Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Libertarian Ancient Ireland

Libertarian Ancient Ireland

Murrah N. Rothbard

For A New Libery: The Libertarian Manifesto, "Chapter 12: The Public Sector, III: Police, Law, and the Courts." New York: Collier, 1978. pp. 231-234.

The most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts, however, has been neglected by historians until very recently. And this was also a society where not only the courts and the law were largely libertarian, but where they operated within a purely state-less and libertarian society. This was ancient Ireland — an Ireland which persisted in this libertarian path for roughly a thousand years until its brutal conquest by England in the seventeenth century. And, in contrast to many similarly functioning primitive tribes (such as the Ibos in West Africa, and many European tribes), preconquest Ireland was not in any sense a "primitive" society: it was a highly complex society that was, for centuries, the most advanced, most scholarly, and most civilized in all of Western Europe.

For a thousand years, then, ancient Celtic Ireland had no State or anything like it. As the leading authority on ancient Irish law has written: "There was no legislature, no bailiffs, no police, no public enforcement of justice . . . . There was no trace of State- administered justice."9

How then was justice secured? The basic political unit of ancient Ireland was the tuath. All "freemen" who owned land, all professionals, and all craftsmen, were entitled to become members of a tuath. Each tuath's members formed an annual assembly which decided all common policies, declared war or peace on other tuatha, and elected or deposed their "kings." An important point is that, in contrast to primitive tribes, no one was stuck or bound to a given tuath, either because of kinship or of geographical location. Individual members were free to, and often did, secede from a tuath and join a competing tuath. Often, two or more tuatha decided to merge into a single, more efficient unit. As Professor Peden states, "the tuath is thus a body of persons voluntarily united for socially beneficial purposes and the sum total of the landed properties of its members constituted its territorial dimension."10 In short, they did not have the modern State with its claim to sovereignty over a given (usually expanding) territorial area, divorced from the landed property rights of its subjects; on the contrary, tuatha were voluntary associations [p. 232] which only comprised the landed properties of its voluntary members. Historically, about 80 to 100 tuatha coexisted at any time throughout Ireland.

But what of the elected "king"? Did he constitute a form of State ruler? Chiefly, the king functioned as a religions high priest, presiding over the worship rites of the tuath, which functioned as a voluntary religious, as well as a social and political, organization. As in pagan, pre-Christian, priesthoods, the kingly function was hereditary, this practice carrying over to Christian times. The king was elected by the tuath from within a royal kin-group (the derbfine), which carried the hereditary priestly function. Politically, however, the king had strictly limited functions: he was the military leader of the tuath, and he presided over the tuath assemblies. But he could only conduct war or peace negotiations as agent of the assemblies; and he was in no sense sovereign and had no rights of administering justice over tuath members. He could not legislate, and when he himself was party to a lawsuit, he had to submit his case to an independent judicial arbiter.

Again, how, then, was law developed and justice maintained? In the first place, the law itself was based on a body of ancient and immemorial custom, passed down as oral and then written tradition through a class of professional jurists called the brehons. The brehons were in no sense public, or governmental, officials; they were simply selected by parties to disputes on the basis of their reputations for wisdom, knowledge of the customary law, and the integrity of their decisions. As Professor Peden states:

. . . the professional jurists were consulted by parties to disputes for advice as to what the law was in particular cases, and these same men often acted as arbitrators between suitors. They remained at all times private persons, not public officials; their functioning depended upon their knowledge of the law and the integrity of their judicial reputations.11

Furthermore, the brehons had no connection whatsoever with the individual tuatha or with their kings. They were completely private, national in scope, and were used by disputants throughout Ireland. Moreover, and this is a vital point, in contrast to the system of private Roman lawyers, the brehon was all there was; there were no other judges, no "public" judges of any kind, in ancient Ireland.

It was the brehons who were schooled in the law, and who added glosses and applications to the law to fit changing conditions. Furthermore, [p. 233] there was no monopoly, in any sense, of the brehon jurists; instead, several competing schools of jurisprudence existed and competed for the custom of the Irish people.

