Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Entropy: The Case For Optimism

Being a libertarian can be rough sometimes. It most certainly is not an easy thing to get to the masses to understand and accept, most notably in the case of the responsibility that libertarian rights implies and requires. And governments around the world all generally violate the libertarian's principles in varying ways. This may lead the libertarian to become a strict pessemist. But the libertarian that becomes a strict pessemist after a certain point inevitably has given up on "the battle"; the battle of ideas and the principle of revolution. They have fallen into the "conservative" trap of assuming apriori that social change is impossible.

Some great libertarians of times past have fallen into this trap, and thus found themselves fall back in the direction of conservatism in their later years. Other libertarians, however, remained more or less vigilant and consistant for their whole lives and maintained long-term optimism, chief among them being Murray Rothbard. Rothbard emphasized that the libertarian should remain optimistic in the long-term because of the gains made already due to the classical liberal era combined with the inevitabilty of statism failing and crumbling. The prime example in recent years of this is the fall of the Soviet Union and Communist eastern Europe.

Of course, looking back in history we find an incredibly long list of long-gone states and empires. Why is that? This would seem to be a strong historical testament to the fact that governments are inherently not permanent or stable systems. It would seem that every government sows the seeds for its own downfall by its very nature as an institution. The larger and more powerful a government becomes, the more it makes a day of reckoning and therefore collapse inevitable, and the worse the reckoning is. Just as there is no Roman or Greek government anymore, a day will come when our modern governments face the true prospect of collapse or decentralization.

There is a term for this phenomenon that applies to nature and life in general: entropy. Entropy applies as much to political and economic systems as it does to other things. All systems are naturally forced to decentralize and no system is completely permanent or infinite. All systems are subject to a degree of unpredictability and change. It is impossible for a system to be completely static. Nature is inherently decentralizing itself and changing over time. The fruits of this decentralization is manifested in a reproductive potential as a compensating differential - the destruction of one order gives birth to another.

We live in a scarce, finite world with various types of systems that will not last in the long-run. The optimistic side of entropy is that new systems will arise, and pose the potential of being better with the effort of human reason and technology. Entropy does not mean that man is doomed to utter failure, but rather that centralized systems are inevitably prone to decentralize and this decentralization poses the oppurtunity to improve the human condition upon the ashes of the fallen and failed systems.

Entropy in man-made institutions is, in a certain sense, a consequence of scarcity. There is what could be called "the entropy of the market", that is, the market is a naturally decentralizing and self-correcting institution. Not one institutional arrangement is a total constant. The market is unstatic, and this is precisely why it works. Some areas will incur loses, while simultaneously this entropic loss leads to new gains by people channeling their effort into other things. Every loss and bankrupcy opens up a comparative advantage somewhere else.

Every job that goes overseas simultanously opens up new employment oppurtunies in other domestic areas. When the car was invented and popularized, the horse and buggy buisiness took a nose dive, but new oppurtunities were opened up elsewhere. In this way, the market is a regenerative process. The market will never completely die as an institution because it does not truly try to defy entropy and it is an inevitably to humn existance and survival because of scarcity.

This is not so with government, because government allows no compartive advantage, as it allows no competition to itself in the areas it controls. What makes entropy as it applies to governmental institutions unique is that government is the most centralized and monopolistic type of institution, and therefore entropy manifests itself the strongest in the areas that stall its effects the most. In non-governmental institutions, things are more "entropized" already. In governmental institutions, things are centralized to the point where entropy hasn't fully kicked in yet. At this stage it might be only lurking in the background, slowly rising.

However, it is inevitable that it will eventually kick in meaningfully ("the scum rises to the top", so to speak), and its effect will be most negative in governmental institutions. Governments are not immune to entropy, they only delay its effects and redistribute the costs in quite an inefficient manner. The more it is stalled artificially, the worse the eventual consequences will be. The more centralized an institution is, the more the negative side of entropy manifests itself. The more decentralized an institution is, the more the positive and reproductive side of entropy manifests itself. Centralization attempts to fight the reproduction of entropy while decentralization allows it to flourish.

When empire falls, liberty triumphs. Empire is doomed to failure. Economic central planning is doomed to failure. This also means that decentralization and privatization is an inevitability, that some kind of move in the direction of liberty is inherent at some point. The cause of individual freedom is not a utopian impossibility, but a real thing that becomes imminent and inevitable once systems grow and centralize beyond a certain point. Where exactly that tipping point is can vary and be hard to tell with complete accuracy. But it exists nonetheless. While people tend to think of the end of political systems as something to fear they fail to see that it presents them with the most pristine oppurtunity to make real changes and install alternative and/or improved systems in their place.

It must be remembered that the declaration of independance was a radical document that oozes with the idea that the people have a right and duty to overthrow their current governmental institutions and replace them with new institutions if they so please. This was not a declaration of governmental power, but a document filled with resistance to governmental power, almost to the point of anarchism even. This was an incredibly bold and optimistic move on the part of Americans. It could not possibily have been done with too pessemistic of an outlook, for they would have given up and not asserted their rights effectively. History indeed can be changed by the actions of individuals and minority groups. Our progress as a species is largely the result of the bold decisions of individual men.

From the likes of Thoreau we get the principle of civil disobedience and revolutionary change. Our declaration of independance was like a great big act of civil disobedience on the part of many Americans. All gains that Americans have made economically and personally in comparison to times past would not exist without the civil disobedience of individuals and the drive for change. Without such action, there would be no America as we know it, no constitution, no declaration of independance and a considerably lesser degree of liberty and general well-being as a consquence. I hate to use the term, but "defeatism" is no virtue and pursual of principle is no vice.

There is almost nothing that can be more counterproductive to the libertarian cause than a Hobbesian view of human nature. Hobbes's views on human nature painted all humans as inherently at war with eachother. Hobbes more or less believed that human self-interest is inherently negative and destructive. This model is based on a type of society that no longer exists in modern times; a society bound by the limits of agriculture, tribalism, fuedalism, mercantalism and absolute monarchy. The problem with taking too pessemistic of a view of human nature is that it denigrates man's reason to the point where the principles of liberty start to vanish.

A Hobbesian style view on human nature, when taken to it's extreme, inevitably must manifest itself as totalitarianism in practise because it supposes that people can't run their own lives and therefore must have their lives controlled in detail by a set of rulers (of course, this is contradictary to the initial Hobbesian idea that all humans are dog-on-dog, as it essentially holds that a special set of privileged rulers are immune from these conflict problems). This strongly manifests itself as political elitism in many ways.

Locke and Artistotle's views on human nature are much closer to the truth than that of Hobbes. Lock maintained that self-interest can yield a cumulative and wide-spreading social order and well-being as manfiested in voluntary cooperation, while Hobbes viewed self interest more or less as an exclusive disorder and conflict. Artistotle emphasized the rationality of man while Hobbe's view reduces man to the lesser animals in every way, as it makes no consideration as to man's peculiar rationality as a species.

The libertarian is given many good reasons to remain optimistic when looking back into history for insight. Consider that for thousands of years, most people lived in either (1) a state of totalitarianism or absolute monarchy or (2) a tribal and primitivist system. Consider that these systems were more or less abolished in the West. Who would want to go back to living like we did during the times when the average lifespan was 40, kings ruled arbitrarily and industry barely existed? No rational modern person.

The classical liberal and American revolution were the major manifestations of a move toward liberty that crumbled an empire. This was the foundation of our move away from those kind of systems. We have indeed been floundering from that foundation for quite some time, but that only makes it all the more inevitable that the empire will end and we will face the possibility of increasing liberty in a meaningful way. The Post-WWII American empire is doomed to fail, and so it will. The libertarian should be joyous and energized, not disheartened to the point of losing will power.

The case of post-cold-war socialist Europe is rather illuminating. Soviet and European communism was inherently doomed to fail, and so it did, and the people rightly rejoiced. As bad as these countries may still be in various economic and social respects, they have more or less been forced to privatize and move towards a more moderated approach. Their governments still maintain socialist underpinnings, which is a crying shame, but nonetheless many of them are moderate in comparison Soviet Communism or German National Socialism (although some highly questionable stuff in violation of personal liberties goes on in Sweden and Germany sometimes). Europe will most definitely be entropically forced to privatize even more in the future.

