Friday, January 19, 2018

Dilly Dilly









Today I feel like the guy who brought the king some Bud-Light, although I have the feeling that Hoppe would prefer a nice Waldhaus Schwarzwald Weisse while overlooking the Bodensee and enjoying a nice Wiener Schnitzel.  From Hans Hoppe and his essay On Getting Libertarianism Right:

Throughout the entire period, the Ludwig von Mises Institute – mises.org – and Lew Rockwell – lewrockwell.com – have stood out as bulwarks against the infiltration of libertarianism by leftist thought….More recently, outlets for explicitly and decidedly anti-leftist libertarian thought have proliferated. There is “Bionic Mosquito” with his blog – bionicmosquito.blogspot.com.

I should end this post now, as it can only go downhill from here!  Yet, against my better judgment, I move forward.  While what I have cited above is easily the most important point Hoppe makes in his essay, I will offer an examination of a few of his comments that lead to this, the most important point ever made by this student of Rothbard.

Hoppe begins with a summary of his most familiar argument regarding the respect for absolute private property rights in the strictest libertarian tradition as the only method of minimizing the possibility of conflicts between and among humans.

While the importance of this “Austro-libertarian” insight can hardly be overrated, however, it is just as important to recognize what questions this theory does not answer.

What?  The NAP is not omnipotent?  This is not a shortcoming of the theory; instead, it is a shortcoming of those who place the theory as the highest good, or those who proclaim it the one true faith.  It is a shortcoming in those who expect that this is a theory that can bring itself to fruition – a creation story equal to the one found in Genesis: creating something from nothing.

Hoppe points out that the theory does not offer an answer to how a libertarian order is to be achieved – and, once achieved, how it is to be maintained.  These are fair questions, given that the world around us is anything other than one embracing a libertarian social and political order.  Too many self-proclaimed libertarians ignore the reality of the world around them, instead naively embracing…

…the currently reigning – and only “politically correct” – view that all people and in particular all groups of people are essentially equal as regards their mental and motivational make-up…

Hoppe describes these as left-libertarians.  These left-libertarians embrace precisely the same world view as those Western elites intent on destroying what remains of our freedom:

…multi-culturalism, unrestricted “free” immigration, “non-discrimination,” “affirmative action” and “openness” to “diversity” and “alternative lifestyles.”

Hoppe asks, regarding the Western elite, “are they all secretly libertarians?”

Of course, they are not.  Which, therefore, leads to one of the only two remaining possibilities: libertarians such as these are either knowingly doing the bidding of those Western elites or they are dolts.  Regardless of which of these is true for each individual leftist, it is undeniably true that it is so-called libertarians such as these that are “acceptable” to the mainstream.

Hoppe paraphrases Rothbard when he writes:

Owing to their patently false, unrealistic assumptions concerning the nature of man, [Rothbard] had pointed out, the very means and measures advocated by left-libertarians for the attainment of libertarian ends were false as well. In fact, given the libertarian end, they were counter-productive and would lead to more rather than less conflict and infringements of private property rights.

You would think that all students who learned at Rothbard’s knee would understand and incorporate this into their thinking the way Hoppe has done; either that, or explicitly challenge Rothbard – demonstrate how destroying culture and tradition is the path toward liberty.  (Don’t hold your breath – it is an argument never coming because it is a laughable argument.)

Real libertarians – in contrast to left-libertarian fakes – must study and take account of real people and real human history in order to design a libertarian strategy of social change, and even the most cursory study in this regard – indeed, little more than common sense – yields results completely opposite from those proposed by libertarian fakes.

I tell you, I am not as blunt or harsh as Hoppe…or maybe I am worse.  I guess it depends on how you read the following: the issue isn’t one of “real libertarians.”  What is lacking is not the “libertarian”; what is lacking is the ability to think critically, to incorporate “real people and real human history” in the study of bringing theory to application.

In other words, what is lacking is thought – it is either this or “libertarians” such as these are working as agents for those bent on your destruction.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Not One Inch Eastward




U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

It turns out the Russians have a reason to be upset about the expansion of NATO.  And this isn’t from some libertarian nut-job (like bionic mosquito) or non-interventionist outfit (like The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity). 

Before getting to some of the evidence, just what is “the National Security Archive at George Washington University”?

Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents ("the world's largest nongovernmental collection" according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.

The documents provide evidence that assurances were offered by western leaders at the highest level: Bush, Thatcher, Major, and Mitterand are but a few examples.  In other words, a Mt. Rushmore of liars.

