Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of terrestrial intelligence.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Atheism Outlives All Gods

I just put a fresh copy of my favorite atheist bumper sticker on my car. The previous one from http://makestickers.com lasted about three years, so I used them again for printing it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

You Don't Have To Be Faster Than The Bear

We need to be officially inclusive of the various kinds of principled libertarianism, but more as a way of unifying our activists and less as a way of marketing to the 16% and 20% of Americans that polls show favor increased economic and personal liberty. I suspect capturing that market share would be more about making basic comparisons of our offering versus our opponents', as opposed to convincing people to join us by arguing just from first principles in a competitive vacuum -- no matter how ecumenical we are.

Remember -- to get people to vote our way, we only have to convince them we're not as stupid as the Democrats and not as evil as the Republicans and not as silly as the Greens and not as self-disenfranchising as NOTA. How hard can that be?

(I was going to say "not as bad as the Republocrats", but we have to be careful to distinguish them. While both major parties are horribly bad in terms of rent-seeking and pandering, there are real and principled differences between Left and Right, and combining the best of both is still our best sales pitch.)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

2 LP Strategy Fallacies: I-Think-I-Can and Cargo Cult

An earnest Libertarian activist writes:

) We don’t win elections because after 35+ years, in most jurisdictions, we don’t recruit and support viable candidates. A viable candidate, for example, for school board is someone who has long roots in the community, has been on the PTA, has kids in the local schools, knows his or her neighbors, likes to talk to people [...] We have not had the successes we wish for because we don’t do the hard work necessary to elect someone even to school board. (

This is the I-think-I-can / high-hopes fallacy. It's simply not the case that a federal or statewide office is currently within the reach of a Libertarian candidate lacking a seven-figure campaign war chest (or in-kind equivalent in name recognition and media access).
In a race like mine (for U.S. House), people vote for party first, and candidate a distant second (if they've even heard of him). Mike Moloney ran full time in 1998 as a Libertarian in my neighboring CA12 and only got 5% -- just a little better than the standard LP share in 3-way races. In 2002, he ran on the same platform, in the same district, but as a Republican, and got as many votes as any Republican typically gets in the liberal Bay Area -- 25%.
Sure, we can sneak the occasional Libertarian into school board and dog-catcher and other local non-partisan offices where party and ideology are effectively irrelevant. But not having such offices on our resumes is not what's keeping us from winning bigger races. To think otherwise is an instance of the Cargo Cult fallacy. The natives of Melanesia in the late 1940s built airports and radios of coconuts and straw in the hope that these would call down from the skies the planes that had stopped bringing precious cargo after the war ended. Similarly, earnest Liberatarian activists think that if we just kiss as many babies and shake as many hands as the Republocrats, we'll get the results they get. It just isn't so, for the systematic and institutional reasons I analyze at http://marketliberal.org/FixLP.html#WhyWeLose.

Why Starting Another Libertarian Party Isn't Wise

The best way to move America in a given direction in Nolan space is to aggregate into the same party everyone who prefers that direction. In any multi-dimensional analysis of American's political views, Americans cluster mostly in the 2-D plane defined by the Nolan chart, and even more so along the left-right diagonal of the Nolan plane. As noted by Duverger's "Law" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duvergers_Law), this in combination with plurality voting laws means that successful third parties cannot arise along that diagonal without being co-opted by the two existing major parties already encamped on that line.

The Authoritarian/Populist quadrant has been kept mostly infertile for a third party by Republican co-opting. Similarly, Republican electoral success from the Right quadrant has led extreme rightists to work from within the GOP instead of from without. The Greens have embarrassed the LP by building the strongest third party in a quadrant dominated by the Democratic Party and its special-interest rent-seeking patronage machine. The LP has seriously botched its opportunity to build a third party in the utterly vacant North quadrant.