The current American situation is dire and complex. Every government in the world wields way too much power and has created true disorder and chaos consequentially. But this cannot be addressed with resignation or extreme pessemism. It must be addressed with vigilance and willpower. It must be addressed with independant education, above all. When the problems we face fully pan out, the only logical direction to move in is towards less political power and more individual autonomy. It is the only way to best maintain a social order and avoid the worst consequences of entropy. It is the only way to channel entropy into a fully productive force. Entropy is a brilliant testament to the need for strict decentralization of power.

To a certain extent, we already see entropy occuring all around us. Governmentally funded infastructure and social programs are failing, as they inherently must. A foreign policy of aggression, pre-emptive war, nation-building, empire, military-industrialism and economic hegemony have entangled us in an blundering and uncurable mess, wasting resources and lives without moral consideration. Increased police and judicial powers make us less safe and threaten our private property rights, not to mention pave the path for a police state and arbitrary legislative power. Monetary inflation debases the b'jesus out of the people's money over the decades. But none of these problems should necessarily take us away from keeping our principles in sight and taking calculated action at the right times and places.

Freedom is inevitable.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Michael Crichton: Global Warming Skeptic

Michael Crichton
by Charley Reese

Michael Crichton, whom most people probably know as the author of Jurassic Park and the creator of the television series ER, is no dummy or hack writer, although he's used the theme of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein a number of times (good-intentioned science produces a monster).

He's probably one of the smartest guys in America today, and he's been raising issues that are far more important than the legal circus surrounding the death of a glamorous tramp or the problems of Britney Spears.

Crichton graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. His books have been translated into 36 languages. Thirteen films have been made from them. He has also received a Technical Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering work in using computer programs in film production. His knowledge of computers is extensive.

His recent book about global warming, emphasizing the pseudoscience involved and the hype, riled the world, although his conclusions often have been misstated. He thinks global warming is occurring, and he predicts a rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius during the next century. In other words, he doesn't buy all the catastrophic predictions that have even filtered down to my 7-year-old grandson, who casually informed me that New York would soon be underwater. Crichton scoffs at computer modeling, which he says is not supported by the data.

Charlie Rose, the best interviewer on television, recently showed dismay that Crichton would stand alone against the great consensus. Thinkers have been doing that for millennia. There was once a great consensus that scurvy was an infectious disease, despite years of reports by sea captains that crew members recovered as soon as they were able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. The history of science and medicine in particular is a history of the consensus being shattered by individual thinkers. Doctors, for example, no longer bleed patients, a practice that probably killed many of those in their care.

At any rate, Crichton is concerned about two problems. One is the politicizing of science. Another is the commercialization of university research. The old idea that new scientific knowledge should be shared with the world is giving way to a desire to patent it and make money from it. In fact, as the old gangsters knew so well, the world is all about money.

As anyone familiar with fundraising can tell you, pending catastrophes and crises sell; reason doesn't. Climatologists who said, "There is some gradual warming, but we don't know for sure what will happen in the future, so we'd like some money for further study" would get few grants. I've heard people talk about Hillary Clinton's fundraising ability, but I guarantee you that Republicans will raise tons of money to "stop Hillary" as if she were the Medusa or a female version of the Antichrist. Hype and exaggeration seem to have infected every aspect of American life.

In this atmosphere, Crichton is like Ayn Rand's fictional ideal man of reason. Look at the data. Apply reason. Make sure the data is correct. Even I, a techno semi-illiterate, know that computer modeling is simply a fancy straight-line projection. Unfortunately, life is more about circles and cycles than straight lines. Global warming is taking on the aspect of a religious belief rather than science. No matter what happens – hot or cold, wet or dry – it's blamed on global warming. And, like the Darwinians, the global-warming folks treat dissenters as if they were evil heretics.

May I suggest that you go to Crichton's official Web site and read the text of several of his speeches? I think you will find the intelligent conversation refreshing.

Ron Paul Campaign

Friday, February 23, 2007

Psychology: Sound Science or Conformist Weapon?

Psychology is a rather young field. It most certainly is not a medical science. Indeed, up until around the beginning of the 20th century, it was nothing more than vague notions and questionable philosophical biases. It is questionable as to wether or not psychology is still more or less the same today. Afterall, it has not been much more than one single century that it has been seriously persued as a science (which is nothing compared to fields such as physics and math, which go back multiple centuries and even millenia) and many of these persuits in themselves are most definitely blunders. The actual medical study of the brain is an entirely separate field from psychology. Psychology is the study of the mind, which is an intangible thing. Psychology is, at best, a highly underdeveloped social science. At worst, it is simply the personal delusions and means of empowerment for men in ivory towers.

It must be pointed out that psychology as a field has an inherent paradox, weakness or loophole within it. Essentially, "the mind" is no less of a philosophical thing to be studying then "the soul" or "the will". If another man tells you that he knows why you acted in a certain way better than you yourself did (I.E. that he knows your will better than you do), there is a 99.99% chance that the man is completely full of it. The mind is not something that was can realistically penetrate with 100% accuracy. We cannot completely deterministically predict the nature and behavior of people's minds with mathematical formulas or testing. Humans are not telepaths, capable of reading eachother's minds, and as such, neither are psychologists. The idea that we can reduce the mind to statistics and actually learn something meaningful from this is nonsense.

The mind is incapable of being measured. Even in seemingly non-tangible or "invisible" areas of science, things can be measured and scientifically observed. Gravity can be measured. Inertia can be measured. Speed can be measured. Time can be measured. Yet the mind cannot be measured. This is what gives psychology such a flimsy basis to begin with. The mind is completely immeasurable by the methods of the natural sciences. As such, the claim that a bunch of men can measure the mind is questionable at best. It is simply impossible to truly "study" the mind in any real scientific sense. It is practically immune to observation. In short, psychology is trapped from the start in that it is impossible to apply any pre-existing scientific methodology to the mind. The mind is intangible to the point where you cannot apply direct observation and traditional scientific methodology to it.

Psychology faces the problem that the psychologists themselves have minds, and are therefore subject to the same fallability as the minds of others that they study and deal with. In short, there will be an inevitable tendency for the "study" to be tainted by the fallable perceptions and/or personal biases of the observer. Further, this tendency will be strongest in the social sciences, where human behavior is what is being observed. If the methodologies of modern psychology were consistantly applied to everyone in the world, the results would show that everyone is insane. Of course, everyone is not insane; this merely demonstrates the inaccuracy of modern psychology.

The minds of human beings may have different reactions to the exact same stimuli. The minds of human beings also have different desires and preferances, and they consist of different ideas. This fact in itself makes the developement of psychological standards practically impossible. There is no objective way for a psychologist to determine and tell you that your thoughts are "wrong". If a girl draws a picture of a pony, and another girl draws a picture of a soldier with a rifle, there is no objective way of determining that one is "right" and the other is "wrong". If a boy draws a picture of a train, and another boy draws a bunch of big blotches of color and "imperfect" geometric shapes, there is no objective way of determing that one is "right" and the other is "wrong".

If John sees a butterfly in the rorsatch image, while Jack sees a demon with horns, there is no objective way of determing that one is "right" and the other is "wrong". If one person believes that UFO's are populated by aliens, while another person believes that humans are the only living creatures in their entire universe, there is no way of determining the sanity of the people on this criteria. If person X thinks that the government should do whatever it wants under any circumstances, while person Y thinks that the government should be abolished, there is no objective way of considering either person "sane" or "insane" on such criteria. Yet modern psychology consists almost entirely of judgements with regaurd to such subjective things.

How does a psychologist determine what behavior is correct and incorrect behavior? There are a number of common methodologies that most psychologists use. One methodology is to use the status quo or majority numbers to determine what "sane" and "proper" behavior is. Another is to outright use personal preferances (wether they be political, cultural, religious or economic) to determine what "sane" and "proper" behavior is. Another is to use a criterion that reflects the personal preferances of people who are higher in authority then the psychologist (such as any higher-up in the buisiness, various government officials and heads of local public school systems).

In either case, no matter which of those methodologies are used, all of them make apriori determinations and generalizations; that is, they assume ahead of time that behavior X will always equal Y and that the appearance of X will always equal behavior Y. This inevitably is going to clash with individualistic variance in humans. You cannot paint droves of people with the same brush in this way. "One Size Fits All" simply doesn't work. Behavior X will not necessarily always have the same motive and purpose for different people. Psychology has of yet to provide any objective criterion by which thought and behavior can be considered "proper" and "improper".

