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."


  • 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. 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!


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.


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.


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!"


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


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.

[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 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 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.


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!


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.

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


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. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Shortages, Migrations and Rationing

Humans have migrated every time they found that they did not have enough of something they needed to live. Instead of trying to fix their environment, they moved to a place where things were better for them.

More recently, when facing shortages, people do not consider moving. Instead, rationing and redistribution are ways in which such shortages are handled.

"What if Florida goes underwater due to global warming?" People ask this question, as if by asking it, it will make us all want to work hard to prevent the globe from warming up.  As if we could! As if we were that powerful! But isn't the answer obvious: If Florida goes underwater, then people who live there will move someplace else that is more habitable -- Greenland, maybe, if it suddenly becomes green.

Insuring the public against natural disasters has the effect of making life unbearably expensive. If every time a city built below sea level is flooded, it is rebuilt at public expense, if every time a public school built on a flood plain washes away, it is re-built by the taxpayers, then people will never see the wisdom of moving on and going to a place where things are better for them.

Living in a warm place where you need not heat in winter is desirable. Having fruit just growing on the trees, ripe for the picking, is nice. When too many people move into the same place, resources get depleted, as happened in the dust bowl, or in Middle East,  that used to be a place flowing with milk and honey. It was fertile and green there then, but now is arid and desert-like. Yes, we do, at least to some extent, destroy the paradise that we thrive in. But as people with a rich hunter-gatherer heritage, our basic instinct is sound: after you foul the nest, move on to someplace cleaner.

Are we trying to escape ourselves? Absolutely not. We are trying to escape each other. Like Pa Ingalls, we know that when the other people arrive in droves, then it is time to move on. Good neighbors are those we only see occasionally.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Laissez Faire in All Things

Lately, I have been experimenting with turning some of my essays into videos. Not everybody likes to read. Some people prefer being read to. Here is the latest video in this vein.

The text of this video can be found here. 

Ostensibly, the above video falls into the genre of the self-help, since it is a response to a similar effort by The School of Life. But at heart, what I am trying to say is the same as in this essay about nature and the free market. 

Th text to this video can be found here

I don't think that people who believe in socialism came up with that belief in a vacuum. I think it permeates their understanding of everything. They think it applies to love, to family, to society and even to nature. I keep getting inundated with ads from Jane Goodall. The latest one was to the effect that if I send her enough money, then "nature can win!"

Sorry, Jane, but nature always wins.  It does not need money from me or you  to function. We are a part of nature. There is no way to escape it. Nature's code of laws is self-enforcing. Any attempt to get away from the natural consequences of our actions is futile. But if we just go with the flow, if we just let things be, then we can be the beneficiaries of the consequences of sequences of events that cascade all by themselves.

Love is like that, too. It's not necessary to second guess everything. We don't need less ego to enjoy it. We can just understand this one simple thing: taking and giving happen simultaneously without "exploitation" when you just allow people to do what comes naturally. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Not Anti-War But Anti-Tyranny

War can be hell. But it is also something that many young men look forward to so they can test their mettle, men like Alexander Hamilton, who in a 1769 letter to a friend wrote: "I wish there was a war." (He apparently had not yet mastered the subjunctive.) In times of peace, young men often wish for war. In times of war, all men wish for peace.

Here is a song by Leslie Fish explaining why the wish for total peace, if granted, would lead to tyranny. We all want peace, but not at the price of a one world government.

Is it wrong to long for a war to break out just to gratify one's personal wish to go to war? Well, it is if you start a war just to make that happen! It is if you conscript and/or tax others to serve in that war without their consent. But it's not wrong,  if you are a privateer or a mercenary, and you offer your services to those who want them and would be willing to pay.

Who should pay for waging war? Those who want to wage war. That way we can put a cap on it. But it is not wrong for a young warrior to long to serve. It is not wrong for men and women who have that calling to pursue it.

In the video embedded below, I read from Nathan Alterman's poem "אמרה חרב הנצורים" --"Said the Sword of the Besieged".  The poem is from the point of view of a sword being wielded in a hopeless last battle, in which the warrior is killed.

In the discussion that ensues after the reading, my father, Amnon Katz, says: "The sword's entire purpose is battle. And it is happy to fulfill its purpose. Even under these tragic circumstances. But we get the impression that also the one who wields the sword is privy to these values and to this experience, to the glory of this bitter and awful hour." Is it wrong for a young man to long for battle? To sign up for voluntary military service? To hope for glory?

Both Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton served in the American Revolution. Both distinguished themselves. But Aaron Burr wanted always to be on the front lines, so when he was offered a desk job by George Washington, he turned it down. Hamilton was ambitious for advancement, so he took that job.