To start a new party in Nolan quadrant that already has one is to indulge in the same sort of moral exhibitionism that already is the LP's primary problem. It's just as possible to waste political effort exhibiting one's moderateness as it is to do so exhibiting one's extremism. Thanks to its self-marginalization, the LP has nowhere near the negative approval ratings that would be required for a new libertarian party to be our smartest move. Until that happens, the worst-case strategy for wise non-anarchist libertarians under a puritarian resurgence would be to clog the LP member rolls with lots of low-effort moderates, bide our time until we can expand the tent again, and continue to help libertarian efforts in other parties and especially in non-party institutions.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The 2 Kinds Of Disagreement the LP Can Tolerate

I only see two kinds of major philosophical disagreement the Libertarian Party should tolerate in its official positions.
One is on franchise issues, the big three of which are abortion, immigration, and intervention. Libertarianism's core value of minimizing aggression against enfranchised individuals will never dictate unanimity over how attributes like fetal development or citizenship affect enfranchisement.
The other is about how far to stay on the LP Freedom Train as it heads toward the anarchocapitalist cliff that we minarchists are confident America will never choose to reach. We all want to get the Freedom Train moving, but it won't ever budge if we wait until we all agree we'll get off at the same stop.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

If Bumper Stickers Were Bigger

Vote Democrat, it's easier than getting a job
Vote Republican, it's easier than getting a life
Vote Green, it's easier than getting a clue

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

SingleIssueTarian Supports Socialist Green Over Libertarian

In my district there is a candidate on the ballot who favors
  • complete abolition of laws regulating prices, wages, hours, plant closure, family leave, hiring, firing, occupational licensure, zoning, rents, etc,
  • completely private provision of education, health care, health insurance, agriculture, and retirement savings; and
  • complete legalization for adults of gambling, suicide, drugs, "assault rifles", polygamy, sexual services, reproductive services, cloning, and organ sales.
There is another candidate on the ballot who thinks the US government knew that the WTC was to be attacked on 9/11 and that NORAD may have been remotely controlling the jets, and runs on a campaign platform that says
  • "We must take aggressive steps to restore a fair distribution of income"
  • "Restructure our patterns of income distribution to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal monetary economy: those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardens, community volunteer work, etc."
  • "All people have a right to jobs that pay a living wage"
  • "a universal, comprehensive, national single-payer health insurance program"
  • "We encourage the social ownership and use of land at the community, local, and regional level."
  • "consolidating housing into such structures as ecolonies, to free open space, and to move about by bicycle, train, bus and on foot so that roadways may be converted to parkland and agriculture."
  • "phase-out man-made pesticides and artificial fertilizers"
  • "Allowing municipalities to approve or disapprove large economic projects"
  • "The concept of a "job" is only a few hundred years old; and the artificial dichotomy between "employment" and "unemployment" has become a tool of social leverage for corporate exploiters."
  • "Adopting a reduced-hour (30-35 hours) work week"
  • "The government should ensure that low- and moderate-income persons and communities, as well as small businesses, have access to banking services, affordable loans, and small-business supporting capital."
  • "Thoughtful, carefully considered gun control laws such as the "Brady Bill" and the waiting period for record search before gun dealers may sell a gun should be supported."
  • "A clear living wage standard should serve as a foundation for trade between nations, and a "floor" of guaranteed wage protections and workers' rights should be negotiated in future trade agreements."
  • "Reducing consumption to minimize outsourcing"
  • "More progressive taxation. Raise corporate taxes. Increase the burden on large and multinational corporations and the super wealthy. Raise the state income tax for higher income people. Re-establishment of the inheritance tax. Inheritance tax revenues should be dedicated to health and welfare benefits for the poor"
  • "Broadband access should be a taxpayer-funded utility"
  • "We oppose privatization of Social Security. We support increased funding for Social Security, public housing, higher education, public transportation"
Robert Noval calls himself a Libertarian but announces his support for the second candidate over the first in this 4am blog posting. Why? Because Noval is a SingleIssueTarian on the question of overthrowing aggressive tyranny in Iraq. (For readers unfamiliar with the backwards world of puritarianism, that means Noval the anti-aggression absolutist opposes overthrowing aggressive tyranny abroad.)
Of course, Noval lacks the intellectual courage to actually say: "the duty of a liberty-loving polity to defend human liberty vanishes completely at lines drawn on maps by statists". And if that's not his position, then he lacks the polemical courage to engage 1) my taxonomy of 14 flawed arguments by libertarians against overthrowing Saddam, 2) my marshaling of over a dozen factual predicates motivating the overthrow of Saddam, or 3) my analysis of the near-perfect 2000-2004 natural experiment empirically demonstrating that anti-war is not a lever that will grow the libertarian electoral share.
But this is completely predictable. The goal of a puritarian like Noval is not to advocate the policies and tactics that have the highest expected value in terms of minimizing the net amount of aggression suffered by humanity. No, the highest value of a puritarian is to not be exceeded on a simplistic metric of moral superiority in the little circle that passes for his intellectual community. That metric is so simplistic that it can be dominated by a single issue with sufficient visual and emotional punch -- like the sectarian strife that has troubled Iraq since America deposed its aggressive tyrant. Never mind that the issue is ephemeral and tangential to America's historical march toward increasing personal liberty and decreasing economic liberty. Never mind that to support the Greens is to give aid and comfort to the political force that poses the greatest danger to liberty in America in the next half-century. Never mind that to support the Greens is to solidify their claim to being America's third party despite the LP having the enormous advantage of working in an unoccupied quadrant of Nolan space.
Puritarians can't maintain sufficient rage over the creeping socialization of America, because it isn't being shown on TV. Dubya is on TV every day, and he's not a libertarian, so ipso facto he must be the greatest threat to liberty in the world. Impeach Dubya for the thousands of cases of Iraqi fratricide enabled by liberation, but give Saddam a free pass for a couple million deaths directly caused by tyrannical aggression. "Look at me! I call for impeaching more American leaders than you do! I'm clearly more puritarian than thou! And if I shock some fellow liberty-lovers by endorsing a Green, so much the better in my value system of moral exhibitionism. I'm the village puritarian, so I say: Red-Queen racing in the exhibition of extremism is no vice, and rationality in pursuit of increased liberty is no virtue."