Of course, there are even deeper problems in the three (or four) mentioned methodologies. The method of using the majority to determine correctness is obviously flawed because (1) the amount of people engaging in an activity does not determine its morality or sanity (2) the majority may very well do immoral and insane things sometimes and (3) this method mistakenly paints all individuals and minorities that vary from the "norm" as being mentally disturbed.

The method of using the status quo is flawed because it is inherently "centric". That is, it is biased towards whatever political, racial, religious, social and economic norms exist at the time. Its results may differ from the majoritarian method because the status quo is not always determined by majorities (in some cases it is almost wholly determined by powerful minorities or aristocracies). It nonetheless is inevitably tainted with some degree of political-centric, national-centric, cultural-centric and/or ethno-centric bias.

The method of personal preferances is, to some extent, unavoidable. If the psychologist strongly holds a personal preferance with respect to a particular behavior, it is a possibility that they will consider them to be "proper" and "sane" in their criteria, and therefore deviations are considered to be insane behavior. But this starts to get really interesting when the psychologist is merely functioning as an underling for a set of higher-ups who are determing the criteria. In such a situation, the Psychologist is a tool for powerful people to use in order to mold society into their pre-concieved notions of good people or ideal citezens.

Most frequently, one finds that these higher-ups are governmental officials and those who are well-connected with them. This is apparent both for the public school system and the "private" officies of various shrinks. It is also quite obvious that most psychologists are wedded at the hip to the pharmacudical industry, and therefore the criterion of psychologists may be considerably prone to make a diagnosis as to get people on a particular pharmacudical drug. In this sense, psychologists and the pharmacudical industry are our "legal drug dealers".

One common facade used by all sorts of "social scientists" is that of utilitarianism or subjectivism. That is, they claim to be value-free observers, not inserting anyone's biases or pre-determined structures at all. This obviously is impossible. Noone is a value-free observer and no social science is completely immune from bias and fallability, especially psychology. A claim of subjectivism on the part of a psychologist is hypocritical and paradoxical. If everything was truly 100% subjective, then there would be no purpose to study the mind at all.

Certain things can be deduced, but it can never be determined like a mathematical equation or with absolute certainty because of individuality, spontaneousness and a degree of subjectivity. It still is nonetheless true that certain things can be deduced about the mind, but on a considerably limited basis. In either case, the claim of subjectivism is more often than not just a facade to hide whats really going on; wether that be personal bias, the bias of higher-ups, majoritarianism, "conservatism" (I.E. the status quo as "sanity") or any combination of these things.

A look at the works of Sigmund Frued reveals a psychological model riddled with sweeping generalities that make no sense, the personal biases of Frued and a reoccuring use of the status quo of Frued's environment (predominantly Jewish areas of Eastern Europe circa. turn of the century) as "the norm". Frued had a tendency to classify loads of rather harmless and seemingly meaningless human behavior into signs of paternalism, maternalism and fetal-derived memories.

To Frued, just about everything under the sun could be simply explained away as a manifestation of people's emotional attachments to their parents and romanticism for their fetal stage. What Frued presented us with, in the end, was not a solid new science but a rather wild philosophy that deserves much criticism. Close to a century after the time of Frued, Psychology still does not have any real medical evidence or medical contributions.

Psychology is easily used as a tool to enforce conformity. Anyone who deviates from the generalized and one-size-fits-all criteria is considered as an abnormality to be "fixed". Thus leading to the idea that psychologists can "fix" people (most commonly through subscribing them to a bunch of drugs). Individual variance is anathema to most modern psychologists. Anyone who thinks or acts in a way that is considerably different from the majority of their fellow men is automatically branded as mentally handicapped in some way.

Further, there is a function of guilt that goes on here. The point is to convince the person that they are handicapped as such. The purpose is to make them feel guilty as to their individualistic behavior and therefore stamp it out so that the person conforms to the desired collectivistic behavior that is considered "normal, sane and proper" by the psychological criteria. Someone who has been "fixed" in this way is someone who been tricked into conforming to the preferances of others, essentially. Of course, the individualistic differences and "quirks" of people is almost impossible to truly stamp out completely outside of highly abusive physical and mental treatment.

The use of psychology for social control in this way is expressed most heavily in our political system and school system (especially public). Increasingly, the "school nurse" has more or less been replaced by the "school psychologist". Any student who seems to meaningfully vary from the herd is sent to the school psycholigist, often considered a "trouble-child", has the schoolboard meet with or conspire with their parents, diagnosed with some barely-off-the-books disorder and perscribed with medication. Individual students who are simply bored, eccentric or too smart for highschool are made to go through hell.

These people are more often than not more screwed up afterwards then they were before they were "treated" and loaded full of drugs. The purpose of the school psychologist is obvious: to stamp out the individuality of students as to create a collective ideal. The role of the school psychologist may also more or less be as a spy for the school board or parents. It is a means to pry personal information from students for quasi-governmental purposes.

This works much the same way for adults in our political system as well. Despite the disagreements between the parties, all or most political parties are in complete agreement on a certain core of things. There is a status quo center, if you will, that neither most Democrats or Republicans, and even not most of the independant parties, disagree on aside from a few minor points. People who question any of those "core" agreements are considered to be deviations in the same way as students who don't conform to the flock. They are considered "insane" in their positions.

There is a psychological atmosphere in which you have to fit the "core" criteria or be considered "politically insane". This psychological atmosphere, of course, was created, in part, by powerful people through propagandistic methods derived from modern psychological methodology. Governments have created psychological generalities as criterion for "proper" and "improper" political ideas. Those who do not fit into those generalities are considered "subversive" and "on the fringe". The ulterior purpose, once again, is to instill guilt as to make people conform to the "core" criteria.

A psychologist in general weilds a potentially dangerous weapon over their client. They possess a possible means to control the client. The purpose of psycho-analysis is more than for analysizing. It is for influencing the subject of the analysis. They are to be influenced to adopt a particular pattern of behavior. If the person makes it to the point where they have adopted the desired behavior, the psychologist has suceeded in "fixing" the client. If the person does not make it to this point, the psychologist goes through a whole host of specially-designed methods intended to "fix" the client.

After a certain point, they (those who maintain their individuality) become a nuissance to the psychologist. As such, they are "released", so to speak. This realising is usually coupled with a transferance to other authorities or a quick subscription to a pharmacudical drug. Interestingly, in many cases, these pharmacudical drugs introduce new problems to people's lives, which functions as an incentive for people to keep going to psychologists and seek more "treatment".

Government's role in all of this is quite large. Psychologists depend on licensing from the government to practise their field and are subject to a whole host of regulations, which inevitably introduces political influence into "private" psychological establishments. Not surprisingly, many psychologists are also lawyers. We now have, to some extent, psychologists employed by the state. School psychologists, more or less, have their criteria determined by local and state government (if not federal). Their employment, of course, is entirely dependent on the government. Further, government heavily subsidizes the pharamacudical industry that the psychologists rely on for their diagnosises.

Governments themselves, of course, are ever-willing to create a psychological atmosphere in favor of themselves and in conformity to a certain ideal of citezenship. There is no greater tool than court intellectuals (who in modern times spout lots of psychological constructs) by which such a feat can be accomplished. Psychology is the perfect weapon for people of power to enforce society to conform to their wishes. The purpose is to get rid of as much individuality as possible as to create a collective of drugged-up zombies with no clue as to what's really going on in the world.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The "Value" of Public Schooling

The 'Value' of Public Schooling
by Jacob G. Hornberger

There are two major values of public schooling, from the perspective of government officials. One, this institution provides the means by which government officials can slowly but surely, over a period of 12 years, mold the mindsets of children into one of conformity and obedience to authority. Second, public schooling enables government officials to fill children’s minds with officially approved political, historical, and economic doctrine.

Public schooling is much like the military. What is the first thing that the military does to new recruits? No, not teach them to fight or kill. That comes later. First comes boot camp, a seemingly nonsensical period of time in which soldiers are ordered to drop down for pushups at the whim of an officer. Soldiers learn to march together in unison, mastering such movements as right-face and left-face. They’re taught to respond without hesitation with “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” to an officer barking questions a few inches away from their face.

