Friday, September 23, 2016

Our Contribution Over Time

Looking back over poetry from my twenties, I am overcome by its fluency and eloquence. I doubt I will ever write poems quite like that again.

There Can Be Gods is a poetry anthology  I  contributed to in 1989
The cover ilustration is by Linda Holt

For some people, the idea that as we mature we may lose our abilities to create, while retaining property rights to works made long ago is unacceptable. Those people believe we are not really poets, unless we write poetry all the time. They think it is all in the work and never in the works -- all labor and no product. They think people should be paid a decent wage for the work they do today,  instead of a fee for the product they made yesterday. They believe we are valuable to others only so long as we work, and the moment we stop working, we become a burden  on society.

Socialists keep saying that we owe a debt to our predecessors and that's why we have to pay taxes to the state, but when it comes to paying royalties or rents or interest on money in the bank, they are against that, because they will not acknowledge our contemporaries' debt to us. "Rent seekers" are bad. "Workers" are good. But what if today's rent seekers are yesterday's workers or their descendants? What happened to the debt to our predecessors? Where did that concept go?

We are born only once. It changes everything. We are never the same after that. And as poets we only ever  write about it once.

We are born only once. We emerge into consciousness only once. We only have one life, and as we sharpen our self-discipline, we lose a certain kind of spontaneity and fluency. It doesn't just happen to poets. I think that it happens to everyone, in  one way or another, and if we want to preserve and honor the value of what  we have created in our youth, we have to acknowledge that our riper fruit is different. And sometimes not as juicy.

When my first novel, The Few Who Count  came out, most people agreed that it was not quite a mature work. But The Few Who Count continues to sell a little each year, ever since it came out on Kindle:

The Few Who Count, though by no means a bestseller,  does appeal to a certain readership. Its message about the corporate entity is as true today as it was then.

Vacuum County is my most critically acclaimed book

I finished writing Vacuum County in 1993. It was a well-crafted novel, and for years I held out for publication by a New York publisher. Eventually, I gave up, and so it came out in 2012 in time for the 19th anniversary of the Mt. Carmel Massacre.  It has seven perfect reviews. And nobody is buying it.

I will never write a book like Vacuum County again, because there is no reason to write Vacuum County again. I said what I had to say there, and then I moved on. Vacuum County deserves a place in literature. But the idea that I should just keep repeating myself by creating equivalent novels is completely unrealistic. That's not how the creative process works. It would be just as wrong as if I got stuck in a loop  writing that same perfect poem about birth over and over again.  It can't happen. This is not how life works.

Our Lady of  Kaifeng -- Part One

Our Lady of Kaifeng is a followup to Vacuum County that readers respectfully accept. It's literary. It's deep. It's meaningful, and it does not mess with anything too sexual or raw or disturbing. It's a deep novel, but somehow it does not ruffle feathers. People write nice reviews or they write no reviews, but nobody is going to be so enraged by Our Lady of Kaifeng that they are going to write something hateful. And nobody is ever going to buy it, either. Unless, of course, my other novels take off.

Our Lady of Kaifeng -- Part Two

But in the very middle of writing Our Lady of Kaifeng -- somewhere in between writing Part One and writing Part Two -- something weird happened to me. And I lost some of my respectful readers along the way. Which is okay, because those respectful readers never helped me sell any books, anyway.

The weird thing that happened was Theodosia and the Pirates.

Theodosia and the Pirates: The Battle Against Britain

 Novels are not planned. They just happen. Like babies. I mean, they do, if you are lucky. And I consider myself lucky.

Theodosia and the Pirates The War Against Spain

This is not imply that any of my novels, critically acclaimed or not, is selling particularly well. But each of them is different, and each was written for a reason, and I am not planning to re-write any of them, nor will I ever write any of them again. Each is a unique experience.