Both Jean Laffite and Aaron Burr served the US as volunteers. Neither of them did it for a "free" college education or for a salary. Laffite was never reimbursed for his contribution or for those things that were taken from him by force. For years, Aaron Burr was destitute after being persecuted by Jefferson, but as a veteran he was not entitled to a military pension. Finally, when Burr was very old, President Jackson granted him a small pension.

Is all war bad? Or only some wars? Is getting paid for war always bad? Shouldn't our soldiers be paid?

There are some Libertarians who seem to have serious problems with the idea that military service could be entered into in the hopes of going into battle or for pay.  In the video embedded below. Austin Petersen and Larry Sharpe discuss a recent anti-military statement by the Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party.

Not all libertarians are anti-military or anti-war. "Did you agree to kill people for money?" Austin Petersen asks Larry Sharpe.  Sharpe replied "War is evil. War is bad. ...Would I join now? No. I'm also not 17 years old anymore."

But is it wrong to be 17 years old and long to serve? I don't think so.  Should soldiers expect always to be penniless and to go begging when they are in want?

Why do we honor our soldiers only when we see them as poor and without compensation for their service? Why do we think that they deserve less than teachers or doctors? Is it because we are uncomfortable with the work they do? Or is it because public funding for anything corrupts?

Let us honor our soldiers and work toward a free country where they can ply their trade with their heads held high and with compensation that is not dependent on taxation.  We do not want a standing army, but we do need to have warriors who are well trained and ready to fight for us. If we repeal the Neutrality Act and the Logan Act, we can restore the freedom that volunteer soldiers like Aaron Burr fought for in the Revolutionary War!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

On the Plains of Negev

This is my English translation of "בערבות הנגב". I translated it from the only version I knew, which was in Hebrew. But... the history is more complicated.  This song came out in Hebrew in 1948, but apparently it is just a version of a Russian song that was written in 1943:  На опушке леса "On the Edge of the Woods". Who knew?

If you see me smiling at one point when I am singing, it is because I realize my translation of that line is really awkward.

Israeli war songs  are so different from any song I have heard in America. I have looked for songs about grieving mothers, but have not yet found one about how she raised up her son to keep her people free or about how another soldier can replace him. Most of the songs I have heard have two salient differences from this one:

  1. The loss of the son or other loved one is seen as only personal and not national.
  2. There is usually some mention of reunion in an afterlife.
For people who see death as final, it takes a completely different outlook to accept this kind of loss. 

Related Posts

My English lyrics can be read here

This is my analysis of some of the issues with this song:

This is the guy who wrote the Hebrew version:

Here is all the info on the Hebrew song:

The lyrics in Russian can be found here:

There is also a closer translation to Hebrew of the original Russian words:

Monday, May 15, 2017

You Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for. But no, don't read that with the accent on "pay". Of course, you have to pay. Everyone knows that you can't get anything without somebody paying for it. Yet people are always hoping that somebody else will pay for them.  So even though we all agree that you get what you pay for, most give that line the wrong reading. It's not "You get what you pay for." It's "You get what you pay for."

This is certainly true when it comes to the defense of your country, as well as the defense of a legal case. You cannot expect to get proper representation unless the person who holds the purse strings is the person being defended.

If it's not the person who eats the dog food who pays for the dog food, the dog food may not end up being fit for a dog to eat.  That's even though the person paying for the dog food has very good intentions. It's not the amount of money that is spent that matters, nor the intentions of the one spending it. The Wedel chocolates will be ruined, if the free market does not serve as quality control.

I've seen people arguing that if the accused  is entitled to a free defense -- to have an attorney appointed for him -- then a sick person should be entitled to free health care, too. If the one is a "right", why shouldn't the other be a "right"? Well, neither is really a right, because the doctor and the lawyer still need to agree to serve. Yes, I know, the government can pay them.  But nothing that we don't personally pay for is going to be the same in value as what that amount of money could purchase if wielded by the ultimate consumer. That is the aspect of laissez faire that socialists don't grasp.

Ask anyone accused of a crime how helpful his PD is. Ask veterans dependent on the VA how great the service they receive is. Ask any dog whether he would rather eat dog food or your leftovers. You get what you pay for. What you personally pay for.

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Appearance, Review and Bio

I will be a featured speaker, along with Will Coley and Bill Redpath at the 2017 Missouri Libertarian State Convention on July 22, 2017 in Jefferson City. My topic will be "Show Me What You want to Tax and I Will Show You What You Will Destroy."

I am very excited about this opportunity, Meanwhile, though we did not get a public celebration of the 200th anniversary of the  founding of Galveston this April, a new review of Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain has come out this year by a Top 100 Amazon Reviewer.

There is also an new biographical entry in the LPedia about me as a libertarian author.

