Category Archive 'Libertarianism'
13 Dec 2013

Barbara Branden (née Weidman, May 14, 1929 – December 11, 2013)

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Barbara Branden, first biographer of Ayn Rand, died Wednesday at age 84. Astonishingly a laudatory obituary written by James Peron was published on the Puffington Host .

One of the great figures in modern libertarianism has died today: Barbara Branden. Barbara, 84, was born in Winnipeg, Canada. It was there that she met her husband, Nathaniel Branden. And, while the couple divorced, Barbara was close to Nathaniel her entire life.

Barbara and Nathaniel became friends because of their mutual admiration for Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. While a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, Nathaniel wrote a fan letter to Rand, who worked as a scriptwriter in the area. Rand called him and invited him to visit her home. On the second visit he brought Barbara with him. They married in 1954.

During the writing of Atlas Shrugged, Barbara was one of the small circle of friends allowed to read the manuscript while it was in process. In 1958 she and Nathaniel organized the Nathaniel Branden Institute, to present systematic presentations of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Barbara gave a series of lectures on Principles of Efficient Thinking.

She and Nathaniel divorced but remained friends for the rest of their lives. In 1984 she published a biography of Rand, The Passion of Ayn Rand, which was later made into a film with Helen Mirren and Eric Stoltz. Barbara was not entirely pleased with the film.

Barbara remained active in Objectivist and libertarian circles for her entire life. She offered a nuanced, always sympathetic perspective on Ayn Rand. While sometimes critical, she never lost her admiration for Ayn. Even though the Brandens had an acrimonious split with Rand, after a relationship between Ayn and Nathaniel ended, Barbara always told me that, knowing everything she knew then, she would do it all over again.

27 Oct 2013

That Tea Party Conspiracy

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Hat tip to Vanderleun.

02 Aug 2013

Good Arguments

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Pretty Naomi Broadwell looks at immigration the way I do.

Hat tip to John Hinderaker.

29 Apr 2013

The Major Ills of the World”

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Henry Grady Weaver (1889–1949) worked as a mechanic, salesman, and draftsman before becoming director of customer research for General Motors. He was placed on the cover of the November 14, 1938 issue of Time magazine.

From The Mainspring of Human Progress, 1947:

“Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet formula of their own. The harm done by ordinary criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings by the professional do-gooders, who attempt to set themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly force their views on all others with the abiding assurance that the end justifies the means.”

22 Feb 2013

Coulter in Good Form

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The always-combative Ann Coulter takes on John Stossel before an audience of liberaltarian kiddies, whose prime issues happen to be legalized pot and Gay Marriage.

I’m a libertarian myself, and entirely in favor of abolishing all drug laws, but I do agree with Ann Coulter that there are currently larger issues under contention. I also agree with her that soi disant “libertarians” today far too commonly are a lot more interested in cosying up to the left-wing community of fashion on social issues than fighting against Socialism and Statism. I think she is quite right in calling them pussies.

As to Gay Marriage, Coulter is again perfectly right. Universal Marriage Equality currently exists. Everyone has exactly the same right to marry as anybody else.

It is not “equality” to redefine a fundamental institution in order to gratify the fantasies and pretensions of a subculture self-organised on the basis of a shared penchant for participating in sexually perverted activities.

Gay Marriage is not about equality. It is about securing formal recognition and approval of sexual perversity by government and making the moral and social equality of inversion enforceable by the state. And, like Ann Coulter, my own position is to hell with that. The rest of us may owe the sodomitically-inclined tolerance of private activities involving consenting adults, but we do not owe them public approval or the coercive modification of the moral opinions of American society in general.

One wishes this debate had been better-formatted and more substantive, but Coulter’s “take no prisoners” approach is always fun to watch.

15 Jun 2012

You Know What Software Engineers are Like

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Hat tip to Rick Sincere.

31 May 2012

Rooting For the Koch Brothers to Win at Cato

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CATO’s Massachusetts Avenue building in DC

I was reading this morning The Washingtonian’s gossipy account of the ongoing Ed Crane-Koch Brothers struggle for control of Cato Institute. The saga was a predictable enough story revolving around the often-inevitable friction produced by the interaction of colorful personalities and over-sized egos.

“Why can’t we all just get along?” I was wondering to myself until I came up to the part of the account describing what is usually spoken of as “the Koch Brothers’ nefarious attempt to pack Cato’s board with non-libertarians.”