Maybe The Few Who Count was a little unripe -- a little raw in terms of skill. Maybe Vacuum County represents the peak of my achievement, and maybe Theodosia and the Pirates is a bit over-ripe.  Perhaps Our Lady of Kaifeng is mature, respectable fruit that nobody will ever rave about, except those who are hopelessly intellectual and well read

I believe that even if I never write again, I have already made my contribution. My task now is to make sure that it sells, because if it doesn't sell, for society it is as if it never happened. In the same way, and for the same reason, I am not planning to have any more children, or to adopt any more chimpanzees, but I plan to see those in my care into adulthood and into a place where they can have lives of their own and make contributions of their own. I don't need to teach another ape to read and write. I just need to prove that I have already done this, so that the world may know and learn from my experiences.

There is a time to sow and there is a time to reap, and there is no shame in reaping what you have sown, even if you never plan to sow again. There is a time to work, and then there is a time to get rents and royalties and interest on the work you have already done. It would be very bad for society if we threw away every book that was written or devalued people's nest eggs the moment they retired. Honoring those who came before us includes honoring you and me for our contributions in the past even though we are still alive and not ever going to contribute in quite the same way again. And it also includes allowing us to pass our savings onto our children when our time here on earth is done. 

No, an inheritance is not a windfall to the heir. It's a contribution from the dead to the living. And it's a contribution we should be allowed to make to the heir of our choice.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

We Annexed Texas the Right Way

Davy Crockett
Yesterday was a Friday, and at The Libertarian Republic I posted a list of the top five libertarian war heroes. Even though the list format tends to promote facile generalizations, I am happy with the article I wrote, and so I want to share it here.

Even though the biographies of the five men are short and superficial, using the list format enabled me to make the following point about the Neutrality Act and about how the annexation of Texas was done the right  way:

The United States was founded on the principle that residents of a geographic area should be allowed to decide for themselves how they want to be governed. It was also founded with the help of volunteers from elsewhere, like the Marquis de Lafayette, who fought in the American Revolution, just because he liked the ideas the Americans espoused. At the very start of the Republic, it was understood that any individual American could decide for himself what foreign wars he wanted to fight in and what Empire or regime he wanted to help topple, without asking for permission from the government of the United States. That's why American privateers fought on behalf of the French against Britain at a time when the United States was at peace with Britain. But wanting to put an end to this, in the Jay Treaty negotiations, Britain lobbied for the passage of the Neutrality Act, thereby putting an end to the legal pursuit of foreign policy by individual Americans for fun and profit. But this did not mean that Americans stopped trying. Aaron Burr was one example of somebody who wanted to help Hispanic colonists to liberate themselves from Spain. Long after Jefferson had ruined Burr, there were Mexican revolutionaries still writing the former Vice President letters asking for his help in their liberation from Spain. Jean Laffite, the smuggler and privateer, founded Galveston as a stronghold against Spain. But... just as they had done when he contributed to the defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans, the American government drove him away from Galveston so that they could give Texas to Spain on a silver platter under the terms of the Adams-Onis treaty. The United States did not drive Laffite out because they wanted Galveston for themselves. In fact, if it had been up to the American government, Texas would never have belonged to the U.S. But men like Davy Crockett and Sam Houston, when they got fed up with the corruption in Washington D.C. and opposed President Jackson's Indian Removal Act, went to help the Mexicans in Texas liberate themselves from what was now Mexico. They formed their own government, and the Republic of Texas eventually chose willingly to be annexed by the United States.
That's the story. And by looking at the biographies of the five men on my list in close succession, I think that you can see it is a single story with a unified plot line.  The theme of the story is individuals fighting against foreign governments, whether their own government allows it or not.

The Louisiana Purchase had been unconstitutional, precisely because entry into the Union was supposed to be voluntary. You were not supposed to be able to buy new territories and new constituents at the expense of the taxpayers. Jefferson was afraid that Burr was out to steal the territories that he bought, by turning the residents in those territories against the idea of eventually being annexed into the United States. This was completely untrue. Burr was going after fresh new territory south of the border. He was doing it at his own expense, without getting the United States into debt and without conscripting a single soldier.