Why? Why does the military spend time teaching those things to new soldiers? After all, none of them comes in very handy once the actual fighting begins.

The reason is very simple: to mold each person’s mindset into one of strict conformity and obedience. That is, higher-ups in the military know that if they can compel a person to do something as ridiculous and nonsensical as a right-face and a left-face, then there is a greater likelihood that that person will obey other orders without question.

Or if a person can be taught to obey orders to march in unison within a group of people, all of whom are wearing the same uniform, there is a strong likelihood that such a person will lose his sense of individuality and instead simply consider himself part of the collective.

That is the real value of military boot camp – it very quickly eliminates all notions of individuality within the human being and makes him feel that conformity and obedience are the only acceptable states of mind.

In principle, the public-schooling system is no different, although government officials have a much longer period of time – 12 years – in which to accomplish the same task – produce mindsets of conformity and obedience.

That’s not only what compulsory-attendance laws are all about but also the manner in which public schools are operated.

Compulsory-attendance laws are, in principle, no different from the compulsory draft that the military employs.

In the draft system, the government sends a notice to a citizen commanding him to appear at a military installation for compulsory service in the military. If the citizen refuses, he faces criminal indictment, prosecution, conviction, imprisonment, and fine.

In the public-school system, families are required to submit their children to a state-approved education. While this encompasses attendance at state-approved private schools and homeschooling, for most families compulsory-attendance laws mean sending their children into public schools in their neighborhood for education. Those families who refuse to submit their children to a state-approved education face the same things that draft resisters face: criminal indictment, prosecution, conviction, imprisonment, and fine.

Equally important, the operation of public schools tends to produce the same type of mindset that the military produces – one of conformity and obedience to state authority. Just as in the military, the student is taught to conform to what some people would ordinarily consider nonsensical rules and regulations that bear no relationship to a genuine love of learning.

For example, consider the rigid class schedules that are imposed in public schools. All students are required to attend a daily series of 50-minute classes addressing several different subjects. When the bell rings at the end of one class, the student is expected to immediately proceed to the next class. If he fails to arrive on time, he is punished. Never mind that he might not be interested in the subject matter of the next class or that he might want to stay and talk with other students or the teacher about a subject that he is genuinely interested in. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that he respond to the bells and obey.

That rigidity, conformity, and obedience may be perfectly suitable for some types of people, just as the military way of life is perfectly suitable for some types of people. The problem, however, is that not everyone is suited to that way of life. For those who are more individualistic, more free-spirited, the public-school experience becomes a long, 12-year battle in which the military-like school system tends toward grinding away at the natural sense of individualism and independence that characterize those students, a process that such students naturally resist.

For example, suppose a student says to his public-school administrators, “I absolutely love playing the piano. I am totally uninterested in math, chemistry, and a foreign language.
Therefore, I have made the decision to stay in music class six hours every day for the next three months and take no other classes.”

How would the public-school administrator respond? He would laugh out loud at such an audacious statement. He would firmly tell the student to follow the class schedule that the school has provided him . . . or else. In earlier years, the student would have even faced a paddling with a “board of education” if he insisted on skipping regularly scheduled, mandatory classes to play the piano.

One might respond that the student has the choice of dropping out of public school and receiving his state-approved education from a private school or through homeschooling. The problem, however, is that most private schools have the same rigid-type curriculum system that public schools have. After all, private schools must be approved by the state in order to meet the standard of a “state-approved” education. Moreover, many parents simply lack the competence or time to homeschool.

Under a free-market educational system, however, each family would be free to fashion the education that would fit each child in the family. If a child said, “I want to do nothing but play the piano for the next six months and study nothing else,” that would be up to the family, not the state. And before someone says, “It would be irresponsible for a family to educate the child in that way,” reflect on the fact that many students travel abroad each summer to study nothing but a foreign language and that they study that language for several hours every single day for several weeks at a time. No math or science classes. Just the foreign language.

The point is that in the compulsory state system, the military-like way of learning is imposed on everyone, even those who are not suited for that way of life. The result is an endless battle in which individualistic students come to hate school and learning in general.

In a noncoerced educational system – that is, one in which the state is not involved in any way – the family controls the educational environment of its children. Thus, if a child says, “I think I’ll just go fishing today and reflect on the ideas and philosophies I’ve been studying,” the parents are free to say, “That sounds like an exciting idea.” If the student tries that in the state system, he will be told, “Try it and you’ll find yourself in detention for the next three weeks.”

What happens to those public-school students who rebel against the military-like regimentation that characterizes public schools? Government administrators make them feel like something is wrong with them. Even worse, they convince their parents that something is wrong with them. The students are sent to school psychiatrists who diagnose mental disorders such as “attention deficit disorder.”

Think about how a new military recruit who announced “I’m going fishing today instead of learning how to march” would be treated. Would not everyone in his unit think he was crazy? That’s the same way school administrators would feel about the student who said the same thing. He’d be considered crazy – or at least distracted. Of course, in the mind of the state official, the malady is nothing that drugs, such as Ritalin, can’t cure. Given the right dosage of drugs, over time the mind of the recalcitrant, independent-minded student will be molded in the “proper” way, especially over the 12 long years that the state has control over him.

Indoctrination and textbooks

The other value of public schooling, from the standpoint of the state, is the ability of government officials to fill the minds of children with important, officially approved ideas, philosophies, and standpoints, especially with respect to politics, history, government, and economics.

After all, what textbooks are used in public schools? Those textbooks that have been carefully chosen by state officials. If a proposed textbook contains objectionable material or omits important officially approved material, what chance does it have to become the official textbook used in public schools across the state? Answer: No chance at all.

By the very nature of government schooling, the matter of what goes into school textbooks must necessarily be a political matter, to be decided by those in political power. And since the choice of textbooks customarily applies to public schools across the state, all children receive the same government-approved information.

Moreover, there is virtually no choice for the parents who cannot afford to send their children to private school or who are unable or unwilling to home-school. They must send their children to the public school in their neighborhood. That is, there is not a multitude of public schools from which to choose. And even if there were, they would most likely all be using the same textbooks.
Why is the textbook important? Because the teacher is expected to base his teaching on it. Sure, a teacher has some leeway to be flexible but imagine what would happen to a public-school teacher who announced to his classes, “What is written in these textbooks is claptrap, lies, and deceptions. I’m going to be teaching you the truth about the nature of the government, government schooling, free markets, individualism, and liberty.”

What would happen to that teacher? He would slowly (or perhaps quickly) be grinded down, to the point where he either got pushed out of the public-school system or be made to conform.
Here’s what would happen: A student would return home and report to his parents what the teacher was saying. A major political crisis would quickly erupt. His parents would call a member of the school board, which consists of elected officials, and complain. The school board, scared of the political consequences, would contact the principal, who would have a talk with the teacher. If the teacher refused to back down, the school board would call a public meeting, where the teacher would be given the opportunity to state his case to the board – and to the voters. Given the nature of politics, voter sentiment would play an important role in the school board’s ultimate decision.

Since the teacher’s teaching would be contrary to the official doctrines found in the textbook, he would have a heavy burden to overcome. Most likely, he would lose. The teacher would be left with a choice: stand fast and lose his job or give in and teach the information contained in the textbook.

Libertarianism and public schooling

That’s why it is extremely unlikely that one would ever find libertarianism taught as a philosophy in any public school. For one thing, libertarian principles would contradict most of the claptrap found in government textbooks. Do you have doubts? Well, imagine a public-school teacher openly announcing at the beginning of the semester that he would be teaching the following things in his government class:

The drug war is an immoral sham that has accomplished nothing more than enriching government officials and drug dealers. Drugs should be decriminalized.

Public schooling is nothing more than a system of socialism applied to education. It should be abolished, leaving education to the free market.

Abraham Lincoln waged war on the Confederacy for the purpose not of freeing the slaves but of preserving the Union.

U.S. intervention in World War I constituted a horrible waste of American life. It did not accomplish its purported goal of making the world safe for democracy and ending all future wars and actually contributed to the rise of N. Lenin and Adolf Hitler.

The federal government, not free enterprise, caused the 1929 stock-market crash and the Great Depression.

Franklin Roosevelt intentionally lied to the American people when he said that he was doing his best to keep America out of World War II.

U.S. officials during World War II intentionally delivered East Germany and Eastern Europe into the clutches of the Soviet communists.