In December 2010, Charles Koch called the first meeting of Cato’s shareholders since 1981. Cato now had four shareholders: Charles and David Koch, Ed Crane, and William Niskanen, Cato’s aging chairman emeritus. The Kochs used their shares to appoint two new directors to Cato’s board: Nancy Pfotenhauer and Kevin Gentry.

Crane and Niskanen were stunned. Pfotenhauer was a former spokesperson for Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign. She had supported the Iraq War and the Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy—positions that run counter to libertarian ideals. Kevin Gentry was vice chairman of the Virginia Republican Party and a top executive at the Charles Koch Foundation.

“Whatever they are, they are not libertarians,” says Bob Levy, Cato’s board chairman.

And, then I blew my top.

I have always considered myself a libertarian. Regular readers here will observe the appearance of regular postings indicating a strong sentimental attachment to Ayn Rand. I’m opposed to Big Government, most taxes and regulation, and all victimless crime laws. If it were up to me, we’d roll just about all of our ways of doing things right back to the point they were at before the Progressive Movement came along. In my ideal America, the federal government would occupy a campus the size of one of those affluent California high schools and you could buy heroin from vending machines with gold coins featuring images of Indians, mythical beings, and Big Game animals.

But, lo and behold, I find today that, according to Ed Crane and the merry band of liberaltarians at Cato, if you are not a peace creep/pacifist and a subscriber to the homosexual political movement’s complete agenda, you have been re-defined, at some point in time when I wasn’t paying attention, as “not a libertarian.”

Well, Go, Koch Brothers! is all I have to say. The sooner control of so-called libertarian institutions is returned to libertarians who are still part of the Conservative Movement the better.

My own opinion is that the left-leaning soi disant libertarians who eagerly hasten to defend the supposed rights of terrorists and the cause of America’s overseas enemies, the kind of libertarians who embrace the use of government for coercive social engineering, the kind of libertarians who prize moral latitudinarianism and egalitarianism above liberty represent essentially a kind of liberal fifth column, functioning most effectively in confusing the issues and dividing the opposition to statism and the Jacobin left.

20 Feb 2012

War on Drugs

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One of my commenters responded to my expressing support for legalizing drugs:

Lets assume your motive is constitutional and not because you are a drug user. I think then we can agree on a few things:
1) Most of the drugs that are now illegal are harmful and possibly fatal to use as prescribed. I doubt you believe crack is good for you so I’m going to assume you agree with this.

2)If someone forced my to take crack (or cocaine or heroin etc) they would be assaulting me perhaps even guilty of attempted murder. Again it is a no brainer so I will assume you agree.

3)A child under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to things an adult can consent to. If someone gives my child drugs and my child cannot consent legally then they are “forcing” my child into a harmful/deadly act. Again, a no brainer. About now you are beginning to see where I’m going with this and are looking left and right for a way out.

4)Anyone who tries to kill/assault/attack my child has stepped over a deadly line and I have a constitutional right to protect their life and use deadly force. I assume suddenly you aren’t agreeing with libertarian interpretations of the constitution and want to disagree with me even if it forces you to flip-flop on your beliefs. So that’s it! I will agree to accept that drugs should be legal and we have a constitutional right to put poison in our body if we choose AND you agree that I have a constitutional right to protect myself and my minor children and I can constitutionally use deadly force . Yes! I am saying legalize drugs and tell parents they can shoot anyone selling, sharing or giving their child drugs. All in all I think it is a good compromise, what do you think?

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Like most people who attended college when the Baby Boom generation was young, I did heaps and piles of all kinds of drugs. I’m now getting on in years and am long past all that. I have long since quit smoking, and am obliged to watch my diet fairly carefully. I wish I could do all the things I used to do at age 20 in exactly as carefree a fashion now as then, but there is no possibility of such a thing at all. I do get plenty of drugs, though. I have several prescriptions for regulating blood pressure and so on that I have to take every day.

I have enough experience of life to know perfectly well that some people will kill themselves using drugs recklessly and excessively. But I also know that actually an even larger number of people will inevitably proceed to ruin their lives and kill themselves with alcohol.

We recognized, long ago, that alcohol prohibition didn’t really stop people from drinking. It merely created a hugely profitable black market and caused a nationwide wave of crime and violence. Legal alcohol is associated with harm, but in fact produces much less harm.