How were the decisions of the brehons enforced? Through an elaborate, voluntarily developed system of "insurance," or sureties. Men were linked together by a variety of surety relationships by which they guaranteed one another for the righting of wrongs, and for the enforcement of justice and the decisions of the brehons. In short, the brehons themselves were not involved in the enforcement of decisions, which rested again with private individuals linked through sureties. There were various types of surety. For example, the surety would guarantee with his own property the payment of a debt, and then join the plaintiff in enforcing a debt judgment if the debtor refused to pay. In that case, the debtor would have to pay double damages: one to the original creditor, and another as compensation to his surety. And this system applied to all offences, aggressions and assaults as well as commercial contracts; in short, it applied to all cases of what we would call "civil" and "criminal" law. All criminals were considered to be "debtors" who owed restitution and compensation to their victims, who thus became their "creditors." The victim would gather his sureties around him and proceed to apprehend the criminal or to proclaim his suit publicly and demand that the defendant submit to adjudication of their dispute with the brehons. The criminal might then send his own sureties to negotiate a settlement or agree to submit the dispute to the brehons. If he did not do so, he was considered an "outlaw" by the entire community; he could no longer enforce any claim of his own in the courts, and he was treated to the opprobrium of the entire community.12

There were occasional "wars," to be sure, in the thousand years of Celtic Ireland, but they were minor brawls, negligible compared to the devastating wars that racked the rest of Europe. As Professor Peden points out, "without the coercive apparatus of the State which can through taxation and conscription mobilize large amounts of arms and manpower, the Irish were unable to sustain any large scale military force in the field for any length of time. Irish wars . . . were pitiful brawls and cattle raids by European standards."13 [p. 234]

Thus, we have indicated that it is perfectly possible, in theory and historically, to have efficient and courteous police, competent and learned judges, and a body of systematic and socially accepted law — and none of these things being furnished by a coercive government. Government — claiming a compulsory monopoly of protection over a geographical area, and extracting its revenues by force — can be separated from the entire field of protection. Government is no more necessary for providing vital protection service than it is necessary for providing anything else. And we have not stressed a crucial fact about government: that its compulsory monopoly over the weapons of coercion has led it, over the centuries, to infinitely more butcheries and infinitely greater tyranny and oppression than any decentralized, private agencies could possibly have done. If we look at the black record of mass murder, exploitation, and tyranny levied on society by governments over the ages, we need not be loath to abandon the Leviathan State and . . . try freedom.


9. Quoted in the best introduction to ancient, anarchistic Irish institutions, Joseph R. Peden, "Property Rights in Celtic Irish Law," Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1 (Spring 1977), p. 83; see also pp. 81-95. For a summary, see Peden, "Stateless Societies: Ancient Ireland," The Libertarian Forum (April 1971), pp. 3-4.

10. Peden, "Stateless Societies," p. 4.

11. Ibid.

12. Professor Charles Donahue of Fordham University has maintained that the secular part of ancient Irish law was not simply haphazard tradition, that it was consciously rooted in the Stoic conception of natural law, discoverable by man's reason Charles Donahue, "Early Celtic Laws" (unpublished paper, delivered at the Columbia University Seminar in the History of Legal and Political Thought, Autumn, 1964), pp 13ff

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On the Absurdity of The State