But let's face it: Talking to the people living in American-held territories and suggesting that they might not want to be annexed would not have been treason. So even if Burr had been plotting what Jefferson thought he was plotting, it would not have been wrong.

Lots of people today do not know that Texas independence from Mexico was achieved through the rebellion of the people who lived in Texas against Mexico, including most Hispanic residents. It was not some Anglo-led plot to hurt Hispanics. It was the exact opposite of the policy being pursued by Andrew Jackson against the Cherokee nation. The government of the new Republic of Texas was inclusive.

If Davy Crockett and Sam Houston had obeyed the Neutrality Act, Texas would never have joined the Union at no cost to the taxpayers of the United States. The Neutrality Act should be repealed, so that Americans can continue to help others abroad when they choose, without involving the rest of us against our will.

But the other side of all this is that the idea of secession is something Jefferson was afraid of as early as his second term. A lot of Southerners don't know this. Once you start behaving like a Statist, buying and selling territories and the people in them, it makes you paranoid. Andrew Jackson's martial law during the Battle of New Orleans was something that happened because he did not really trust the people of Louisiana not to betray the United States to the British. He completely misunderstood them, lumping all "foreigners" together. He could not see how the French speaking population of the territory that had newly been annexed actually hated the British. But when you try to impose yourself on others, you also tend to think the worst of them.

The Neutrality Act did more harm than just destroying the individual careers of specific privateers. It put us on the slippery slope to the loss of all our civil liberties, because there in black and white in the body of the Statute the right of people to decide for themselves what government to support and which one to fight against was abridged. It undercuts the very reason for the American Revolution. It meant that we all came under the thumb of  foreign empires, if once our government negotiated a treaty with them. Thank goodness that real patriots like Sam Houston  never paid any attention to this law.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Austin Petersen on Religion

I've been too busy writing  libertarian articles to keep up much with this blog, but I would like to share an unusual interview that Austin Petersen just gave which focuses on his religion or lack thereof. Too many people who are atheists are left wing liberals. Too many people with the right views on property rights and free trade are also very committed to Christianity and often unable to disengage from it long enough to understand the first amendment. Austin Petersen is not afraid to come out in favor of freedom, and yet admits he is not a believer.

Watching the Apologia TV interview with Austin Petersen, I noticed how very much like one of our Founding Fathers he is. No, not Washington or Jefferson or Adams. Someone more outspoken and different and the grandson of a great theologian. Of course, I'm talking about Theodosia's father, Aaron Burr.

Thomas Jefferson may have been just as much an agnostic as Burr, but he hid behind language that made him sound like a Creationist. Who again was it he said had endowed man with rights? Burr was not militantly anti-religious, but he was also no hypocrite. He was cordial to religious people, and yet he did not lie to them. Even on his deathbed.

We had one chance to have an open non-believer as president when Burr was in the running. In 2020, we may get another opportunity, if Austin Petersen runs for president again.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

My New Fling with Journalism

"If he studies the news in the papers.
     "While you are preparing the tea,
"If he talks of the damps or the vapors,
      "While moonlight lies soft o'er the sea,
"If he's sleepy while you are capricious,
       "If he hasn't a musical O,
"If he doesn't think Werther delicious,
       "My own Araminta, say no!"

                                               from A Letter of Advice, by Winthrop Mackworth Praed.

I have always despised the press. And by the press, I don't mean Benjamin Franklin or any other small owner of the press. I think what I mean is what they call the mainstream media today -- MSM -- but I was born long ago and far away, and it all started with the news on the radio in Israel.  My grandparents all listened, some of them many times a day. Or they kept the radio on all day long, and it kept repeating the same dry phrases over and over again. There was more than one channel, but the news seemed to be the same, no matter which channel you were on, and it was not just that the events described were the same. The words they used were exactly the same, It was monotonous and boring,

"Why do you keep listening to that? It's so boring."