The question of your children is a red herring. Has anyone recently forced any of your children to eat free pâté de foie gras or nefariously and at gun point made them consume Godiva chocolates?

If you raise your children properly and they do not inherit special weaknesses and neuroses, they ought to be able to drink alcohol and use drugs responsibly and without major untoward consequences at appropriate ages and occasions like most people.

If drugs were not especially forbidden, there would no drug dealers for you to shoot.

20 Feb 2012

Why Not?

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James Delingpole is not only sound on Anthropogenic Global Warming pseudo-scientific fraud, he is able to articulate the fundamental moral problem with drug prohibition quite succinctly.

    VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul decried the “war on drugs” Thursday night, telling supporters in Washington state that people should be able to make their own decisions on such matters.

    Voters in Washington are likely to decide this year whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana

    “If we are allowed to deal with our eternity and all that we believe in spiritually, and if we’re allowed to read any book that we want under freedom of speech, why is it we can’t put into our body whatever we want?” Paul told more than 1,000 people at a rally in Vancouver, a suburb of Portland, Ore.

Yep. Go on… friends. Tell me: why not???

In a follow-up post, Peter Robinson quotes Milton Friedman in support of Delingpole.

09 Feb 2012

Rick Santorum & the Libertarian Suicide Vest Strategy

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Walter Olson forwarded this, describing the article thusly:

The Suicide Vest theory: let the GOP blow itself to smithereens with a Santorum nomination, then libertarians can come pick up the pieces.

Here’s my libertarian case for Rick Santorum’s nomination (though not his election). Since the early 1990s, Christian conservatives have formed an ever larger portion of the GOP. In Santorum, they would have what they have long sought: a candidate embodying their commitments to a politics of faith. Neoconservatives would also have a candidate committed to transforming the world through foreign policy and military action. The Obama-Santorum race would be more than just a struggle for power between two men. It would be a referendum on ideas and policies that have dominated the GOP for more than decade.

One recent poll has the former senator running even with Obama, but most polls have shown a decided gap of about eight points between the incumbent and Santorum. Right now the latter is not well-known to most voters. As Santorum becomes better known, he might close the gap with Obama. More likely, I think he would drive more secular and independent voters away from the GOP ticket. A ten-point Republican loss in a year when economic weakness suggested a close race would be a political disaster not just for the candidate and his party but also for the ideas they embody. Rick Santorum could be the George McGovern of his party.

Such a disaster might open the door for a different kind of GOP along lines indicated earlier, a party of free markets, moral pluralism, and realism in foreign affairs. Ron Paul has taken some steps this year toward creating such a party. He has attracted votes and inspired activism. His son or another candidate might take up the cause in 2016 and build on Paul’s achievements. Fanciful thinking? Perhaps, but it may take an electoral disaster to free the GOP from the ideas and forces that Rick Santorum represents.

17 Aug 2011

Paypal Co-Founder Funding Seasteading

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Peter Thiel is the billionaire co-founder of Paypal, a venture capitalist who placed a large bet on Facebook, and a hedge fund manager, who previously studied Analytic Philosophy at Stanford and founded that university’s conservative/libertarian paper, The Stanford Review.

Details describes Thiel’s latest bet: some start-up funding for a micro-state political alternative beginning as an office-park flotilla located directly off the coast of the socialist state of California.

Derisive laughter can be heard emanating from the Bay Area left, but Peter Thiel has an awfully good record of successful investment, and California’s taxes and regulatory policies have already driven a lot of businesses farther away in an in-land direction to Nevada and Arizona. If an off-shore domiciliary alternative could be created that was safe, convenient, and cutting-edge fashionable, it could very possibly be irresistible to many of the same kinds of people attracted to California in the first place.

Despite the innovations of the past quarter century, some of which have made him very, very wealthy, Thiel is unimpressed by how far we’ve come—technologically, politically, socially, financially, the works. The last successful American car company, he likes to note, was Jeep, founded in 1941. “And our cars aren’t moving any faster,” he says. The space-age future, as giddily envisioned in the fifties and sixties, has yet to arrive. …

Thiel is the primary backer for an idea that takes big, audacious, and outlandish to a whole other level. Two hundred miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge, past that hazy-blue horizon where the Pacific meets the sky, is where Thiel foresees his boldest venture of all. Forget start-up companies. The next frontier is start-up countries. …

Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer, the grandson of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman… wants to establish new sovereign nations built on oil-rig-type platforms anchored in international waters—free from the regulation, laws, and moral suasion of any landlocked country. They’d be small city-states at first, although the aim is to have tens of millions of seasteading residents by 2050. Architectural plans for a prototype involve a movable, diesel-powered, 12,000-ton structure with room for 270 residents, with the idea that dozens—perhaps even hundreds—of these could be linked together. Friedman hopes to launch a flotilla of offices off the San Francisco coast next year; full-time settlement, he predicts, will follow in about seven years; and full diplomatic recognition by the United Nations, well, that’ll take some lawyers and time.