Some excerpts:

·        The documents reinforce former CIA Director Robert Gates’s criticism of “pressing ahead with expansion of NATO eastward [in the 1990s], when Gorbachev and others were led to believe that wouldn’t happen.”
·        President George H.W. Bush had assured Gorbachev during the Malta summit in December 1989 that the U.S. would not take advantage…of the revolutions in Eastern Europe to harm Soviet interests…
·        The first concrete assurances by Western leaders on NATO began on January 31, 1990…
·        The U.S. Embassy in Bonn (see Document 1) informed Washington that Genscher made clear “that the changes in Eastern Europe and the German unification process must not lead to an ‘impairment of Soviet security interests.’
·        …the crucial February 10, 1990, meeting in Moscow between Kohl and Gorbachev when the West German leader achieved Soviet assent in principle to German unification in NATO, as long as NATO did not expand to the east.
·        The conversations before Kohl’s assurance involved explicit discussion of NATO expansion, the Central and East European countries, and how to convince the Soviets to accept unification.
·        Having met with Genscher on his way into discussions with the Soviets, Baker repeated exactly the Genscher formulation in his meeting with Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze on February 9, 1990, (see Document 4); and even more importantly, face to face with Gorbachev.
·        Not once, but three times, Baker tried out the “not one inch eastward” formula with Gorbachev in the February 9, 1990, meeting.

It gets better (or worse, I suppose) as you go through the article.

The National Security Archive identifies and includes 30 different documents as evidence for this post, for example: 

·        Document 05: Memorandum of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow.
·        Document 12-1: Memorandum of conversation between Vaclav Havel and George Bush in Washington.
·        Document 14: Memorandum of conversation between George Bush and Eduard Shevardnadze in Washington.
·        Document 18: Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow.
·        Document 21: Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush. White House, Washington D.C.
·        Document 29: Paul Wolfowitz Memoranda of Conversation with Vaclav Havel and Lubos Dobrovsky in Prague.

This last document is interesting, as it offers a glimpse into one of the real enemies of peace in this world.  From the summary:

Havel informs [Wolfowitz] that Soviet Ambassador Kvitsinsky was in Prague negotiating a bilateral agreement, and the Soviets wanted the agreement to include a provision that Czechoslovakia would not join alliances hostile to the USSR. Wolfowitz advises both Havel and Dobrovsky not to enter into such agreements…

It’s the Ninth Circle for you.

The National Security Archive promises a second part to their analysis; it will cover the Yeltsin discussions with Western leaders about NATO…over vodka, I imagine.

Conclusion

Well, Baker never said anything about two inches eastward.  Anyway, technically these assurances were given to the Soviets, not the Russians.

The key phrase, buttressed by the documents, is “led to believe.”

I guess too bad for the Russkies…and too bad for world peace.

“Oh, but it wasn’t a treaty.”

As if a treaty would have stopped the empire.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Updates



At the top of this page are several tabs; I have just updated the following:

Timeline to War (through 1938; beginning 1939)

This timeline offers specific dates / events leading up to World War II (although since I began this series I have gone beyond WWII for certain topics) – with the earliest entry in 1793 and the establishment of the East India Company through the last entry in 1975 with the end of the Vietnam War.

I have gleaned these dates and events from several of the history books that I have read – at this moment, the sources include 15 books; there are also several entries that link to websites.


This post offers my version of revisionist history.  I identify what I was “brought up to believe,” and offer a link to a post that debunks this belief.  Virtually all of the linked posts are bionic mosquito originals, a handful are of outside sources.  As of this moment, I have exploded something close to 100 of my childhood fairytales.


I begin by flushing out the idea of thin-libertarianism and continue to examine the connection of culture, custom, and tradition to a society that respects the non-aggression principle.

My writing on this topic has generated both the most valuable conversation and also the most frustrating conversation.  Certainly this has been my most satisfying intellectual journey (within the universe of this blog) – and it truly has been and remains a journey.  I have come a long way on some of the aspects of this topic; I might not like being reminded of some of my earliest thoughts!


This post identifies a) the books I have read that thereafter b) resulted in one or more blog posts.  Currently I am up to something over 50 books, with anywhere from one to a dozen blog posts on each.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Modern Heresy



The Great Heresies, by Hilaire Belloc

Belloc offers his view of the transitions that occurred in the west after the Reformation and the modern heresy that followed – the heresy that we, in fact, are currently living through.  It will be my last post on this book.

The Transition

In the aftermath of the Reformation, men of Europe would come to regard religion as a secondary thing; at the same time, the dissolution of the Catholic position in Europe would unleash energies that Catholicism restrained – especially in competition and commerce. 

Both Catholic and Protestant cultures advanced in physical sciences and colonization, but the Protestant cultures were more vigorous:

To take one example: in the Protestant culture (save where it was remote and simple) the free peasant, protected by ancient customs, declined.  He died out because the old customs which supported him against the rich were broken up.

The rights (protected by custom) that the peasant previously held in property were lost, leaving such men without substance in difficult times.  I have examined before the position of the serf in the Middle Ages (and, more broadly, the classical liberalism of the time); in many ways, the serf of the time enjoyed more rights in his property and life than do the “free” men of the west today.

But the great, the chief, example of what was happening through the break-up of the old Catholic European unity, was the rise of banking.

Usury was practiced everywhere, but in the Catholic culture it was restricted by law and practiced with difficulty.  In the Protestant culture it became a matter of course.

