Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Finally, Impact!

I write, because I must. It's an inner compulsion. My writing flows out with passion. And while I later go back and check for factual errors. structural issues, problems with syntax and stray typos, I don't generally change anything just to please a particular audience. I do, however, always hope that what I have written will eventually have an impact.

This attitude and its conflict with other ways of thinking about writing and the marketplace is discussed in my last and final CS blog post from 2015.

Publishing for Impact

Often after seeing reviews of my books, I am left with the impression that even if reading the book had been an enjoyable experience, ultimately no impact has been made. Lives have not been changed. Minds have not been touched. The worldview they came in with is intact. And that's okay, but I always hope.

Today, Facebook told me that the fans of Our Lady of Kaifeng  had not heard from me in a while. Not knowing what to post, I scoured the internet for new mentions. I did not find any new reviews, but I found something even better. Our Lady of Kaifeng: Courtyard of the Happy way was mentioned when discussing the meaning of the word autoist.

Source: Stackexchange


The impact I am having is not literary or political -- but I am making a contribution to the English language!

Why is the word "autoist" necessary to describe someone who does things only for the love of the thing? Because "hedonist" isn't right, and "selfish" or "egoist"  have all those negative connotations, and because while "autistic" is actually closer than you think, it, too, is heavy with misconceptions.

So there you have it: the opposite of an altruist is an autoist, not an egoist. And  altruist, in case you are wondering, is just "social metaphysician" with a positive connotation.  So the opposite of an egoist is a social metaphysician. But if you want to avoid words with negative connotations for the concepts you are discussing, just use autoist and altruist. They are pretty much self-explanatory, if you understand the etymology.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Proposed Libertarian Party Bylaws Change

This is the Proposed Change
Things marked in Blue are added to the original. Thing struck out in red are removed from the original Bylaws.

This is my proposed change to the Bylaws of Libertarian Party of the United States. Here is my rationale for the proposed change:

In order to allow maximal representation to the delegates at the convention, including those whose first choice of presidential nominee is not selected by a majority of their peers, and to prevent a vice-presidential candidate who is not considered by the delegates to be fit to be the president from serving in the capacity of vice-presidential nominee, it is best to select the candidate for presidential nominee who received the second highest number of votes in the final ballot for presidential nominee to serve as our vice-presidential nominee. This will also save a lot of time in superfluous nominating speeches, as no vice-presidential nominee will require an additional nominating speech besides that already given before the election for presidential nominee takes place.
For an in-depth discussion of the proposed change, including answers to questions posed by those arguing against the change, see the video embedded below. 




RELATED POSTS






Sunday, September 10, 2017

Government Harm with Drug Proscription and Nutritional Prescription

It was my friend Julia who drew my attention to this satirical video about what would happen if hummus were outlawed in Israel.


The horrors of drug enforcement are well known to the general populace. And maybe those who enjoy the humor think it could never actually happen with hummus. But in a way, it already is happening. The tomato growers and the ketchup producers are already getting a hand from the government here in the United States in suppressing hummus (a high fat condiment)  and therefore promoting ketchup (a low fat condiment.) Of course, the battle here is not conceived of as one between hummus and ketchup. It is fat versus carbs.

Ever since the 1950s, American nutritional "experts", with the full authority of the Federal government behind them, have been pushing an agenda to promote carbs over fat. The Food Pyramid taught at school, the low fat meals funded by the taxpayer in the public schools, the dietary recommendations that doctors had to provide with the approval of the American Medical Association, all indicated that a low fat diet would be a good thing. As a result, obesity became an epidemic in the United States.

The  USDA Food Pyramid pushed by the government Courtesy of  GrowMap
Very slowly, over the new millennium, the truth has been seeping out to the general public. Here is a recent international study published in the Lancet, that shows low fat diets are associated with a greater incidence of early death than high fat diets.

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)32252-3/fulltext?elsca1=tlp

But because most people do not read the Lancet, and because many people trust implicitly in the advice of their doctors, there are still many, particularly those who are obese, diabetic and/or suffering from chronic heart disease, who are still following a low fat diet. And the shelves of the grocery are still full of artificially reduced fat products that dare to boast loudly on their labels: "Low fat!" As if that were a good thing!

So the satire in the Israeli video about outlawing hummus and the chaos that would ensue hits home for me on more than one level. Of course, the War on Drugs is a bad thing, even when it comes to recreational drugs that are detrimental for our overall health. But how much crazier are the results when the government also tries to suppress the sale of food that is good for us in favor of other foods that are bad for us. And by good and bad, I mean relatively speaking, of course. High carb diets are sometimes indicated, when we are trying to fatten up people who have been starving. Sugar is a lifesaver for those who have been deprived, but it's a death sentence for the well-fed.

Today, as people are waking up to the dangers of the high carb/low fat diet, many of the Statists among the general population are pushing for the government to print a new food pyramid that promotes the eating of fat and suppresses the eating of carbs. They think the bad guys are the carb growers, and they hold the government above reproach. It's all the fault of those bad lobbyists, represented by the evil tomato grower in the Israeli video.

Hummus is a relatively high fat food, with 35% carbs to 48% fat, while ketchup is a very high carb/low fat food at 93% carbs to 3% fats. No wonder public schools tried to label it a vegetable and sell it to the public. But if you really want to go high fat, you eliminate the garbanzo bean that gives hummus its name, and stick to its other main ingredient, tahini. At 78% fat to 12% carbs, tahini is a good food for diabetics, people with heart conditions and the general population. However, if you have a starving person on your hands, feel free to feed him primarily on ketchup!

The government is never going to be flexible enough to understand the shifting context of nutritional requirements. That is why allowing them to prescribe to us is killing lots and lots of people who are incapable of thinking for themselves. Those people include a captive audience of school-aged children who really have no way to decide for themselves.



Monday, September 4, 2017

Nabal's Psalm

The Audible Edition of Vacuum County is soon to be released.


One of the last major items to be recorded by Kelly Clear is what I like to refer to as the Nabal Psalm.


