :

    I love your intelligence. I did think of the same point earlier today. Aster is indeed wrong to suppose that having more technologically advanced hardware automatically makes armed resistance impossible — if I misread her, then I apologize for any misstatement of her views.

    New Zealand readers,

    If in fact we will have guests from NZ join us in this fascinating discussion. I would like to introduce myself as a public political persona — may immigrate to NZ one day when I could get in, so I’d like an accurate profile of me on view. I may have already communicated with some of the anarchist guests via email about advice on migrating there. Of course, I will not mention any specific names nor discuss it further — privacy.

    A clarification: I am indeed very interested in anarchism. My comment above about “left-anarchism” is not a complete rejection — more specifically directed at certain anarchist trends/approaches. I am presently a member of this group: http://all-left.net/. I am interested in the whole pantheon of ideas that have gone under the banner of liberalism/radical opposition to the status quo. This includes everyone from Ayn Rand to Emma Goldman. Please feel free to browse my website and leave comments. The signature on my web posts will say Natasha. That’s a relic of an older era that hasn’t been removed yet. It is indeed me who has written all the material on the site.

    Ok! I am done. Back to discussion ( :

  43. Aster

    Charles and Soviet Onion-

    Wow. Those are some quite good arguments.

    I’ve spoken to my three friends, and your arguments seem much more in line with my own values than theirs. I think you’re right- at least as far as hand guns go (I’d need to think over whether the same principles apply to milirary-grade firearms, let alone men-of-war and tanks and such).

    What really convinces me is the image of a peaceful gun owner confronting me and asking ‘do you support putting me in a cage rather than letting me hold on to an object which was, yes, designed to kill people?’ I do know that side of that one I wish to be on. Gun laws are a fear of letting people be dangerous. Now if this was a matter of a potentially large danger to other persons, empirically verifiable, the case might be difficult- but the statistics here show clearly that the availability of guns as a means of aggression has no correlation to the actual amount of aggression in a society. And given the fact that governments must have ready access to this danger, it means that gun laws are in place either due to prejudice, irrational obsession with security, or the state’s fear of an armed populace.

    OK, I’ll have to attend a gun rights rally sometime. Weapons rights. I want my rapier (blunted to avoid actually hurting anyone).

    My Swiss-Kiwi friend did, however, rightly stress that while firearms are common in Switserland they are tightly controlled and regulated- I’m not claiming this is a good thing.

    I very much agree with Charles that it’s definitely worse for the state apparatus to own guns then for the same guns ti be owned by private individuals. the posititon I was considering was explicitly supposed to ban use of firearms by agents of the state (or other institutuionalised authoritarianisms), while considering weapons control for private citizens as well.

    I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to talk to me here. I’m rethinking a great deal of the way I see the world right now, and on politics particularly I’m having to reevaluate my views on practically every issue which I would have once simply answered on deductive NAP grounds. I feel as if I do not have a systematic thery as to what set of conditions best promotes free individuals, so the best I can do for the moment is see how imdividualism concretely fares under different possible social or political circumstances.

    The primary reason I’ve been questioning on gun rights has to do with the issue’s symbolic and historical attachment to the peculiarly American way of thinking about liberty. I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with that American conception, and I’m also pretty sure there are some things uniquely good about it. I want to get the wrong bit identified and out of my system, so I’m re-thinking every issue where the difference might matter.

    Which leads me to pose another issue. If it’s not the availability of guns which makes America such a comparatively violent society, but cultural factors- then what are these cultural factors? These would seem to be the source of whatever real problem the availability of weapons may pose for an open society. Is there a politics out there which defends RKBA while simultaneously critiqueing an aggressive and patriarchal subculture associated with guns? The existing gun rights movement, which is libertarian at best, doesn’t seem to do this very much. It’s hard to get excited about defending the rights of people whose own stake in the issue is heavily linked to extremely hostile value systems- I would like to be sure i could support those writes without further empowering the patriarchs invested in them.

  44. Nick Manley

    I’d say that talking about rampant tankdom without discussing cultural issues would be deadly. There are certainly some people whose ownership of tanks could prove difficult. On the other hand, you could have military buffs with decommissioned ones in their backyard or something.

  45. Soviet Onion

    Aster,

    Just a couple of points:

    block I think you’re right- at least as far as hand guns go (I’d need to think over whether the same principles apply to milirary-grade firearms, let alone men-of-war and tanks and such). quote

    Handguns are usually a bigger issue than shotguns and rifles (even semi-auto rifles) due to their concealability. They’re also involved a lot more of the gun crimes than any over type, including the automatics that some Americans own.

    Military-grade is also a pretty relative term. Some modern hunting rifles are actually better than most of ones issued to soldiers during WWII. Even at the time, American civilians were using better weapons than the average Soviet or Chinese infantryman. Hence the Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s observation that “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.”

    If by military-grade you just mean weapons that currently fit the definition, well, I’ve fired those weapons, and I’m not crazy. People own them legally and they’re not crazy. Even people who own them illegally aren’t necessary violent individuals. Like I said, handguns cause the most deaths.

    block What really convinces me is the image of a peaceful gun owner confronting me and asking ‘do you support putting me in a cage rather than letting me hold on to an object which was, yes, designed to kill people?’ quote

    block OK, I’ll have to attend a gun rights rally sometime. quote

    Eh, I wouldn’t. You’re right about the predominant nature of gun culture in America. Maybe not to the same totalizing extent that your words would indicate, but I really think it would grate on you to go to a gunshow or a rally held by some NRA-proxy. I don’t know how things are in New Zealand.

    It’s that kind of environment that led to the creation of things like the Pink Pistols and AGCR in the first place, so that people who faced stigma from the larger gun culture could find affinity.

    That said, we actually face way more stigma from liberals for “siding with something we’re not supposed to”, I guess. I have run across conservatives who could treat my social views and bisexuality as beside the point; I have almost never run across a staunch left-liberal who could look past my gun ownership.

    block If it’s not the availability of guns which makes America such a comparatively violent society, but cultural factors- then what are these cultural factors? These would seem to be the source of whatever real problem the availability of weapons may pose for an open society. Is there a politics out there which defends RKBA while simultaneously critiqueing an aggressive and patriarchal subculture associated with guns? quote

    Are you familiar with American Gun Culture Report? I’m pretty sure the editor, Ross Elliot, is libertarian. He’s also a member of the Portland, OR Pink Pistols chapter.

    Say Nick, it might be a good idea to pick up a couple issues for Porcfest, since we’re looking for cultural material.

  46. Soviet Onion

    What really convinces me is the image of a peaceful gun owner confronting me and asking ‘do you support putting me in a cage rather than letting me hold on to an object which was, yes, designed to kill people?’<

    I’ve actually pulled that one out on a couple of people in the past. They told me that there were more important things than my selfish desire to cling in an inconsequential liberty.

    Liberals: they’d support Nazi death camps if it raised more money for public schools (also invented by German autocrats).

    Now I’ve found a much a better strategy: I use the consistency point. I tell them it’s inconsistent for anyone who wants to ban guns to use guns themselves in enforcing that ban. So, anyone who wants to take someone’s gun is free to try, but without being armed themselves. We’ll see how that works out (/end violent masculine digression).

    Some of the Free State Project libertarians also pioneered the practiced of open carry litter pickups designed to humanize (or at least un-demonize) the image of the anti-social gun owner. They’ve now spread to other states.

  47. Rad Geek

    Aster,

    Now if this was a matter of a potentially large danger to other persons, empirically verifiable, the case might be difficult- but the statistics here show clearly that the availability of guns as a means of aggression has no correlation to the actual amount of aggression in a society.

    Well, I agree with you about how the empirical results sort out, but let’s suppose, arguendo, that they sorted out in a different way. I still don’t see how that could justify forcing your will on some individual gun owner who hasn’t personally done anything to contribute to that danger. It certainly justifies taking forceful action against those who do use guns to coerce or hurt the innocent, but suppose the woman standing before you has never done anything of the sort. Suppose she is in fact keeping and bearing the gun so that she can protect herself from becoming a victim of the marauders around her. What would justify taking away her means of self-defense, chaining her, locking her in a cage, etc., in the name of combating some statistical aggregate that she never contributed to, composed of crimes committed by unrelated third parties? I can understand the desire to dismantle a mass of violence and oppression; but I certainly couldn’t live with sacrificing a peaceful person’s life or liberties to the fight against it.

    The primary reason I’ve been questioning on gun rights has to do with the issue’s symbolic and historical attachment to the peculiarly American way of thinking about liberty. […] If it’s not the availability of guns which makes America such a comparatively violent society, but cultural factors- then what are these cultural factors? These would seem to be the source of whatever real problem the availability of weapons may pose for an open society. Is there a politics out there which defends RKBA while simultaneously critiqueing an aggressive and patriarchal subculture associated with guns?

    I agree that most of the existing gun culture in the U.S. is militantly patriarchal. It also tends to be deeply white supremacist and violently xenophobic. As a result, most of the mainstream gun rights movement is, too — which often leads not only to nasty cultural politics, but also often leads them to seriously compromise their supposed advocacy for gun rights. (Not surprisingly, since the political motivations behind every major piece of gun control legislation has been patriarchal Law-n-Orderism, and racist or xenophobic scare-mongering. See, for example, the NRA’s longstanding record of supporting state and federal licensure and prohibition schemes — and just about anything else already on the books — as long as the licensure schemes allow for demographic control over who can have unpopular weapons, like automatic rifles, and as long as the prohibition targets unpopular people, like those with a record of drug convictions.)

    But given that the problem is with the gun culture, I’d say that the thing to do is to change the culture, by cultural means, not to use governmental means to go after peaceful gun owners. I’m not heavily involved on these issues, so I can’t offer much by way of advice about how to do that, but, speaking personally, I can say that when I’m talking to someone who cares about these things, I do take every opportunity to talk up the real reasons behind historical gun control legislation, to connect government gun grabs with the broader issue of racism and sado-fascist policing, and to talk up contemporary and historical groups or individuals (like Pink Pistols, like the Black Panthers, like Fannie Lou Hamer, who proudly kept a shotgun with her every night at home so that she and her allies could safely practice nonviolent activism by day) who undermine one or more of the reactionary narratives that get passed around in the nasty end of conservative gun culture. Partly because I have some hope of reaching a few within that culture, who have already decided to to hold onto the best parts of their program while sloughing off the worst, or to convince them to do it if they have not yet already; partly also because I have some hope of reaching a few outside of it, to help them see that that’s not all there is to it, and that there are both political principles and cultural practices there worth reclaiming from the bigots who would monopolize them.

  48. Nick Manley

    Bravo! Gentlemen ( :

    Liberty lives…

  49. Aster

    “American Gun Culture Report”

    This is very good. Inspiringly good, in some places. I’ve many times thought of starting my own web site, and this would be a great model.

    Also from their webpage:

    http://www.blackletter.org

    I admire motorcyles but would be scared out of my wits to drive one.