Lyndon Johnson won his 1948 U.S. Senate race by stuffing the ballot box with fake ballots and later, as president, he intentionally lied about the supposed attack on U.S. forces in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The U.S. government’s interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East gave rise to the 9/11 attacks.

Given that Iraq never attacked the United States, President Bush’s war on Iraq constitutes a “war of aggression,” a type of war that was punished as a war crime by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.

Minimum-wage laws hurt the poor and should be repealed.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are immoral, socialist programs that should be abolished immediately, along with the taxes that fund them.

What do you think would happen to that teacher?

Public schooling and Cuba

I’m not suggesting, of course, that there are no libertarians teaching in the public schools. In fact, there are and they do a great job introducing libertarian principles to students. But they must be very careful about how they present their arguments. Usually they learn to carefully couch them in terms of improving the system.

In fact, that’s also how things work in Cuba, where public schooling is one of Fidel Castro’s proudest accomplishments (along with government-provided health care). It’s illegal for any public-school teacher in Cuba to challenge the Cuban system. But as long as arguments are couched in terms of “improving the Revolution,” teachers have some degree of flexibility.

As a matter of fact, a comparison of public schooling in Cuba and the United States will help to drive home the points I am making in this article. The systems in both countries are based on the same principles. Government officials are in charge of educating the children in the nation. Government-approved textbooks that contain government-approved doctrine are used. Government employees teach the students. The curriculum is set by the government.

So is there any difference? Yes, both in the mindsets that are produced and in the materials taught, which is why maintaining control over education is so important, both to U.S. officials and to Cuban officials.

For example, most Cubans know that public schooling and government-provided health care constitute socialism, and they are very proud of their educational and healthcare systems. They would not want to see them abolished.

On the other hand, most Americans honestly believe that public schooling and Medicare and Medicaid constitute “free enterprise,” and they are very proud of their educational and health-care systems. They too would not want to see them abolished.

The mindsets in both countries reflect the value of doctrines taught by government officials during the 12-year period when government officials had control over children.

Do you recall the big battle of Elián, the young boy whose mother died while trying to escape Cuba and make it to the United States? Everyone knew that whichever government school got ahold of him – and maintained a hold over him for 12 years – would ultimately win out in terms of his mindset.

Today, Elián praises Fidel Castro and the Cuban system. No doubt he thinks he’s free, especially given that the Cuban system involves free education and free health care. If he had remained in America’s public schools, he would very likely have felt differently about matters in Cuba but would have been nevertheless praising public schooling, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in the United States.

That’s the power of public schooling.

Several years ago, I visited Cuba and was walking through a museum that detailed all the attempts that the CIA had made to assassinate Castro and effect “regime change” in Cuba, including the invasion at the Bay of Pigs. I saw a class of primary-school students and their teacher taking a field trip through the museum.

To no one’s surprise, the teacher was filling the students’ minds with the Cuban government’s officially approved doctrine. But it would not have been any different in principle if a class of public-school students from Miami had been taking a field trip through a CIA museum in the United States. The Cuban students would be taught that the U.S. government wrongfully interferes in the affairs of other countries, even making use of assassination. American students would be taught that their government spreads freedom and democracy around the globe and would probably not be told that their government uses assassination as one of its policy tools.
One amusing aspect of the comparison between the Cuban and U.S. educational systems appeared recently. A controversy arose in Miami because the library of some public school carried a book that praised public schooling in Cuba. There was an outcry because it’s considered improper and unpatriotic to say good things about Castro or his system in American public schools.

A Cuban woman who had served in the Cuban public-school system and who was now living in Miami said that the whole controversy confirmed the advantages of democracy over tyranny. She explained that at least in the U.S. educational system, there are discussions and debates among government bureaucrats over what books should be permitted in public schools, while in Cuba, only one official – Fidel Castro – makes that decision.

The woman obviously is convinced that public schooling in the United States is “freedom” because education in this country is centrally planned by government bureaucracies, while in Cuba, education is “tyranny” because it is centrally planned by only one government official.
Government schooling has proven invaluable to government officials all over the world, especially since the mindset of conformity and obedience that is produced lasts long into adulthood. As in the military, such a mindset has historically been the best friend of government officials. The good news is that the malady is not incurable, as so many libertarians who are products of public schooling, including myself, can attest.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bed-Wetting Conservatives

Bed-Wetting Conservatives
by Thomas R. Eddlem

I’m tired of Bed-wetting Conservatives.

You know the kind of person I’m talking about.

The "Bed-wetting Conservative" is always fretting Democrats will take over the White House, especially whenever the Republican Caesar is criticized. They’re always saying things like "If you think it’s bad now, it’ll be a lot worse with Nancy Pelosi (or insert Democrat here) in the White House." The bed-wetters consider Democrats in the White House as the worst of all possible nightmares, and virtually wet themselves in fear of that event. And here’s the most important point: they like – and need – to be scared to the level of bed-wetting.

The "bed-wetting conservative" is not really a conservative; he is a concubine of the Republican Party. The bed-wetting conservative, who has predictably had his conservative principles betrayed by the Republican Party with regularity for at least a decade, helps me to understand a variety of societal psychoses, such as why Hillary Clinton keeps taking Bill Clinton back. And the quadrennial return of the District of Columbia beltway paycheck patriots to the GOP fold helps me to understand why the battered wife keeps going back to her abuser.

The bed-wetting conservative frets about Democrats inhabiting the White House even when it is patently untrue that Democrats could make the office worse. Even when the Republican in the White House openly claims the power to lock up any American citizen without explaining why they are being locked up (which is about as tyrannical as it gets), the bed-wetter still stumps for the Republican as the "lesser of two evils." The mathematical equation is such that no matter how far the Republican President moves to the left, he cannot possibly move to the left of the Democrats.

Bed-wetters are the kind of people who rail against our unfaithful allies, like Germany and Italy, who have issued arrest warrants against our CIA agents for kidnapping innocent people off their streets and sending them away for months or years of torture. These allies have "no guts." But if any foreign country were to do the same thing to the United States, the bed-wetter would scream for nothing less than every square millimeter of that country to reach a temperature of nothing less than 10,000,000 degrees Kelvin within 30 minutes and subsequently paved with trinitite.

"Foreigners have no rights," the bed-wetter will openly tell you when foreigners are placed in torture prisons without trial. When American citizens are given the same treatment as the foreigners, the bed-wetter knows they are all guilty of being terrorists – no trial needed. After all, why would the President lock up an innocent person? Even when these same prisoners are later released, the bed-wetter’s faith is untroubled. You can ask him: "If the prisoner was guilty, why did the President let this dangerous person go? And if he was innocent, why did he lock him up in the first place?"

He has a ready reply: "We can’t take chances in this post-9/11 world." (You can always tell when a bed-wetter is out of rational arguments, because it always forces them to resort to referring to the calendar.)

They know how the real world works, because they’ve seen it on the television show "24." They know terrorists are just biding their time by such low-tech distractions as IEDs and car bombs in Iraq. From "24," we should know terrorists really have access to billions of dollars of scientific equipment and laboratories, as well as the advanced microbiologists needed to produce bioweapons. Terrorists also have the ability to summon a cohort of nuclear scientists and all the enriched plutonium needed for nuclear weaponry at a whim. And they know they’ve got thousands of "sleeper" cells placed in the United States. (I’m wondering: Since all these cells have been consistently "sleeping" for at least five years now, shouldn’t we start calling them "coma cells"?)

While most bed-wetters are fans of "24," not all are. Most also attend the neo-con madrasahs on talk radio, including Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin. Sean Hannity is the arch-type bed-wetting conservative. "Hannitized" doesn’t rhyme with "lobotomized" for nothing. Hannity provides the Orwellian two minutes of hate against the enemy of the day, which is always a Democrat.

The talk radio madrasahs like to brag about their burgeoning manhood (which amounts to nothing more than neuticals), and how it helps them to teach the bed-wetters how the world works. To wit:

Only the leadership of the President can save us from this otherwise inevitable nuclear holocaust. Only total, unquestioned power in the hands of the President can save us. Torture is good, they stress, because that’s the only way to get the terrorists. We don’t need trials when we have the President doing the "deciding." And forget about the U.S. Constitution and 2,000 years of Christian just war theory; the President needs unchecked war powers to take the war to the enemy.