When we hear complaints against our fellow man, that they are not doing right, we often stand in judgment of the person complaining. Doesn't he have anything  better to do with his time, besides criticizing other people? Is he so  blameless himself? By what right does he judge others? And how could something so filled with rancor possibly get labeled a psalm? "That's a psalm?" you are probably thinking to yourself, "How is that a psalm?" It's so sad and hopeless, so angry and petty. No wonder nobody would sing that in Church! No wonder I've never even heard of this psalm.

But yes, it's a psalm, and it's in there, and it would be hard to understand why, unless you also read Samuel 1:25, the story of Nabal the Carmelite, who refused to pay protection money to David, when he was running from Saul.

What are the original words of this Psalm and what do they mean?

From my personal copy of the Old Textament, Psalm 14


The original psalm is very short. It has only seven verses. Here is a rough translation of each verse

  1. To the conductor, to David: Nabal said in his heart, there are no gods; they have cheated and abominated. There is none who does good.
  2. Jehovah looked down from the sky to see is there anyone who is skilled in seeking the gods.
  3. All strayed together, went bad, there is none who does good, not even one.
  4. Why, all the evil doers know the eaters of my people ate bread, did not call on Jehovah.
  5. There they feared fear because in a just generation there are gods.
  6. The counsel of the poor you will shame, because Jehovah is his shelter.
  7. Who will give from Zion the salvation of Israel, on the return of Jehovah to dwell with his people? Jacob will be joyful and Israel happy.
This is not exactly the translation most English speaking people have read.  In most translations, the word נבל is translated as fool, the word אלהים -- which is a plural form of a word for a  god -- is translated as God, and the name Jehovah is not rendered as Jehovah, but as "the Lord". The result is that many of the distinctions being made in the original text become opaque.

Here is King James' version:


14 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the Lord.There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge.Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

The key to understanding the poetic works in the Bible is parallelism. These poems like to say the same thing at least twice, each time in a different way. The contrast helps us get a new perspective on a familiar problem.

The first verse in  Psalm 14 is parallel to the second in the following way: The first is the judgment of a particular man (Nabal) upon God or the gods. The second is the lamentation of a particular god (Jehovah) on being forsaken by the people -- or rather, his people. (Every god has a people, and the people assigned to Jehovah are called Israel.)

 The contrast between the lament of  a man about the absence of his god, and the lament of a god, against his people who have strayed, is what makes this poem intriguing. Have you ever heard women complain there are no good men to be had, and men complain that there aren't any women? It's kind of like that. Gods need men to worship them, and men need gods to help them do right. But sometimes they have trouble finding each other. This isn't a psalm about atheism. It is about how the people of Israel and their local god should turn to one another in their mutual hour of need. It's about how true love leads to happiness.

 What makes it difficult to see this parallel between gods and men and their mutual dependence in the King James translation is that certain words are substituted for other words.

Nabal  (naval נבל), as a word, does not mean "fool". Knave maybe, or rogue or rotter, or villain,  but not fool. The triliteral  root of the word has the meaning of  "to rot or to wilt." When Abigail says against Nabal that he is like his name, "a villain he is and villainy is what he does", she is referring to the name and the meaning at the same time. Now some question whether he actually existed, since who in his right mind would give such an unflattering name to a child? But it's possible that he was named for a lute (nevel  spelled נבל), and that this play on words was a pun.

Was there an actual Nabal?  The account in Samuel: I 25 describes him as a Calebite,  a descendant of Caleb the spy, son of Jephunneh, (כלב בן יפונה),  and thus a Kennizite (קניזי), actually having origins in the land of Canaan long before Exodus. In other words, Nabal had deep roots in the land, and he remembered the old ways. His claim to the land is as good as anyone's, and yet he does not ask for much, except to be left alone. To him, both Saul and David seem like upstarts, and he wants no part in their quarrel.

When Nabal refused to pay David protection money, there was no claim on his part to the throne. He merely remarked that there were many breaking away from their masters nowadays. And he was not going to give the victuals that he had prepared to feed the men working for him to those who came from out of nowhere, demanding payment.

Is Nabal the Carmelite the same Nabal as in Psalms 14? I'm not the only one who thinks so. Look what I found here:

http://douglasdwebster.com/2017/01/19/psalm-14-nabals-psalm/

The difference between the usual outlook on Nabal and mine is this: I'm a libertarian, so I believe that we shouldn't hurt people or take their stuff.  I don't blame people for refusing to  pay protection money, and I don't praise the women who betray them.

Did David write Psalm 14? I don't think he did. But there is internal evidence that the  Psalm is oddly edited, and I like to ascribe at least that part to David.

To learn more about Nabal and Nabal's Psalm, read or listen to Vacuum County on Audible.



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Reaping the Whirlwind

For many, the big news of the moment is the disaster in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey. There is a lot of blame going around concerning how much help people are getting, and I have even heard some using the old ruse of blaming natural disasters on the iniquity of Man, only today's iniquity seems to be using too much energy and causing the planet to heat up, rather than refusing to worship a particular deity. I find that about as hard to swallow as Father de Sedella's assertion  that the hurricane of 1818 was caused by the fact that Jean Laffite refused to make the Catholic Church the State Church of Galveston.

From Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain

When the whirlwind did finally materialize, because life is after all much like a storybook, it was the Karankawa Indians, and not the Catholic Church, who helped Jean Laffite and the Champs d'Asile settlers to survive the disaster. But at least the Biblical quote from Hosea 8:7 was put to good use. In the same way, it is hardy private citizens, libertarians and profiteers, who are helping in Galveston today, people accused of being cannibals, like the Karankawa,  and not the nanny State. 


Friday, August 4, 2017

The Name of the Cow



[This is a vlog post in which the words are transcribed from the video embedded below. ]


One of the early influences that may have led me to come up with Vacuum County, one that I've never thought of before, is this book from my childhood.



This is Vacuum County.

Buy it here!

And this is the book from my childhood.




Actually, this is the front of it.




It's one of those accordion books that have lots of pictures of animals. And I had it when I was a baby.