Fear Neophobia, Not a "Police State"

I voted for the Michael Badnarik in 2004, but here is why I welcomed Kerry's defeat: Democrats are far better at restricting our economic freedoms than Republicans are at restricting our personal freedoms. I ultimately care more about personal freedoms than economic freedoms -- I just happen to think that our personal freedoms in America are more secure than our economic ones, and in the long run are only getting more so.
If you look at the last 40 years instead of just the last 6, the trend is obvious and undeniable. It's just not tenable to say that we've reached an inflection point and now the default course is a complete reversal of the last half-century's progress regarding racism, civil rights, conscription, divorce rights, sexual freedom, reproductive freedom, gay rights, criminal procedure, free expression, gambling, and even society's attitude towards substance use. It's just historically illiterate to say the sky is falling and we are in -- or even headed toward -- a police state. Making such claims cripples our credibility as serious advocates for liberty.
By contrast, the last seventy years have seen an enormous erosion of our economic freedoms: minimum wage, maximum hours, plant closure notice, family leave, "equal pay for equal work", numeric goals in minority hiring, union exemptions from antitrust, growth controls, urban planning, rent control, monumental intergenerational inequity through a socialized retirement pyramid scheme, massive regulation of healthcare, socialized health insurance, farm subsidies, socialization and federalization of education, environmental regulations based on bureaucratic rules instead of market incentives, etc.
Admittedly, there also been a counter-current in America (and across the Western World) since the late 1970s consisting of deregulation, privatization, sounder currency, free trade, and lower marginal taxes. Still, the long-term trend toward loss of economic freedom has only been slowed, and not reversed. Even worse, the traditional but sputtering tractor of economic deliberalization -- fear and envy stoked by class warriors -- now has what will be a more powerful partner: neophobia. Neophobia manifests itself in so many powerful ways: anti-globalization, growth limits, protectionism, eco-pessimism, opposition to biotechnology, opposition to private (i.e. corporate) data processing of voluntarily-given information, restrictions on media-related technology, opposition to population growth, ham-handed market-dumb regulations on pollution-emitting products, etc.
The trend is clear. The major threat to liberty in twenty-first century America will not be from right-wingers legislating morality or invoking foreign enemies. It will be from left-wingers invoking economic inequality, and even more so from neophobes invoking fear of the changes that progress inevitably requires.
Right-wingers will inevitably fail because Americans are fundamentally decent. Left-wingers will ultimately fail because the verdict of history, and the prosperity all around us, demonstrates that they are obviously wrong. But neophobes will be an indefinite threat, because they can always claim that the End Is Near, and no track record of failed doomsaying can shake their conviction that this time they're right.