Murray Rothbard
Let us assume... that a sizeable number of people suddenly arrive on Earth, and that they must now consider what sort of social arrangements to live under. One person or group of persons argues as follows (i.e., the typical argument for the State): “If each of us is allowed to remain free in all aspects, and particularly if each of us is allowed to retain weapons and the right of self-defense, then we will all war against each other, and society will be wrecked. Therefore, let us turn over all of our guns and all of our ultimate decision-making power and power to define and enforce our rights to the Jones family over there. The Jones family will guard us from our predatory instincts, keep social peace, and enforce justice.” Is it conceivable that anyone (except perhaps the Jones family itself) would spend one moment considering this clearly absurd scheme? The cry of “who would guard us from the Jones family, especially when we are deprived of our weapons?” would suffice to shout down such a scheme. And yet, given the acquisition of legitimacy from the fact of longevity given the longtime rule of the “Jones family” this is precisely the type of argument to which [supporters of the State] now blindly adhere.1
Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Assume a group of people, aware of the possibility of conflicts between them. Someone then proposes, as a solution to this human problem, that he (or someone) be made the ultimate arbiter in any such case of conflict, including those conflicts in which he is involved. Is this is a deal that you would accept? I am confident that he will be considered either a joker or mentally unstable. Yet this is precisely what all statists propose.2
1. Rothbard, Murray N. "The Inner Contradictions of the State." The Ethics of Liberty. New York: New York Universtiy, 1998. 175. Print.
2. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. "The Role of Intellectuals and Anti-Intellectual Intellectuals." The Great Fiction. Baltimore: Laissez Faire Books, 2012. 35. Print.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Aircraft Engines Are Not That Complicated.

Here is Jamie Diamon, CEO of J.P. Morgan explaining why you don't need to know what bankers do. It's too complicated, like an aircraft engine. Just trust him, all the money J.P. Morgan is making is only fees for managing all this complexity.

This is a straight turbine engine.  It is really marvelously simple.

This is a turbo-fan.  It is a little more complicated, but not much.

When I was in the Air Force they were teaching this stuff to 17 and 18 year old kids who didn't even have high school diplomas.
Banking is not that difficult to understand either.
Banks pay interest on savings and charge interests on loans.
When banks need more savings they increase interest on savings.  Consequently, they must charge higher interest on loans to offset the higher rates they offer to attract savings.  When interest rates are high it is a signal to producers that people are spending now, not saving, so they concentrate on short term projects that quickly satisfy consumer demand.
When banks have a lot of money in savings they pay a lower interest rate.  Consequently, they can charge lower rates on loans.  When interest rates are low it is a signal to producers that people are saving for future consumption, not spending, so they concentrate on long term projects to meet future consumer demand.
It is a wonderful feedback mechanism that balances what the producers are producing with what the consumer is consuming.
It only gets screwed up when a central bank forces interest rates lower by artificial means.  It makes producers think people are saving for future consumption so they start long term projects.  Since the consumers are not saving they are not planning on future consumption, so when those long term project come to completion there are no deferred saving for people to spend on them.  The feedback mechanism is completely destroyed by false signals.
I have a GED and community college degree in Arts and Sciences, mostly I concentrated on history, literature and the social sciences.  Basically a glorified high school diploma.  I am not a Harvard MBA, but I did listen to Ron Paul and read Murray Rothbard.
Jamie Dimon can eat a big bowl of dicks.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Who Knew My Gas Station Was a Coin Shop?

A few days ago I was in the gas station where I normally fill up and noticed the clerk counting his change from their air pump, vacuum cleaner and cash register.  On a whim I told him if he ever runs across any pre-1965 dimes or quarters I would give him two dollars for each dime and five for each quarter.  He looked at me like I was a little crazy and that was that I thought.  
This morning I went in to get a pack of smokes and he handed me a 1964 Roosevelt dime.  I handed him two bucks and he still looked at me like I was a little crazy, but he took the money.  That's thirty-two cents under current melt. 

And here it is.
 This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
That gas station is in a little shopping center where there are several little Mom and Pop shops.  I'm going to go to all of them and make the same offer.  I don't  know why I didn't think of this before.
Keep stacking.

Review: The Four Horsemen

I just finished watching The Four Horsemen.

From an encouraging beginning, particularly the critique of fiat, fractional reserve, central banking, the desirability of hard currency and the acknowledgement of the merits of Classical Liberalism, I must say I was ultimately disappointed by this film. As with many other documentaries on social and economic issues it does a good job of pointing out the problems, but then offers solutions which are futile at best, destructive at worst. The filmmakers themselves pointed out that many would dismiss their solutions as socialism or even Marxism. Indeed, I think such an argument could be made, but I won't make it myself.