And so there would be a picture of a dog. And it would say כלב.


And there was a picture of a bunny. And it said שפן. Although a lot of people say you should say  ארנב instead of שפן. And there was a picture of turkey, and it said תרנגול הודו.


There was a picture of a cat, and it said  חתול. There was a picture of a rooster, and it said תרנגול.


And there was a picture of a duck and it said ברווז. And there was a picture of a horse, and it said סוס.


And then there was a picture of a cow, and it said פרה.


Well, my mother, when I was about eighteen months old, and this is not something that I personally remember, but it's something that my mother told me about, she was trying to see whether I could read or not at eighteen months.  So she pointed right here, and she said: "Aya, what does this say?" And I said: "פרח   ".פרח means flower.  And I thought that she was pointing to the flowers that are right here in the grass by the cow.


Okay. It just so happens that the word for פרח (flower) and the word פרה, which means cow, well, they have the first two letters in common. And the last letter, the  ה in פרה would be a ח in פרח. So my mother said: "Oh, wow, that's so close! You're almost reading."

Of course, I just thought that she was pointing at that flower. And then, of course, she realized that I was looking at the flower and not the word.

Anyway, this illustrates that cows have always played a part in my literacy, and that literacy has always played a part in my life, and that misunderstanding small things about words can have big consequences. So all of that may have been a subconscious influence on Vacuum County. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Constitutional Anarchy

I love the American constitution. I love the constitution and the law under it, just the way it was written, along with the first ten amendments, and before the Neutrality Act and the Logan Act were enacted. Believe it or not, the American constitution is the only document in the world that upholds a lawful, non-chaotic form of anarchy. But most people do not know that, and I did not know that, either, until I started researching Theodosia and the Pirates.

Anarchy in this sense does not mean chaos or lawlessness. It also does not mean no government. It means no government monopoly on force.

In today's debate between Anarchists and Minarchists in libertarian circles, the government monopoly on force is the real issue. Nobody argues that there should be no government. What they are really arguing about is whether the government should have the sole right to enforce the law -- whether through a police force, an army, a navy or a court system.

What should you do if you see a crime committed? Should you call the police and stand idly by? Or should you actively engage in fighting the criminal? What should you do if you see a bad cop beating up a fellow citizen? Should you assume that  because he works for the government, he has a monopoly on force? Or should you move in to help enforce real justice, just as you would with every other criminal?

What should you do if your country is invaded? Should you enlist in the Armed Forces, or could you also help out as a privateer? Should the government confiscate your arms and your private battle ships to its own use, or should you just be able to volunteer to help using your own means?

 What should you do if war seems imminent between the United States and another country, but you think it could all be avoided by proper diplomacy? Should you leave it up to the State Department, when you personally could go talk to the foreign representatives and suggest ways to avoid the war, even if your elected officials disagree? That's what Dr. Logan did. And people in the government did not like it. So they passed a law! Should a law like that be enforced? Why?

Dr. George Logan, Private Diplomat -- attribution

Power over life and death, war and peace, should reside in the people as individuals, and our government is only there to provide a friendly framework. The framework of laws should be something all of us actually agree to. If there is a law on the books that nobody obeys -- like the speed limit -- then it should be nullified. The government is there to serve us. We are not there to serve it.

That in a nutshell is constitutional anarchy. It is not chaos. It is not lawlessness. It is a framework of laws that work, because the people agree to them. It's what the founding fathers had in mind, or at least a majority of them did. It was the law of the land -- and it was that each man should do what was right in his own eyes. Not since the days of the Judges was there such an ideal form of government.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Talk at MO LP Con: Taxation Destroys

The Missouri Libertarian Party Convention in Jefferson City was held at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel on the top floor, overlooking the State Capitol.

Double Exposure Interior and Exterior at Double Tree
At the social held the night before the  convention, I met Rick Vandeven, the Vice Chair, who had invited me to speak, and I saw Bill Slantz, the current Party Chair,  again, whom I had met as part of the Missouri delegation to the Libertarian Party national convention last year. I spoke with Greg Tlapek, who was the one who determined my "genuine" libertarian status last year by phone so that I could serve as a delegate from our state to the National Convention. 


I was there with my daughter and her boyfriend, who manned my table and the book sales, while I was speaking or doing other very libertarian things. Will Coley, a fellow speaker at the convention, shared our sales table.



We dined with our good friend Rebekah Phillips before the festivities began. 


With Rebekah Phillips

I also saw Ben Brixey and Chris Burros, who won awards for freedom fighting, Mary Gerlt, Cisse Spraggins, and Bill Redpath, who was the third speaker after the business meeting. 

Here is how the MO LP newsletter described some of the highlights of the event. 

Proportional Representation (PR) - Recurring Topic of Convention

"We need Proportional Representation (PR) to get Libertarians elected to state legislatures,"
summarizes the well-informed presentation by Bill Redpath, former Chair 
of the national Libertarian Party and current Treasurer of FairVote.  

"Only one Libertarian has ever been elected to a state legislature running
solely as a Libertarian,"  Bill reported.  He noted there have been Libertarians
elected in states which allow candidates to run on more than one party's ticket.
He described the strategy of working people into state legislatures by running
them first as candidates for lower non-partisan offices as "quaint."

Noteworthy:

  • Winston Apple with Government by the People credited FairVote for help drafting the PR petition language.
  • Total Legalization people were present with initiative petitions now circulating for legalization of cannabis.
  • Will Coley made an impassioned speech reinforcing the Libertarian call for open borders persuasively dismissing the argument that our immigration policy is OK if people "just obey the law."
  • Aya Katz gave an informative talk on taxation, calling for "jubilee" years.
  • Ben Brixey presented a libertarian take on Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a way to get from where we are to where we want to be.
Awards Champion of Freedom Award - Outstanding service to the PartyCecil InceElizabeth WellsBenjamin BrixeyChris Burros
Karl Wetzel Award - Lifetime achievement awardSean O'Toole
Mike Bozarth Award - Newly created award for elected libertarians, or prolific publishing 
Bill Wayne 
My talk was not recorded, so I will just reproduce the gist of it below. 