Bed-wetters like to have the king’s – I mean, the President’s – party in charge of Congress. But they are really concerned about holding onto the President’s office. And they all share the irrational conceit that their party will always hold onto the throne’s power, even when that control is so obviously overdue for a change. That’s why they are willing to give the president power to lock up anyone without explaining himself to the plebeians. Republicans will always hold the presidency, the Republican president has a good heart and would only lock up the right bad guys. There’s no reason to believe a future Democrat president would ever misuse the total arbitrary dictatorial power they assert for their Republican president. The rest of the world just doesn’t understand: "Duh! If no Democrat ever takes power, then they can’t misuse it!" And if a skeptic were to point out that the party in power historically shifts, the bed-wetter knows that’s the time to rally the skeptic most urgently to the Republican cause!

Bed-wetters believe intuitively that when the President deploys troops abroad that he is as infallible as the Pope when pronouncing Catholic doctrine. No matter how poorly the president deploys troops abroad in wars that continue to make us less safe, they cling to the president because we shall not be safe if he is replaced by a Democrat. Even though the bed-wetter believes the President can’t be wrong and is infallible when placing troops abroad, bed-wetters strangely believe that any doubt by anyone in their social circle about the President’s military engagements hurt the war effort and will lead to defeat. Doubts only embolden the enemy, even when we really don’t know who the enemy is. The President, evidently, draws his infallible power from our unquestioning faith and that infallible power dissipates with any doubt.
The scenario is a bit like the
Star Trek episode "The Children Shall Lead," where faith in the Gorgon gave children visitors onto the Starship Enterprise extraordinary powers. But when the children’s faith in the Gorgon was shaken, the Gorgon evaporated. Like that Star Trek episode, any lack of faith in the President is helping the "Alien upon us, the enemy within." Does that sound familiar? Next we’ll expect to hear the bed-wetters summon the president with the following chant: "Hail, hail, fire and snow, call the angel we will go, far away, for to see, friendly angel come to me."

My friend William Norman Grigg is fond of using the phrase "clap for Tinkerbell" to describe this phenomenon.

Therefore, the bed-wetter will never volunteer a criticism of a Republican president. However, bed-wetting conservatives are ready to point out some minor character flaw in the President, always on domestic policy, when they are criticized as automatons of the president. They’ll say something such as: "I’ve criticized him in the past for spending proposals." But their criticism is nearly always "in the past," and never a contemporary criticism like "the president IS proposing too much spending."

Criticism of Democrats is required, especially the party’s congressional leadership, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. They’re right, of course, to say that a madam, Madame Nancy Pelosi, is now presiding over the House of Representatives as Speaker. Madams have presided over whorehouses for millennia, and it is perhaps appropriate that the House of Representatives should have its first madam. But the madam of a whorehouse is decidedly less dangerously violent than recent inhabitants of the White House have been.

Many appear to be afflicted with the view that "Democrat Party" people (they always say "Democrat," never "Democratic Party," even when Democrat party doesn’t fit grammatically) have never inhabited the White House. The exception to this psychosis is dead Democrats. Literally, the bed-wetter thinks the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat. Dead Democrats are the only heroes a bed-wetter will ever cite. Bed-wetters won’t even extol the principles of Reagan any more, because his stated principles stand in too great a contrast with the Bush regime’s principles. Instead, they cite only Harry Truman and John Kennedy as heroes. And even these citations are limited to mentioning them as heroes in the context of being agents of revolutionary change in favor of general government power. They wouldn’t ever cite the restraint of a past president.

How do you cure a conservative bed-wetter? In the short term, probably the solution is ordinary drug store incontinence products. But the only real long-term cure is a regular dose of books. Bed-wetters avoid books whenever possible. Warning: Books are a part of the "liberal drive-by media," and as Stephen Colbert might say, "books have facts and facts have a known liberal bias." They do, in a laissez-faire, traditional liberalism sense.

This random contagion with books – and not the "clap for Tinkerbell" effect – is causing The War party to lose its Joementum.

Spread the word about the cure for bed-wetting conservatives!

Immigration, Again

I still have to wonder why immigration is such a huge issue for so many people. I still consider myself to be a neutral on the question. Just about all of the positions put forth both for and against immigration, both legal and illegal, are fallitious and constitute unecessary government intervention in one way or another. There are people who wish to go after employers, others who wish to buff up police powers big time at the borders, others who wish to subsidize immigrants in mass, others who wish to overtly resitrict legal immigration and others who wish for complete "open borders".

There is also a whole host of motives on both sides. The main ulterior motives of the anti-immigration crowd are economic protectionism, racism and alarmism about "national security". The main ulterior motives of the pro-immigration crowd are blind egalitarianism, politicians wanting to expand their voting bases (especially Democrats with respect to racial/ethnic minorities) and economic regulation. Quite a strange brew of motives indeed. Interestingly, even the anti-immigration crowd has some egalitarian arguements. In either case, it will become apparent that every proposed "solution" to the question of immigration, both for and against, amount to some expansion of governmental powers and extend theiir effects into more than just immigration.

The idea of going after employers in the name of fighting immigration opens up a pandora's box for regulating buisinesses in general - in practise, it amounts to increased economic regulation of domestic buisiness. Lets be frank. A bunch of people in the southern and western states seem to feel that their job-security is threatened by an in-flux of new workers from other countries. As such, they prefer to resort to protectionism so that they can artificially block certain sectors of labor from co-existing with their own (this is not a new phenomenon: it goes as far back as the Irish and Chinese in 19th century America). Afterall, the illegal workers sector constitutes a competitive black market. The only way to eliminate such competition is through government protectionism. We would effectively be prohibiting productive jobs.

The anti-employer position inevitably boils down to an unwillingness to accept the prospect of competition from jobs possessed by immigrants and the buisinesses that hire them. The claim that such activity "steals jobs from Americans" is nonsense: point me to the droves of middle class American citezens who are lining up to pick berries in a field or be a maid at a cheap hotel for a living, because that is the type of work that alot of these jobs entail. 5 dollar an hour jobs to pick fruits in a field simply isn't the type of job that the vast majority of Americans are going to take. The idea that immigration "drives down non-immigrant wages" is fallicious; what it does is open up employment and hence generate competition. In short, all it does is create comparative advantage both ways. Unfortunately, the anti-immigration crowd tends to be dominated by protectionist urges. T
he doctrine of Pat Buchannen is mystifying. He is staunchly anti-immigration and protectionist, and these have always been the areas that he has concentrated most of his efforts in.

Further, with a one-size-fits-all attempt to crack down on anyone who engages with illegal immigrats, it is inevitable that you are now criminalizing completely innocent American citezens who voluntarily decide to help the immigrants by providing them with food and/or shelter. Why would we want to criminalize the act of helping people? We would be effectively criminalizing "charity", I.E. the voluntary giving away of or shared use of one's property (gift and bequest). It is a nonsensical method to persue the matter with an apriori assumption of the criminality of anyone who engages in any activity with illegal or legal immigrants. To simply criminalize masses of American citezens in such a way would be outrageous. This would be use of the immigration issue as a means to wage a war on the American people, effectively.

While the left generally takes a more pro-immigration position, they nonetheless would never turn down an oppurtunity to have a witch hunt on buisiness and employers. The left's main talking point in this area is that these immigrant jobs constitute "exploitation of cheap labor". Comparatively, this is not the case. The Mexicans who constitute the main constituency of immigrants at the southern border were being payed 1/10th (or less) of any seemingly low-wage that job they can aquire here in America. People who hire illegals are giving poor people jobs at 10 times the wages they would have earned before. In this respect, they are in fact benefiting them considerably.

If those jobs are under the table, the better (no taxes and no "benefits")! Indeed, an "under the table" (I.E. black market) job is beneficial in comparison to a legal minimum wage job because what you lose in government "benefits" you make up for in the lack of the taxes you would have payed for them (thus keeping the money to spend on your well-being yourself in the first place). A black market job of 5 dollars an hour with no taxes is no worse than a legal job of 10 dollars an hour in which half of the money is taken in taxes, and 5 extra dollars an hour to spend to begin with is almost intrinsically superior to a 5 dollar an hour loss for "social benefits". The only possible arguement against this point is paternalism: "We know better than they do how to spend their money". Hogwash, I say.