  50. Soviet Onion

    You know, if you guys are gonna get involved with weapon culture and help me redeem it, you’re going to come down on one side or the other of a very important intra-movement dispute.

    Which is better: M-16 or AK-47?

  51. Aster

    The AK-47. It looks scarier or visually presses more sociobiological buttons.

    I asked the question of a friend; he told me that an M-16 is significantly more accurate under circumstances of ideal supply, but an AK-47 is more durable and less expensive to repair and maintain.

    Oh, I guess it’s worth noticing that M-16s are typically used for somewhat less demonic purposes.

    If I get a third choice I’d prefer a Remington derringer, or else call crossbow.

  52. Soviet Onion

    Aster, thank you for being wise. The AK-47 is indeed a better gun for anything but target practice. Mostly this is a matter of the design fitting. The AK has huge gaps between the parts in its bolt assembly, so dirt and dust doesn’t create so much of an obstruction. It also helps to vent excess gas out the ejection port and prevents powder residue from building up so quickly. They M-16, by contrast, vents most of its gas back through the barrel and down into the magazine, jamming everything.

    Reliability wise? Well, the Vietcong used to used to hide them underwater in rice paddies for weeks at a time, and they still worked. I’m sure you can find some videos on youtube of people filling them with sand or running them over with trucks, and they still fire fine.

    The trade off, as your friend rightly noted, is accuracy, since the AK’s parts are not so precisely-fitted and the bolt is heavy and slightly off-center, resulting in killer recoil. Not that that matters when you’re fighting in an urban or jungle environment. The AK’s round also has better penetration, so it can cut through trees and walls that the 5.56x45mm NATO round can’t. There’s also the “tumbler” effect once it hits a target, but I don’t think you want to hear about that.

    (I realize right now that this is probably not helping my case for the right to own assault rifles.)

    You can just imagine the asymmetry that took place in situations like Vietnam, where Americans had to clean their guns once or twice a day while guerrillas could bury theirs underground, take them out and use them at a moment’s notice. I never would have thought the United States Government would actually suck at killing people.

    It really isn’t even a close contest, but it’s a topic that frequently comes up in in the echo chamber of American gun culture. A lot of people go out of their way to stump for the M-16 because it’s “our” gun, and they take the debate as a point of American pride. Preferring the AK is seen as unpatriotic.

    Many gun owners also happen to be ex-military, so it’s what they’re familiar with.

  53. Nick Manley

    Soviet Onion,

    Where would we get them? The magazine looks decent.

  54. Rad Geek

    Soviet Onion,

    Back when my dad was a prisoner of Uncle Sam’s slave army, one of the standard demonstrations in boot camp was for the drill sergeant to show the trainees an AK-47 at the beginning of the day, then have someone go and throw it into the lake. They’d do exercises all day until they more or less forgot about it, then in the evening someone was sent out to the lake to get it and shake it out a bit. Then the drill sergeant would load it up and fire it. Of course, after having been shown this, everyone would have to go back to training to use POS M-16s that would jam for any old thing if you didn’t care for them like a sportscar.

    Aster,

    Oh, I guess it’s worth noticing that M-16s are typically used for somewhat less demonic purposes.

    Are they really? The main exercise which M-16s were heavily used was the U.S. government’s raising up a slave army to carry out the pointless slaughter of 4,000,000 people in Vietnam, all for the sake of keeping South Vietnam safe for a Falangist military dictatorship.

    Soviet Onion,

    I never would have thought the United States Government would actually suck at killing people.

    Well, I guess if you had a competition between the United States government and the USSR government to see who’s better at killing people, the USSR would usually win.

    But, more to the point, the whole M-16 debacle really is reflective of a larger difference in the military design philosophies of the US and USSR empires. The USSR legions focused heavily on mass production of lightweight tools that could perform adequately under most any conditions, and could be replaced cheaply when they didn’t. The USA legions focused on producing high-cost, high-tech precision devices that would work perfectly within a very narrow range of conditions. (See also the USAF’s fighters, the differences between US and Soviet spy satellites, and on down the line) This was partly because they were each still fighting the last war (the USSR’s experience in World War II having been very different from the USA’s); and partly also due to the fact that the USA government’s war machine was ought to accomplish a couple of different things: being able to kill a lot of people was part of it; but so also was the proper financial servicing of the military-industrial complex —which expensive toys like the M-16, or on the larger scale the F-14 and F-16, the B-2, etc. etc. etc., do very well.

  55. Nick Manley

    On the contrary, you’re telling us how effective such weapons can be in resisting tyranny ( :


    Yeah, those so called “Progressives” pretend to a tolerance they don’t actually possess. They stereotype and demonize gun owners.

    Like I said: All of politics involves tribalists with rigid tribal codes.


    Charles,

    Like I said earlier: Aster seems to have gone from individualism to individualist(?) organicism. It reeks of concrete statistics and unprincipled pragmatics — always the domain of the statist. Nonetheless, there are important philosophic questions being raised in this dialogue.

  56. Rad Geek

    Nick,

    Well, maybe, but I think she can answer the questions posed for herself, and I think that letting her do that would be more productive than trying to wrap up her views in a two-sentence polemical summary of what the view is supposedly all about.

  57. Soviet Onion

    Charles,

    I had a friend in high school who’s father fought in the Afghan War on the Soviet side. When he and his unit were out in the field for extended periods, the way they would clean their guns was to tie knots in their spare set of boot laces, dip them in axle grease and just pull them through the barrel. That was clean enough for at least a week. They didn’t even have to disassemble the weapon, because you could just thread the cord through the open ejection port.

    Nick,

    Well, whatever she’s doing, I think it’s kind of timely and necessary for libertarianism right now.

  58. Soviet Onion

    Charles,

    I had a friend in high school who’s father fought in the Afghan War on the Soviet side. When he and his unit were out in the field for extended periods, the way they would clean their guns was to tie knots in their spare set of boot laces, dip them in axle grease and just pull them through the barrel. That was clean enough for at least a week. They didn’t even have to disassemble the weapon, because you could just thread the cord through the open ejection port.

    Nick,

    Well, whatever she’s doing, I think it’s kind of interesting, and it’s probably necessary that someone’s posing these questions to libertarianism right now.

  59. Nick Manley

    Oh I wasn’t disparaging her or the discussion. I was trying to conceptualize the philosophic issues. Given how fucked up contemporary Libertarianism is, I am almost inclined to throw in the towel and become a social democrat myself some days.

    Damn you, “Liber” patriarchs ( :

  60. Aster

    Nick-

    If I’ve drifted into poor methodology here, the problem is a form of atomism, not organicism. And, yes, my methodology- which is to see what any concrete socio-political regime actually does in practice for the freedom and range of choices for individuals- is very patchy and awkward. It wouldn’t be appropriate to defend a concept by this method. But it is certainly not organicist.

    I’d far prefer an integrated dialetical approach- but this isn’t possible unless one has the knowledge to abstract concepts and consider their relations. For the moment, I don’t trust many concepts which have come out of libertarianism which have been derived deductively and then continually applied in ways which, in context, contradict their stated purpose- essentially creating a mess of performative anti-concepts. As a result, the most rational approach I can think of is to return to the data and try to redefine ideas like ‘liberty’ and ‘non-aggression’, etc. This requires looking at the facts of reality which confront a conscious and reasoning mind with the need to formulate principles of action.

    I want to find an objective way to set the rights boundaries between people. Currently libertarianism makes the relations between people so absurdly external as to overlook intrapersonal aggressions which take advantage of human spiritual and material interdependency. Progressives with cohherent theories of justice typically overstate these interdependencies between people (internalising all relations) or at least significantly ignore the independence and privacy an individual needs to think for themselves and live life according to their own judgement and values. My reasoning is that if the unltimate standard for deciding these values ought to be objective, then the best way to find them is to empirically look at human interdependencies and what actually allows for human survival and flourishing. From this, theories and concepts can be observed and defined- and I might have a better clue as to whether libertarianism, Objectivism, anarchism, liberalism, or social democracy (or some yet undiscovered alternative) gets the interpersonal boundaries right. But at the moment, it’s back to the drawing board and the primitive accumulation of data.

    I can see no other rational alternative when concepts fail- and faulting me for refusing to abide by concepts whose grounding in reality I no longer trust is impractical, as it isn’t going to convince me that you are right.

  61. Nick Manley

    Not looking for an argument, Aster. I am not out to convince you of atomism. Please do not speak to me in such a harsh tone.

  62. Nick Manley

    Well, I’ve concluded that I’d trust Soviet Onion with a tank in his backyard…

    Can’t say that’s true of everyone! ( :

    If Soviet imports a tank, then I am no snitch.

  63. Nick Manley

    I am going Stirnite. All laws are nothing to me — and Soviet Onion can do whatever the fuck he wants apart from homicide, because he’s so damn peacefully principled ( :

  64. Nick Manley

    *Apart from homicide and those other you know obvious crimes…

  65. Soviet Onion

    If Soviet imports a tank, then I am no snitch.>

    Yeah sure, just let me sell my chateau on the Riviera first.

    and Soviet Onion can do whatever the fuck he wants apart from homicide, because he’s so damn peacefully principled ( :>

    Well now you’re just destroying my rep. I bought a cowboy gun, gorramit!

  66. Nick Manley

    Contractual duels are acceptable ways for cowboy anarchists to settle disputes ( :

  67. Soviet Onion

    Ever read “An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: the not so wild, Wild West”? Apparently they actually did things more peacefully most of the time.

  68. Aster

    Charles-

    I said only somewhat less demonic purposes. I’ve no desire whatsoever to defend the U.S. forces in the Vietnam War. The U.S. ahould never have been involved and committed senseless mass murder as its method of involvement. Its leadership was clearly indictable for execution under the Nuremberg standard.

    I still think the other side was even worse. But I see no point in debating that issue here. If it matters, I would agree with Rand and disagree with Rothbard that the Cold War (but not U.S. intervention in Vietnam) was a becessity.

    Thank you for your efforts to keep discussion fair and civil in this forum.

    Nick-

    I don’t think you were accusing me of atomism, but of organicist tendencies. I do think my own formulations are problematically atomistic at present and need much improvement.

    I certainly have no desire for a conflict with you, and did not intend to speak harshly. It’s very hard to avoid all harshness whatsoever on the internet (it’s not a very polite place), but I’ll try to keep your sensibilities in mind, provided you do the same.

    “All of politics involves tribalists with rigid tribal codes.”

    If all politics are at heart tribalistic, equally and without distinction, then one must either embrace tribalism or abstain from politics. I think the latter is impossible, given that politics is a much broader thing than state power and inevitable whenever individual lives overlap with one another. I think the answer lies not in cynicism towards politics but in altering social institutions so that politics is np longer grounded in tribalism- to set standards where people are judged abstractly, as citizens.

    If the liberal revolutions only did this partially and with painful slowness, they have nevertheless with much pushing and prodding accompished an immense amount. I know that I would never have survived this long without all this progress, in any other time or in any illiberal society.