TAXATION DESTROYS

Taxation destroys. It destroys in the same way and for the same reason as our response to disease destroys our own bodies by activating our immune systems. Taxation is a defense mechanism in response to war or external aggression. Originally, tax was directly related  to war. To prevent other countries, other tribes, and other individuals from attacking our communities, tribute was levied from defeated enemies to make sure that they didn't just turn around and start another border skirmish as soon as the present battle was over. But when taxes are levied against our own citizens, instead of being taken from the enemy, they begin to be more destructive sometimes than war itself. It is a little like many of the symptoms that we experience when we are sick and our body is fighting off an invading organism. Fever isn't caused by the disease. It is our body's way of fighting off a virus. But such symptoms are very taxing, and they sap our own strength. Later, even if we have recovered from the disease, we need to take time to rebuild our strength, after the taxing measures that the body has imposed on itself to get rid of the enemy. We sap our own strength by taxing ourselves. It's not a good way to pay for war. 

The first taxes that we instituted are directly related to repayment of the war debt. Alexander Hamilton -- I understand he is very popular right now and there is a musical about him --- Hamilton  was happy to have us in debt, as without debt there can be no "credit rating" which would allow us to continue to borrow even  more money. In order to service the debt, Hamilton suggested that we tax "pernicious luxuries." Do you know what pernicious luxuries he wanted to tax?

Member of the Audience: Whiskey!

Yes, that's true. But that was not the order in which he had them listed. The pernicious luxuries he thought were sinful enough to tax were tea, coffee, and spirits, in that order. So yes, a nation that became independent by rebelling against a tax on tea immediately turned around and taxed tea. And coffee and whiskey. Because these are such terrible things for people to have, that they would be better off without them. That's the excuse. And in the case of whiskey, it's so very bad that Hamilton did not suggest a mere tariff to protect local merchants from imported goods. He suggested a tax even on Whiskey brewed in the the United States! Which, of course, led directly to the Whiskey Rebellion during the administration of George Washington, which unfortunately we lost -- to the Statists.

Every tax destroys the market on which it is applied, and likewise it creates a black market, as people try to avoid and evade it. The tariff and the Whiskey tax led directly to smugglers, like Jean Laffite. And the Embargo Act encouraged privateering.

In fact, back in the day, during the Quasi-War with France -- yes, we've had undeclared war even under the Founders -- American privateers fought on the French side, while the American Navy was on the side of England, because Adams was  an Anglophile. But the Neutrality law had been passed so that Americans would not be allowed to wage war with countries at peace with the United States. And yet privateering persisted.

How many of you think Jefferson was a libertarian president? [Ambivalent responses from the audience.] Well, Jefferson did not like war, and he wanted to keep the United States out of it. So he sponsored the Embargo Act, which basically said that we would stay out of international commerce. It's a little like telling women they can avoid rape by staying home. Instead of protecting our ships, the Navy and the Revenue Cutter Service were there to punish any who dared leave port and engage in international commerce. Of course, the American people did not go in for that. So this led to smuggling and also to privateering on behalf of smugglers.



Jean Laffite became a smuggler due to the Embargo Act, and he was also a privateer. Once the Embargo Act had been repealed, the tariffs were again in place, and Americans in New Orleans, rich and poor alike, flocked to the sales Laffite held at Barataria of tax free goods. Everyone likes a bargain! Taxation creates healthy black markets.

But when President Madison, unable to take the aggression of the English against our ships any longer, declared war against England, while completely unequipped to fight that war -- it was the smuggler and privateer Jean Laffite who saved the United States.

The British came to Laffite and offered to give him a title and land in their colonies, if only he helped them to defeat the Americans. Laffite sent word to the Americans about the location of the British. And what did the Americans do? They sent the Navy to attack Laffite, while leaving the British to carry out their planned attack on Ft. Bowyer and Mobile. Commodore Patterson of the Navy looted Laffite's stores and captured his ships, because Laffite was a dangerous smuggler and an enemy of the State, as he sold duty free goods. The American  Navy left Mobile defenseless in so doing. And when New Orleans was under attack, it was Laffite who came and donated flints and gunpowder, artillery and men to General Jackson's army. Without Laffite, the United States would have lost the Battle of New Orleans. Yet after the war,  all Laffite got was an empty pardon. His ships were not returned to him. They had been sold at auction for quick cash. He received no restitution for the goods looted from him.

This is how taxation works. It does not just destroy free markets by taxing goods. It also destroys the thing that the taxation is meant to benefit. When the Navy took Laffite's light vessels in their raid, they did not use these ships to fight the British. They sold them for money! They not only deprived Laffite of the ships he owned. They also deprived the American citizenry of the defense that those ships could have afforded us!

Every tax destroys the thing it taxes. Tariff destroys the ability to buy cheap goods from abroad, and it has the effect to keep local prices high. So the tax destroys what it seeks to protect.  By protecting the local economy from outside competition, you encourage high prices on domestic goods, which in turn will stifle local commerce. Tax on income, which was first introduced during the Civil War by both sides, then repealed, then re-instituted in the twentieth century -- an income tax destroys the market for commerce and the exchange of goods and services for currency. Social Security tax is the most regressive tax there is. It's a tax on the working poor -- for being poor and working. Sales tax discourages sales. Property tax makes owning property unaffordable. Inheritance taxes are a tax on death. FICA is a tax on employing people, and it encourages employers to go abroad to avoid it. And the ACA is a tax on existence!

There is no way to avoid the ACA, short of not existing. Do you exist? Then buy health insurance, and if you don't, if you can't, then we will tax you!

I know a young man who was eighteen years old last year, and working for a living, at the same time as he was also going to high school. His parents had moved out of state, but he chose to stay and finish high school where he had started. And he was living in an apartment with a roommate, attending high school, but also working full time. And no, he could not afford health insurance. So when he came to file his taxes at the start of this year, he checked the box that said he did not have health insurance. And the IRS kept all his withholding!