"Because we want to know what's going on in the world."

There must be a better way to find out what is going on in the world than this! I thought. My parents watched the news on TV when I was little. I had to be very quiet. I did not like it, not because it was the news, but because it used dry language that seemed to imply it was the absolute truth they were telling us, and there was no bias. It wasn't that I suspected they were lying. It's just that I wanted there to be a bias! Without a point of view, dry facts are so boring. I needed them to tell a story. Stories always have a point of view.

An Excerpt from Ping & the Snirkelly People
Buy it on Amazon
That's why when I grew up, and people knew I liked to write, I rejected out of hand the possibility of being a journalist that they suggested. I wanted to be an advocate, not a reporter. I wanted to actually say something that might make a difference. That's what I thought I was doing with my fiction, but I ran into that whole problem of genre.

Unless the reader is actually open to the possibility that a book is not going to just repeat what he already knows and expects to hear, you are never going to get through to them.  It's as if the average reader has been programmed by MSM to know what is good, what is right and what is possible, and so has a completely closed mind to any alternative possibilities. They will read fantasy or romance or adventure, but they won't reconsider anything they have already internalized about good and evil. The unbiased journalism with the unspoken, between-the-lines message about right and wrong might be exactly the thing that makes it so. And only those of us too bored by the indoctrination to actually read, listen to or watch that stuff may be immune to the propaganda.

This year, after the Libertarian National Convention, I threw myself into the Libertarian Press. I am writing for two online publications.


Do I have a  bias there? Definitely. The reason I enjoy writing for the Libertarian Press is that I am allowed to be right up front with my point of view. I don't have to be cagey and try to hide my opinions -- they are as evident as the facts that I share. What I am saying is, if you beieve X, then Y which is happening, is bad (or good), depending on what it is.

Some people have accused me of going after Gary Johnson, but nothing could be further from the truth. When Gary Johnson takes a pro-liberty stance, such as wanting to do away with Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, I am right there, reporting on this and cheering him on! When on the other hand, Gary Johnson wants to make something mandatory -- going against individual choice -- then I point out that this departs from libertarian principles.

The last time I pointed that out, Gary Johnson actually changed his position  and the Libertarian Party Chair, Nicholas Sarwark,  came out with a statement against mandating personal choice. For the first time in a long time, I feel as if my writing is having an effect.

Let's face it. We all have a bias. It's just that some people are hiding theirs and calling their opinions "facts" or "science". What I hope will happen for the future of our Republic is that more and more people will learn to read through the bias to get to the facts and decide for themselves.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A New, Bilingual Version of "In Case There's a Fox"

In Case There's a Fox is a children's book in verse. Nevertheless, I think it should be part of the canon of my more serious works, for reasons that are explained in the link below.

This week, the work was reissued in a new bilingual, full color bleed edition. 

The bilingual version of In Case There's a Fox
Order it on Amazon
A video trailer is available for the Hebrew portion of the book.

This is the second book I have published this year, the first one being  Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy Way. 

For a list of all my books, you can check out my Amazon Profile. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Austin Petersen on Balancing Force and Freedom

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversational style and the deep content of Austin Petersen's live stream last night, so I am going to share it here. Austin Petersen is a Minarchist, not an Anarchist. He admits that he identified much more with Darryl Perry than with Gary Johnson at the Libertarian Convention this year. But... he can't quite bring himself to subscribe to the NAP. Because, what if grandma catches a burglar on her own? Should she have to keep him imprisoned in her basement forever without anyone else's assistance?

This is a discussion not about what we are going to do in 2016. Right now Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party Presidential candidate, and we are all supporting him. There is no one better on the ballot. But in four years' time, the issue will come up again.

