Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thoughts On Overpopulation Hysteria And Murder

The message being sent by those who rant and rave about overpopulation is a demonization of humans, plain and simple. The message seems to boil down to "humans are parasites on the planet". To put it in the most plain and witty language: if you think there are too many humans, you can start off by commiting suicide. Then the rest of us "greedy" humans who actually do value life can continue on our merry way without having to worry about others advocating killing us through population control.

To begin with, most 1st world countries are actually underpopulated - there are vast stretches of unused land and resources, especially in America. Drive through the Midwest and tell me how overpopulated it is. There is a lot of livable land that is unused. The entire world's population can fit into Texas with the density less than that of San Francisco. Europe is currently shrinking in population even with immigration and will continue to shrink.

Any population is optimal to the extent that the economic system can sustain it. Free market capitalism is by far the best system for such a task. Countries that are deemed as overpopulated don't face a problem of too much people so much as the lack of an economic system to adequately sustain living standards for that quantity of people. The solution is not to therefore make there be less people. The solution is to improve technology and the economic system so that such a quantity of people can be sustained.

The bar of population is raised with improvements in technology, and improvements in technology are brought about through production and the accumulation of capital. Before the industrial revolution, the world population could only be sustained at a much lesser rate. It was the improvement of economic conditions and creation of technology, which resulted as a consequence of the rise of free market activity, that raised the bar that allowed us to have a larger population in the first place. Anyone who actually values humanity in any way should prefer improvement of the human condition, not annialating humans.

Some neo-luddites/radical-environmentalists would like to abolish industrial activity. Of course, this is another way of supporting population control. It would be to go after the very thing that raises the population bar: technology and the accumulation of capital. If taken to its full implications, it would constitute a massive loss of life around the world, especially in 3rd world countries. Proponents of population control should always remember that it is precisely the less fortunate who will be first affected; I.E. they are advocating 3rd world genocide, in effect.

No, sorry. I'm more concerned about improving people's living conditions than reducing the amount of people. The amount of people is optimal to me so long as it is sustained and within the context of voluntarism. Overpopulation fear can only lead to two ultimate conclusions: people other than yourself should be put to death, or you should kill yourself. The first option is always selfish because the advocate of population control never offers themselves, but asks that others die to calm their fears (and it may very well be coupled with alterior motives such as getting rid of a particular class or race of people). At least be consistant and kill yourself.

Mankind's biggest problem isn't the existance of people! It's the use of aggression against the person and property of others that has always been the bane of mankind. In either case, if overpopulation is really your concern, I have a suggestion: it's a self-correcting issue, because once the population goes over the bar, some people are going to die anyways. So all you have to do is wait it out, and good old social darwinism will work things out. There is no need to advocate any policy at all to deal with overpopulation. Overpopulation naturally cures itself, as the exess population starts to die out naturally.

But some of us are more humanist than this, and we'd prefer to continue raising the bar rather than just sit back and watch people die. You're welcome to join us in this grand project we call civilization. If you want to improve the living conditions of people and make a higher population sustainable, it would be wise to support the main thing that brings this about: production. The idea that we should ensure the future of the "planet", but not the future of our species, and the idea that the best way to ensure the future of the planet is to decrease the amount of people, is nonsensical. "The planet" will be here for a long time. Humans present no threat to it, and the notion of sacrificing humanity in the name of "the planet" is a joke.

Consider the simple ethical implications of population control. If someone kills another human being, most people would aknowledge that this is in the wrong. Yet population control is the same thing, accept as a government policy and on a massive scale. There is a wide difference between social darwinism and population control. Social darwinism, while it certainly has flaws as a social theory, is people naturally dieing due to natural selection.

Population control is deliberate, not natural - it is the purposeful lowering of the population (wether through direct murder or denial of access to resources), in resistance to natural selection. Those people who would have stayed alive through natural selection are killed off along with those who would have not. Of course, modern offensive wars count as population control by all accounts, and restrictions on immigration are also population control in many ways, so there already is a degree of population control policy in western politics.

There are some interesting potential paradoxes in relation to population control and the political agendas of both the right and left. The right tends to put itself foreward as defenders of life, as bitter opponents of population reduction. Yet this is entirely inconsistant with their simultaneous tendency to support war, which deliberately destroys life, and their xenophobia with respect to immigration. They also, ironically, might tend to support cutting funding for programs that may artificially keep certain people alive (of course, they are correct in opposing welfare).

The left has its share of contradictions in this matter too. On one hand, the left contains the bulk or majority of people complaining about "overpopulation". Simultaneously, leftists tend to put themselves foreward as bitter opponents of war, they are in favor of subsidizing immigration and they are dedicated wholeheartedly to the continuation and expansion of welfare. If the leftist truly is concerned about overpopulation, in order to be consistant they would have to support war, restrictions on immigration and cutting of social programs.

Of course, to put things in perspective, some of these positions of both the left and right are good, and others are bad (to be clear about my position: war = bad, welfare = bad, immigration prohibition = bad). The point, however, is to demonstrate a certain inconsistancy with respect to how their rhetoric compares to what policies they support. It seems odd that those who claim to be the most pro-life have a tendency to support war and protectionism. It also seems odd that those who claim that we have an overpopulation problem would simultaneously put themselves foreward as opposing those policies that destroy life (not that Democrats have ever been reliable as anti-war canidates, nor that Republicans have ever been reliable as free market capitalists).

The overall point here is that both the contemporary right and left are prone to overpopulation hysteria and support population control, although in perhaps somewhat different ways. Both are prone to advocate that those groups which they don't like be subjected to population control. While the contemporary rightist does not have any misgivings about killing people abroad, the contemporary leftist does not have any misgivings about the complications of abortion or killing those who do not adhere to economic decrees. Both sides will find ways to try to "justify" population control on certain groups. But let us stop using this rhetorical obfuscation and call a spade a spade: murder, murder, murder.

The first ethic that any civilization learns is that murder is wrong. Unfortunately, many people seem to advocate what amounts to murder in the name of political ends (wether that be "defeating the terrorist enemy" or "achieving equality for all"). If you think that less people should exist, particulrly directed at humanity as a whole, then the only consistant thing for one to do is advocate or engage in murder of them (additional suggestion besides suicide: become celibate). The rest of us who aren't criminally insane will continue to oppose such violent activity, and we will continue to produce more human beings, no matter how many people are killed in the name of unrealistic ideas.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Government Creates Poverty

There are many ways by which government interventions lower a society's net wealth and increase poverty. Let us examine some of the key interventions by which this is done.

Taxation should be the most obvious government intervention that reduces net wealth, because it is so direct. Obviously, the higher taxes are, the less money people get to keep in their wallets. In terms of "utility", taxation in itself is for all intents and purposes, a loss on the part of the tax-payer. In terms of ethics, it is not distinguishable from theft, because it is always imposed under the threat of the jailhouse or bayonette if it is not paid.

A market price functions entirely differently than this. On the market, the consumer is free to simply not buy the product. No buisinessman hunts them down with a gun and threatens to lock them up in a jail if they don't buy the product. A market price is the cumulative result of all of the value judgements of everyone in the economy. Exchange of goods and services on the market constitutes a mutually beneficial exchange between the buyer and seller, at the consent of both.