I told him that Trump had just announced that this part of the law would not be enforced this year, so he did not have to check the box. But he said he had already filed and it was too late. So the IRS kept the money they owed him, as a tax penalty, because he had no health insurance.

And they are saying that if we repeal that law, people will die!

PREACHING TO THE CONVERTED

I don't have to tell you that taxation is theft. -- that taxation destroys. We're Libertarians. We already know all of that. The question is: What can we do to convince everybody else?

Whenever I talk with fellow Libertarians about this, I hear that it's our job to "educate" the public. That makes it sound as if we think everybody else is just ignorant, and if we only present them with the facts, they'll suddenly understand. They'll see the light. And then they will join us and vote just like us.

I don't think it works that way. I have news for you. Other people are not stupid. They don't vote the way they do, because of ignorance. They are just as smart as we are. They are just as educated as we are. And we have to stop deluding ourselves this way.

Democrats are not stupid. Republicans are not stupid. Maybe even Green Party members are not stupid. They are not voting the way they do, because they don't understand how it damages other people. They are voting the way they do, because they believe that in the short run, it will help themselves.

And before we start moralizing against that, let's keep in mind that the free market is based on an ethic of immediate, short term self interest. And it works! It works, because that's the mechanism that we, as human beings, evolved under. We have not evolved so that each of us will see the big picture and so we can centrally plan for ourselves and everybody else. We evolved to do what was good for us in the immediate moment, and freedom works, because when everybody is minding his own business and doing what is good for himself, in the long run that is what is best for everybody! We help ourselves, and it ends up helping other people, too.

The problem is when the government de-couples cause and effect, and then most people who vote on a tax have no skin in the game.  They vote for taxes, but they don't experience those taxes. Instead, they are told they benefit from the revenue. We can't fix this by asking people to be altruists. They're human, just as you and I are human. And every one of us would choose our own well-being and that of our family, as we understand those things, over some sort of abstract justice or common good.

What we have to do is make sure that everybody has skin in the game when they are voting about taxation.

SKIN IN THE GAME

What does it mean to have skin in the game in the context of taxation? It means that you are voting to tax yourself just as much as your neighbors.

Take social security. It's a tax on the young. It's a tax on the working poor. Why on earth are there so many people who support this regressive tax? Why do so many Democrats support it? And Republicans, too?  Is it because they are ignorant of how it plunders the people who can least afford to lose any part of their income? Hardly. It's because they feel they would have too much to lose if this tax were repealed.

An older person who has been paying social security tax all his life ---

[At this point a white haired gentleman in the audience raised his hand. I called on him, and he said: "That's me. I've been paying into social security all my life....]

A person who has paid in all his life feels that he is vested in that money -- that it belongs to him, and he should receive the benefits he paid for. And I agree. He should definitely get not only what he paid in -- he should be paid back with interest. If that money were somewhere in the Treasury, just waiting to be redistributed, it should be given back to the people who paid in. But it's not there! It's not there at all. So the person who is vested in social security, who has paid in all his life, while his money was being given to other people, he thinks it's only fair that right now, young people should have to pay so that he can have his retirement  -- which he paid for. Yes, he is owed that money. But the young people of today are not the ones who owe him!

And most people in that situation, from a purely pragmatic position of self-interest, would choose to continue forcing young people to pay a highly regressive tax to fund their current retirement, because they are "owed". Because they paid in. Because they had had no choice at the time, so why should it be any different today for somebody else?

But the young people paying in today are in all likelihood never going to see that money again. By the time they are old, the system will have entirely collapsed. The first people who got their social security benefits hardly paid anything in. They got a big windfall. And the last people to pay in to social security will get nothing in return. That's the system.That's how it works.

But you can't ask the average Democrat or Republican to give up their social security benefits that they paid for out of an altruistic interest in the well being of the young. That's not going to happen.

Another example of skin in the game: Property taxes. If everybody who votes on property taxes actually had to pay property taxes, then the taxes would never go up.

I own a house in a very poor county. Texas County, Missouri. And in addition to the house I live in, I own  a house that I am currently trying to sell. I bought it to house interns who volunteered for Project Bow. But at one point, after the internship program ended, I had a woman who volunteered to sit with Bow, my chimp, if I would let her move into my other house. And it seemed like a pretty good deal. There was just one problem. She was a Liberal.

[laughter]

So I said: "Now, there's just one thing. If I let you live in my house rent free, then you need to promise me that if there is a bond election, or an election to raise property taxes, that you won't vote to raise my taxes. Because that could really hurt me." We live in a school tax district where there are only 363 people, so every vote counts. But she said: "I can't promise you that. There might be a really good reason to raise taxes!"

[laughter]

So I did not let her live in my house rent free.

This conversation opened my eyes to what is happening with property taxes. Because later, a friend of mine, married with four children, who lives in the Saint Louis area, complained to me that all her neighbors must be stupid, because they kept voting to raise the property taxes. "The referendum puts the tax hike in terms of cents on the dollar, so they don't seem to realize it will cost them thousands of dollars at the end of the year."

But I was not convinced that stupidity was the reason. I did some research on the demographics of the voters in her school district. Not all were homeowners. Some people who owned property in  the district lived outside the district and were not eligible to vote there. And some of the people who lived there did not own any house. And there was also low income housing, where the people who lived did not even pay their own rent. People who don't pay property taxes are not stupid. They vote for tax hikes not because they don't understand the mechanism. They vote because they want a nice school for their children, and they don't care how much other people will have to pay to make that happen.

People are not stupid. Low income people are not stupid. We won't change their minds by explaining things to them. They already know.

[A this point a woman in the audience raised her hand and asked: "But in the case of renters, don't you think they realize that the landlord is going to have to raise the rent if the taxes go up?"]

In the case of honest renters, yes, they most likely expect their rent will go up if the taxes go up. But there are places, like New York City, where there is rent control, and the rent can't go up, no matter how high the property taxes are. And in addition to that, there are the people who are in fact living in rented houses, but the government is paying their rent. So if someone else is paying the rent, even if you are a renter, then it's no skin off your nose if the property taxes -- and even the rent -- go up.