What they are actually proposing is a school of political economy known as Georgism or Geonomics.* The basic idea, as the Wikipedia article I just linked states, is "people own what they create, but that things found in nature, most importantly land, belong equally to all." I would not argue that is Marxist. Indeed, according to the the referenced Wikipedia article, Marx himself dismissed it as little more than a patch on his conception of capitalism. I might say it is a form of soft socialism, but that is not really my critique.

Murray Rothbard addressed Georgism in For A New Liberty. To understand Rothbard's reasoning you have to begin with his argument for self-ownership, i.e., a person's property right in his own body.

The right to self-ownership asserts the absolute right of each man, by virtue of his (or her) being a human being, to "own" his or her own body; that is, to control that body free of coercive interference. Since each individual must think, learn, value, and choose his or her ends and means in order to survive and flourish, the right to self-ownership gives man the right to perform these vital activities without being hampered and restricted by coercive molestation.

Consider, too, the consequences of denying each man the right to own his own person. There are then only two alternatives: either (1) a certain class of people, A, have the right to own another class, B; or (2) everyone has the right to own his own equal quotal share of everyone else. The first alternative implies that while Class A deserves the rights of being human, Class B is in reality subhuman and therefore deserves no such rights. But since they are indeed human beings, the first alternative contradicts itself in denying natural human rights to one set of humans. Moreover, as we shall see, allowing Class A to own Class B means that the former is allowed to exploit, and therefore to live parasitically, at the expense of the latter. But this parasitism itself violates the basic economic requirement for life: production and exchange.

The second alternative, what we might call "participatory communalism" or "communism," holds that every man should have the right to own his equal quotal share of everyone else. If there are two billion people in the world, then everyone has the right to own one two-billionth of every other person. In the first place, we can state that this ideal rests on an absurdity: proclaiming that every man is entitled to own a part of everyone else, yet is not entitled to own himself. Secondly, we can picture the viability of such a world: a world in which no man is free to take any action whatever without prior approval or indeed command by everyone else in society. It should be clear that in that sort of "communist" world, no one would be able to do anything, and the human race would quickly perish. But if a world of zero self-ownership and one hundred percent other ownership spells death for the human race, then any steps in that direction also contravene the natural law of what is best for man and his life on earth.

Finally, however, the participatory communist world cannot be put into practice. For it is physically impossible for everyone to keep continual tabs on everyone else, and thereby to exercise his equal quotal share of partial ownership over every other man. In practice, then, the concept of universal and equal other-ownership is utopian and impossible, and supervision and therefore control and ownership of others necessarily devolves upon a specialized group of people, who thereby become a ruling class. Hence, in practice, any attempt at communist rule will automatically become class rule, and we would be back at our first alternative.1

Starting from that argument, Rothbard then applies the same reasoning to property rights in land. Assuming the Georgist position that one is indeed entitled to retain the fruits of one's own labor

...if the gatherer has the right to own the acorns or berries he picks, or the farmer the right to own his crop of wheat or peaches, who has the right to own the land on which these things have grown? It is at this point that Henry George and his followers, who have gone all the way so far with the libertarians, leave the track and deny the individual's right to own the piece of land itself, the ground on which these activities have taken place. The Georgists argue that, while every man should own the goods which he produces or creates, since Nature or God created the land itself, no individual has the right to assume ownership of that land. Yet, if the land is to be used at all as a resource in any sort of efficient manner, it must be owned or controlled by someone or some group, and we are again faced with our three alternatives: either the land belongs to the first user, the man who first brings it into production; or it belongs to a group of others; or it belongs to the world as a whole, with every individual owning a quotal part of every acre of land. George's option for the last solution hardly solves his moral problem: If the land itself should belong to God or Nature, then why is it more moral for every acre in the world to be owned by the world as a whole, than to concede individual ownership? In practice, again, it is obviously impossible for every person in the world to exercise effective ownership of his four-billionth portion (if the world population is, say, four billion) of every piece of the world's land surface. In practice, of course, a small oligarchy would do the controlling and owning, and not the world as a whole.2

If, as The Four Horsemen purports, the real issue to be addressed is one of social order and social conflict due to scarce resources, it can be demonstrated, using Rothbard's reasoning, that the Georgist approach does not reduce conflict, it actually encourages it. Hans-Hermann Hoppe has made that very argument in The Idea of a Private Law Society. As with the above excerpts from Rothbard, some initial premises must be clarified before his argument can be presented. I have to begin with Hoppe's initial formulation of "the problem of social order" before presenting the reasoning he uses to arrive at a solution. In this case Hoppe begins with classic "Crusoe" economics while adding a little twist in that he assumes Crusoe's Island to be one one which there is no scarcity of material resources.