Most importantly to our analysis, a private service functions on the basis of profit and loss, while a government does not. A government has no real mechanisms of economic calculation. It has no way of rationally allocating resources because it functions irrespective of supply and demand. That is not to say that these laws do not still apply, but that government has no way of rationally calculating them. If a government service fails, it does not go out of buisiness. Most likely, it will raise taxes or inflate the money supply to spend more money on the failed program, as if that's going to make things better. A government retains a monopoly on the basic services that it administers.

On the market, if a buisiness fails, it is penalized with losses. If the buisiness does not adjust its policies to avoid and overcome such losses, it goes out of buisiness. Capitalists profit by producing something for others. Government cannot "profit" in any real sense (it can leech, however), because it is not payed on the basis of consumer demand. It does not produce and engage in a mutually beneficial exchange with its "customers". A private firm, on the other hand, has to actually deal with competition, it has to actually compete with other providers of the service. Government, to the contrary, always moves in the direction of outlawing competition in whatever area it presides over.

A government does not produce anything on its own accord. It inherently cannot truly produce. It can only create something by funds that were taken away from people, rather than funds that it earned or saved itself as a worker or employer would on the market. It could contract out buisinesses, but this would not be the government itself producing, but spending money that was taken away from people to pay a buisiness to produce something.

In short - all of the resources necessary for government to provide a service are not derived from the government's production, but from taking away the production of the citezens. It does not recieve its revenue through a mutually beneficial exchange between its production and that of others as a buisiness or worker does. Consequentially, it cannot be considered productive in any real economic sense.

A typical counter that some may be prone to make at this point in our analysis is that the net loss to the tax-payers is made up for because the government spending of those tax dollars constitutes a net gain. But this simply is not true. The "benefits" of government spending is not spread about equally to everyone in society.

There is in fact a "class divide" of sorts between the tax-payers and the tax-consumers. Most of everyone are tax-payers, while a relatively small band of individuals within and allied with the government are the major tax-consumers. The government itself and its employees pay no taxes. As such, they are for all intents and purposes funtioning at a net gain at the expense of the tax-payer.

Government spending does not per se constitute a benefit. It is money that was taken out of the private economy to begin with. It cannot be considered truly productive because it was achieved at the expense of private production, and this is precisely why government spending must be subtracted, not added, from the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) statistics. If it does benefit people economically, it is the government bereaucrats themselves and a confined special interest group.

Thus, taxation is an incredible waste of resources in that it creates a net loss for most of everyone in order to, at best, bestow a net gain on one particular special interest. The result is a reduction in overall and long-term prosperity in order to create a short-term gain for one particular interest. It must be kept in mind that every tax dollar spent could have otherwise either been saved by the tax-payer or spent on their needs and wants. To the extent that it is siphoned away from this and redirected towards political ends, it will constitute a decrease in net wealth.

Inflation is another highly contributing factor to poverty. It is less likely to be seen as such because it is less direct than taxation. It can be said to be an indirect form of taxation. Inflation is often improperly defined as a rise in prices in itself. But this is a major effect of inflation, not inflation in itself. Inflation is an increase in the money supply (without actual production backing it up; hence, it is counterfeitting), and a rise in various prices is a result in an increase in the money supply because it devalues the value of the monetary unit.

When the value of money is decreased by the expansion of credit by the federal reserve, this loss will directly lead to raises in prices. The price increases are the market's reaction to the lower value of each monetary unit. There is somewhat of a time-lag in this process. Some people may benefit in the short-term from the new credit. However, once the inflation really kicks in, this ends up being misleading as prices rise.

The people who benefit the most from the initial inflation of credit are government contractors and the special interests that the government spends money on; essentially, mostly rich and powerful people. These people get away with enjoying the short-term benefits of the newly created money before the full inflation effect kicks in. By the time the inflation effect kicks in, those people likely spent much or all of it, and therefore they aren't so effected.

The middle class and below are effected worst, because they are less able to deal with the rising prices. In short, the special interest beneficiaries of government handouts use the money before the price hike, while everyone else pays through the nose when it hits. As such, in a sense inflation creates a pattern of regressive wealth redistribution over time.

Inflation also has a harmful effect on consumption. In general, inflation tends to lead to an increase in people's consumption, with more credit in their pockets. Even without inflation, if people consume something at an increased rate, diminishing supply, this will tend towards an increase in prices, as the availability of the good has been diminished by the consumption spree (to be clear, increased consumption in itself is not inflation, and a price increase resulting from it is not inflation either).

The problem that arises when we put inflation on top of this is that we are stimulating consumption in the short-term, but this scenario is not sustainable, as once the inflation kicks in, people are spending money that they don't have (I.E. endebting themselves), as the money posseses a lower purchasing power than before and thus prices have increased. It is precisely this process that leads to economic depressions, as the "boom" of consumption created by the inflation cannot be sustained, and everyone must withdraw their consumption, clear their malinvestments and pay off debt.

Many people these days are starting to correctly be concerned about the government's debt. Government debt is particularly harmful to the economy in that it perpetuates and necessitates the above two problems of taxation and inflation. What I mean by this is that essentially the only way for the government to truly pay off its debt is through more taxes or printing up more money, both of which will pass the cost onto the average person.

Basically, whatever the debt number is, it is the general loss that will be passed onto American citezens in the future. The combination of taxation, inflation and debt creates a perpetual erosion of the economy, and given enough time it will lead to an all-out disaster.

Many people seem to be in love with the idea of using the government to artificially bid up wages. But this is foolish. The more that the cost of something is increased, the less people buy it. Obviously, if the price of cars suddenly is increased by 10x, less people would buy cars, in most cases simply because they wouldn't be able to afford it. This works the same with wages.

The more that wages are artificially bid up, the higher the cost of labor becomes. The higher the cost of labor becomes, the less people are employed or able to be employed. Consequentially, rising wages above the market level causes unemployment. Minimum wages cause unemployment for any job below the mandated wage.

Similarly, many seem to be in love with the idea of price controls. This is also foolish. If prices are bid above the market level, this inevitably necesitates a decrease in the availability of the good or service to the multitude, and a special privilege to the provider of that good or service. If prices are bid below the market level, this inevitably necessitates a decrease in the incentive for providing that good or service, as it forces losses on the provider. Inevitably, focus will be shifted away from providing that service and into areas with higher incentives; hence, a "shortage".

Think of this in terms of geographical areas and comparative advantage: if, say, the state of Ohio imposed price controls below the market level on milk, and Texas has no price controls on milk, milk providers in Ohio would have an incentive to move their operations to Texas. In time, Ohio would experience a milk shortage. The same logic applies to comparing countries. Those countries that persue the heaviest price controls will soon find themselves with massive shortages, with buisinesses persueing incentives in other countries with less market regulation.

Tariffs are another drain on the economy. They can be considered a tax on foreigners. In either case, they protect certain buisinesses from competition, thus limiting the choice of consumers and essentially making them pay for higher priced products in the name of "keep our jobs" rhetoric. The cost of tariffs is passed onto American consumers through higher prices. Blocking international trade (trade across land masses) has the same general effects of blocking trade within a territory. That is, it lowers production and puts an artificial cap on the wealth generation that results from exchange.