    If you say everything is tribal, it ends up making everything equally evil or equally socially subjective. But to make equivalences between two unequal things works to the advantage of the worse. I think it’s important to preserve the idea that politics can be done rationally- of course, the politics reason justifies may very well be libertarian or anarchist, and may conclude that the state and/or other social institutions are irrational- perhaps precisely because they inevitably leave politics in the grip of tribalism.

    My own judgement is that the modern liberal-democratic state contains crucial anti-tribal elements which should be firmly incorporated into any form of social organisation which might be proposed as an alternative to it. I’ll certainly respectfully consider left-anarchism or anarcho-capitalism or other possibilities, but only if thay keep Justice blindfolded, impersonal, and tribally neutral.

    If all you’re saying is that systems of power attract tribalists in swarms, then doubtless you are right. I’d still say we are better off with insitutions which observe modernity inconsistently than with ancien regime monstrosities which didn’t even pretend to try. The progress in the last few centuries is important and real- and I think forgetting or minimalising this success only helps those who want to portray what we have of an open society as worthless and dispensible.

    I don’t want a revolution to tear down the status quo- I might want a revolution to make it what it pretends to be. The liberal-democratic polity as such is legitimate and ought to be supported by anyone who wants a society characterised by respect for individual autonomy (note: I think America has all but lost its character as a liberal regme and thus largely forfeited this legitimacy).

    Soviet Onion-

    “When he and his unit were out in the field for extended periods, the way they would clean their guns was to tie knots in their spare set of boot laces, dip them in axle grease and just pull them through the barrel.”

    Eewwwwww….

    Again,

    EEWWWWWW….

  69. Nick Manley

    I should have clarifed my statement: I meant that all of contemporary politics seems to be tribalistic. On second thought, that’s probably an overly broad generalization. A left-liberal/social democrat once responded to my mention of Gun Owners of America by saying “they are trigger happy” — feeding into the assumption that all gun owners are eager to blow your head off or must be so.

    This is the same person who agrees with me that religious conservatives can’t tolerate people thinking differently from them. I certainly agree that we shouldn’t be subjective. I don’t regard taking the side of the civil rights movement vs the racialist Southern establishment as tribalistic. In fact, it’s a repudiation of tribalism — the black nationalist movement notwithstanding.

    In my earlier writing, I counseled Libertarians on ways they could have been effective against racism without necessarily having to endorse statism — defined in Rothbardian terms. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much positive interest. The legacy of Rothbard on this issue is particulary gross. He thought black nationalism/separatism was more in line with “human nature”. On the other hand, Rand’s limited writing on racism and the anti-conceptual mentality is MUCH better — although, she didn’t endorse the infringements on private property contained in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    My own classically liberal influenced view is that diner owners calling the cops to haul out “unruly” blacks was arguably an act of violence against the black students — even moreso then their peaceful sitting in stools unwelcomed. The actions of protesters were violence against property in the Lockean sense — although, the image of someone crossing a state protected line of demarcation doesn’t seem equivalent to breaking into a house to murder someone. The leftist chant of “human rights before property rights” was always dismissed by Libertarians. I never found a logical hole in their rebutals, but there is something missing. They have disconnected the concept of private property rights from any spiritual substance. That’s where Rand’s criticism of Libertarianism really shines. If private property rights are divorced from any genuine concern with the value of objective individual autonomy, then it’s a floating abstraction.

    Perhaps, the reason I am more hostile to models of greater interrelation is due to the state of the U.S. New Zealand has clearly expanded your mind! It’s good to have you transmitting the resulting insights to those of us living in more illiberal structures. I will say that Obama seems to be notably more nuanced and liberal minded in certain areas — appalingly regressive via action in other areas e.g. corporatism/government accountability. Nonetheless, I do feel safer here then before — any more disllusioned radicals may point out my flaws here.

    I don’t substantially disagree with your relational model — I misread its nature. Indeed, I sense the influence of Chris Sciabarra in your thoughts. As you know, I embraced Chris’s dialectical model as a way of avoiding the pitfalls of opposing statism without ignoring my cultural concerns. I haven’t worked on my book project about dialectical libertarianism in ages. I was going to cover the interaction between culture-politics in underappreciated areas like children’s liberty and property rights. It would be an attempt to point out the relational issues that arise when different parties compete for control of material space.

    As far as status quo liberal democracy goes, I am not opposed to it — when properly and exaltingly defined. There is plenty more to be progressively accomplished e.g. compulsory schooling is a relic of autocratic 19th century Prussia. Its structure is blatantly undemocratic. Its purposes largely appalling.

    You wouldn’t believe some of the anti-democratic stuff consciously voiced by the U.S. government — although, the figures behind modern schooling had international influence. This isn’t American centric.

    “The BEHAVIORAL TEACHER EDUCATIONAL PROJECT outlines specific teaching reforms to be forced on the country, unwillingly of course, after 1967. It also sets out, in clear language, the outlook and intent of its invisible creators. Nothing less than quoting again “the impersonal manipulation through schooling of a future America in which few will be able to maintain control over their own opinions”, an America in which (quoting again) “each individual receives at birth, a multipurpose identification number which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of their [underlings]”, (underlings is my interpretation, everything else came out of the document), “and to expose them to the directors subliminal influence of the state education department and the federal department acting through those whenever necessary”.”

    http://4brevard.com/choice/Public_Education.htm

    I am game for retaining the best of our present nominally or imperfect liberal democratic orders. As long as I can run alternative education without left-liberals or “compassionate” conservatives breathing down my neck with federal directives like the above.

  70. Nick Manley

    I am not sure I understand how the U.S. would have fought the cold war without hot interventions like Korea-Vietnam. Most of what the U.S. did to fight the cold war was to overthrow democratically elected governments e.g. Chile, Iran, Guatamela, and so on. All of them were generally followed by anti-communist military dictatorships

    The baiting covert war/following Soviet invasion in Afghanistan completely decimated Afghani society. Its legacy is still with us today — both in terms of Afghani politics and U.S. security. Its considered something that brought down the Soviet Union.

    Aster, this would also seem to contradict any opposition to coercively supported corporate welfare on your part — Cold War military industrial complex/nuclear build up.

    Other then the above, the only other way of fighting a Cold War would have been diplomatically isolating the Soviet Union or something.

  71. Nick Manley

    *It’s

    I’d note that there are alternative views of what brought it down. The right’s line is that the warfare state did. I’d not want to end up in Ronald Reagen’s fan club’s corner…

  72. Soviet Onion

    That’s where Rand’s criticism of Libertarianism really shines. If private property rights are divorced from any genuine concern with the value of objective individual autonomy, then it’s a floating abstraction.>

    That’s a really astute point. I guess I’m going to have to read some Rand one of these days.

    It almost makes me wonder how libertarian conceptions of ownership could be so ungrounded if her influence is already present. Or was she just grossly misunderstood by her first generation of fans, like Nietzsche.

    I’d note that there are alternative views of what brought it down.>

    The agorist one, for instance. It was a symbiotic progression brought about by a combination of counter-economics and the inherent dysfunctions in central planning, each one feeding into and enlarging the other as time went on.

  73. Nick Manley

    That’s the liberal answer…

    The U.S. was always way ahead of the Soviet Union — missile gap was a sham. Stalin had to steal the plans for the atom bomb from the West.

  74. Roderick T. Long

    Having been involved in the gun rights movement when I was living in NC, I can confirm that the pro-gun movement was heavily patriarchal, reactionary, bigoted, aggressively obnoxious, and reflexively pro-cop. (Though many of the NC gun rights folks did at least have the sense to hate the pro-gun-control NRA.) On the other side, the anti-gun people tended to be hysterical, dishonest, vicious, and ruthless — and also reflexively pro-cop. Man, those were some times.

  75. Nick Manley

    LOL

    That’s such a stereotypical face off…

    Were they reflexively pro-cop with guns?

    Onion,

    Rand had a larger philosophic project. Rothbard himself claimed Libertarianism was compatible with any philosophic position — provided a person accepts the non-aggression axiom. Later on, he tried to connect it to a paleo-conservative cultural project…

  76. Soviet Onion

    I swear, on my honor, never to lift a firearm in an act of aggression, but only in the defense of life, liberty and property from thieves, murderers, Nazis, zombies, graboids, Hollywood liberals, Old Testament Patriarchs, Scientologists, Bond villains, extraterrestrials, Alliance personnel, Sith Lords, Japanese monsters, giant spiders, sharks and dinosaurs, or in the defense of chocolate or any chocolate-related infrastructure.

    Speaking of zombies, I’ve been watching a lot of British horror movies recently and the helplessness of the these people is just sickening. They’re totally unprepared when the zombies appear, and then have to resort to baseball bats and golf clubs to fight them off. If they ever do stumble across a gun (it somehow never occurs to them to go to a police station and look for some) they have no idea how to use it, like “Oh no, I forgot to take the safety off!” in a crucial situation. Yet that doesn’t stop them from using the weapon to stab each other in the back later on in some contrived “Lord of the Flies” dynamic reminiscent of the Ben/Cooper feud in Night of the Living Dead.

    Come to think of it, Night of the Living Dead was the perfect argument for gun ownership, if you take it in isolation and ignore the sequels in which things get progressively worse. The outbreak happens, a militia forms in response, and by morning they’re already mopping things up. Of course, the all-white Southern militia also manages to senselessly kill a black man. Such is American gun culture.

  77. Aster

    Soviet Onion-

    Hollywood liberals aren’t all that bad, at least compared to Nazis and Old Testament Patriarchs… I think Hollywood does at least as much good as ill… if it weren’t for the rebellious and individualistic films put out by Hollywood I suspect America would have gone fascist decades ago. Most political perspectives which find it worth their time to attack Hollywood as an institution are pretty slimy.

    I think Sith Lords get unfavorably portrayed by the mass media. Why does drawing one’s power from passion logically lead to wanting to conquer the universe? The Sith look way more fun than the selfless Jedi. Anakin had every reason to eject them and should simply have told both houses to go PVE.

    Aren’t many sharks endangered? So are dinosaurs, (unusually large) spiders, and Japanese monsters, for that matter.

    As for extraterrestrials, I support the right of peaceful sapients to cross borders freely. And what about their right to keep and bear death rays? I say we join up with the greys against the Minutemen or the customs people. Maybe our space brothers and sisters (um… assuming they’re sexually dimorphic) will even let humans emigrate to their planet, which is more likely than not to be a better society, granting that they’ve already reached interstellar travel. The abduction thing strikes me as very reminiscent of ‘white slavery’ and human trafficking panics. Terran elites have to pretend that nobody could ever run off with a grey guy voluntarily.

    I like zombie movies. The scene in NoTLD where the one black guy who kept his head and defended civilisation is carelessly shot was indeed powerful.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/video/areviolentvideo_games

  78. Aster

    Soviet (et al.)-

    I’ve been corresponding with a friend by the name of Strypey in relation to the weapons rights issue. He wrote me this after reading through this discussion. I asked him if he’d wish me to share his opinion here, and he consented, so here is his letter in full. I think it speaks to many of the issues under discussion.