[The audience member who had asked the question nodded.]

I've had libertarian friends talk about the benefits of voluntaryism and how we should proselytize for that. But if we try to sell people the idea that they should  vote against their own immediate self-interest, then we are no better than missionaries trying to sell altruism. It will not work.

In order for people to vote for a free market, the tax system has to be fair. Otherwise, we have the old pitted against the young,  the poor against the rich, the sick against the healthy, and everybody loses

A FAIR TAX IS A TAX THAT LENDS ITSELF TO REPEAL

Many libertarians, such as Governor Gary Johnson, support a repeal of income tax and its replacement with a national sales and use tax called the Fair Tax. I do not. But I do acknowledge that as our local sales tax is currently set up, it is the fairest tax that we have. My goal is to eliminate tax altogether, but I think it will be easier to do that when taxes are fair. And sales tax is most fair right now because it apples to everybody the same way: young and old, rich and poor, healthy and unhealthy. Because of this, it's still possible to occasionally take a sales tax holiday, and for that holiday to affect everyone the same way. When we all have the same amount of skin in the game, we are more likely to cooperate with one another to keep from being skinned.

In Missouri, we have a law already on the books that allows local municipalities, tax districts, townships and counties to take a tax holiday for back to school sales. But oddly enough, fewer and fewer local taxing entities are taking advantage of the tax holiday.

Last year, I wanted to buy my daughter, who was then a senior in  high school, a laptop to use in school. I was hoping to buy it in Houston, Missouri, at the local Wal*Mart. But it turned out that neither Texas County nor Houston had taken advantage of the tax holiday. So I had to drive all the way to Rolla to buy the laptop and take advantage of the tax break.

http://stonegaitinstitute.org/2016/08/12/why-are-local-governments-opting-out-of-tax-holidays/

[At this point in the talk, I turned to Rebekah, who had written up the above piece,  to ask her: "Rebekah, you spoke to the local tax officials in my county about this. What was the reason they gave you for not taking the tax holiday?"

Rebekah: They wanted the revenue.]

They wanted the revenue!! We live in a poor county. We have poor constituents. But they wanted the revenue! If they had taken the tax holiday, people from outside our county might have come in to our stores to buy things, bringing with them many more dollars, some of which would have been taxed in our local gas stations and fast food restaurants. There would have been more revenue for all, including the local government. But our local representatives  would not let that happen.

If you are a libertarian candidate in Missouri for local office, talk to your constituents about tax holidays. This is an issue that everyone can get behind, because it affects everyone equally. If we take a local tax holiday, consumers win, merchants win, and even local government wins. It's a win-win-win proposition.

But that's not all we can do.

TAX HOLIDAYS, TAX FREE ZONES, JUBILEE YEARS

Tax holidays are one way we can get a very small taste of freedom. But there are other ways that we can try to work toward. All operate on the same principle: that where all are released equally from the yoke of taxation, there is a chance to further the cause of liberty.

Tax free zones are an idea I have been working on that is based on the model of duty free zones. Suppose we could designate an unicorporated area of the state -- someplace where no business is currently being conducted, because it is almost uninhabited -- as a sales tax free zone. Can you imagine how many people will flock to that place just do their shopping? Can you see how many new businesses would be opened overnight?  By demonstrating the way freedom works in a small way in a tiny area, we can create an oasis of freedom that will make others want to follow suit. Think of Laffite's Barataria, but without the threat of assault from the Revenue Service!

And once we have been able to model taxlessness on a small scale locally by eliminating sales tax periodically, we can then proceed on a grander scale, with Jubilee Years when everyone is freed from the Income Tax for one year out of seven.

Rather than demanding our freedom all at once, we can ask that we be given no fewer rights than Hebrew slaves had in the Old Testament to be set free on the seventh year of our service. (For English version: see Exodus 21:2)

Can you imagine how much good relief from taxation for only one year out of seven might do?


WE LEARN LIBERTY BY EXPERIENCING LIBERTY

We don't achieve liberty by explaining economic theory or preaching that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Perspective shifting is hard, and people cannot imagine themselves in other people's shoes. They are not altruists, and they will not willingly give up benefits that they currently receive at someone else's expense. But people feel all too well those things that happen to themselves. Being freed from the yoke has an immediate and lasting impact. Liberty has to be tasted, before  people hunger for it.

The problem is not education or lack of education . It's experience. Americans right now are possibly the least educated people in the Western world, but those who are much better educated long to come here, if they live in a place that is less free. My father when he came to the United States was a world class physicist, but he had never seen such freedom. There were coins in circulation made of real silver! You could go to a store and buy a gun, no questions asked. Flying lessons were so cheap! He'd always wanted to fly, and even though there were already some regulations, it was still so much easier than anywhere else. This is what made him want to come here -- not education.

The Founding Fathers were the same. They had been left free as Colonists to live much more freely than the people back home in Britain. They were like children enjoying a day without maternal supervision. And when the mother country wanted to put them under its thumb, they rebelled.

Yes, the Founding Fathers were much better educated than the average American today, but perhaps the causation is misconstrued. Maybe they were better educated because they were free, rather than free because they were educated.

Give people a taste of freedom, and they will want more. That's what we need to do with tax holidays, tax free zones, and Jubilee Years. Once the people taste freedom, they will long to be free all the time.

Questions
 '

Ben Brixey: Don't you think that if there's a year without tax, then the next year they will just raise the tax to make up for that?

Answer: Yes. You are probably right. But think how much more pronounced the difference between the tax free year and the next year will be, if they do that! It will make people rebel, which is what we want!

[laughter]

Greg Tlapek: Spanish retirement is called  jubilación, It refers to when someone works an entire lifetimes and goes into retirement. What is the connedtion to the Jubilee Year?