Gary Johnson is a Pragmatist, not an ideologue. John McAfee got the celebritarian vote. Adam Kokesh is a sincere Anarchist. Petersen would prefer not to run against Kokesh in 2020, because he does not want to tear the Libertarian Party apart.

Petersen would accept an Anarcho-Capitalist over a Statist "any day", he said.

Kokesh and Petersen have debated before. You can see the full debate in the video above. The point at which they seemed to disagree was when Petersen suggested that even a voluntary collective that makes rules such as "don't hurt anyone or take their stuff" would eventually be a government. Petersen believes that you can never entirely eliminate coercion, but he would like to minimize it. It's the enforcement mechanism to voluntary agreements that is the sticking point.

Petersen defined government as a collection of people who create a monopoly on the use of force. He seems to think that such a monopoly is necessary to some extent. He believes in freedom for everyone, he realizes that we can only enforce it at home. Abroad, he favors non-intervention.

Not everyone can consent to be governed, Children, the disabled and some Democrats are examples of such people. To which Kokesh replies:
So if you can't consent, someone else is going to govern you... So if you don't meet Austin's standard of intelligence, whether its because you're a Liberal or a Statist or a child or a disabled person then you are not entitled to those rights. If you cannot consent to be governed, we're going to govern you, anyway.
Kokesh's point  was that rights should apply equally to all people, even the mentally disabled, In this respect, Kokesh seems more of a purist and Petersen a pragmatist. However, compared to someone like Gary Johnson, Petersen is numbered among the ideologues, and Johnson is the Pragmatist.

What if Petersen and Kokesh run in 2020 for the Libertarian presidential nomination and cancel each other out -- leaving an establishment candidate like Johnson to win? Petersen is not sure that running against Kokesh is the right thing to do.

This all comes down to the NAP -- the Non-Aggression Principle. Petersen is afraid that the moment we contract out our rights to a defense agency, then that agency will be a de facto government, no matter what we choose to call it. This is true if that agency acquires an exclusive monopoly on law enforcement and judicial practices. But what if we didn't grant anyone a monopoly on justice?

The local, neighborhood policeman is our friend, as long as he has no special rights to enforce laws that the rest of us do not have. It's when police officers can carry guns and we cannot, can wear body armor and we cannot, can arrest us, but we cannot arrest them, that the police officer becomes the enemy.

I think that Austin Petersen should run on a platform of the right of all citizens to use force to uphold the law. If someone is violating our rights, we get to use deadly force to defend ourselves. We can also ask our neighborhood policeman to help us, if we can't manage the task all on our own and pay him for his help, but the policeman will not have more rights than we do. It will be just as it is today with our volunteer firefighters. It is okay to call the fire fighters for extra help in a pinch. But there is no law that says we are not allowed to put out the fire on our own, too.  Then Adam Kokesh will not be able to object that this privileges some people over others. And Petersen will still be better at representing the Libertarian position, because he understands how to talk to ordinary people and not just ideologues.

Does grandma have to imprison the burglar she caught in the basement forever? Certainly not. She can hire a warden if she wants to and pay him. The neighbors can all pitch in, too, if they feel it's a good idea. But nobody will be held at gunpoint to pay for the local prison.

Anarchists and Minarchists should all agree on this. And then Petersen will explain it to the general public without using scary words like Anarchy. It's all common sense, really.

Problem solved!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Competing Title Agencies

Darryl Perry had an unpleasant encounter with someone over personal sovereignty and title agencies. The argument was simplistic. Perry maintained that we should each be sovereign over ourselves and our property. and he was challenged to explain how he had title to his property in the first place, if not by virtue of the government now in place. You can watch the conversation in the video embedded below.

Perry  spoke about having private, competing agencies that would issue deeds. He was asked what happens when the competing agencies disagreed about arcane issues of chain of title or property boundaries. Perry, who adheres to the NAP (Non-aggression Principle), did not have a good answer, so he hung up, leaving the interviewer to feel that he had won the debate.