Suppose the island is the Garden of Eden; all external goods are available in superabundance. They are "free goods," just as the air that we breathe is normally a "free" good. Whatever Crusoe does with these goods, his actions have no repercussions--neither with respect to his own future supply of such goods nor regarding the present or future supply of the same goods for Friday (and vice versa). Hence, it is impossible for there ever to be a conflict between Crusoe and Friday concerning the use of such goods. A conflict is only possible if goods are scarce. Only then will the need arise to formulate rules that make orderly, conflict-free social cooperation possible.

In the Garden of Eden only two scarce goods exist: the physical body of a person and its standing room. Crusoe and Friday each have only one body and can stand only at one place at a time. Hence, even in the Garden of Eden conflicts between Crusoe and Friday can arise: Crusoe and Friday cannot occupy the same standing room simultaneously without coming into physical conflict with each other. Accordingly, even in the Garden of Eden rules of orderly social conduct must exist--rules regarding the proper location and movement of human bodies. Outside the Garden of Eden, in the realm of scarcity, there must be rules that regulate not only the use of personal bodies but also of everything scarce so that all possible conflicts can be ruled out. This is the problem of social order.3

Hoppe states that problem of social order in the special circumstance of Crusoe and Friday in Paradise can be addressed by a single rule: "everyone may place or move his own body wherever he pleases, provided only that no one else is already standing there and occupying the same space."4 For the real world of material scarcity he elaborates four rules. It is here that he expands on Rothbard's argument against collective ownership.

First, every person is the proper owner of his own physical body. Who else, if not Crusoe, should be the owner of Crusoe's body? Otherwise, would it not constitute a case of slavery, and is slavery not unjust as well as uneconomical?

Secondly, every person is the proper owner of all nature-given goods that he has perceived as scarce and put to use by means of his body, before any other person. Indeed, who else, if not the first user, should be their owner? The second or third one? Were this so, however, the first person would not perform his act of original appropriation, and so the second person would become the first, and so on and on. That is, no one would ever be permitted to perform an act of original appropriation and mankind would instantly die out. Alternatively, the first user together with all late-comers become part-owners of the goods in question. Then conflict will not be avoided, however, for what is one to do if the various part-owners have incompatible ideas about what to do with the goods in question? This solution would also be uneconomical because it would reduce the incentive to utilize goods perceived as scarce for the first time.

In the third place, every person who, with the help of his body and his originally appropriated goods, produces new products thereby becomes the proper owner of these products, provided only that in the process of production he does not physically damage the goods owned by another person.

Finally, once a good has been first appropriated or produced, ownership in it can be acquired only by means of a voluntary, contractual transfer of its property title from a previous to a later owner.5

Now, the Marxist, the socialist or the Georgist might argue that private property via original appropriation is just one of many different approaches to social organization, but Hoppe demonstrates that private property is not just a solution, but the only solution to the problem of conflict over scarce resources.

The institution of private property and in particular the establishment of private property by means of original appropriation are frequently referred to as "conventions." However, as should have become clear, this is false. A convention serves a purpose, and it is something to which an alternative exists. For instance, the Latin alphabet serves the purpose of written communication. There exists an alternative to it, the Cyrillic alphabet. That is why it is referred to as a convention. What, however, is the purpose of action-norms? The avoidance of possible conflict! Conflict-generating norms are contrary to the very purpose of norms. However, with regard to the purpose of conflict-avoidance, the two mentioned institutions [private property and original appropriation] are not, just conventional; no alternative to them exists. Only private property makes it possible for all otherwise unavoidable conflicts to be avoided; and only the principle of property acquisition by acts of original appropriation performed by specific individuals at a specific time and location makes it possible for conflicts to be avoided from the beginning of mankind on.6