Answer: In the Old Testament, many of the provisions for humane treatment were intended for slaves. That's because the OT describes a society where slavery was legal. But because it was legal, provisions in the law were written in to protect slaves from being overworked. So, for instance, the  Sabbath was not meant to protect free men. It was for your slave and your ass and your ox. It was for those poor souls who could not  on their own decide when to take a break or when they could stop working. There were also provisions to set slaves free every seventh year. And I think we could use the same idea --as we are slaves to the government -- to take a year off. Retirement in the example you mentioned is also a kind of setting free from work.


Linguistic Note:   The word Jubilee year in English has two possible, conflicting derivations. It derives from Hebrew יובל, ram or by extension ram's horn, but it sounds also a lot like the latin word to be jubilant or happy. The grand Jubilee refers to a fifty year celebration, right after seven times seven years (49) of smaller jubilees, when not only Hebrew slaves were set free, but even foreign ones were released. I don't think we need to go too deeply into the intricacies of this ancient  law to borrow this term for a tax holiday of one year in seven.
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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Can You Still Be a Libertarian While Endorsing a Republican Candidate?

Austin Petersen is running for Senator from Missouri as a Republican. I am endorsing him. I even changed my Facebook profile picture to show solidarity with his campaign. The image is taken from the larger painting   "A Happy Day at the Libertarian Convention". It was based on my experiences in Orlando last year.



But now Austin Petersen is running as a Republican. So what does that make me? A liberty lover, as always. It's no different from that time not too long ago when Ron Paul was running for president as a Republican. I did everything I possibly could for him, including serving as a delegate to the local Republican Convention. We never got out of our County, though, because the local Republicans voted for Rick Santorum. Later, after the huge disappointment that Ron Paul was not even allowed to speak at the National Republican Convention, our local group of Ron Paul supporters split up. It turns out that some of them went on to vote Democrat, and some voted Republican, and some voted Libertarian. I was one of the latter.

 The first time I voted for Gary Johnson for president, it was because Ron Paul lost the Republican primary. The second time I voted for Gary Johnson, it was because Austin Petersen lost the Libertarian primary. I never voted for Gary Johnson as a first choice, but only as a last resort, when all else was lost.

But now I am supporting Petersen in his run to win the Republican nomination for Claire McCaskill's senate seat. I would have supported him if he were running as a Libertarian. Or as a Democrat. Or an Independent. My support does not mean that anything about my beliefs, my ideals or my politics has changed. I am just as Republican now as I was back when I did my all for Ron Paul. And I am just as libertarian as I was then!

Some people are now criticizing Petersen for having too many out-of-state supporters. They seem to be gearing up to smear him for that, the way Trump is now criticized for having "Russian support." I, however, am not an out-of-state supporter. I am local. I live right here in the Missouri Ozarks. I am proud to support one of our own.

And if you would like to hear what I think about taxation (and how it is theft), you can come hear me talk at the Missouri Libertarian Convention in Jefferson City, MO, on July 22! I am an invited speaker.


The event will take place at the Hilton Doubletree in Jefferson City.


Come hear me talk, and feel free to ask me anything you like about libertarianism -- or how principles are more important than parties.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Anti-Romanticism




Note: This is a Vlog Post, so the text comes from the embedded videos. It is therefore in a spoken rather a written register of English.



So... I was listening [to] and watching a lecture by Alain de Botton that was delivered somewhere in Australia, I think at an opera house. And he was giving his usual message, which is really an anti-individualist message. But a lot of people don't realize it, because it is couched in such humanistic language that a lot of people are, in fact, attracted to it. And the point of his lecture was that it does not matter who you end up with, that you can love anyone, and that Romantic love is probably something that we were conditioned to feel by literature, but it's not real, and that in fact there are probably a lot of people walking around pretending that they're in love, because they think they can't be in a relationship unless they are in love. But it's okay, you don't have to pretend anymore. The secret is out. It's not real. 

I do think that there's a lot of truth to what he says. and that's why it resonates with people. But it's not true for everybody, and that's part of the problem. 

He says that we are now in the Age of Romantic Love, and then he gives an example from Flaubert's Madame Bovary to sow ow awful it is. But, of course, Flaubert was not a romanticist. He was an anti-romanticist. He was a realist, and he was on the same bandwagon as de Botton. He just wanted to tear apart the image of romantic love and show how silly it was.

In fact, maybe a higher percentage of the world's population is not given to romantic love, because they're not limerent. And it does not ave specifically to do with love, It also has to do with preferences.

Some of us have very strong preferences -- on everything.  We know exactly what kind of pizza we like. We know what movies we like.  We're in love with certain characters in movies and television and books. And we are totally not interested in other movies and other television shows and other books. We have strong preferences, and we won't change that.  And then there are other people who just go by trends. Their favorite clothing is whatever happens to be fashionable today. Their favorite show is the one that is popular today.  They're going to read the latest novel on the best seller list, because it's on the best seller list, and they want to be able to discuss it at parties with other people. And it doesn't matter whether they like the book or not, but they're very open, and being open like that, they just don't have a preference.

Even something like "What's your favorite color" is a question that not everybody has an answer to. You can say that we were conditioned by society to think that we're supposed to have a favorite color, and if we don't have one --- well, we make one up. And, of course, if we don't have one, and we make up the favorite color, today it could be red; tomorrow it could be blue. And somebody for whom the whole question of favorite color is important might think: "This person is lying to me. Yesterday his favorite color was red. Today it's blue. He's lying! He's keeping the real favorite color a secret from me." We often have that kind of a clash with people for whom some things are just not that important.

So when I was watching that lecture, here's what it reminded me of. In 1976, during the Bicentennial, I visited England, and at the time I had a best friend. So I was obsessed with this best friend, because I am one of those limerent people, and I was having a conversation with my host in London, and I was going on and on, and I said "My friend" -- let's call her Suzie. That's not her real name, but let's call her that. "So Suzie said this about that. And Suzie really likes to do this." And on and on.  Almost every subject that we brought up, that we were talking about, I inserted something about Suzie. And finally -- kind of -- he was laughing silently to himself. So I asked him: "Why are you laughing?" And he said: "Well, you keep talking about Suzie all the time." And I said: "Yes, because she's my friend. Don't you have any friends?" And he said: "Yes, I have many friends. But I'm not obsessed with them."