As funny as that clip may seem, I'm actually more on Perry's side than not. There are now  and always have been  and always will be competing title agencies -- they are called sovereign nations -- and when they cannot resolve title disputes through diplomacy, they go to war.

The following is the text of the video embedded above. If you have trouble hearing me talk in the video, you can follow along below:

The eastern boundary of my land runs through these woods. And it's not a deed, or an abstract of title, that keeps other people from invading my property. Land title has always been subject to competing title agencies. The agencies have had such names as Britain, France and Spain. Also Cherokee Nation or the United States. So, in terms of how we get our title, it's always purchased directly through blood spilt in battle or indirectly through diplomacy. Land in Missouri was acquired through the Louisiana Purchase, but let's face it, how did France get it? 
This is my abstract of title that I have. I am not going to tell you the legal description of my land, but I'm going to go far, far back in time -- back to the beginning. Back to ... It says here  in the first patent of the United States of America to this larger plot of land from which my land derives: "In testimony thereof, I, James Buchanan, President of the United States of America, have caused these letters to be made patent, and the seal of the General Land Office to be hereunto affixed, given under my hand at the City of Washington, the Friday of March [sic: should be first day of March] ,,,I don't know what date... 1859 and of the Independence of the United States the 83rd. By the President, James Buchanan, by T. J. Albright, Secretary, and recorded by J.N. Granger, Recorder of the General Land Office."
Now, I built this fence. But it's not the fence that keeps other people out.
 I'm going to tell you a story about something that happened on this land a long time ago. And it's something that didn't happen to me. And it didn't happen to Bow. But it did happen to our predecessors in title. That means the people who owned the land before we did. One day, even though they had this wonderful abstract of title that guaranteed that they owned the property, a bad man came from the other side of the woods -- and there wasn't even a fence at the time --  and he entered the house. The woman was alone. He threatened her. He notified her husband that he was going to kill her if a ransom was not paid. Well, the husband went to the bank, got a banker with him, came to the house, was shot in the head, but survived, and the woman had already been shot about twelve times and was killed. 
So what's the point of this story? The point is that it's not because we have title to the land that people don't trespass. It's not an abstract of title that guarantees us our property. It's the fact that we have good neighbors.
Now some people might object that title companies are the ones who maintain the chain of title and courts of law determine the outcome to boundary disputes, but these things are actually a very minor factor in the lives of most people. Adverse possession takes care of most inaccuracies in boundary mapping. Even if you have had your fence on the neighbors' property by mistake or they on yours,  after a certain number of years of everybody believing that the fence marks that boundary, the fence actually becomes the legal boundary. That's because title like many other social concepts is really all in the minds of people. If the neighbors all agree that you have title, then you have title. And nobody walks down the street coveting somebody else's house, thinking to himself: I wonder if they really have title. We know that the neighbor's property isn't ours, and we don't go around laying claims to it. That is how title is maintained.

Except for one thing: The local county government demands a ransom from us at the end of the year in the form of a property tax. If we don't pay it, then they will eventually come and by force of arms take our property away from us. Then they will change the deed records in their favor. Darryl Perry does not like that the government does this, and I must say that I sympathize with him.

Naturally the government tells us that if we did not pay this fee, one of our neighbors would try to steal our land, and no one would defend us. But I think that it's actually the neighbors who would come and stand up for our rights and fight right alongside us to defend our land, in the same way that we would do to defend theirs. And I think that's what Darryl Perry should have said in the interview.

Governments get their legitimacy from the consent of the governed. They are here to serve us. We are not here to serve them. That's what people sometimes forget, because after a while, the size of the government comes to eclipse any legitimizing force that each individual's consent originally granted it.  If somebody comes to claim our land, ultimately we will have to fight for it. This is true whether it's a foreign invader or a bad neighbor. And we need the help of our good neighbors to keep the bad ones at bay. That's all you really need to know about title to land.