    I met Strypey through the Wellington anarchist scene, altho’ he’s an independent thinker whom I couldn’t easily classify. He has proven to be a good friend and one of the most honest and trustworthy people I’ve known.

    Had a read. I must say I like the way these people think - that is I can see myself disagreeing with them on a number of things, but I can clearly see their ability to discuss such disagreements with an open mind and commitment to a coherent and consistent set of base principles. After my recent experiences with the banarchist mob, it’s a great relief to know there are indeed people capable of this.

    In short - I’d rather share political space with people I can openly disagree with and have a fair contest of ideas, than people who rely on a superficial mask of agreement to get me to support their projects, until my heresy becomes intolerable to them and they start using passive-aggressive smear and humiliation tactics on me.

    On the gun question, it seems to me there are two related but distinct questions here:

    1) should we work towards a world free of working guns? 2) should the enforcement arm of the state be the mechanism by which we do this?

    I would answer yes to the first question, for the reasons I laid out in my last email. I think they are an unwise misuse of technology, with no positive practical purpose. I’d like to think I could debate this question with a gun owner without them falling back on pointing the gun at me to win the argument, but I suspect it is precisely this fallback option that underlies the desire to own guns - an insurance policy against not getting your own way through peaceful negotiation. Let’s say for the sake of argument though that someone wants a gun purely to shoot clay pidgeons, or tin cans. Again, I would say what’s wrong with a BB gun or a similar toy that can’t be employed to maim or kill people?

    With that in mind, I still maintain that the gun owner needs to justify why their desire to have the gun outweighs all the good arguments for their non-existence. If we’re talking about coercive behaviour by the state to prevent gun possession though, I agree there needs to be a damn good justification for it. I certainly don’t support peaceful, well-meaning people being imprisoned for having a gun without some damn convincing evidence they were planning to do someone harm with it. Which brings us to question 2) above, for which the logical answer is no.

    Nation-states being the owners of the majority of the world’s guns, having them protect people from guns suffers from the same hypocrisy as the US invading Iraq in case they might have weapons of mass destruction, when we know with absolute certainty the US themselves have them in spades (and in fact used them in the invasion in the form of DU!).

    I strongly oppose loosening gun regulations in this country, because it would be used as an argument for increasing the cops’ access to guns. In fact cops have much easier access to lethal force than they used to, and I find that threatening. I don’t feel that the state having a monopoly on the means of coercion makes me safer (Oct 15 was simply the latest empirical proof in a long line that this is not the case). However, I wouldn’t feel any safer if I had a gun, or if my anarchist amigos (of the militanti type who turn up to anti-fash rallies and throw bagels) had them. I am against guns in principle, not against any given subset of the population having them vs any other.

    I don’t think the comparison with drugs holds up. Again, cutting heroin with something nasty is like selling someone a gun that blows up when you fire it. We are talking about a misuse, not an intended usage. But for the sake of argument we could recast the questions above in the context of intoxicants:

    1) should we be working towards a world free of drug abuse 2) should the enforcement arm of the state be the mechanism by which we do this?

    Again, my answers are yes, and no, in that order.

    For the record, I think so much of the mutual misunderstanding between libertarians of different traditions (I see a spectrum running from Randianism and Rothbardism through Bob Black and Hakim Bey to the Social Anarchism of Bookchin et al) results from thinkers who are coming from the right arguing with leftist anarchists as if they were indistinguishable from pro-state left liberals, and those who are coming from the left arguing with Randian libertarians and anarcho-capitalists as if they were indistinguishable from pro-state right conservatives. There are many subtle shades of distinction across this philisophical ground, if we can all get down off our ego-defending moral high horses and have a closer look at it.

    For example, an enduring myth of leftist anarchists is that favouring the free market means supporting and advocating the state-corporate globalization that is wrecking the planet and dispossessing the majority of the world’s people of the means of life, liberty and happiness. The complementary myth among Randians is that the supporting the sort of collective-based community democracy leftist anarchist favour is the same thing as supporting the Leninist/ Stalinist USSR (Anarchists were among the first to be suppressed when Lenin and Trotsky began to centralize power over the soviets, and although the left anarchist critique is different from Rand’s, there is significant agreement on what the evils were, if not the origin and causes. But I’m sure you know all this).

    I mention this because my opposition to guns is often construed as an argument for state monopoly on the means on coercion, which would be a fair assumption if I was a democrat of the Michael Moore school, but you know me well enough to know it misses the subtleties of my position.

    Strypey’s views are not mine, for the record. His argument against gun decriminalisation in New Zealand does give me much pause.

    It’s worth pointing out that Kiwi libertarianism is very Rand-centric and more strongly resembles U.S. 1970s or 80s libertarianism than the post-Rockwell variety more prevalent in America today. Lindsay Perigo is esentially libertarianism’s face here. This ought to be a good thing, to my mind, as I think Rand represents the best libertarianism has to offer. And indeed Kiwi libertarians are not reactionaries or bigots. They are, unfortunately, insufferable class snobs, and vibrate a desire to remake New Zealand in America’s image (this tends to cut them from my list of potential allies). Perigo goes out of his way to step on toes on class and Maori issues. He’s a household name, but rubs most people the wrong way. The Legalise Cannabis Party did better than the Libertarianz in the last election.

  79. Aster

    Correction: there should have been a break before the words ‘Had a Read’ Strypey’s letter begins there and ends with ‘subtleties of my position’. Will break with something other than asterisks here in the future.

  80. Nick Manley

    No Cold War debate, folks? I was polite…

  81. Nick Manley

    The actual Cold War produced this:

    “Joya, now 30, first spoke out more than five years ago. As a delegate at a constitutional convention in Afghanistan she publicly accused the country’s leaders, many of whom were there, of war crimes, human rights violations, involvement in the opium trade and supporting the Taliban. She said they should be prosecuted in national and international courts. Her remarks were met by stunned silence and then uproar from the 300 delegates, most of them former mujahideen commanders and ex-Taliban officials. Joya was branded an infidel and “whore”, while one delegate stood on the floor of the forum and demanded that Joya be taken away and raped.

    Joya’s stance against the warlords seemed to be endorsed when she was subsequently elected, at 27, as the youngest member of parliament in Afghanistan’s landmark elections of 2005. There she continued her outspoken ways. She is nearing the end of a two-year suspension from parliament, imposed after she used a television interview in May 2007, to accuse fellow MPs of being criminals opposed to women’s rights, obstructing free speech and intimidating prominent Afghan women.

    In response, MPs voted overwhelmingly for her suspension, though their decision has no basis in law.”

    http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2009/04/14/malalai-joya-a-voice-of-hope-for-afghanistan-s-women.html

    I do think it would be a worthwhile discussion to explore how the Soviet Union collapsed — and to what extent U.S. military posture was really involved.

    Charles,

    Can you summarize all of the perspectives on the demise of the Soviet

  82. Nick Manley

    The actual Cold War produced this:

    “Joya, now 30, first spoke out more than five years ago. As a delegate at a constitutional convention in Afghanistan she publicly accused the country’s leaders, many of whom were there, of war crimes, human rights violations, involvement in the opium trade and supporting the Taliban. She said they should be prosecuted in national and international courts. Her remarks were met by stunned silence and then uproar from the 300 delegates, most of them former mujahideen commanders and ex-Taliban officials. Joya was branded an infidel and “whore”, while one delegate stood on the floor of the forum and demanded that Joya be taken away and raped.

    Joya’s stance against the warlords seemed to be endorsed when she was subsequently elected, at 27, as the youngest member of parliament in Afghanistan’s landmark elections of 2005. There she continued her outspoken ways. She is nearing the end of a two-year suspension from parliament, imposed after she used a television interview in May 2007, to accuse fellow MPs of being criminals opposed to women’s rights, obstructing free speech and intimidating prominent Afghan women.

    In response, MPs voted overwhelmingly for her suspension, though their decision has no basis in law.”

    http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2009/04/14/malalai-joya-a-voice-of-hope-for-afghanistan-s-women.html

    I do think it would be a worthwhile discussion to explore how the Soviet Union collapsed — and to what extent U.S. military posture was really involved.

    Charles or others,

    Can you summarize all of the perspectives on the demise of the Soviet Union?

    “Aster, this would also seem to contradict any opposition to coercively supported corporate welfare on your part — Cold War military industrial complex/nuclear build up.”

    BTW, this was not intended to be accusatory. It was an awkwardly worded observation of potential conflict.

  83. Nick Manley

    The actual Cold War produced this:

    “Joya, now 30, first spoke out more than five years ago. As a delegate at a constitutional convention in Afghanistan she publicly accused the country’s leaders, many of whom were there, of war crimes, human rights violations, involvement in the opium trade and supporting the Taliban. She said they should be prosecuted in national and international courts. Her remarks were met by stunned silence and then uproar from the 300 delegates, most of them former mujahideen commanders and ex-Taliban officials. Joya was branded an infidel and “whore”, while one delegate stood on the floor of the forum and demanded that Joya be taken away and raped.

    Joya’s stance against the warlords seemed to be endorsed when she was subsequently elected, at 27, as the youngest member of parliament in Afghanistan’s landmark elections of 2005. There she continued her outspoken ways. She is nearing the end of a two-year suspension from parliament, imposed after she used a television interview in May 2007, to accuse fellow MPs of being criminals opposed to women’s rights, obstructing free speech and intimidating prominent Afghan women.

    In response, MPs voted overwhelmingly for her suspension, though their decision has no basis in law.”

    http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2009/04/14/malalai-joya-a-voice-of-hope-for-afghanistan-s-women.html

    I do think it would be a worthwhile discussion to explore how the Soviet Union collapsed — and to what extent U.S. military posture was really involved.

    Charles or others,

    Can you summarize all of the perspectives on the demise of the Soviet Union?

    “Aster, this would also seem to contradict any opposition to coercively supported corporate welfare on your part — Cold War military industrial complex/nuclear build up.”

    BTW, this was not intended to be accusatory. It was an awkwardly worded observation of potential conflict between positions.

  84. Roderick T. Long

    I think so much of the mutual misunderstanding between libertarians of different traditions (I see a spectrum running from Randianism and Rothbardism through Bob Black and Hakim Bey to the Social Anarchism of Bookchin et al) results from thinkers who are coming from the right arguing with leftist anarchists as if they were indistinguishable from pro-state left liberals, and those who are coming from the left arguing with Randian libertarians and anarcho-capitalists as if they were indistinguishable from pro-state right conservatives.

    Amen to that.

    Re a world free of guns — great for those who are physically stronger and/or better martial-arts-trained than the average person. Not so great for the rest of us.