Okay. Well, that's just it. To me, if you had a friend, you pretty much had to be obsessed with that person. Otherwise, it's not your friend. I either like somebody a lot or I don't like them at all.

For most people, it's not like that. And I think it's like that with everything in their lives. You can talk to them about what profession they would like to be in, or what profession they are in, and they're not going to be passionate about it, and you might get the impression they don't like their job, but that's not actually the case. They like to work. They like the workplace. They like to socialize with other people in the workplace. They may be perfectly happy and content with their jobs, but they are not in love with their job. They're not obsessed. They might be married. They might be happily married. They might have a spouse who they truly -- they have a very nice arrangement going. And they're not ever going to get a divorce, and they're very content, but you won't get the impression that they're in love, because, in fact,  they're not in love. But that does not mean that nobody is ever in love.

Rather than it being a new thing that we suddenly realize that romantic love is a falsehood, and that really we should make reasonable choices about a mate, this has been ongoing. When I was teenager, that's exactly what my Great Aunt told me, that's exactly what I heard from everyone, including my friend Suzie -- which is not her real name.

Okay. So, what did Suzie say? She said that she could fall ,,, I mean, that she could marry -- she wasn't talking about falling in love at all. She thought the romantic ideal was wrong. She was a Christian. She was an Episcopalian, and she believed in loving everyone, and she thought she could be a very good wife to any man, provided that he were normal. Now, of course, I had no idea what she meant by normal. But just so you understand her situation, let's backtrack to Suzie's early childhood.

So Suzie's parents were happily married and had four children. And everything was going well, and her father was a professor at a university, and he was content with his family life, but this was maybe in the sixties -- I mean, it was in the sixties -- and he kind of got flower fever. And one day, he turned to his wife, Suzie's mom, and he said: "I love you. And I love the children. But I don't want to do this anymore. So how about I quit my job, and I get a motorcycle -- maybe we get two motorcycles -- and we tour the country with our four kids on the back of the motorcycle. Wouldn't that be a much better way of living?"

And his wife, Suzie's mom, looked at him and said: "You're crazy. I want a divorce."

Okay, so this is the background to Suzie. Suzie's mom took her four children to the town where Suzie's dad's parents were, and raised them as best she could on her own.

And Suzie was thinking: "I don't want this to happen. I don't want a flower child." So she was looking for somebody with nice conservative values, a good Christian, with whom she could form a family, and it didn't matter that he wasn't necessarily the guy that she was most attracted to, or anything like that. 




Okay, getting back to Suzie. She found the kind of man that she was looking for. And they married. And they lived in a small university town, And they had five children. And everything was going very well. She was homeschooling; he was a good provider. And then, one day, after some of the older children were teenagers, he came home and said: "I love you, Suzie. And I love the children. I don't want to change anything, except that I've met this young woman, and I'd like to bring her into our family, and have her live with us as my concubine, just like in the Bible."

And Suzie said: "You're crazy! And I want a divorce."

Now, Alain de Botton, one of his pet theories is that you can go and see what's wrong with what you are looking for in a mate, because you are probably looking for the exact same way that you were treated in your childhood, or you're looking for something from your childhood, something familiar. You're not actually looking for happiness. You're looking for familiarity. And so, if you had a cold, unfeeling parental figure, then you're looking for a cold, unfeeling parental-- I mean, sexual mate. And that's why you should not listen to your feelings. That's what he says: "You don't --You should not listen to your feelings, because you are just trying to repeat your childhood." 

But I think it's a little more complicated than that, if we look at Suzie's story. She was looking for somebody who was not like her father. Her father was an intellectual; so she was looking for somebody who was very religious and traditional. Her father was happy-go-lucky, and she was looking for somebody who would be responsible. She was looking for the exact opposite. She was trying to avoid the things that had happened in her childhood. And it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because what ended up happening was amazingly similar to what happened to her mother. But maybe the thing that made it happen isn't that the man was not normal. 

It's really actually pretty normal to want that. It's fairly normal to at one point in your life, about mid-life -- to reexamine everything. And to think "Well,  maybe I don't really like my job that much." That's not unusual. And that's what happened with Suzie's father. It's also not that unusual for a man at mid-life to cboose a younger woman. It's actually kind of unusual to say: "No, I don't want to abandon my existing family." To say: "I still love you, and I just want this extra thing." And if we are conditioned by the society that we live in to do anything, it's that we expect to not renegotiate the contract, and if somebody tries to renegotiate the contract midway, then we say: "No. You're crazy." And also we don't consider other marriage patterns than the ones that we have become accustomed to. Even though, we might be religious, we might read the Bible all day long and not notice that's what's going on there. So I would say: "Suzie, read your Bible more closely!"

I'm not saying that I have the answer. The problem is, it's kind of like this prophecy in ancient literature, where you hear that your son is going to kill you when he grows up, and you think: "Well, let's try to avoid that!" So you take the baby, and you expose him on a mountain top, not realizing that the gods and all the animals are going to save the baby, and then the baby comes back, and he's fully grown, and he doesn't know that you're his father, so he kills you. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Maybe the answer is not to not listen to your feelings. Maybe you should listen to your feelings more closely.



Somebody asked Alain de Botton after that lecture that I saw: "So what would be a good way to choose a mate? Do you think that Tinder works? Do you think all of these new-fangled ways of selecting a  mate -- Do you think that that helps us find the right person?" And he said: "No, there is no right person, and I think this emphasis on choice is wrong.  You should understand that you should be capable of loving anyone, if you learn how to love. And in fact you should be willing to marry a leper. In fact, it would be great if everybody married a leper!" And he laughed.

Okay. I have a very big problem with this. And it's not because I am prejudiced against lepers. Lepers are people, too. But each leper is a different person. And so, even if you decide that you are going to a leper colony and you are going to marry a leper, it matters very much which leper you choose. 

The idea that you should look for somebody with a disability and that that disability defines that person is one of the most evil things that there could possibly be.