Monday, July 24, 2006

One True Libertarianism == No god but God

It's typical of anarchopurists to think theirs is the only principled and self-consistent liberty-oriented ideology, when there are half a dozen others that can be as rigorously defended via combinations of principles like

Each combination itself can have multiple variants based on orthogonal questions like intellectual property, the rights of animals, the rights of the unborn, the rights of children, forms of allowable punishment/retaliation, thresholds for reckless endangerment, etc.
To instead say there is just One True Libertarianism is about as intellectually credible as chanting "no god but God". Nevertheless, anarchopurists say: there is no god but God, all others are heretics, and 99% agreement is the worst possible crime, because a 1% heretic is more likely to defile the vestal virgins than any outright infidel.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Village Anarchist

As a polemical atheist, I tend to wince when I see someone knowingly described as a "village atheist". A village atheist is an atheist who moves in such confined intellectual circles that merely adopting and asserting atheism is sufficient to establish a lazy and local sort of intellectual and moral superiority, untested by confrontation with anything approaching the best critiques of atheism. Or as atheist blogger Moira Breen puts it:
I detest the puerile effusions of all village atheists. "Me so smart! Believers so dumb! Me so brave! Believers moral cowards needing crutches!" Well, I'd say you a leetle bit smarter than the fathead fundies who apparently inhabit the intellectual stratum into which your natural gifts have delivered you
In the small and somewhat balkanized world of libertarian activism, a similar dynamic produces what I propose to call the "village anarchist". The village anarchist uses a bumper-sticker-sized radical worldview to shock the conformist majority and to prop up his shaky belief in his moral and intellectual superiority. (Ironically, anarchism is neither morally nor intellectually superior to market-smart minarchism.) The village anarchist is horrified at the prospect of losing his radical non-conformist status by having too many people agree with too much of his position. The village anarchist seeks to snatch disagreement from the jaws of consensus in order to preserve the intellectual and political exclusivity that his self-image depends on. The village anarchist doesn't really want anarchy or even more liberty; he just wants enough liberty so that his political activism generates neither personal risk for himself nor any chance that the unwashed masses will taint his beliefs by adopting them.
Will I name names? No. One can never be sure that any given person fully counts as a village anarchist, but I know so many libertarian purists whose behaviors are so plausibly explained this way that the analysis surely applies to a signficant fraction of them.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Resigning From The Libertarian Party

To my ideological opponents in the LP:

Your changes to the Libertarian Party Platform at our recent convention on the west coast have gone too far. I have been willing to work with you for many years in our common cause of increasing liberty in America, but now we must part company. The Libertarian Party has been an important voice for liberty for the past 35 years, and its Platform has acted as a rallying point for all of us who have worked so hard together for the cause of smaller government. Now your new Platform threatens all that we have accomplished, by changing what the Party considers its goal state and abandoning the principles that sustained it through three and a half decades of ideological engagement in the electoral arena. The Party is now turning its back on the segment of the voting public for whom it had been speaking so eloquently.