The idea of collective ownership of natural resources espoused by the Georgists stipulates that no individual can own land, they must pay for the privilege of using it in the form of "ground rent." It may sound good in principle, but how would it work in practice? Who would collect the rent and who would distribute it? Obviously a miner or farmer cannot just send a check for each person's share to everyone in the world. As Rothbard pointed out it would devolve to a group of individuals to administer such a system, effectively putting them in control of the worlds resources--essentially that group would be the owners. The net result would be an oligarchy distributing wealth in the manner of their own choosing. In short, it would be no different than the predatory corporations the film is criticizing.

So, as I said above, the solution offered by The Four Horsemen, while it may appear to offer an equitable and just solution to the problem of social conflict over scarce resources, it would in fact exacerbate conflict by concentrating the control of world's resources. In fact, on close examination, it might be seen as arguing for an elite body with authority over the resources and people of the entire planet, i.e., a world government. Isn't that what the book of Revelation said the four horsemen would precede?

*^ There are other flaws in this film. Notably the references to government regulation of the economy championed by Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and worker ownership of the means of production. Each of these can and should be addressed, but I am concentrating on Georgism as it is the most egregious of the errors presented. It is also something with which people are least familiar.

1^ For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, Nurray N. Rothbard, The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2006, pp. 33-35.
2^ Ibid. pp. 40-41.
3^, 4^, 5^, 6^ The Idea of a Private Law Society, Hans-Hermann Hoppe,, 2006

Note: I'm pretty sure I've violated the rules of research writing in that the material I've quoted makes up a larger percentage of this essay than my own words, but I'm not writing this to establish myself a an original thinker building on the work of other who came before me. I'm simply trying to present the arguments of those with far greater qualification than I to address the topic at hand.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Another Casualty in the War on Terra

I am heartbroken by current events in Mali and the Maghrib. I have a soft spot for the region because of my love for the music it has produced.

Going back decades, when the master, Ali Farka Touré first broke through in the West as "the African John Lee Hooker," through the great griot Salif Keita, to the present day Tuareg bands Timariwen and Tamakrest, Mali and the wider Maghrib region have produced an amazing array of fresh inventive music. It puts the crap one hears on the radio today to shame.

The thought of the region being reduced to another front in the War on Terra makes me weep.

A recent article in Foreign Policy (registartion required) points out

Pundits who bang on about the events in Mali on television today speculate glibly about the possible linkup of militant Islamic movements in places like Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, and northern Nigeria, potentially constituting a vast sea of Muslim radicalism and hostility to the West. They would do better to understand that such currents are inherent to the politics and culture of this region and are in no way a recent import. Rejection of borders and of the European drawn states is as old as the borders themselves, and Islam has always played a central role in this, as intellectual base, religious justification and rallying catalyst. These currents have been given added force and coherence by the age-old movement of peoples and ideas via pastoralism, overland pilgrimage to Mecca and the existence of large, sprawling and aggrieved transnational ethnic groups--like the Tuareg, Hausa, and Fulani, to name three--whose interests were never considered by the imperial mapmakers.

Our so-called free press are going to be falling all over themselves bloviating about the "terrorist" threat and how we are going to have to "defend our freedom" from these savage desert animals. You can be sure, however, they are not going to mention France's and England's role in carving out imperial playgrounds in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries nor the continual struggle of people like the Tuareg, the Hausa and the Fulani against foreign domination in the post-colonial era. No, it's going to be because "they hate us for our freedom." Count on it. It's as certain as a morning bulltrap on the Comex.

Be Careful What You Wish For

I have to admit that I've gotten caught up in singing the praises of all the "patriot" sheriffs popping up lately.

One of my favorite bloggers and liberty watchdogs has posted on the topic and I have to give him his props for a splash of cold water in my face.