  85. Nick Manley

    Precisely. Aster’s friend’s comments are intelligent, but I do disagree that there’s no point in keeping guns around. There’s no real world evidence to suggest predatory people will disappear anytime soon. I prefer to have the option of a gun for self-defense. I have no real muscle strength and want to be distant from the target — physically and emotionally. I don’t have the kind of psychology required to stab somebody up close and get their blood on me.

  86. Soviet Onion

    I would answer yes to the first question, for the reasons I laid out in my last email. I think they are an unwise misuse of technology, with no positive practical purpose.>

    Hunting, for one, as well defense against large and dangerous animals. I personally don’t hunt, don’t need to and don’t think I would enjoy it. For people like the Altai and Inuit, who still live semi-nomadic lifestyles that incorporate hunting, access to better technology could mean the difference between having food and not having food, or being eaten by a polar bear. They could go back to using spears, but why? Those are weapons, too. Weapons that serve a positive practical purpose.

    I’d also say that self-defense against the most dangerous animal of all is another good reason. Like Nicole’s observations about her electric bike, technology is a means to overcome biological limitations, and those who scold people for doing so usually speak from a position of privilege. A gun can level the playing field between a woman and a potentially much stronger rapist. Disallowing weapons doesn’t make people less dangerous, it just ensures that biology determines the advantages rather than technology. It’s easy to be a Luddite and call guns a “misuse of technology” when you have no innate disadvantage to make up for.

    It’s similarly easy to pooh pooh defense technology when you’re not part of a community that is unduly targeted for violence. What about black people back in the Jim Crow era, couldn’t they have used some guns? That may not be a completely fair example because that form of gun control was racially motivated (thankfully we’ve moved on to class-tinged hysteria over “Saturday Night Specials” flooding our inner cities, which just happen to contain a lot of black people).

    The Klan may be a thing of the past, but neo-nazi skinhead groups are on the rise in Eastern Europe, and they violently attack immigrants and foreign students all the time. Gun control in those countries applies universally. So they just use knifes, hand-to-techniques (taught in underground training camps) or buy guns on the black market (apparently Russia has organized crime, wouldn’cha know).

    Now, if any of these people feared for their lives and wanted to organize some kind of precautionary measure involving, yes, weapons, do they deserve to be told “No, we find violence unseemly and you’re just going to have to live in fear until we get around to developing Utopia”? This is not a hypothetical; marginalized people have tried this lots of times in the past, and to some success, before these initiatives were violently shattered by the State.

    I’d like to think I could debate this question with a gun owner without them falling back on pointing the gun at me to win the argument, but I suspect it is precisely this fallback option that underlies the desire to own guns - an insurance policy against not getting your own way through peaceful negotiation.>

    Nice strawman. You don’t think the same applies to gun control advocates? There’s no more stupid and simplistic a way to approach a disagreement than to draw an arbitrary line in the sand and threaten to punish anyone who crosses it (using guns, of course). The difference is that while some gun owners may embrace this posture as an attitude (gun ownership itself being peaceful until the owner does something with it), it’s essential to the prohibitionist position. Gun control has always been about preemptive violence against peaceful people, and in the context of American history, usually ended up making those people vulnerable to non-State terrorist groups like Western settlers or the KKK. I don’t know the specifics of New Zealand’s history, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find a law forbidding gun sales to Maoris.

    If you could kindly direct me to the prominent pro-control organization that limits itself to peacefully dissuading people from buying guns and leaving it at that if they refuse, I’d be much obliged. So far all I see are people intent on pointing their guns (excuse me, having other people point guns in their place and then acting like they have the moral high ground because they didn’t do it themselves) as a substitute for peaceful negotiation.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument though that someone wants a gun purely to shoot clay pidgeons, or tin cans. Again, I would say what’s wrong with a BB gun or a similar toy that can’t be employed to maim or kill people?>

    Study: BB Guns Injure Thousands, Can Be Lethal

    *They are often thought of as toys, but BB guns and other nonpowder guns are sometimes lethal and injure as many as 21,000 Americans each year, according to a new report.

    Nonpowder guns kill an average of four Americans yearly, and from 1990 to 2000, there were 39 such deaths — 32 of children younger than 15, according to the report in November’s issue of Pediatrics.

    The report, published Monday, comes just two weeks after the BB gun death of an 8-year-old South Carolina boy accidentally killed by a 13-year-old friend. The pellet pierced the boy’s heart, said Richland County coroner Gary Watts.

    “These are not the kinds of BB guns that I grew up with,” Watts said. Today’s BB guns “are extremely high-powered,” and some can shoot with a velocity nearly matching a .22-caliber rifle, Watts said.*

    For those who don’t know, .22 is the smallest standard round, and commonly used in “practice pistols” for beginning shooters, or as a cheap method of target practice. It’s also known as the “hitman’s bullet” for two reasons. The first being that it’s quiet and produces almost no muzzle flash (even better if you add a silencer). The second being that if you fire a .22 into someone’s head at close range, the bullet has enough force to enter the skull but not enough to exit, so it just ricochets around, shredding brain tissue until it runs out of energy.

    Now, if some BB guns really are just as powerful, and being nonpowder weapons produce less noise and no muzzle flash, and are probably easier to acquire and harder to track than any real gun, what you have is something that poses a more objective threat to more people than an actual .22 pistol. I wonder if any professional killers have thought of this.

    So you see, even here there’s no absolute line between lethal weapon and non-lethal tool. It’s all a matter of degree.

    With that in mind, I still maintain that the gun owner needs to justify why their desire to have the gun outweighs all the good arguments for their non-existence.>

    A relative of mine was once stabbed for no other reason than being gay, while living in one of the more tolerant cities in the country. I’m bisexual, although I’m not open about that to everybody. There are other people in this society who are open about the fact that they would like to see me die for that. Is that a good enough reason?

    Sorry, I just can’t see why I should accept a very real increased risk of personal harm in exchange for some alleged reduction in a vague and general “harm” that you haven’t explained yet.

    I will never, ever draw a gun at someone to get them to agree with me; that would be insane. I would just like you to look me in the eye and tell me directly that my safety is less important than your societal ideal, and that it’s worth it if I have to lay down my arms and possibly my life in service to that.

    Of course, I take the standard methodology that the burden of proof is on the person who would initiate violence (prohibition) against something peaceful (gun ownership per se). There’s also the question of who I’m proving this to if State-sponsored control is out of the realm possibility.

    Like I’ve tried to illustrate, there’s no clear-cut correlation between the number of guns in circulation and the homicide or general crime rate of a society. Brazil and Russia suffer higher murder rates for every new restriction whereas Israel and Switzerland have military-grade weapons sitting in most homes and suffer practically nothing. Nor is it necessarily an outcome of martial culture, because most of these countries have some form of mandatory military service while the US doesn’t, and yet we still have a higher murder rate. We’re not the only country that hunts, and the areas where hunting and gun ownership are most common aren’t necessarily the most violent ones. If anything I’d say America is actually quite anomalous.

    I kind of agree with you regarding New Zealand’s cops and how decriminalizing guns and could empower them. I can sympathize with your stance, given the strategic context of the choice (while at the same time supporting all NZ citizens who choose to arm themselves illegally for whatever defensive purposes they feel are necessary). I think our situation is different.

    America’s cops are already heavily armed and militarized, even in areas with handgun bans like Chicago, and DC until recently. I think any attempt to uproot American gun culture in an attempt to de-claw the cops would be futile, both due to cultural inertia and because the nature of Empire requires a domestic police state, period. And even a successful attempt would end up erasing some good aspects of American culture that I think should be preserved and incorporated into something better. On top of that, there’s the possibility that once one part of the Bill of Rights goes, the rest becomes more vulnerable than it already is.

    I don’t think the comparison with drugs holds up. Again, cutting heroin with something nasty is like selling someone a gun that blows up when you fire it. We are talking about a misuse, not an intended usage.>

    I agree, although killing someone isn’t necessarily the intended using of a gun either (hunting rifles? bird shotguns?). I brought up the comparison for two reasons.

    1. They’re both presented as creating increased gun violence/drug abuse simply by having a more accessible presence in society, and needing to banned for that sake.

    2. Gun ownership is equated with gun violence the same way drug use is equated with drug abuse or dependency. Does no one believe there is such a thing as a responsible drug user? (And not that it should matter, but I don’t have a personal stake in that issue. I’m not a drug user apart from the occasional beer that I could probably live without.)

    3. Most people consider it absurd that either of these things should be sold openly, so if you reject 1. and 2. and accept that one should be openly sold then why not the other?

  87. Soviet Onion

    As an addendum, where’s it written that you can’t work to eliminate the causes of violence and own guns as a stopgap measure? Yes, we’d all prefer a world in which these incidents didn’t happen in the first place. Since that doesn’t exist yet, are people entitled to choose the next best option available to them or not? Even the Civil Rights activists retained guns in the event of violent attack while relying on non-violent activism to achieve their goals.

  88. Soviet Onion

    I hope my hitman digression didn’t seem excessively morbid. My point was to illustrate that even here, with Strypey’s chosen example, there is not a solid line between harmful weapon and innocuous toy or non-lethal tool.

    Let’s say for the sake of argument though that someone wants a gun purely to shoot clay pidgeons, or tin cans …

    With that in mind, I still maintain that the gun owner needs to justify why their desire to have the gun outweighs all the good arguments for their non-existence?>

    Just out of curiosity, why does fun/pleasure/enjoyment/fulfillment never seem to be a legitimate justification for anything?

  89. Soviet Onion

    Apparently the whole world went Calvinist while we were sleeping.

  90. Nick Manley

    Soviet,

    You’re clearly more adept at arguing this issue then me. Keep up the good work!

  91. Aster

    Soviet Onion-

    An acquaintance of mine agrees that a .22 is the weapon of choice for a hit man, but for a somewhat different reason- he has that the light bullets are subsonic in flight and hence don’t generate noise via a sonic boom… he also says you can make silencer out of a pipe and some spare parts. Plus, the gun fires rapidly.

    Am I being told the truth, or is this ignorant tough talk?

    While we’re talking about hit men (hit persons?), does it ever bother you that gruesome and, well, evil, topics can be very interesting? Everything from Gilgamesh and Homer to Diablo III draws much of its raw attraction from the contemplation of horrible aggression and violence. If you took away presentations of viciousness one would have to toss out most art and entertainment from every tradition in the world.

    Most people who bring up this issue do so as a way of pushing original sin. Others, taking the other dualistic fork, bring the issue up to give excuses for literal aggression and violence. Then ‘laid back liberals’ respond by saying that aesethic presentations don’t matter and don’t effect us, an approach which I think trivialises and insults human consciousness.

    I don’t like the standard answers, but it’s an issue I keep coming back to. Given my current preference for wasting time, I personally call this the ‘violent video game problem’. I love horror films. I sometimes play evil RPG characters. I read your take on firearms and I confess the enthusiasm is catching. But since this is mostly new aesthetic territory for me, the ugliness of the task guns may be beautifully effective at carrying out is very vivid. I think of aiming a weapon, pulling a trigger, and playing at killing… and I feel distinctly uncomfortable.