If I lived in Mexico with what amounts to a shack and made only 50 cents an hour, I'd be overjoyed to jump over to America to be "exploited" for 3, 4 or 5 dollars an hour, any day. There is nothing inherently wrong with such jobs. Everyone has to start somewhere, and work their way upwards. Immigrants, or anyone else who takes such jobs, are perfectly free to leave these jobs if they find a comparative advantage at another job with a higher wage. Many people who come over the southern border from Mexico and further are fleeing the impoverished conditions of their own countries and they come to America seeking economic oppurtunity. This fact should clue us in to one thing that might constitute the beginning of a solution: it is Mexico's responsibility to develope a more prosperous economy, hence alleviating the incentive for poor people to be fleeing for America.

Of course, I am of the opinion that the only way to do that would be for Mexico to privatize itself meaningfully. Until such a thing happens, or if economic conditions in America as compared to Mexico drastically changed, America will continue to have a "comparitive advantage" in terms of labor and wages that functions as a rational (although in some cases somewhat misleading) incentive for people to cross the border. Almost noone in the entire debate over immigration mentions Mexico's role in any of this. What should Mexico do to stop droves of people from fleeing it to seek economic oppurtunity elsewhere? My answer is capitalism. Stop taxing, inflating, spending, regulating and engageing in assorted plunderings of the Mexican people to death and see what happens. Come on, Mexico - give laizzes-faire a chance.

One of the right's main talking points with regaurd to (and against) immigration is that immigrants get access to welfare "benefits". This is both true and false, or rather, partially true. But so do American citezens. I see no moral difference between the two - the two consistant positions would be "welfare for everyone" or "welfare for noone" (I choose the latter). Immigration isn't the problem there, you have to abolish the welfare benefits altogether. Further, I would actually wager that many "illegal" immigrants do not get such welfare "benefits", because to do so would alert the legal authorities of their presence. Such things inherently require that the person engage with the government, therefore revealing their illegal presence. They would likely have to commit fraud to even approach getting into the welfare, social security, and medicare systems, let alone anything else. The conservative who maintains that immigrants should be denied welfare benefits while non-immigrants should be allowed to have them is simply a hypocrit; in going after immigration they are missing the mark, which is the nature of the welfare state itself.

Others, many on the left, take a different position on "benefits" for immigrants and support mass-subsidization of immigration. They demand that illegal immigrants currently in America be granted S.S., Medicare and the entire host of social programs in mass. Others make a caviat only for legal immigrants, while many argue for the method the same thing but under the method of legalizing them all. The problem of the initial demand is that it grants people who pay nothing into the system a completely free ride, while the citezens pay through taxes and inflation. The problem with the "legal only" caviat as well as the "benefits upon legalization" premise is that it's simply an expansion of the welfare system, which is unecessary and counterproductive. All of these so-called "solutions" are simply expansions of social spending.

For the left, immigration is a hot-button issue to support their much-prized social programs (I.E. welfare state). Immigration for them is in this sense just a wedge issue to push through the same old agenda: increasing social spending endlessly, payed for by inflation and taxation. In short, it's just another way for the government to achieve revenue. It's a revenue-producing issue. More voters means more revenue for the government and a lame excuse to increase spending on politician's pet entitlement programs. This is a major ulterior motive as to why the Democratic party is so pro-immigration to the point of absurdity: it feeds their tax machine, their "magic multiplier". In this sense, the entire nature of the welfare "net" is to capture as many people as possible in the net, as to make them dependant and more or less fixed in place. That is, afterall, what a "net" does - it traps you in place.

The hardcore left in the political establishment practically base their entire power on demagogueing egalitarian notions with regaurd to economic and racial groups. In short, the Democratic Party (as well as the Republican Party in recent years) "exploits" egalitarian idealism to win the vote of minorities. It functions as a cheap springboard to power, and being aware of this the hardcore left tend to rabidly gloat in favor of what could be called "socialized immigration". They see immigrants, especially ones coming from countries dominated by minority groups, as another rationale for another special interest group. This is simply exploitation of identity-politics and victimization. The end result is simply higher campaign contributions and duped voters. And more power for the government.

The idea of 100% open borders is fallicious if it means that immigrants can just cross people's private property as they please. In this sense, borders can only be open to the extent that enterance is voluntary on the part of the owner of the property. The advent of government or "public" property blurs this matter. In either case, immigrants are capable of freely crossing property borders on a consentual basis. Part of the problem is that property borders are not entirely well-defined when we introduce government and "public" property into the picture. Technically, the line between Mexico and the United States is completely arbitary and does not designate the jurisdiction of private property borders. When immigrants come to the borders of private property owners, then the real jurisdiction comes into play. It is my contention that within such a well-defined structure of ownership, most immigrants would have no problem coming through. What buisiness is going to refuse to sell in-coming people products? What real estate agent is going to refuse to sell someone a home? And it's not as if Mexicans are coming by and knocking on everyone's door in the neighborhood.

Some take a strong anti-immigration stance because they view immigration, particularly at the southern border, as an inherent national security threat to be reacted to with military engagement domestically. Because paying a Mexican 5 dollars an hour to pick fruits in a field or work the counter at Wal-Mart is such a threat to our national security, right? Nonsense. This crowd is using the immigration issue as a carte blanch for expanding police powers domestically. Further, there is the contention that the Mexican immigrants are a bunch of criminals. I would put forth that whatever crime they bring with them is mostly the result of prohibition and economic desperation. The "drug lords" and criminal gangs are a direct result of the international "drug war" combined with inadequate economic conditions. To paint all of these people as criminals is nothing short of propaganda, as is the idea of tying any of this ordeal into the "war on terrorism".

While I strongly believe in defense as opposed to offense, the extensive militarization of the country's borders is simply a bad idea because it is inevitably the pre-text to or realization of a police state. If we had armed troops stopping everyone across all city borders, if not simply walking the streets, then we would be in a certain stage of a police state. Executive authority should not be able to dominate in such a way; it would be a gross "inbalance of powers" and direct threat to people's liberties. The lay citezen should not be that easily accessable and directed by the military powers. Immigration is no excuse for what amounts to an extensive buffing up of military-industrial contracting and military presence as it effects the common citezen. The constitution is supposed to only grant the president the power of a mere figure-head, with little power of his own outside of the veto power and as head commander of the military as granted by the preceding authority of congress. The "far right" and assorted anti-immigration radicals support using such executive power to militarize the states federally.

While I oppose the left's version of "open borders", I concur with Walter Block in considering Hans Herman Hoppe's views on immigration to be a reversion to conservatism. While professor Hoppe correctly critisizes the Buchannanite and Leftist views on immigration, he nonetheless maintains a flawed position in favor of considerably restricting immigration. While he is correct in maintaining that immigration can be resitricted within the confines of private property, I nonetheless get the impression that his own position does not quite fit the criteria that he himself puts forth. He seems to be for restricting immigration as an end in itself, rather than something that is up to the owner of the property. I do not see any compelling reason for one to consider immigration in itself as something to be discouraged in general. I view it as conditional and situational.

It is impossible not to comment on the perhaps most pathetic and radical of the anti-immigration crowd: of course, the racists. A bunch of racists are scared at the prospect of whites not being a majority anymore in certain areas of the country. They have engaged in an alarmist propaganda campaign intended to convince people that a growing population of minorities, particularly hispanics, will cause "social decay". It is a pathetic "racial" or "cultural" purity complex; quasi-marxist cultural warfarism. This group is beyond help. They are extreme "racial protectionists", polylogists and authoritarians. Not even the staunchest anti-egalitarian could logically favor them. They suffer from a corrupt ideology.

The entire issue boils down to protectionism, racism, "national security" hysteria, utopian egalitarianism, the horrible economic conditions of varius foreign countries and politician's wills to expand their voting bases. The reason why the issue currently has no rational solution is because all proposed solutions, both pro and con, discount private property. Going after employers violates private property, going after illegals who have come within the consent of private property owners violates private property, subsidized immigration violates private property, crossing land without the private owner's consent violates private property, artificial government blockades on immigration violate private property, and buffing up police powers at the borders violates private property.