“I will not enforce an unconstitutional law against any citizen of Smith County,” insisted Sheriff Larry Smith. The sheriff wants his constituents to believe that he would refuse to participate in a federally mandated gun grab, or permit one to be carried out by federal officials within his jurisdiction. Yet ten days before Smith offered that assurance, his office had taken part in an early-morning SWAT rampage throughout East Texas in which 73 warrants were served as part of the federal government’s patently unconstitutional war on drugs.
During a December 2011 campaign debate, Smith said that he wanted to “invest more resources” – that is, redirect wealth plundered from the productive – into a “Drug Task Force,” and insisted that under his administration the Sheriff’s Office would embrace a “Task Force mentality” in dealing with law enforcement issues. 
The problem with the mindset Sheriff Smith was extoling should become obvious once it’s understood that the German term for “task force” is einsatzgruppe. By their actions many multi-jurisdictional task forces in contemporary America are increasingly faithful to their historic pedigree
Smith’s devotion to narcotics task forces might be the residue of his early law enforcement career, which included two years as a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration – an agency that could be considered the mentally deficient stepchild of the CIA, which is the world’s largest narcotics syndicate. 
Twenty years ago, an ATF einsatzgruppe launched a murderous raid against an isolated religious group at Mt. Carmel outside Waco. The warrant they were enforcing was clotted with falsehoods. The investigation that produced it was haphazard. Its target, Vernon Howell -- aka David Koresh -- was suspected of trivial violations of federal firearms regulations, and had indicated his eagerness to cooperate with ATF investigators to clear the record. 
If an arrest were to be carried out – and one was neither necessary, nor justified – it could have been performed during one of Koresh’s frequent solitary jogging expeditions, or one of his routine visits to town. Instead, the ATF – seeking a dramatic, high-profile enforcement action to generate headlines for the scandal-plagued agency – staged a paramilitary assault on the religious sanctuary. They did so even though the raiders had lost the element of surprise, and when they arrived at Mt. Carmel they opened fire on the building despite the fact that an unarmed Koresh had confronted the stormtroopers with his hands up, pleading for them not to shoot.
Four ATF agents were killed during that Sunday morning raid. Their deaths were utterly unnecessary, and entirely well-deserved: They were attempting to murder innocent people, and the would-be victims acted within their rights in using deadly force to defend their homes against that assault. The criminal clique that had sent the ATF to attack the Davidians sent a larger contingent to lay siege to their residence, and eventually arranged for the holocaust that annihilated 76 people, including seventeen small children.
Like most gun owners in Eastern Texas, Smith can remember where he was the morning of April 19, 1993, when the Mt. Carmel refuge went up in flames. He was on the scene as an agent of the ATF, which he had joined in 1989. Smith believes that the initial ATF raid on the Davidians was justified, and that the entire operation was at least a partial success. It’s doubtful that his assessment is shared by many gun owners in his jurisdiction.
You can read the rest here.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

OK, Can We Stop Doing This Now, Please?

The problem with quotes on the Internet is you can never be sure if they are true. ~Mark Twain

One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that it can facilitate the propagation of ideas with breathtaking speed. The term "going viral" sums it up well. The flip side of this phenomenon is that factual errors and deliberate fabrications can propagate just as quickly.

Recently I have seen memes go zooming around--especially among libertarians and conservatives--that on the face of it support their positions on topics like gun rights. People flash these things up as proof of the rightness of their views and then bask in the glory of proving the statists wrong via their rapier-like wit. Well, what happens to your argument when it turns out you have been passing along faulty information?

Here are a few examples.

Molan Labe

Molon Labe

Sure, it would be great to think that someone pulled this off. It would show the dedication of those who support the idea expressed in the 2nd Amendment, but it is not true. That picture is a fake. Here is the original that someone photoshopped.

Missing Seal

The story behind it can be found here. Oh, and by the way, it is Greek, not Latin, and it is attributed to slave owning aristocrats, not "citizens" worried about their guns

A Rifle Behind Each Blade Of Grass


Personally, I agree with the sentiment expressed in this one. It evokes the futility of a tyrannical power attempting to subdue an armed populous. One has only to consider the American Revolution or the War in Vietnam to understand that determined armed resistance, backed by popular support, can foil the world's most powerful military machine. It is one of the core reasons that control freaks hate the private ownership of firearms. However, it is very doubtful Yamamoto ever said any such thing.