    Is there a problem here? I seek out intense experiences. This doesn’t require harming others, but it does lead into the fictional exploration of spiritual territory which would be destructive and soul-destroying to enter literally. In some cases the contrast between my aesthetic response and ethical-political judgment is in absolute opposition- and nothing changes this.

    I think it’s almost certain that the cause of these discrepancies is that human beings evolved to follow certain amoral ends, and as a result our responses and emotions are keyed to experiences and situations appropriate to ‘tooth and claw’ nature. Simulations and evocations of hunting and killing tap into one of the major themes of evolutionary biology (there are many other themes, but I’ll stick to the killing issue for now).

    I alternate myself between two theories. Part of me says rational beings with inherited instincts can only function through acceptance and use of those instincts but are perfectly capable of learning to play them like a musical instrument for consciously chosen purposes. This requires improvement upon nature, but in the sense of developing a skill, not in the sense of inner war or repression. Enjoying a sports event may make use of faculties which helped us evolve to kill each other but that doesn’t have to be the meaning we give it… in fact, a properly crafted event could have a contrary meaning. This side of me is attracted to Hellenism, existentialism, Paganism, and Objectivism and ends up politically as a good liberal. Civilisation as a golden mean between barbarism and repression… and that’s a synthesis, not a compromise (American culture can’t handle this issue).

    The pessimistic part of me is much darker and sees us more as animals who happen to be self-conscious enough to become aware of the absurdity of biological behaviour. This devil on this shoulder looks and sounds a great deal like Camille Paglia, or at least that is where I would go with this sort of view of the human condition. Needless to say, this worldview goes deeply against liberal values, and I have to be in a black mood to take it seriously. The places it leads politically are very nasty indeed, and the best compromises you can make on this nastiness are probably Machiavelli’s. In this view, human nature is a mess, a crooked timber- it can be let loose or beaten down, or some of both to make society function, but it can’t be fixed.

    I wonder sometimes. The continuity of chimpanzee and human suggests it heavily, as does the long atrocity called human history. Observing human behaviour and asking ‘what would a chimp do?’ explains way, way too much. Sometimes I feel the best evidence for an ugly view of humanity is the very existence of intelligent people who believe in it- people who possess a real mind and clarity of awareness and yet remain beings of cruelty and hate. I am haunted by the idea of proud, healthy, competent, happy, evil. A kitten is never cuter or happier than when it is carefully torturing small animals to death. What if the natural human ideal- remember, we’re among other things predators- is like that?

    I think there are reasons to be optimistic. First, the negative conclusion comes very close to invalidating all human knowledge and thus invalidating all theories by biological reductionism. More convincingly, I think of people such as Spinoza, Goethe, Sagan, or Gould and it’s very clear to me that the humanist ideal is possible. Clearly some people can harmonise passion to reason by understanding and not by suppression. I’ve met a couple of them- and just basking in the warmth of such people often keeps me going.

    By contrast, the cruel and hurtful people I’ve known have always been abused and brutalised creatures at continual war with their own minds. No exceptions; reality agrees with Alice Miller. The rest of us seem to able to hug children and read them adventure stories without anything going wrong (adventure stories are typically about leading a war band, killing things, and taking their stuff).

    I’m ultimately a humanist and do, despite everything, ultimately trust human beings to be able to be creatures of thinking and choosing, and not at the price of their passion, freedom, or authenticity. But the trouble is that I have to believe it- in the sense that if I’m wrong on this point, then the kind of society which accords with human nature is one I can’t survive in and wouldn’t want to survive in. Humanism is my only protection, which unfortunately makes it very difficult to clearly consider the issue, with the result that it feels a little short of knowledge.

    I observe the humanists around me and notice uneasily that most of them seem to ultimately depend arbitrary if tacit moral or metaphysical absolutes that my mind can’t swallow. Most people who talk about human dignity and human rights feel more religious than rational. Some of them turn into raging avengers of society against the individual if you even touch on the topic… the problem here is that liberalism is the one worldview that can’t just tell people that they have to believe in it lest society collapse.

    The violent video game problem is a very serious one for humanism and the liberal politics which fulfills humanism. So again, is there a problem that so many of us become excited specifically when we go through the motions of hunting and killing? Can we enjoy the thought of being dangerous, or of courting danger, without any fear whatsoever that it will endanger ourselves or others?

  92. Soviet Onion

    An acquaintance of mine agrees that a .22 is the weapon of choice for a hit man, but for a somewhat different reason- he has that the light bullets are subsonic in flight and hence don’t generate noise via a sonic boom… he also says you can make silencer out of a pipe and some spare parts. Plus, the gun fires rapidly.

    Am I being told the truth, or is this ignorant tough talk?>

    Nope, that’s totally correct. I was just giving a shorthand explanation by saying it’s quieter. The headshot effect is just icing on the cake, which I chose to emphasize to make my point about dangerous tools really stick, since it is so gruesome.

    There’s still the noise from the powder going off, which still sounds distinctively like a gunshot; it just doesn’t carry as far. So a silencer still helps in that regard, as well as with the muzzle flash at night (silencers also sometimes reduce the velocity of a normally supersonic bullet). On a silenced .22, the sound created by the round going off is actually so quiet that most of what you’ll hear is simply the metal-on-metal sounds of the gun’s moving parts. Here’s a video that demonstrates the difference between a silenced and unsilenced .22.

    And yes, you can definitely construct your own silencers. Even things like plastic bottles can be used in a pinch; anything with a flexible surface that can slow the escaping propellant gas.

    As for the gun firing rapidly, I assume he means that the recoil is light so you don’t have to spend so much time recovering between shots, and can thus fire several accurate shots in rapid succession. With training you can learn to do that with practically any round in any kind of semi-auto handgun, it’s just a question of ease. Even with my subcompact Glock 30, chambered in .45 ACP (considered the heaviest defense load), I can still get two hits on a human-sized target at 15 yards in under a second. Here’s yet another youtube video demonstrating that technique, if you’re interested.

    I’m glad you like zombie movies, too. Our conversation here prompted me to rent The Zombie Diaries from Blockbuster. I’m watching it right now. It’s British, and follows a news crew of two Britons and one American. At one point they discover a scoped hunting rifle in a farm house, and just before they have to run through a forest with little visibility, there’s this exchange.

    British guy to American guy: And that rifle’s the only thing we’ve got? What a shame we don’t live in a more gun friendly society like yours.

    Oh look, now they’re in a town. Not looking for a police station full of guns.

    I’ll respond to the rest of your message later. They always take a lot of thought.

  93. Marja Erwin

    We have something of an ant infestation. I suspect these come from an adjoining apartment (partly because they are concentrated on one side). I had some initial qualms about killing the ants, but at this point, I’m quite happy to remove any possible food sources, squash them on sight, and potentially to poison them all. I do try to kill them quickly, not slowly.

    I think the same intellectual talents go into killing ants as can go into, for example, killing men, though men can develop their own strategies in response. I don’t, however, think there is any moral comparison.

  94. Soviet Onion

    Marja,

    OMG people driving around with semi-automatic rifles on their person! What’s this country coming to? I mean, you don’t want to end up like Switzerland, do you, what with their hot cocoa and skiing and funny pocket knives and neutrality?!

  95. Soviet Onion

    Alas, I must confess, I too once owned a Swiss Army Knife. Take me away!!

  96. Nick Manley

    “It’s official: Congressional and EPA clean air regulations have warmed the Arctic and other regions. See here.

    A new NASA study informs us that clean air regulations have prevented sulfates (from coal and oil) from entering the atmosphere, and sulfates have a net cooling effect. The sulfates offset the effect of black carbon (from diesel and biofuel.)”

    This is encouraging for those of us who hope global warming doesn’t represent market failure.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/026382.html

    Is regulation really the answer?

  97. Marja Erwin

    The sulfates react with rainwater to form sulphuric acid, destroying forests and releasing additional carbon dioxide.

  98. Nick Manley

    Thank you! Marja. I confess I don’t have the scientific knowledge needed to respond to you.

    My question is: given that industrial civilization requires some degree of emission of carbon dioxide; what is the ceiling? Some of the technological solutions being proposed to deal with environmental issues are attempt to obtain the same amount of energy output with cleaner technology — a move away from carbon dioxide.

    And you know I don’t share your anti-urban views ( :

    I am not ready to join the pastoral commune…

  99. Aster

    I think the our evaluation of the science of global warming should precede our wishes, doubts, and fears- or politics.

    There are certainly many people who have spiritually or institutionally invested themselves in the promotion of government solutions as the answer to climate change or any other crisis. The state makes a mess of a great many things it attempts, and I can certainly imagine a state response to climate change failing in its stated objective while causing serious negative unintended consequences. A policy which amounts to a ‘War on Climate Change’ would be a failure, a disaster, and a crime.

    It it not at all clear to me, however, that this government failure is inevitable. James Lovelock claims that international bans on CFCs, for instance, have been largely successful in halting further ozone depletion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_layer#Regulation

    If these same bans have seriously constrained human life and freedom I am not aware of it.

    It is worth noting that if climate change is a fact it does threaten immense harm to rational beings and hence there is potential libertarian justification for state action, as even Ayn Rand admitted when discussing urban pollution. In this case the most helpful libertarian suggestions would show how this state action could best take the form of new developments in property rights or in criminal law. This approach would internalise incentives and preserve the principle that individuals be free to act so long as they harm none other, while properly recognising a form of intrapersonal harm unknown to those who first formulated liberalism.

    And most crucially, real runaway climate change would do unspeakable damage to the open society and many other human values. If, in fact, illibertarian state action is the only way to prevent climate change, then we would do better to consciously inflict limited damage to liberalism now than to make future unlimited damage to liberalism inevitable.

    Too many libertarians follow George Reisman’s Orthodox Objectivist method of dealing with environmental issues, which is to substitute a worshipful romanticism of science and progress for actual science and progress. This is rationalism (in the narrow sense), not reason- a focus on abstractions detached from the process of induction which validates abstractions. Specifically it is a confusion of pro-reason aestheticism with reason.

    As for LewRockwell, many of its writers are willing to give their blithe support to conceptual (not to mention human) atrocities such as racism and fundamentalism, if these prove compatible with and useful for Rothbardian ideology. I would not put much trust in uncited scientific claims from such sources. And if many Randians have stopped paying attention to reality in favour of romantic image of reason, most Rothbardians are willing to inflict very unromantic damage to reality in order to implement their narrower political system. Anyone who doesn’t care if their ideals lead to feudalism and segregation will not care if their ideals lead to ruin of our natural environment.

    Liberty is of value because of what it actually contributes to human happiness on this earth, both instrumentally and as a way of life. I fear that many people who champion liberty do so in reverence for metaphysical, moral, political, or aesthetic realities held to be sacred in themselves, which are then applied with ideological insistence, blind romanticism, or prophetic anger to a recalcitrant reality. This is an unworldly approach which makes sense only on a dualistic model of the human condition, left over from Christianity, which still falsely frames our intuitions as to what principle and idealism must and ought to look like.