“The ultimate goal,” Friedman says, “is to open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government.” This translates into the founding of ideologically oriented micro-states on the high seas, a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.

It’s a vivid, wild-eyed dream—think Burning Man as reimagined by Ayn Rand’s John Galt and steered out to sea by Captain Nemo—but Friedman and Thiel, aware of the long and tragicomic history of failed libertarian utopias, believe that entrepreneurial zeal sets this scheme apart. One potential model is something Friedman calls Appletopia: A corporation, such as Apple, “starts a country as a business. The more desirable the country, the more valuable the real estate,” Friedman says. When I ask if this wouldn’t amount to a shareholder dictatorship, he doesn’t flinch. “The way most dictatorships work now, they’re enforced on people who aren’t allowed to leave.” Appletopia, or any seasteading colony, would entail a more benevolent variety of dictatorship, similar to your cell-phone contract: You don’t like it, you leave. Citizenship as free agency, you might say. Or as Ken Howery, one of Thiel’s partners at the Founders Fund, puts it, “It’s almost like there’s a cartel of governments, and this is a way to force governments to compete in a free-market way.”

Some experts have scoffed at the legal and logistical practicalities of seasteading. Margaret Crawford, an expert on urban planning and a professor of architecture at Berkeley, calls it “a silly idea without any urban-planning implications whatsoever.” Other observers have mocked it outright, such as Slate’s Jacob Weisberg, who deemed it perhaps “the most elaborate effort ever devised by a group of computer nerds to get invited to an orgy.” Despite the naysayers, Thiel appears firmly committed to the idea; he has so far funneled $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute. …

If the seasteading movement goes forward as planned, Thiel won’t be one of its early citizens. For one thing, he’s not overly fond of boats… Thiel characterizes his interest as “theoretical.” But whether Thiel himself heads offshore or not, there’s a whole lot of passion underlying that theoretical interest. Thiel put forth his views on the subject in a 2009 essay for the Cato Institute, in which he flatly declared, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” He went on: “The great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms,” with the critical question being “how to escape not via politics but beyond it. Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country.

Read the whole article.

31 Jul 2011

An Independent Future

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George Will suggests for summer reading Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch’s new book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America

Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. What jumps to mind? Waiting in multiple lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Observing the bureaucratic sloth and lowest-common-denominator performance of public schools, especially in big cities. Getting ritually humiliated going through airport security. Trying desperately to understand your doctor bills. Navigating the permitting process at your local city hall. Wasting a day at home while the gas man fails to show up. Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly (as in the providers of K-12 education) or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player (as in health care).”

Will thinks these authors are really on to something.

A generation that has grown up with the Internet “has essentially been raised libertarian,” swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives.

And the left weeps. Preaching what has been called nostalgianomics, liberals mourn the passing of the days when there was one phone company, three car companies, three television networks, and an airline cartel, and big labor and big business were cozy with big government.

The America of one universally known list of Top 40 records is as gone as records. When the Census offered people the choice of checking the “multiracial” category, Maxine Waters, then chairing the Congressional Black Caucus, was indignant: “Letting individuals opt out of the current categories just blurs everything.” This is the voice of reactionary liberalism: No blurring, no changes, no escape from old categories, spin the world back to the 1950s.

“Declaration of Independents” is suitable reading for this summer of debt-ceiling debate, which has been a proxy for a bigger debate, which is about nothing less than this: What should be the nature of the American regime? America is moving in the libertarians’ direction not because they have won an argument but because government and the sectors it dominates have made themselves ludicrous. This has, however, opened minds to the libertarians’ argument.

The essence of which is the common-sensical principle that before government interferes with the freedom of the individual and of individuals making consensual transactions in markets, it ought to have a defensible reason for doing so. It usually does not.

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