For me, 2017 will be a year not for writing new books, but for speaking out about the books I have already written. The new audio version of Vacuum County as read by Kelly Clear should be out in late August. And perhaps for the first time, my writings will have a clear genre designation in which they legitimately belong: libertarian.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Random Acts of Kindness

There are many disadvantages to being visibly different from other people. One possibility is that you will be bullied. But another, equally unpleasant one is that someone will decide to target you for a random act of kindness.

Yes, there is a movement like that. It's been going on for a long time, since before I was born. And the idea behind it is that if we all practice unexpected small acts of  kindness toward strangers, we will be living in a much better world. Practitioners of random acts of kindness are well meaning, but incredibly thoughtless.  Because of that, if we overreact to their kindness, they are likely to go ballistic. So if it ever happens to you, the best thing you can do is set them straight very softly, so as not to set them off. There is nothing like a would-be good Samaritan to become enraged if you reject his random act of kindness, no matter how bad it makes you feel.

The first time I was subjected to a random act of kindness, I was seven years old and in a public swimming pool. I had just learned how to swim, and my movements were still very jerky. My father was in the pool with me, supervising from a distance, but not interfering with my progress. Suddenly a strange man that I had never seen before swooped in, carried me aloft and deposited me on the other side of the pool. That was really scary. And then when he explained that he thought I was drowning, it just got very embarrassing. My father thanked him for his help, and eventually we laughed about it. But it was still an unpleasant thing to have happened. I will never forget it.

Random acts of kindness are based on the idea that without knowing someone, his situation, his abilities and disabilities and the subtle context of his life, you can decide what would be best for him and just swoop in and do whatever you like to him, without his permission. It's really no different from kidnapping, except that you mean well. In the case where they refuse to take your money for a service or give you money that you have no way to refuse, that is a kind of assault that we don't even have a name for.

Take the example of a professor who returns to the US from abroad and finds himself at Yale on a snowy day dressed in sandals, because he has just come back from a place with a different climate. Let's say his clothes are wrinkled from the long flight, and his hair is disheveled. He walks into a Payless Shoe Source to get snow shoes, but the clerk there becomes convinced that this is his moment to shine in a random act of kindness. The clerk is a young African American man, very well groomed and dressed for success. He is also a church-goer, and he sees the professor who walks into his store as a needy person. "Why are you wearing sandals? Have you just had an operation?" he starts to ask. "No," the professor answers distractedly. Because nothing that the professor says or does makes sense to the clerk, he becomes convinced that this strangely dressed man is a homeless person -- possibly retarded. When he offers to give him the shoes for free, and the professor refuses, he starts to take offense, because he thinks maybe this white homeless man is prejudiced against blacks, and that's why he's refusing his generous random act of kindness. "I go to church," he starts to say. "I'm a good person!" It does not help that the professor tells him he earns a great more than he does and does not need his charity. The good Samaritan is now insulted!

Or how about the case of the elderly woman with white hair and very plain clothes who does not  accept that the person behind her wants to pay for her groceries in an orchestrated act of kindness by a Church group during the Christmas holidays. She's not going to tell the stranger that she is well-off and set for life. She was brought up to be modest in her dress and to not brag about her wealth so as not to arouse envy. But how to deal with people who think they know who is in need based only on their outer appearance?

These are all true stories.  In each case, the random act of kindness is like a slap in the face to someone who had no idea he looked so helpless and in need to other people. And what makes it worse is that we are not allowed to get angry, for fear of offending our would-be benefactor, because the benefactor belongs to a majority religion or a particular ethnic group.

I have been trying to warn my well-meaning friends who practice random acts of kindness that they may be hurting others in the process, but so far I don't think anyone understands what I am saying. They are so into charity and good works that they think this is all about "selfishness". But who exactly is the selfish one here? Is it the person refusing unwanted help or the benefactor who hopes to store up points to go to heaven by forcing himself on others?

The person you pity based on their appearance, clothes or behavior may indeed be missing your physical coordination, social skills or fashion sense, but they might have advantages that you don't even know about. They might be a mathematical genius or wealthy beyond your imagining. But since you won't bother to get to know them before bestowing your kindness on them, there is no way for you to find that out. You figure if they look weird, they need help. The random act of kindness is ultimately motivated by the same instincts as those of the bully: to level differences and to enforce uniformity. The only way to avoid other people's pity is to act and look exactly the way society says we should. Otherwise, you never know when someone might mistake you for his inferior and swoop down to help you unbidden.

All people need respect and friendship and love. But you can't help strangers by just throwing money at them or fishing them out of the water, because they have not mastered the breast stroke yet. Random kindness is not too different from random violence. It's rude and thoughtless and causes pain to others, because it just stresses the difference between and among people. Don't do it. Resist the urge. The kindest thing you can do for a stranger is to leave them alone, unless they ask for help.