The essence of the market economy is that it allows wealth to generate cumulatively through people engaging in voluntary exchange of private property titles. Protectionism blocks this exchange, and hence limits the overall amount of wealth for both sides in question in the long-run. Free trade is beneficial to both parties in the same way that trade within the domestic economy is.

It is impossible to sustain a modern, complex industrial economy with 100% "national self-reliance" (I.E. keeping all economic activity internal, only buying American products and refusing to trade abroad). Suppose we used that same methodology with every individual - that is, the only way a person could economically function is to work for themself, produce their own food, build their own house, etc. They would be disallowed from any inter-dependance and exchange with others. Most people would die in no time under such a scenario.

Likewise, lets apply this to nations. The same laws of economics apply - America would slowly starve its economy out if noone was allowed to trade across national borders and we had to rely entirely on domestic production for everything. We would only effectively be putting a cap on competition and overall productive capacity.

Wealth redistribution is much misunderstood. The government itself cannot and does not create net wealth. Wealth redistribution does not create any wealth. At best, it can shuffle it around, always with the same overall amount. However, the effects of forced wealth redistribution actually lowers overall wealth because it takes it away from it's original productive use and transfers it into consumption.

To begin with, wealth redistribution is split up into two basic parties: the person having their wealth taken away, and the person recieving it at their expense. There is also a 3rd party: the government, which takes a piece of the pie for itself to cover the ever-expanding costs of adminstering the program, and of course is the institution that confiscates from person A in order to redistribute to person B. Redistribution is even worse than this though, because the amount of net payers in many cases outnumber the net recievers, and therefore the resources of multiple people are being inefficiently used on a lesser amount of people.

The net payer is at an economic loss. They may have otherwise saved that money, used it to invest or used it to purchase things. If they would have kept that money in the first place, it would have likely gone to a cumulative productive use. It must be kept in mind that money has a reproducable use in the free economy in that it is a medium of exchange that is constantly changing in ownership. Money "circulates" in an economy. People buying X may tend to generate future production of X, and their exchange for X is mutually beneficial. It is beneficial to them, and it is beneficial to the seller, and thus it is in turn beneficial to the workers and many others further down the line.

But if someone is simply recieving X at someone else's expense, this is not productive. What would have previously been used for a mutual and cumulative benefit has been transfered into a privilege to one party at the expense of another. The net reciever of the redistribution is being payed money with in an incentive not to produce, or given "free" services to use without any production on their part.

Consider the difference between working for wages and being on welfare. The person who is working for wages is engaging in a mutual beneficial exchange: they benefit from the wages, and in turn they benefit their employer and consumers by producing a good or service. Note that the effects of this are cumulative and extend to many others in society; it generates wealth for many people, from consumers to employers. The consumers may in time benefit the worker by increasing the buisiness's profits, which provides more capital available for increases in production, improvements in capital goods, and in time, raises in wages.

On the other hand, the person on welfare is not producing anything; they are essentially being payed to not produce. They might "benefit" from being payed money, but instead of them personally benefiting while simultaneously benefiting many others down the line as the worker is, the welfare reciever is benefiting purely at the expense of many others.

In many ways, the welfare system creates and perpetuates poverty, as it provides every incentive for the reciever to stay unemployed. The welfare state keeps people in poverty, and when it is expanded, all that is going on is an expansion of the "net" of stagnation by covering more people under it.

Public sector services are just like personal welfare accept that the net reciever gets goods and services instead of monetary payments. The consequence of "universalizing" such public services can only mean the creation of a massive, entangled web of wealth redistribution in conjunction with the provision of such government services.

Of course, such universal government services are ridiculously costly, and therefore inevitably constitute a drain on the economy. Just like monetary welfare, it takes away from the original productive use of people's money in order to bestow a privilege of pure consumption on an individual or group, accept the money pays for services for some to recieve "for free".

Of course, it isn't free, it has a cost, a huge one. The point is that this money could have originally been used to produce the exact same services in a way that is mutually beneficial and less costly, while now this money has been siphoned away from this to enable short-term consumption of those services without respect to production or rational allocation of resources. The choices that the original owners of the money would have otherwise made would have been more efficient then the transferance of those funds all into a one-size-fits-all deal.

America also creates or preserves poverty by sending foreign aid to 3rd world countries with tyrannical governments. All that this amounts to is, first, a net loss for the American tax-payer (if not an increase in inflation and debt), and the perpetuation of those dictatorships in those countries, the perpetuation of the funding of those countries economically backward policies. To put it plainly, foreign aid merely blows up the wealth redistribution problem to the global level.

To finally flesh things out, government contracting and bail-outs of buisiness should be considered a form of wealth redistribution. It should also be considered a form of protectionism, as should anti-trust laws. This "corporate statism" is at the expense of the taxpayers and victims of inflation, it erodes competition to bestow privileges to certain buisinesses, and hence creates artificial monopolies that would not have arisen on the market. They are not the result of capitalism, but the result of government protectionism of buisiness and the merging of buisiness and state ("shared" ownership of the means of production between the state and certain buisiness interests).

Prohibition is another intervention that may tend to increase both poverty and crime. Prohibition is, afterall, the illegalization of ownership and exchange of a particular type of property. This denies owners and consumers of whatever is being prohibited the benefits of legal market activity, while simultaneously it necesitates the rise of a black market for the thing in question.

The key difference between a free market and a black market is that a black market is illegal while a free market is not. A black market can only arise in response to the government illegalizing a particular good or service. A free market arises naturally, without any governmental interferance. A black market is the consequence of government interferance; of prohibition of property ownership and exchange.

Using the above information, we can form a simple "plan" to address poverty. Reduce/abolish taxes and spending as much as possible, liquidate the federal reserve, return to a sound commodity monetary system with no monetary inflation, bar the government from borrowing foreign credit, abolish all wage and price controls, abolish all tariffs, abolish all wealth redistribution programs (including foreign aid and the corporate state), privatize public services and abolish all prohibitions on ownership and exchange of property. Much more could be done than this, but any one item on this list would be wonderful in itself, not only for the cause of liberty, but for the goal of making everyone better off economically, which is a consequence of liberty.

The facts speak for themselves: those countries with the heaviest economic interventions are among the most poor, while those countries with the most free enterprise are the richest. As Walter Block has recently stated, "the only legitimate way to earn vast sums of money under free enterprise is by enriching others". I would like to add: the only way to earn money through government is by stealing from some to give to others. The general lesson is that government intervention in the market erodes production, artificially stimulates consumption (without production) and eats up capital, which in turn lowers the overall prosperity of a society.

Fascist America, In 10 Easy Steps,,2064157,00.html

Fascist America, in 10 easy stepsFrom Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.
Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."

Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.

It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain - which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks - than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.

2. Create a gulag

Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.

At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.

This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.
With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.

Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.

But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.

By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.

3. Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution

Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.

Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".

4. Set up an internal surveillance system

In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.

In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

5. Harass citizens' groups

The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.

Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release

This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.

In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.

Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".
"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.

"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."

"That'll do it," the man said.

Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.
James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.

Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.

It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.

7. Target key individuals

Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.
Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.

Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.

Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.

Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.

8. Control the press

Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.

Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.

Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.
Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.

You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

9. Dissent equals treason

Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.

Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.
In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".

And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)

We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.

Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.

10. Suspend the rule of law

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.

Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."

Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.

Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931.

Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."

As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.

That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions - and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".

What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack - say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.

What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.

Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us - staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.

We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.

· Naomi Wolf's The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot will be published by Chelsea Green in September.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It’s About Energy, Not Climate

by George Reisman

The environmental movement has been doing its utmost to sabotage energy production since the 1960s, long before it was able to latch onto the prospect of global warming. Its opposition to atomic power has nothing to do with global warming, nor does its opposition to the construction of dams to provide hydro-electric power. Indeed, if global warming and the consumption of fossil fuels, which it alleges is the cause of global warming, were really its concern, it would be a leading advocate of atomic power and of the construction of new and additional dams to provide hydro-electric power. Instead, however, the environmental movement opposes atomic power even more adamantly than it opposes power derived from fossil fuels, and it also urges the actual tearing down of existing dams, even though they provide substantial electric power. (On this last, see, for example, the article in today’s New York Times “Climate Change Adds Twist to Debate Over Dams.”)

The only sources of power that the environmental movement is willing to allow are wind and sunlight. The first is subject to the proviso that birds are not killed by flying into the propellers of the windmills. The second makes no allowance for all of the times when sunlight is blocked, i.e., in cloudy weather and at night, when the sun has gone down.

Environmentalists like to say that there is a third alternative source of energy:

conservation.“Conservation” as a source of energy is a contradiction in terms. It is not a source of energy. Its actual meaning is simply using less energy. It is a source of energy for one use only at the price of deprivation somewhere else. Moreover, the logic of conservationism is not consistent with using energy saved in one part of the economic system to expand energy use in other parts. Those other parts are also supposed to conserve, i.e., to use less energy rather than more.

The objective of the environmental movement is and always has been simply the destruction of energy production. Its further goal is the undoing of the Industrial Revolution and the return of the modern world to the poverty and misery of the pre-Industrial era.

This goal is not hidden. It is stated openly. In the words of Maurice Strong, Founder of the UN Eco-summits and Undersecretary General of the UN: “Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring [that] about?” —as quoted in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism (Washington, D. C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2007), p. 6.

Destruction of industrial civilization, by means of destroying its foundation in man-made power. That, not the avoidance of global warming, is what environmentalism seeks.

The question is, are enough people stupid enough to let it succeed and allow themselves to be destroyed?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Control Cult

The Control Cult
by Butler Shaffer

In the aftermath of the murders of 32 people at Virginia Tech, we are witnessing the collective reaffirmation of the article of faith uniting all politically-minded persons: the belief that the state is capable of identifying and controlling the factors that produce undesirable behavior. Even before the killer was identified, the chant arose – in unison – from political chambers, academia, government offices, and the media: “there is something that those in authority can do to alleviate such problems.” The mantra often finds expression – without any break in established meter – in this form: “we will find out what went wrong and fix it, so that this doesn’t happen again.”

This mindset is so out of touch with the harsh facts of reality that The Wall Street Journal carried a feature article asking: “Next Debate: Should Colleges Ban Firearms?” That firearms had been banned on the Virginia Tech campus before these atrocities took place apparently did not inform the judgments of this newspaper’s editors. Nor have I seen evidence of any rethinking on the part of a Virginia Tech spokesman who, in 2006, following the Virginia legislature’s enactment of a ban on guns on state university campuses, declared: “I’m sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly’s actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus.” This man might send such words of comfort to the families of these 32 victims!

Whatever explanations or remedies various “experts” offer for the problems that beset mankind, the common thread connecting them is that both human and physical nature are capable of being causally understood and, therefore, subject to interventionist correction. Universities are the temples of faith in this proposition, with students enrolling for their stated purpose of “making the world a better place.” It is not surprising, therefore, that immediately following these atrocities, the Virginia Tech campus became an attractor for the proponents of this Weltanschauung. “If the university had intervened after this man turned in some disturbed writing to his English professor;” “if we can just control guns;” “if police had had access to his mental health records beforehand”: these were the oft-repeated concerns of those who are convinced that the world is predictable and, hence, controllable. In the latter vein, NBC news anchor, Brian Williams, reportedly vocalized the catechism in proposing a new federal program to monitor the mental health of all college students, in order to prevent occurrences such as this one.

The true believers of the dogmas of control have insinuated themselves into all forms of institutions. Being ends in themselves, and with people serving as little more than resources for organizational purposes, institutions provide a fitting environment for such thinking. Government schools – unable to grasp the reality that children are, by nature, self-directed, spontaneous, and exploring people eager to devote their energies to what interests them – become upset when their conscripts refuse to suppress their inquisitiveness. The children get labeled “hyperactive” or “suffering” from “attention deficit disorder” (i.e., do not adhere to the teacher’s prescribed agenda) and must, therefore, have their energies controlled by drugs, counseling, and other “behavior modification” techniques that squeeze the childhood sense of personally-relevant curiosity from them.

Children grow into adulthood, and go to work for an institutionalized employer who plays this same control game at their expense. The employee finds himself or herself under the thumb of what has got to be the most dehumanizing and vulgar job description anywhere: a “human resources manager.” For an individual to be labeled as nothing more than a “resource” – what one dictionary defines as “an available means” – is a glaring admission of the victory of institutions over the human spirit!

Members of the control cult have always found themselves attracted to the agency whose raison d’être is to subdue all of humanity to its coercive mechanisms of control: the state. What problem, or catastrophe, or even fear thereof, is not met with the aforesaid chant of bureaucrats: “we will find out what went wrong and fix it, so it doesn’t happen again”? And what members of the boobeoisie – their minds thoroughly indoctrinated in this mindset – do not breathe a collective sigh of relief that their managers are on the job, looking after their well-being? Cho Seung-Hui bought one of his guns on Friday the 13th? Perhaps – with psychics explaining the causal connection – gun sales should be banned on such days! Cho Seung-Hui was bullied and teased as a child? Maybe such behavior can be included under “hate crime” laws and made subject to criminal punishment!

In the months following 9/11, the control freaks came forth with their seemingly endless laundry list of additional mechanisms of control with which they promised to fight the “terrorist” bogeyman. More police powers to enter people’s homes – even without their knowledge; more wiretaps; more surveillance cameras in more places; more x-ray cameras; more background checks; more systems for probing into the human mind for motives and dispositions – an area of research now being perfected in England. Any objections offered by the handful of people who see the dangers inherent in police-states were casually dismissed by those who regard all expressions of individual liberty as “loopholes” to be closed by additional legislation.

Not to be left in the exhaust provided by their “war on terror” brethren, the “global warming” denomination mounted the pulpit to preach the sins of human behavior, and to promise existential salvation if only they, too, be given extended control over the human species. Mindless of the incalculable complexities at work within our world – a topic I took up in my last article – there is an arrogance of omniscience that unites members of the control cult. Whatever the field into which they wish to intrude, they remain convinced that they are capable of marshaling sufficient information that will allow them to create mechanisms to prevent harmful acts and to generate beneficial ones. If, in religious thinking, God is regarded as both omniscient and omnipotent then, in a secular age, such powers must repose elsewhere, namely, in the gods and goddesses of institutional governance.

But recent inquiries into the nature of “chaos” and complexity are revealing the baseless foundations of this faith in control. Our world – including each human being – is simply too complex, too subject to a myriad of too many influences over which we can never have sufficient awareness to predict outcomes. If physical and human nature are too complicated to be predictable, the rationale for state control is swept away. To the controllists, the expression of this fact is a heresy that must be exorcised from our thinking.

Those who cling to a faith in their dying secular deity remain convinced that all that is needed to make a complex world more predictable is more information. This is the essence of much of the babbling of tongues disguised as “expert analysis” in the days following the killings at Virginia Tech. What we tend not to understand is that the more information we possess about anything, the more questions and uncertainties that arise. Albert Einstein understood this quite well in saying that “as a circle of light increases, so does the circumference of darkness around it.” Bertrand Russell provided the social meaning to this when he declared: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

But one need not rely on abstract insights to confirm that a complex and unpredictable world cannot be rendered certain by more information. Over many decades, the American government has spent – and continues to spend – tens of billions of dollars in so-called “intelligence agencies,” whose functions are to gather as much information as possible on the forces at work within foreign countries – and, disturbingly, within America itself. Despite the virtually unrestrained powers enjoyed by such agencies, and the resources put at their disposal to gather information, they have been able to predict almost nothing of major significance. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the events of 9/11, all occurred without any foreknowledge of such agencies. And what of the predictions that American troops would be welcomed by Iraqis as “liberators” in a “slam dunk” war that would last only a few weeks? On a more comic level, even knowing that January 1, 2000 was an event certain to happen, the voices of what became known as “Y2K” uncertainty were all over the lot in trying to predict what consequences, if any, were likely to befall our computer-centered world.

Apostles of the control cult will focus their energies on any area of human activity that provides them the opportunity to advance what is central to their lives: the exercise of coercive power over other people. Whether any given issue involves gun ownership; global warming; discriminatory behavior; tobacco, drug, and alcohol usage; eating habits; educating or raising children; or any other expressions of human action that can be exploited for their purposes, the overall objective remains fixed. There is nothing this crowd fears more than the specter of ordinary people retaining decision-making authority over their own lives.Those who want control over us have taught us that they – if given enough power – can protect us from the destructive and murderous rampages of madmen. The Cho Seung-Huis and the Saddam Husseins of our troubled world will continue to be offered up to us as the destructive, murderous madmen from whom we need the protection of state officials. But the war system ought to be a stark reminder that it is political authorities who are the madmen; who destroy property, ravage economies, and – in the 20th century alone – butchered some 200,000,000 people in pursuit of their psychotic ambitions to control the rest of humanity.

Most of your life is – and will continue to be – spent in peaceful relationships with others. But there will be the occasional thug with whom you may have to contend. Your ability to defend yourself will always depend upon the actions you take, with the resources you have available. You are more likely to prevail if you have disabused yourself of the notion that the state – or any other established system – will be there to prevent such threats to you. To this end, if you draw nothing else from the terrible events of this past week, let it be the awareness that there is nothing that anyone in authority can do to protect you from the unpredictabilities and uncertainties of life.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dennis Kucinich Would Make Hitler Proud

Kucinich Seeks To Ban Hand Guns In America

Congressman drafting legislation to make owning a hand gun illegal.
By Darren Toms, Newsradio WTAM 1100

Kucinich is currently drafting legislation that would ban the purchase, sale, transfer or possession of hand guns by civilians. A gun buy-back provision will be included in the bill.
Kucinich announced this move in the aftermath of Monday’s deadly shooting at Virginia Tech.

Kucinich noted in a speech to congress that about 32 people die each day in America due to hand gun related incidents. 33 died at VT.

Kucinich says it's becoming "painfully obvious" that the easy availability of handguns constituents a growing national crisis of public health and safety, one that he says calls for a powerful, wide-ranging response from congress.

He says the level of violence in our society constitutes a national emergency.

Already this Congress, Kucinich has introduced HR 808, legislation to establish a Department of Peace and Nonviolence. It would address the issue of domestic violence, gang violence, and violence in the schools, which is reflected in the current homicide rates.

Kucinich notes recent studies that indicate many killers had histories of mental illness. He says the lack of parity for mental health care remains one of the most serious deficiencies in healthcare in the United States.

Kucinich has also proposed HR 676, Medicare for all. It would establish a universal not-for-profit healthcare system, which would provide full and comprehensive mental healthcare.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Inconsistancy of Conservatism

"Republicans believe that all of society, whether your town, the nation, or the whole world, is divided between those who adhere to the law and those who are inclined to break it. These they define as good guys and bad guys, but it is not always true since the law these days is not the law written on our hearts but rather the rules as laid down by state masters." -- Lew Rockwell, Republicans and their Doomed Ideology

There is a glaring inconsistncy in the ideology and political methodology of modern conservatism. In contemporary conservative thinking, in theory, we should have a non-interventionist domestic policy, and therefore "limited government". However, simultaneously, the conservative believes that we should have a heavily interventionist foreign policy at least in the short-term. One finds that if the conservative espouses a principle with respect to restraining domestic government policy, they tend to espouse precisely the opposite principle with respect to foreign policy.

On one hand, the conservative argues that domestic spending on social programs is "big government". On the other hand, they simultaneously propose just as expensive or more expensive programs with respect to foreign policy. On one hand, they speak negatively of welfare for the poor. On the other hand, they speak positively of corporate welfare for anyone connected to the military-industrial machine. Indeed, if someone were to propose cutting funding for the military machine, they would be demonized as "liberals"! On one hand, many conservatives claim to be pro-life. On the other hand, many conservatives are virulently pro-war. On one hand, conservatives do not believe in population control. On the other hand, many of them share a sentiment against immigration.

There are inconstancies within domestic policy as well. On one hand, the conservative thinks that tax cuts are great. On the other hand, they support massive spending increases when its on their own interests, which necessitates future taxation. Afterall, just like how the left's pet programs create "entitlements" that have massively growing, spiraling future costs, so does the right's. The laws of economics apply to all government interventions in the economy, wether from the left or right. Conservatives like to talk the talk about a limited domestic policy while simultaneously proposing to centralize executive power, create new and expensive intelligence and so-called "defense" bereaucracies, subsidize religious institutions, remove commonlaw protections of suspected criminals and use the federal government to intervene in a family's medical decisions. This list barely scratches the surface of domestic intervention supported by conservatives.

The conservative fails to understand a number of things. They fail to understand that their advocacy of a "strong" foreign policy is inconsistant with their own rhetorically stated principles such as limiting government and support for free market capitalism. They fail to understand that the effects of their prefered foreign policy bleed over into domestic policy, so that the conservative is not even supporting a restrained domestic policy anymore. Indeed, an active and aggressive foreign policy inherently strengthens the government's power domestically. It necessitates increases in inflation, spending, future taxation, debt, increased central government surveillance of the domestic populace, government contracting of big buisiness, etc.

In the name of a fighting foes abroad (and at home), wether real or imagined, the conservative winds up supporting a police state at home and further exaserbates the rise of economic socialism in their own country. While many conservatives rhetorically oppose socialism, they support a peculiar brand of it: war-socialism and "market socialism". War-socialism is much like the fascist pattern that the Nazis adopted. The term market socialism is, of course, a contradiction in terms. What is meant by market socialism is socialism that functions under the veneer of being capitalism. Private property might exist in name, but it is so regulated and redistributed that there are barely any legitimate property titles. Such a system is not capitalism at all. It is socialism that tries to sell itself as "government regulated capitalism", another contradiction in terms.

Many conservatives take up a "lets run the government like a buisiness" mentality. But this is wholly ignorant of the most basic aspects of the calculation debate. In the calculation debate, it was demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that government, any central planning agency, simply cannot economically calculate. It has no profit/loss mechanism and it functions on the basis of conscripted money without regaurd to the "consumer's" demand. For the same reason why socialism fails, the conservative attempt to run government like a buisiness fails. If it functions on the basis of profit and loss, uses its own startup capital, is dependant on the consumer's demand, then it is not a government. If it has none of these traits, then it is a government. It can never be both a buisiness and a government; government cannot be run like a buisiness, and buisiness cannot be run like a government.

Many conservatives seem to be convinced that government contracting out buisinesses is superior to government ownership of the means of production. It must be first be realized that the nature of government contracting does bestow at least partial ownership of the means of the production on the part of the government. Government contracting of buisiness is often really just joint ownership of the means of production between buisiness and government; as a collusion between government and buisiness interests. In certain respects, this could be considered welfare just as much as the left's social legislation is. Afterall, it is still wealth redistribution, as these contracts are funded at least partially through taxes, which means that the tax-payer is having their wealth transfered to someone else parasitically.

Modern neoconservatives have a peculiar obcession with democracy. Not merely democracy, but the idea of global democracy. This is curious, first, because the initial meaning of the term "Republican" was in referance to the Republic type of system of government, which was different than a democracy in that it has checks on mob rule, it has a rule of law and meaningful decentralization of powers. It is also curious because it is globalist, while one would expect a conservative to be more nationalist. In either case, a democracy can only be properly interpreted in two ways: unrestrained mob rule in violation of individual rights, or a minority government (and all governments are minority governments in that they are constituted by a minority of people in comparison to the overall population) that pretends that it is based on the majority or "the people" as a totality (a collectivist fallacy).

The rise of the contemporary American "religious right" movement is somewhat mysterious. To an extent, it could be argued that before the 70's, "social issues" and religious matter were not what the conservative movement concentrated on. The rise of fundamentalist "christian conservatism" into mainstream politics changed all of this. The agenda of this brand of conservatism is full of proposals for radical expansions and abuses of governmental power. The entire purpose is to legislate their particular interpretation of a religion (which is not even shared by many Christian Americans) into the federal law that everyone else must abide by. Instead of looking ascant towards public schools, these people would rather decide that everyone else must be taught their opinions in the public schools. The agenda of this group is expressly inconsistant with any idea of restraining the government domestically.

"Law and order" conservatives tend to support anti-capitalistic prohibitions on the sale and use of products and services that they do not personally like. This includes the current existing and attempted prohibitions on drugs, prostitution, gambling, "gay marriage", so-called "assisted suicide" (which just means, for example, that someone has it in their will that if they are in a vegetative state, please put them out of their misery in a humane way), and any kind of censorship. The thing to realize about all such prohibitions is that, first, they are government interventions in the market, and second, that they merely create a black market for whatever is being prohibited. Such prohibitions do not actually get rid of the problem, they make it worse by introducing crime into it. At this point our "law and order" conservative's response would be to buff up police powers even more, instead of removing the cause of the criminal activity on the black market.

That conservatives still try to hold onto the rhetoric of "limited government", "personal responsibility", "individual liberty" and "free enterprise" after their support for an endless list of statist activity is ridiculous yet amusing. What's even more ridiculous, however, is that many on the left are duped into taking this rhetoric at face value, and thus they become opposed to the conservative's rhetoric as opposed to their actual deeds (lack thereof, that is) in practise. As such, this energizes the left-wing against the idea of a less powerful government, while in practise the conservatives are busy expanding the government just as much or more than them. The conservative movement has not only mislead people who do value those stated principles, but they have mislead the entire contemporary left-wing movement into opposing them.

If conservatives believe in free trade, how come we still have tariffs after 6 years of a Republican dominated one-party state of professed "conservatives"? My father is certainly not a right-winger, he is a leftist of sorts, yet he told me the other day that ideally he would like to abolish all tariffs. Why can't the contemporary right-wingers, who rhetorically paint themselves as champions of the free economy, at least minimize them meaningfully, if a "leftist" can call for the abolition of tariffs? Well, it's kind of hard to persue a policy of reducing tariffs when you're occupying foreign nations non-stop, thus making them hostile to you, isn't it? If Pat Buchannan is the best model of a paleo-conservative that we have, then the entire conservative movement is in big trouble, especially considering that Pat Buchannan believes in heavy protectionism.

What about conservative's records with regaurd to banking and the money supply? Horrendous. Most conservatives roughly adopt Milton Friedman's earlier positions on monetary policy - which means an active support for monetary expansion and interest manipulation, with an extreme hostility to the idea of commodity money and the gold standard. Those who are not monetarist types are most likely to be keynsians, which is no better if not worse. While conservative politicians may tend to cut some taxes, they make up for this by simply having the federal reserve print up more money or borrowing more from overseas. To generalize, the formula for Democrats has most often been increased taxes + increased money supply + increased borrowing, and the formula for Republicans has most often been decreased taxes + increased money supply + increased borrowing. Both are flawed and combine cumulatively to bring about an endless and unecessary cycle and expansion of government.

Some conservatives define themselves as one who wishes to preserve traditions. There is nothing inherently wrong per se about wanting to preserve a tradition. But the question becomes: exactly who's traditions do we wish to preserve, and what is the best way to preserve them? The starke reality in many cases is that the conservative is not preserving their own traditions, but suggesting that the government be used to enforce those traditions onto everyone else coercively. What they are conserving in practise is the state; and their traditions may actually be eroded by the state becoming involved with them. For example, government involvement in religious institutions does not preserve those institutions and their traditions. To the contrary, it brings political influence into the picture, which threatens those institutions and their traditions. Using the state to subsidize your "traditions" just corrupts them.

Contemporary conservatives seem to really adore executive power. To the conservative, the purpose of the executive is to be a strong man who expresses "our power" and conserves it. The chief executive is thought of as a manifestion of "the nation" and all of its greatness. The military is worshopped jingoistically. People who are payed tax payer money to shoot innocent people and impose governments on them half way across the world are viewed, in orwellian fashion, as defenders of freedom. Most conservatives would have trouble finding a single war or two in American history that they think should not have been fought. But how can the conservative be an exemplar of "order" while boldly supporting the utter chaos that results from war? Most modern conservatives seem to have no problem with both pre-emptive and perpetual warfare.

When WWII ended, the foundation of the American warfare state was already long-since set into place. But there was a sort of "vacuum" of "enemies". Into this vacuum came the cold war - the WWII central planners had to come up with some kind of enemy in order to continue their political employment, so they used communism as the hobgoblin. The conservative movement (which included many of the Democrats at that time, mind you) was mislead by this and became total war-hawks; cold-warriors. When the cold war ended, the same situation occured again. The foreign policy planners faced another void, and into this void they placed "terrorism" and "radical islam". The conservative movement was once again mislead into being war-hawks. The conservative movement has been duped all along for this entire ride, supporting just about every foreign and domestic intervention involved.

Today, the hardcore "base" of the Republican Party is dominated by people who essentially support the idea of American empirialism. They support the idea that we have a "duty" and "right" to impose social democracy and "our way of life" on foreign lands "for their own good". They support nation building and hegemony with dictators. They support pre-emptive police powers without regaurd for "innocent until proven guilty" and sensible commonlaw standards dating back to the middle ages. So long as it is done in the name of going after what is deemed "the enemy", the conservative will support government force and expansion and everything that comes with it. There is always a double standard with the contemporary conservative, wether it be opposing gun bans while calling for a buff up in drug war spending or supporting a war of aggression while claiming to be a valiant supporter of human life.

The results of 6 years of a "conservative" one-party state is as follows: a 3 trillion dollar federal budget, a 1 trillion dollar defense budget out of that 3 trillion, overextension of the military, an unjustified war coupled with a nation building project, most of the world pretty much hates America, the passage of laws that can easily be manipulated to deny domestic citezens their property rights, an expansion of the left's entitlement state, the use of ex post facto presidential signing statements as executive legislation, an inflationary boom that is destined to pop, domestic spying on citezens, the centralizaiton of federal intelligence agencies under the department of homeland security, ramptant government contracting of buisinesses for foreign policy purposes, etc. Essentially, the government has at least twice (if not thrice) as much power as it did only about 6 years ago.

In practise, the contemporary conservative position boils down to this: "We must tolerate a leviathan state in the short term in the name of the war on (insert hobgoblin here: terror, communism, homosexuals, secularism, drugs, islamo-fascism, the "robber barons", attack of the 50 ft. pedophile, etc.)". Their favorite buzzword is exactly what they stand for: "big government". They ultimate do not value liberty as their central principle. Rather, they value imposed "order" (their own questionable definition of "order", that is). They view the state and ad hoc authority as the foundation of civilization rather than liberty and private property. To the modern conservative, liberty must be sacrificed to make us more "secure". In reality, they are willing to sacrifice everyone's liberty just to give themselves a false sense of security. In short, all that the conservative movement has managed to conserve is the state's power.

Che T-Shirts (Funny Stuff!)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Government and Racism

by Ron Paul

The controversy surrounding remarks by talk show host Don Imus shows that the nation remains incredibly sensitive about matters of race, despite the outward progress of the last 40 years. A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities.

The young women on the basketball team Mr. Imus insulted are over 18 and can speak for themselves. It’s disconcerting to see third parties become involved and presume to speak collectively for minority groups. It is precisely this collectivist mindset that is at the heart of racism.

It’s also disconcerting to hear the subtle or not-so-subtle threats against free speech. Since the FCC regulates airwaves and grants broadcast licenses, we’re told it’s proper for government to forbid certain kinds of insulting or offensive speech in the name of racial and social tolerance. Never mind the 1st Amendment, which states unequivocally that, “Congress shall make NO law.”

Let’s be perfectly clear: the federal government has no business regulating speech in any way. Furthermore, government as an institution is particularly ill suited to combating bigotry in our society. Bigotry at its essence is a sin of the heart, and we can’t change people’s hearts by passing more laws and regulations.

In fact it is the federal government more than anything else that divides us along race, class, religion, and gender lines. Government, through its taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails in our society. This government "benevolence" crowds out genuine goodwill between men by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. This leads to resentment and hostility between us.The political left argues that stringent federal laws are needed to combat racism, even as they advocate incredibly divisive collectivist policies.

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism. Their obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist.

The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.

More importantly, in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct our sins, we should understand that racism will endure until we stop thinking in terms of groups and begin thinking in terms of individual liberty.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Determinism vs. Liberty

Determinism may be broadly defined as the thesis that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future. The views that spring from this are more complex, however. It often leads to the view that everything is predetermined. But if everything is predetermined, then this means that the determinist must deny the existance of free will. If we believe in biological determinism, the idea that all human action is determined completely by biological instinct, then we must throw away any notion that human beings have control over their own choices. Consequentially, hard determinist are adamant deniers of the existance of free will. Ultimately, determinism should be called mechanicalism, in that it puts forth that human action is just as mechanical as other phenomenon in the natural sciences and that we should therefore apply the exact same methodology to human thought and action.

The determinist position can be shown as absurd very easily because it is a reducto ad absurdum and a performative contradiction. In short, to take determinism as a dogma requires that we believe in pre-destination, that all human action is completely pre-programmed, and hence people have no control over themselves at all. Of course, if people had no control over themselves at all, they would be unable to take any actions at all. So determinism indeed leads us to a reducto ad absurdum. Logic leads us to the conclusion that human behavior is purposeful behavior, that humans use their (limited) rationality to make choices.

It must be noted that the idea that there is only one possible future at all times consistantly must lead to the idea that we can deterministically predict the future. Reality shows us otherwise: that human behavior is expressly not perfectly predictable. If you one willing to defend the idea that we can predict the future, I'd be delighted to have you come up with an arguement that doesn't fall back on mysticism. As I see it, it is impossible for you to make such an arguement without falling back on mysticism.

I reject the "one possibility" theory. For any instant there is a multitude of possible outcomes. In science, we call this probability. Beyond that, human beings, using their minds, have at least a limited power to determine the course of their actions. Since this choice is made by the individual, and every individual is different from one another, it is impossible to predict the future in the way that determinism claims to.

To say that actions are not brought about necessarily and inevitably means they could have been performed differently. One way of thinking about this is to imagine that one can "rewind history". If libertarian free will holds, things will turn out differently. Actions can only occur if they are possible. Libertarian free will requires that there is more than one possible outcome to a given situation.

Determinists sometimes claim that we are not determined by our atoms and molecules so much as by the social and cultural forces on us. While these are no doubt an influence, they cannot add up strict determinism in every case, or we would still be in the caves. Every new idea, social or technological, is something of a rebellion against the old order.

The determinist, if her arguments are applied to herself, cannot claim to have made a rational choice to believe in determinism, because she cannot claim to have made a choice. Without volition, there is no difference between rational discourse and parotting. Her comments carry no more persuasive force than the message on an answering machine.

The determinist, in the course of making their arguements for determinism, must find themselves in a ridiculous absurdity: The idea that you have no choice is negated by your choice to type on your computer as you currently are. To claim that your choice to favor determinism and to write about it here was pre-destined is absurd. You chose to do it. To claim that the only possible outcome was for you to do it is absurd - you could have just as easily chosen to not do it (hence, the free will that you seem to deny having). The problem with your determinism is that you are trying to apply the methods of the natural sciences to the social sciences. This is a fallacy.

Human behavior does not work in the same way that laws of the natural sciences do. While you might be able to claim that the apple will always fall when gravity effects it - this same methodology is hogwash when applied to the human mind and human action. "The mind" is something incapable of truly being measured (indeed, it is intangible, even more intangible than gravity, which can be measured) - and hence, determinism has zero application to it. People's minds react in a variety of ways to something, because people have wills! If people do not have wills, everyone would be the same, as there would be nothing to distinguish them. Obviously, everyone is not the same, because each person possesses individuality, as determined by their own choices.

Deterministic prediction of the future is the field of con artists, not sound social scientists. The mere existance of individuals who disagree with eachother simply negates the entire notion. People's behavior cannot have one single, pre-determined outcome if different people recieve different outcomes for the same behavior (which happens all the time) and different people have different reactions to the same stimuli (which happens all the time). The evidence clearly points us towards the existance of variance. The existance of variance within humans, in turn, negates the entire philosophy of determinism, particularly as applied to the social sciences. So long as Joe is a different person than Jack in any way at all, determinism is simply wrong. Determinism could only even approach being correct if everyone is identical. Since people are not identical, there will always be more than one possible action and outcome.

Why is it that there can be more than one possible action and outcome? Different people CHOOSE to take different actions, and people's perceptions and values that they attach to these actions vary according to their own choices and beliefs, hence we find ourselves once again staring free will in the face. It is a total fallacy to use the methods that describe our instinctual bodily functions (such as breathing and the like) to try to map out the mind, which functions in a different way. Thoughts and actions do not function in the same way that instinctual things such as your heart beating does. Indeed, your heart beat is controlled biologically, independantly of your will. But it is simply nonsensical to apply this to thoughts and actions, to claim that all thoughts and actions are pre-determined biologically.

A note on religiousity and free will: While western religions tend to support the concept of free will, the concept is not an explicitly religious one. To the contrary, in secular philosophy, these notions go back to Aristotle and Plato, who in turn got them from people even longer before that. It would therefore be disingenous to imply that the only way for me to believe in free will is from a religious or dogmatic perspective. To the contrary, free will is a self-evident thing that can easily be discovered employing basic logic. Indeed, all one has to do is open one's eyes and live life to see proof of it.

Unfortunately, if we take determinism seriously, all notions of human rationality dissapears, and humans are denigrated to mere savages, completely bound by instinct. To take determinism seriously, we must believe that humans function exactly like a lion or elaphant in every way; that is, governmed completely by instinct. But this simply is not true. Humans are precisely defined by the ability to supress their instincts. The only way to suppress instinct is through *tadda* free will.

Determinism must lead the determinist to treat regaurd humans in the same way as a computer. For example, a determinist recently made this arguement:

"My chess program, when faced with a bad position makes a move and loses its queen. Could it have not lost the queen? Sure...if it had only moved the knight to d7 instead of its bishop to a8. Could it have really, under the circumstances, have made any other decision than it did?"

The proper reply is as follows: Using a computer, a chess program, as an example of human behavior is beyond the pale. Yes, the computer could not have magically developed a will of its own and made another decision. This has no bearing on human behavior. It's a computer. Computers are not humans; I.E. they have no real conciousness or choice. Humans do. As a human, indeed, you could have made another chess move by choosing to think about it longer (with your free will).

Trying to draw a conclusions about how humans operate by using how a machine operates is simply a fallacy. Who made this machine anyway? Humans. Can the machine make other machines by choosing to? No, because it is not a concious being. Humans are, hence they choose to make computers. The machine can only make another machine if a human programs it to. The human, on the contrary, can choose to make a machine without some "prime mover" programming the human to. The computer possesses no such qualities of the human. They function in completely different ways. The computer will always give you the same result if you make it do a math problem. Humans are prone to error and will give you different results. The computer has no opinions. Humans do. The computer has no emotions. Humans do. So yes, the dychotomy is absurd by all standards of reason.

It would also be absurd to apply the methodology that we use for studying the universe and planertary bodies to human thoughts and actions. The existance of sentience makes it absurd. The universe does not think. It does not choose. To apply this same model to humans is absurd. Humans think thoughts and take actions. The universe does not, it simply functions without conciousness.

All human beings have experience of being a self-determining being, we are all aware of the free choices we have made. We all have experience of deliberating, of weighing factors which could influence our decisions and this often takes a long time. without free-will, our practices of morally praising some and condemning others has no rational basis.

We do not hold people morally responsible if they could not have acted otherwise than they did (if they were under external duress, or suffer from an internal compulsion such as kleptomania). However, determinism makes everyone unable to do other than as they did, so it follows that no-one is ever morally responsible, and the prisons should be emptied. This demonstrates how the denial of free will means that noone can possibly be responsible for their own actions; people can avoid incrimination and responsibility by hiding behind determinism.

The two best logical arguements for the existance of free will and self-ownership have been made by Murray Rothbard and Hans Herman Hoppe.

It has been argued by Austrian School economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe that self-ownership is axiomatic. His reasoning is that a person contradicts himself when he argues against self-ownership. The person making this argument is caught in a "performative contradiction" because, in choosing to use persuasion instead of force to have others agree that they are not sovereign over themselves, that person implicitly grants that those who he is trying to persuade have a right to disagree. If they have a right to disagree, then they have legitimate authority over themselves.

In The Ethics of Liberty, Murray Rothbard argues that 100 percent self-ownership is the only principle compatible with a moral code that applies to every person - a "universal ethic" - and that it is a natural law by being what is naturally best for man. He says if a every person does not entitled to full self-ownership, then there are only two alternatives: "(1) the 'communist' one of Universal and Equal Other-ownership, or (2) Partial Ownership of One Group by Another - a system of rule by one class over another." He says that it is not possible for alternative (2) to be a univeral ethic but only a partial ethic which says that one class of people do not have the right of self-ownership but another class does. This, therefore, is incompatible with what is being sought - a moral code applicable to every person - instead of a code applicable to some and not to others, as if some individuals are humans and some are not. In the case of alternative (1), every individual would own equal parts of every other individual so that no one is self-owned. Rothbard acknowledges that this would be a universal ethic, but, he argues, it is "Utopian and impossible impossible for everyone to keep continual tabs on everyone else, and thereby to exercise his equal share of partial ownership over every other man." He says the system would break down, resulting in a ruling class who specializes in keeping tabs over other individuals. Since this would grant a ruling class ownership rights over its subjects, it would again be logically incompatible with a universal ethic. Even if a collectivist Utopia of everyone having equal ownership of everyone else could be sustained, he argues, individuals would not be able to do anything without prior approval by everyone in society. Since this would be impossible in a large society, no one would be able to do anything and the human race would perish. Therefore, the collectivist alternative universal ethic where every individual would own an equal portion of every other individual violates the natural "law of what is best for man and his life on earth." He says that if a person exercises ownership over another person, that is, uses aggression against him rather than leaving him to do as he wills, "this violates his nature."