    I see here not a quest for a better world but a quest to escape an intolerable world for a better one drawn in the mind, now come back as a protest against it. But even when the world is intolerable for conventional reasons which can be consciously changed (which is all too often the case), the only healthy and promising path to a tolerable one has to come from our ability to live in it, not our inability. I think this is the only sustainable defense against those ‘realists’ who will smash all ideals and all beauty, believing this the only means to practical success and survival. And if libertarianism positions itself between human beings and their survival in the face of climate change it will find itself crushed by a stampede and lose everything.

  100. Soviet Onion

    First, stop paying people to pollute:

    1. No more subsidized roads. No more free lunch for big box distributors and the trucking industry. Couple this with no zoning laws and everybody lives within walking and biking distance of where they shop and work, at least on a day to day basis.

      No one would be prevented from traveling and communicating with people throughout the world, then just won’t have to in order to get to the office or buy a tomato.

    2. No more subsidized animal-based agriculture. No more free lunch for ranchers and dairy farmers. Say goodbye to most of our methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Now your cheesecake costs as much as “Cheesecake Factory” cheesecake, and real “Cheesecake Factory” cheesecake? You don’t even want to know.

      For now, you could just stop eating red meat, dairy and preferably fish altogether.

    3. Farming techniques would probably shift to rely less on petrochemical inputs. Double-digging, permaculture in urban settings etc. Kevin Carson has written a lot about this.

    Congratulations, we just met the Kyoto Protocol’s requirements three times over.

    Second … who the fuck cares? We just met the Kyoto Protocol’s requirements three times over!

    I suppose now we can begin working on forms of solar and wind energy that aren’t retarded corporate welfare schemes. Government-funded scientists are always fretting over making solar panels more efficient, but if they focused on making them cheaper then they’d finally become marketable and the conversion would pay for itself. People would invest in roof installations and sell electricity back to the grid, like they currently do in Germany. With so many roofs and unoccupied surfaces, everybody would have an incentive to stick them up wherever they could until you hit the marginal return, at which point absolutely everyone would have power.

    Other than that there’s nuclear (ooh, but environmentalists hate that, except for Lovelock) and fusion is gradually becoming more efficient. I don’t know about the prospects for wind, but it sounds sensible to stick them up in the middle of farms or over water.

  101. Soviet Onion

    Of course, all this would require telling several massive and well-funded interest groups to go fuck themselves, and so it has zero percent chance of happening. Not because markets and property fail, but because States have no interest in sane and equitable solutions to anything.

    If AGW is true, and would truly be catastrophic, then we’re just fucked.

  102. Nick Manley

    Nods

    On the more positive side, the looting American based auto industry may have to start selling greener cars to satisfy consumers — of course, they get reams of Federal money, so they aren’t exactly under market pressure right now.

  103. Nick Manley

    Clarification: the looting heads of the big three — who all showed up to Congress together.

  104. Soviet Onion

    How about we just reduce the artificial dependence on cars in the first place via the combination of zoning laws and subsidized road infrastructure? Then people could get where they needed to just as easily on foot, roller blade, skateboard, bike, electric bike, electric wheelchair, scooter, motorcycle, segeway(shudder)…

  105. Nick Manley

    I am not as anti-car as some environmentalist tracts can be — anarchist publisher AK Press sells a manifesto for taking the car out entirely.

    I like the idea of using green technology to keep cars around for the 21st century — if only because fusion powered cars sounds delightfully futuristic…

    That said, I do not think the field should be tilted in their favor at the expense of liberty.

  106. Soviet Onion

    It’s the standard perspective of most of people seeking social change to view luxury and material affluence with suspicion and disdain; as something to be destroyed rather than divorced from its elitist character and universalized. No surprise that environmentalism carries this mentality with it.

    That said, I’d hate to see what a fusion-powered car accident would look like. Probably something like this. I’d stick with electric cars that use rechargeable batteries instead of containing their own power source. They have an additional advantage over pure fossil fuel vehicles in that you can use the brake to recharge the battery, thus “reabsorbing” some of the spent energy.

  107. Nick Manley

    I admit I have only the thinnest idea of what fusion is…

    Until now! Lol.

    Anyhow, Obama is proposing a new high speed passenger service for the U.S.

    http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/78374.html

    Much Libertarian humor will now ensue about Mussolini making the trains run on time…

    On a more serious note: this has obvious environmental implications. I wouldn’t be surprised if its pushed as a green idea.

    Discuss?

  108. Aster

    ‘It’s the standard perspective of most people seeking social change to view luxury and material affluence with suspicion and disdain; as something to be destroyed rather than divorced from its elitist character and universalized.’

    Very, very well spoken.

    I find the spiritual equivalent of this levelling egalitarianism even more dangerous. Communists used to sneer at freedom as a useless bourgeois decadence alien to the values of the oppressed working class. Today right-wing populists do the same, regarding free thought, self-expression, and sexual liberation as elitist plots or immature distractions. The motivation, seldom expressed clearly, amounts to ‘if I can’t have this, then you can’t have it either’.

  109. Nick Manley

    Reading Lolita in Tehran discusses how the Marxian leftists sided with the Islamists against the liberals — who wanted to negotiate with the West or America.

    The liberal protest over the Islamist regime’s treatment of women was construed as aiding the Great Satan imperial American empire. There’s a part where the author says individual freedom for women over national unity against imperialism was considered bourgeois. To protest merely aided the imperialists by creating disunity. These bright idealistic leftist students she encounters were eventually executed by the Islamist regime.

    She quotes a list of charges that basically says too Western or studied in Europe in all seriousness.

  110. Nick Manley

    From the book:

    “Criminals should not be tried. The trial of a criminal is against human rights. Human rights demand that we should have killed them in the first place when it became known that they were criminals”

    ~ Ayatollah Khomeini

    “Charges: Being Westernized, brought up in a Westernized family, staying too long in Europe for his studies; smoking Winston cigarettes; displaying leftist tendencies.”

    “She was telling the crowd that for the sake of independence, she was willing to wear the veil. She would wear the veil to fight U.S. imperialists, to show them…To show them what?”

  111. Aster

    ‘Western’.

    ‘Western’, according to non-Western conservative, means reason, individualism, freedom- the open society- to be condemned as incompatible with tribe and religion.

    ‘Western’ according to the Western conservative, means religion, tradition, patriarchy, and the white tribe- the closed society- to be praised as incompatible with reason and freedom.

    Both take advantage of the same error- the confusion of the discovery of self-direction with the cultural and geographical region in which they first emerged. Both blank out the human ability to think and decide for one’s self.

    The term ‘Western civilisation’ once did refer to something like this. When XIX and early XX century intellectuals (volkish creeps, traditionalist Catholics, and slavophiles, for instance) damned the ‘West’, what they opposed was a society ordered by the principle of liberal individualism in favour of authoritarian organic community. But the term has been too abused by culture warriors on one side and multiculturalists on the other and has become useless for liberal purposes.

    Those who desire a genuine open society need to speak up. Right-leaning moderns need to stop making excuses for Western injustices and barbarities. Left-leaning modern need to stop making excuses for non-Western injustices and barbarities. Both sides need to work together to respect, repair, and extend shaky liberal institutions. We should be able to make a patchy compromise which upholds the basics of liberal democracy. If we do not, we will all be swept away when the blood-dimmed tide is loosed.

  112. Rad Geek

    Aster,

    I don’t think it even has much of anything to do with geography. (Athens is closer to Baghdad than it is to London; but guess who the Western Civ crowd would like to lump it with it.) Nor does it have much to do with lines of historical influence (for 1,000 years the Athenian philosophers were primarily discussed in Arabic, and their works almost entirely lost west of the Danube). This has a lot more to do with a mythical mode of selectively retelling history, which has more to do with trying to establish a claim to cultural patrimony — and, perhaps more importantly, to exclude others with just as good a historical and cultural claim — than it has to do with an honest accounting of the facts.

    So it is that the achievements of a handful of Athenian men in the arts and sciences are passed off as being somehow foundational to something they made up called the West and somehow alien to something else they made up, called the Orient. These divisions have nothing really to do with actual geography (the West seems to wander around the map to wherever the power happens to be, from Sumeria and Asia Minor out to the U.S.), or even with lines of historical influence (otherwise Aristotle would have to be counted as much an author of the East as he is of the West, given who was actually reading and talking about him). The thing is, as far as I can see, a fabrication, and a shabby one at that, which has nothing to do with really existing civilizations and everything to do with an amalgamation of Crusader notions of catholic Christendom and 19th century European notions about world-history and classicist pedagogy. All of which, in turn, had to be filtered through late-19th century race-consciousness and imperialism, just to make sure that it is treated as Western Civ, the founding myth of the political power of the Western European colonial powers. Thus you get the package-deal that many liberals and conservatives go about treating as if it were a real object for analysis, study and debate.

  113. Nick Manley

    Well, I just read Obama created a corporation for community and national service — weird expansion of government backed corporations.

    He’s appointing an ex-VP of Nike to run it.

  114. Soviet Onion

    Slavery - Just Do It.

    Send the propaganda posters off to the presses immediately.

  115. Gabriel

    How about this for a T-shirt:

    Other people are not your property - they are the STATE’s property

  116. Danyl Strype

    Anyhow, Obama is proposing a new high speed passenger service for the U.S.

    http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/78374.html

    Much Libertarian humor will now ensue about Mussolini making the trains run on time…

  117. Danyl Strype

    “Anyhow, Obama is proposing a new high speed passenger service for the U.S.

    http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/78374.html

    Much Libertarian humor will now ensue about Mussolini making the trains run on time…”

    Can’t see how there is anything inherently fascist about trains. Yes, they require a capital-intensive, high-tech infrastructure that doesn’t lend itself to competition between parallel providers, but cars require a highway network, ultimately the same deal. Sure you can’t drive off into frontier country in a train, but that’s what mountain bikes are for, and they are easier to transport on a train than in a car. Besides, most car drivers spend infinitely more time stationary in traffic jams than they ever spend off-road ( assuming their vehicle can even cope with anything as adventurous as gravel).

    Good arguments for trains over cars:

    Number of people killed in accidents. When did you last hear the ‘track toll’ being discussed in the news, as compared to the ‘road toll’? It’s just harder to drive off the road or have a head-on in a train, and the driving is much simpler - less space for error. Less impact on wildlife for the same reason.

    Deployment of labour. Let’s be conservative and say it takes a 20 person train crew to staff a 10 carriage train, carrying 50 people per carriage = 500. 20 workers can shift 500 people in relative comfort, and only one or two need to drive at a time. You would need about 50 drivers to carry the same 500 people in minivans, more than 100 drivers in 5-seater cars, and they would all have to drive the whole way (even with passengers sharing the driving, the number of hours of concentration required are massively higher than for the train).

    Train are more comfortable than cars. You can read the paper, or get up and walk around. You can go to the toilet without the journey having to stop.