According to Donald M. Goldstein, author of At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor

I have never seen it in writing. It has been attributed to the Prange files [the files of the late Gordon W. Prange, chief historian on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur] but no one had ever seen it or cited it from where they got it. Some people say that it came from our work but I never said it. ...As of today it is bogus until someone can cite when and where.

Lest I be considered guilty of the very thing I decry, here is the source of that quote.

Hilter Said It, So It Must Be True

Hitler and the children

Godwin's Law not withstanding, in a debate few things can be more emotionally satisfying than attributing you opponent's detestable ideas to Adolf Hitler. This one is at least partially correct. In the Reynal And Hitchcock English tranlsation of Mein Kampf, page 608, Hitler said the State "has to make the child the most precious possession of the people." However, this was in the context of his racial policy, not the manufacture of popular consent. The rest of the quote is fictional according to an Australian blogger named Sid Walker

As far as I can tell, the rest of the paragraph was invented by an imaginative Rabbi in early 2004.

In fairness, Rabbi Daniel Lapin didn't set out to deceive his readers. His essay was clearly an account of his own fantasy. He was telling a tale.

He wrote: "I thought it might be interesting to explore what Adolf Hitler himself might have thought about Move On's derangement."

Lapin then quoted from imaginary correspondence from Hitler, including contemporary references. The Rabbi's main purpose seems to have been supporting the Bush Administration's 'War on Terror'.

The deceivers in this case--whether they do it intentionally or not--are people who repeat this quotation, wrongly attributing all of it to Hitler instead of giving due credit to the invented 'enhancements' added by Rabbi Lapin.

The Bottom Line

Those of us who support the private ownership of fire arms have a nearly unassailable moral argument in asserting the right of self defense, either from criminal aggressors or a tyrannical state. If you cannot support that contention on moral and logical grounds you should defer to those who can. If those of us who call people who unquestioningly accept everything the mainstream media say "sheep," yet we uncritically pass along memes that support our own biases, what does that make us?

Spurious or out of context quotes will not convince anyone, especially if you get called out. When you spread these things around without examining them it does not make you cute or clever. In fact, it kind of makes you look like an idiot.

I Can Typing

Dangerous Ideas

On January 17th, the Washington Times published a story about a report issued by the U.S. Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center. It is titled Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America's Violent Far-Right.

The paper say the report "lumps limited government activists with three movements it identifies as 'a racist/white supremacy movement, an anti-federalist movement and a fundamentalist movement.'"

Acording to the Washington Times

[The report] says anti-federalists "espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals' civil and constitutional rights. Finally, they support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government. Extremists in the anti-federalist movement direct most their violence against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement."

I have downloaded a copy of the report, but I have not read it yet. The CTC's blurb about the report says it offers "comprehensive look at the data." I am curious just what data they are talking about. I am not personally aware of an groups espousing "civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government" engaging in any violent behaviour. Maybe I've missed something.

Again, I have not read the report yet, but based on the Washing Times story I will make this preliminary observation: the truth is people who espouse "civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government" actually are a greater threat to a "corrupt and tyrannical" government, i.e., all governments, than groups like the KKK, the true wackjob militias, Christian Identity groups or White Nationalists--like the folks who are supposed to have shot up the Sikh temple last year--because those groups will never be more than a dangerous nuisance. The general public is never going to be persuaded by violent hate mongers from the right or the left, but ideas, like freedom and self-government have been known to go viral. Ideas have toppled governments in the past and they will do it again. If I were trying to control 300 million people, people like Ron Paul, Ernest Hancock, Larken Rose and the multitudes in whom they have planted seeds would scare the living bejeezuz out of me.

Anyway, I just downloaded the report. It is 148 pages long. It might take a little bit of time, but I expect it to be an interesting read.

The Washington Times story is here:

The CTC's website is here:

The report can be downloaded directly from this link: