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.