The entire issue, as it has been politisized both pro and con, violates private property. All of the proposed anti-immigration measures (as well as the pro-immigration ones) violate private property rights. This issue has no solution because it isn't an issue. It was made into one by special interests. The only policy we should persue with regaurd to immigration is to do nothing at all; in other words, the matter cannot be properly addressed through political means. If I welcome someone into my private property, be they an immigrant or not and wether the property is my home or buisiness, then this is simply voluntary human behavior (yet many in the anti-immigration crowd effectively are trying to criminalize both the person who welcomes someone onto their property and the person they welcome). If I hire a willing immigrant, this is a voluntary contract. On the other hand, if an immigrant trespasses on my private property without my permission or makes me pay taxes to subsidize him, then a true issue has arisen. The entire issue is "solved" within the confines of private property - borders are both open or closed depending on the consent of the private property owner.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Rejoinder to Prof. Perlstein on Legalizing Drugs in New Orleans

Rejoinder to Prof. Perlstein on Legalizing Drugs in New Orleans
by Walter Block

In this article, I made the case that the best way to stop the horrendous murder rate in New Orleans is to legalize drugs. Prof. Perlstein of Loyola New Orleans offers several criticisms of my argument, for which I thank him. His scholarly and thoughtful reply gives me the chance to clarify and further expand on my thesis.

1. My faculty colleague starts off on somewhat of a false note, claiming that "Block doesn't believe the population of drug abusers would increase." But I never said any such thing in the article he is criticizing, nor in any of my other publications on this subject. My view is the very opposite. Indeed, I stated on 1/26/07: "Just as Las Vegas evolved from a stretch of desert into a world class city when it was the only one to offer gambling, so will the Big Easy surpass its previous preeminence (it was once the leading city in the entire South) when it alone offers legal drugs. This industry all by itself, will put us back on the map." There will be millions of drug addicts who will flock to the Big Easy were we to institute such a humane proposal; the more the better as far as I am concerned. This, at least, was the experience of the English during their all too brief period of legalization. People came there from all over the British Dominions to avail themselves of this bit of economic freedom.

But these are not at all the sorts of people Perlstein wants to see repopulating Crescent City, not top drawer at all. He calls them "desperados… the most unstable, unhealthy and criminally inclined segment of the population." And, in this, he is correct, at least superficially. The point is, that these poor souls are at present exactly as this "criminal justice journalist" describes them. But they are not human garbage. Nor is it very "progressive" to view them in any such manner. Rather, they are victims of a cruel and unjust drug prohibition law. Their plight stems almost entirely from this evil legislation. Under legalization, they would bloom, as do newly watered flowers after a period of drought.

2. Why is this? It is because drug prohibition radically raises its price. The desperation of the addict stems from the fact that apart from a few rich athletes, doctors, singers and actors, the only way this price may be paid is through prostitution, or drug pushing or robbery. According to one estimate "a gram of 100% pure heroin … would be cut 10 to 15 times and sell for about $2,000. But take it away from the black market, make it legal, and heroin is a pretty cheap drug. The British National Health Service (NHS) pays about $10.00 for this gram of heroin." In my view, the latter figure is perhaps ten times too high. NHS is a socialist organization. On the free market it would sell for about $1.00. If feeding a drug habit cost about as much as eating a few candy bars per day, these people, these human beings, could lead quasi-normal lives. They could have ordinary jobs. Without the desperate search for the next "fix" and the wherewithal to finance it, this flotsam and jetsam would be turned in one fell swoop into productive members of the New Orleans community.

It was once said of Israel that there was a perfect match between a people without land, and a land without people. To discuss that point would take us way too far afield. But no words could more accurately describe addicts in the U.S., and indeed in the entire world, on the one hand, and the territory of what used to be New Orleans. Perlstein may not appreciate this, but there are acres and acres, no, square mile after square mile, of empty abandoned houses just waiting for people to repair and occupy them. We are in desperate need of new occupants, who would be willing to work, and this describes to a "T" drug addicts no longer in thrall to exorbitant black market drug prices.

The point is, Perlstein is very much in error in his second argument, too. Here he maintains that I am failing to take into account what "A first-year criminology student can tell you" namely "that most burglars and robbers are stealing to feed a drug habit." Of course they are. But this stems, solely, from the astronomical prices paid for substances that grow like weeds. And this in turn is entirely a function of prohibition. Their prices would be very low under free enterprise, and there would thus be no more reason for anyone to engage in crime to support an addiction.

Increased crime is a great danger according to my critic, especially at a time when "the overwhelmed New Orleans police department can't keep up with stray shoplifters." Of course, the cops can’t deal with petty theft, let alone the more serious kind: they are too busy hassling, arresting and incarcerating people for the non-crime of polluting their own bodies. Some 60% of all inmates are in prison due to drug "crimes." Were drugs legalized, and the police free to stop real crimes, they would undoubtedly do a far better job of dealing with them.

3. My Loyola colleague labels as a "fiction" my contention that "An inordinate amount of these (New Orleans murders) consists of drug dealers shooting each other in turf wars." Perhaps journalist professors do not read newspapers, or consult crime statistics. Perhaps Prof. Perlstein could begin his research with this. To pick one quote at random from the hundreds of news stories listed therein: "They call themselves the Lemon Crew, the Scorpions, Tiny Rascals and 60 Lansdowne Crips, and there are dozens of others, laying claim to blocks and neighborhoods across the city. They are Philadelphia's gangs, and some are extraordinarily violent, contributing to the surge in shootings and murders engulfing the city." Want something closer to home, maybe from the Times Picayune? Here: "Saying an increase in violent crime on the West Bank is the result of post-Katrina gangs "fighting over turf," Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee on Wednesday showed off several high-powered weapons, including a possible grenade launcher, various narcotics and $31,000 in cash that investigators confiscated Monday in a drug raid in Waggaman."

4. Dr. Perlstein objects to legalizing drugs in New Orleans on the ground that we are already "fragile enough as it is" in terms of psychological and health services. But, once again, addicts are in their present dire straights only because of prohibition and the resultant inordinately high drug prices. Eliminate these, and virtually all of these problems recede. As for "newbie cocaine and heroin users," I have already answered this objection, but will happily do so again: Anyone who wants to, can shoot up right now. There is surely no one, at present, who refrains from drug use simply because of prohibition. At least, under legalization, no one would go to school yards and try to hook youngsters, as at present.

5. My intellectual opponent is not at all impressed with New Orleans following the path blazed by Las Vegas. Why, the latter doesn’t even have any major league sports franchises. Were drugs legal here, "people would leave New Orleans in droves." What? They are not already doing that, due to the fact that we are fast becoming the murder capital of the country? If the status quo in this regard continues, we will soon lose the Hornets and the Saints in any case. Prof. Perlstein doesn’t seem to realize that the Big Uneasy is already emptying out. Posit no more murders, at least not the overwhelming majority of them that are drug gang turf related. Imagine a few million additional peaceful citizens rebuilding and then occupying our hundreds of thousands of empty dwellings. Think of New Orleans with a larger population than Dallas and Atlanta combined.

In his conclusion, my learned colleague, I fear, contradicts himself. On the one hand, he admits, he concedes, that the "‘war on drugs’ is a dismal failure." On the other hand, he adamantly rejects a possible breakthrough. The federales owe us big. They don’t seem to be disposed to pay us back with coin of the realm. Maybe, just possibly, they can be embarrassed into allowing us a free enterprise zone in this regard. But Perlstein dismisses this proposal as something that should have been written "for entertainment purposes only," as an "April Fools joke."

Those empty hulks of houses will only become "drug dens" under present prohibition, their likely fate. Under legalization in sharp contrast, large numbers of people who are slowly dying horrendous deaths will be able to get their lives back together again. Does not Dr. Perlstein have any sympathy for their plight? And in so doing, they will go a long way toward curing our own malaise: economically, spiritually, psychologically, and, most important, in radically reducing our horrendous murder rate.

Our horrendous murder rate is due to drug gangs shooting it out with each other over turf. Under legalization, this stops forthwith, just as it did when prohibition of alcohol ended. "Progressives" should be appalled.

Perhaps he opposes a free market in drugs for New Orleans alone. We are too brittle, too helpless in the aftermath of Katrina. Where, then, should this legalization take place? In the entire country? Not too likely. In some city that is doing reasonably well? None would likely take what so many people regard as a leap in the dark. Legalization has to occur somewhere, and no more likely place for this is our own New Orleans. Perlstein dismisses this proposal as something that should have been written "for entertainment purposes only," as an "April Fools joke." But it is our present policy that is ludicrous.