    Trains connect point A to point B. If more people need to travel between those points, you run more services. One track, rather than the endless and ever-expanding spaghetti of pavement that is created when you attempt to expand roads to accomodate more and more users.

    If people want independence, self-reliance and adventure, they can get a bike. If they want efficient high-tech transport, light rail is the one. Electric cars - where are we going to the chemicals for all the batteries? Biofuel, ethanol from waste could be part of the transition from fossil fuels, since we already have a global fleet of vehicles to run on it, but will it really be worth maintain the roads and building more combustion-engine cars one we’re definitely on the other side of the oil peak?

    Ciao Strypes

  118. Aster

    Stryples!!

    Charles-

    This is Strypey, my Wellington friend whose correspondence I posted here earlier. He rocks. I met him through the anarchist scene- he’s been friendly to libertarians, tho’ he himself is a very independent thinker and quite difficult to politically categorise. He was my chief co-conspirator in the aforementioned individualist/collectivist toilet paper schism. He’s greatly influenced me (read: dragged me kicking and screaming) in the direction of a reluctant simulacrum of environmental consciousness (so now there are two people bugging me to look at the trees…).

    Strypey-

    We’re kind of having a war here right now, so you might want to bring up the nasty metal deathboxes again when the blood’s dry.

    If you’d like to lend your voice to our discussion, start here:

    http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/04/26/open_thread/

    You simply must meet my dear friend Keith Preston.

  119. Nick Manley

    I wasn’t saying there was anything instrinically fascist about trains. It wasn’t even my intention to say the above was fascist. I just joked about a probable response from Libertarians.

    Insofar as this becomes a business-government partnership, then it certainly fits the profile of classical fascism — not to mention the coercive collection of taxes to support a technocratic/managerialist plan designed from above.

    “Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal, will of man as a historic entity (11). It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts”

    http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Germany/mussolini.htm

  120. Nick Manley

    On cars: I have no strong opinion. I am 21 but don’t know how to drive ( :

  121. Danyl Strype

    Nick, I was responding to the link you posted, rather than to you directly. I agree that ‘public-private partnerships’ (to borrow the weasel words used to described state-corporate collusion on these islands) are pretty nasty. Again, this is as true of automobile freeway networks as it is of train tracks.

    One of the early anarchist thinkers (was it Proudhon?) used the pan-european train network - managed as it was then by departments of a range of different states - as an example of how federalism can work. His argument was that if a rail network, a complex implementation of technology requiring a high degree of co-ordination, could be managed by a cluster of organisational units without any central authority to force co-operation, why not the rest of industrial society?

    BTW Watch out for swine ‘flu hysteria, it’s causing serious psychosomatic complications here…

    Hei kōnā Strypes

  122. Nick Manley

    Yes, I am not sure if that’s Proudhon or not. Bakinun wrote on federalism too..I think — not entirely sure.

    It sounds like basic anarchist organizational theory to me — not very dissimilar from Haykeian notions of the self-organizing marketplace.

    I’d like to ask for your email address. Anarchists are a dime a dozen in the online circles I frequent, but you seem very interestingly open minded. I always agreed with the statement of another associate to the effect that we should seek out people always looking to be disproved — if at least de facto. If you’re a true blue independent minded leftist talking to people inspired by Ayn Rand, then you certainly qualify.

  123. Roderick T. Long

    Re western civ: Also, pre-Islamic Egypt is part of the Western tradition but post-Islamic Egypt isn’t. Or so I gather from what gets included.

    In related news: Morocco, as everyone knows, is part of the Middle East, even though it’s west of Paris.

  124. Soviet Onion

    One of the early anarchist thinkers (was it Proudhon?) used the pan-european train network - managed as it was then by departments of a range of different states - as an example of how federalism can work. His argument was that if a rail network, a complex implementation of technology requiring a high degree of co-ordination, could be managed by a cluster of organisational units without any central authority to force co-operation, why not the rest of industrial society?

    Funny, I just briefly mentioned Proudhon’s admiration for the railway system toward the end of one of my comments in a debate over localism.

    (http://radgeek.com/gt/2009/04/26/open_thread/#comment-20090428124551)

    Welcome to the forums (heh) in any case.

  125. Rad Geek

    Roderick:

    Re western civ: Also, pre-Islamic Egypt is part of the Western tradition but post-Islamic Egypt isn’t. Or so I gather from what gets included.

    It gets even more complicated than that, due to multiple overlapping layers of power-trip propaganda. When the Romans come to town, Alexandria turns out not to be a city of The West anymore, and Cleopatra VII Φιλοπάτωρ, daughter of Ptolemy Neos Dionysos Theos Philopator Theos Philadelphos, turns out to be a Queen of the Orient.

    I don’t remember the details anymore, but I seem to recall a column from the OA News during one of the back-and-forths about bombing the world, in which we were informed that the reason that we need to bomb Baghdad is to defend the civilizational legacy of Plato and Aristotle. This was somewhere around the same time that they published a long serialized column by a retired general (the title allowed him to pose as an Expert) advocating for war on Iraq, which contained the claim that Turkey is the world’s only Arab democracy.

  126. Rad Geek

    Strypes,

    Welcome!

    BTW Watch out for swine ‘flu hysteria, it’s causing serious psychosomatic complications here…

    Here in northwest Aztlan it’s causing serious racist-ass complications. Already had a friend of mine interrogated by a couple of white frat dudes because she coughed once or twice in the student union. It’s looking like SARS all over again.

  127. Soviet Onion

    Yeah but Charles, you forget that Chinese people have all those mystical healing powers like Tai Chi and acupuncture. Not like those primitive Mexicans, who can’t even speak English. I mean, what’s up with that?!

  128. Roderick T. Long

    After the fall of Communism, the westernmost countries in what during the Cold War was usually called Eastern Europe suddenly became Central Europe again.

    And how come Greece is so rarely referred to as part of Eastern Europe?

  129. Nick Manley

    I didn’t want to derail the other conversation, so I am using shameless Sunday ( :

    Aster,

    If a non-combatant dissident were to shoot down a plane in self-defense during a humantarian military intervention; would you regard them as evil? And more importantly: as a pliot during Kosovo: would you have been comfortable bombing with the risk of civilian dead? It’s easy to treat this as an academic issue from afar, but I think we should put ourselves in the shoes of the warriors themselves. It’s a useful spiritual exercise. I personally have no interest in ever becoming a part of state on state warfare. During WW2, I would have been an imprisoned draft resistor — and a large majority of soldiers in WW2 were drafted, so those who endorse it may not have had a willing populace to go along with them. I will offer social support and sanction for people engaged in legitimate defensive violence abroad, but that’s the extent of it.

    My problem with your perspective is that as a higher level principle: it becomes incoherent. Any state can claim to war pretty much anywhere under the guise of humantarianism ~ given the amount of evil in the world. You admit 95 percent is colonialist or aggressive. This is a sign that the aftermath will be non-humantarian — witness the postwar thuggish Albanian allies ethinically cleansing other groups in Kosovo post-war.

    “Third, as NATO troops occupied Kosovo in June 1999, Albanian nationalists unleashed their own program of ethnic cleansing. They attacked and expelled not only thousands of Serbs from communities that had survived in Kosovo for centuries, but also Roma (Gypsies), Turks, Jews, and any other non-Albanians. The Western media defined these attacks as “revenge” or “retaliation” for Serbian ethnic cleansing. But the KLA militia, like its right-wing nationalist counterparts in Bosnia, had long had the goal of an ethnically pure state. Instead of cracking down on the KLA fighters, NATO invited them to join its new Kosovo Protection Corps police force. In the months after the NATO occupation began, Kosovo became far more ethnically “pure” than Milosevic had ever made it, with the percentage of ethnic minorities lower than ever in its history. Amnesty International observed that General Clark’s NATO was “unprepared for the massive abuses of human rights” under the postwar occupation.”

    http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0910-07.htm

    This doesn’t even begin to cover the total war waged on Serbia:

    “Second, the NATO bombing alienated Serbian civilians who had led the opposition to Milosevic. Cities that had voted heavily against Milosevic were among those targeted with bombing. U.S. jets dropped cluster bombs on a crowded marketplace in Nis. Civilian infrastructure, such as trains, busses, bridges, TV stations, civilian factories, hospitals and power plants, were repeatedly hit by NATO bombs. Depleted Uranium munitions left behind radioactive dust around targets, and bombed chemical plants released clouds of poisonous smoke. Estimates of civilian deaths in the bombing range from 500 to 2,000, with the Washington Post estimating 1,600 (a tally is at http://www.counterpunch.org/dead.html ) These civilian casualties are largely forgotten by those who feel that bombs dropped by a Democratic president are somehow more noble than those dropped by a Republican president.”

    As Arthur Silber points out: the war in Kosovo established the precedent for the war in Iraq. The intervention in the Balkan wars is also considered to have furthered Islamists.

    “The Mujihadeen was created and financed by the right in the 1980s, by the Reagan administration and the Thatcher government, to take on the Soviets in the Afghan war of 1979 to 1992 - that last gasp of the Cold War. In the 1990s, the baton was passed to the left; Mujihadeen forces effectively became the armed wing of Western liberal opinion, moving across borders to fight what politicians and liberal commentators in the West considered to be ‘good wars’, from Bosnia to Kosovo and also in Chechnya. It was the internationalisation of local conflicts by Western governments that encouraged the internationalisation of the Mujihadeen, transforming what had been a specific Afghan-based phenomenon into an effectively global force.”

    http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2006/07/liberal-hypocrisy-in-name-of.html

    So, where’s this 5 percent you speak of?

    I know you probably disagree with some of the details of how these wars are fought. Nonetheless, I am strongly skeptical of the idea that modern state warfare can ever be humantarian. Its very weapons are very hard to pinpoint in the populous areas fought in.

    Look at Afghanistan: to make that something truly approximating a humantarian intervention; you’d need to occupy the place with an extraordinary number of ground troops welcomed by the populace. As of now: the insurgency is being fought through airstrikes that kill non-combatants daily. I have no doubt the insurgents there deliberately fight in areas or ways that make it difficult to dislodge them without endangering civilians. I’ve read accounts that confirm this behavior on their part.

    Still: you’d say you want the U.S. military to be liberating Afghan women, but it’s those same women being killed in airstrikes/raids. Ellen Willis supported it, but I increasingly think her critics were right — particularly Hayekian influenced individuals like Chris Sciabarra critical of the idea of being able to plan nations; as if you were the ontological equivalent of God. Ellen’s scenario is much changed now anyhow. There isn’t as much goodwill for American forces anymore.

    From an ARI perspective: they might as well be doomed savages, but I know you don’t hold that view.

    I may sound harsh, but I do respect your intelligence. What you detect is simply passion.

  130. Nick Manley

    Hah

    I guess I can be accused of a bit of anarcho-subjectivism above.

    Presumably, the governmental pliot is part of the much vaunted institutionalized control of force…

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