I cannot join you in calling for even less government than we have today in 2041. Since we minarchists and you anarchists formally set aside our differences at the 2008 convention, the LP has enjoyed what we must by now recognize has been startling success. Progress was slow at first, as we old-timers all remember, but when we realized that the strategy of the party should be to unite in electoral politics all Americans who want more economic and civil liberty, success was in some sense fore-ordained. We finally starting harnessing the electoral clout of the growing minority of Americans in our quadrant of Nolan space, and after a couple of false starts managed to broker the outcomes of an ever-increasing number of close elections. Sure, the Demopublicans fought back with the Voter Protection Act of 2013 to effectively neuter third parties, but the resounding Supreme Court decision that overturned it served to cement our role as political kingmaker. The subsequent few years were a blur to all of us, as both major parties scrambled to co-opt our voters by codifying the personal freedoms that many enlightened law enforcement officers had already tacitly been granting since the early twenty-teens anyway. But the decisive turn came in 2021, when the collapsing national health insurance program was defederalized, and a minority of states successfully adopted market-based solutions. Various state LPs acquired second-party status during the golden twenty-twenties, and helped hasten the defederalization trend by deftly parlaying that market-based approach to other responsibilities being devolved from D.C. Still, we were all surprised when we won that first governorship before having won a congressional seat, but in hindsight it was inevitable that such a celebrity LP candidate would choose a state executive post over a career in Congress -- and that the Demopublicans would use gerrymandering to delay Libertarian pluralities in any congressional district. Even our younger members can remember how the LP then displaced the GOP in the early 2030s as America's second party. Those were surprisingly unenjoyable times for the LP, as it proved so hard to translate our state-level successes into a final removal of federal interventions in various industries. Our efforts to amend the Constitution failed embarrassingly, but the Supreme Court again bailed us out by finally overturning Wickard v. Filburn. Much more satisfying has been our success in now half the states in rolling government back to just justice, public goods, and natural monopolies.

I know you say the jury's still out about the complete road privatization and negative-income-tax repeal that the New Hampshire LP pushed into law in 2039, but I can't resist saying I told you so. I know you're still outraged at the secret unification talks that the LP National Committee held with the new confederalista leadership of the GOP, but I still say their recent electoral victories are just piggy-backing off of our successes at state-by-state governance. These calls for internal secession will die down once the voters realize that we Libertarians have already delivered 90% of the benefits of a state withdrawing from the federal union. By panicking and adopting an anarchist Platform reminiscent of the old pre-Portland proto-LP (remember it?), you won't reap any electoral rewards. Confederalista voters want to dissolve the federal government, not all government. It's only the short memories of our young anarchist radicals, combined with the apathy of our contented minarchists, that allowed you sneak your anarchism into the LP-USA Platform. It won't make a difference anyway, because the national Bylaws have for years now made the Platform's planks on intrastate issues be only advisory to the state LPs.

We in the California LP are already preparing to suspend our affiliation with LP-USA if necessary. I hear that other state LPs are considering this option as well. The LP-USA was a useful vehicle for anarchists and minarchists to push together in the shared direction of their respective goals, but now its usefulness for us minarchists has come to an end. We're at our stop, so we're getting off the train. America's revitalized federal system ensures that you can do no serious damage from D.C., and you have several sympathetic states in which you can work to improve on your New Hampshire experiment. I'm glad you're still weak in the California LP, and that there are many happily minarchist states to move to should you do here what you've done to New Hampshire. I make no apologies to my friends there who feel that we minarchists put the anarchists in a position to foul things up for them. America's vast improvements in recent decades would not have been possible if not for the now-historic "2008 Compromise" that allowed liberty-increasers to be a unified force in American electoral politics. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and we minarchists were too complacent to take seriously the minority effort that was being organized in plain site in our own camp. I may someday return to the LP-USA if the minarchists win it back, but I've fought enough battles. I'm retiring from political activism to focus more on enjoying my grandchildren and the unprecedented freedom and prosperity that has been won for them by decades of hard work by united liberty-lovers.

Brian Holtz
July 2041

[For details on how the LP could attempt to achieve the results fantasized about above, see http://marketliberal.org/FixLP.html.]