Belloc identifies the merchants of Holland and England as introducing the practices of “modern banking.” 

I am certainly no expert on the history of modern banking, however I do believe the concepts of fractional-reserve banking and central banks were legitimized and institutionalized in these two Protestant countries (along with Sweden, also a Protestant country).  While I do not want to put words in Belloc’s mouth, it seems possible that when he speaks of “usury” and modern banking, what he means is this idea of charging interest on air.

[In an attempt to gain some understanding of this topic of usury in the traditional Catholic view, I read several examinations online using a search on the terms: usury Catholic tradition.  I found absolute statements against the practice, statements of conditional acceptance, different practices at different times driven by expanding foreign trade, etc.  So…this is why I concluded the last sentence in the preceding paragraph – I just don’t know what else Belloc could have meant given the context in which he makes this statement.]

Confidence was on the Protestant side, and waning on the Catholic.  The Protestant countries had superiority in financial, military and naval power.  This was drastically exaggerated with the establishment of the Protestant America. 

Italy, Spain, and Portugal in decline; England, Germany (led by Prussian Protestants) and America on the rise; France, confused and in constant turmoil after the Revolution.

The Tide Turns

Belloc sees the tide turning against this Protestant wave at around the turn of the last century (“somewhere between 1885 and 1904”; coincidentally – or not – the start of the Progressive era).  Not toward re-establishment of the Catholic Church, but in terms of the breakdown of ideas that gave the Protestant culture its strength.

Protestantism was being strangled at its root, at its spiritual root; therefore the material fruits of that tree were beginning to wither.

Belloc identifies two causes.  The first, perhaps less important, was a certain level of confidence reappearing in at least some nations of Catholic Europe – specifically in the wealthier classes of these nations.  More important was the decline of the Protestant culture from within, “the great internal weakness of the Protestant culture as opposed to the Catholic.” 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Principle and Tradition



I offer one of my replies to Nilo Pascoaloto in the comment thread of the post The One True Faith?  As noted, it is one of several comments in our dialogue, but it well sums up the dialogue – at least up until this point; it is possible Nilo will still reply, as he has in the past taken some time to consider my comments and read what I have also linked for clarification.

My comment, as presented below, is slightly modified for clarification (you will find the original at bionic mosquito January 6, 2018 at 7:06 PM).  I will follow with a few additional thoughts.

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And while your immediate worry is over the nasty effects of simple principle without tradition, mine also include the opposite.

Nilo, I don’t merely suggest simple tradition without principle. When I have written of “tradition,” it has been in the context of a few ideas, for example:

The “old and good law”; the law of the Middle Ages. The “old,” of course, is the “tradition” part. But what is meant by the “good”? It was a “good” grounded in the Christian faith. I will suggest that this is the “principle” part.” Of course, this principle is not the NAP, but I will come to the connection shortly.

A few examples of “good”?  Slavery was virtually unknown; serfs had rights, protected by courts specifically established for the benefit of grievances; things like witch-burnings were rare. All quite compatible with the NAP.

So, when I write of tradition, it is this tradition of which I write – an “old” tradition that existed because of this “good” principle. I don’t write as if any tradition is acceptable, e.g. child sacrifices, mutilations, etc.

What does this principle have to do with the NAP? The “old” and “good” law was also about as close to an NAP-consistent law that I have found in history. In other words, the tradition of which I write is one that respected the NAP more so than any other tradition I am aware of involving real human experience.

Both principle and tradition are, after all, useless if these do not recognize human reality and the value of human life.

I realize you've crossed that bridge already - for you, rationalism has nothing to do with, and cannot be reconciled, with the "good" part of Western tradition.

It is not clear to me why you write this.

Was the time of the Middle Ages irrational? It was not – it was a time when reason alone was not satisfactory, and was considered incomplete without faith. I find nothing irrational about this – man still incorporates faith with his reason today, unfortunately the “faith” in which man places his trust today is corrupt.

The men of the time used reason to bound tradition (while also using tradition to bound man’s “reason,” meaning bounding man’s ability to create new laws from whole cloth) – as I have described above. One balanced the other.

Post Renaissance and Reformation, man walked down the path of eliminating tradition and applauding reason alone. We are living through the end times of this transition, with the Cultural Marxists as the current high priests.

It gets worse – society, now without tradition, is today is destroying rationalism – Jordan Peterson ascribes this to postmodernist philosophy. One example should suffice – we are now meant to suffer an infinite number of made-up, artificial genders, each allowed into any public restroom of their choosing. There is nothing rational about this; it does not conform to reason.

I have written, perhaps not often enough, that there is much in the western liberal tradition that is good – however, what I believe to be correct: the primary advantage has been economic. I cannot say that it is true regarding our social, religious, cultural, or political lives. I have struggled with how to sort all of this out – as I have written before, I much prefer the law of the Middle Ages, while also preferring air conditioning of today (meaning, even the poorest among us lives better than anyone alive 700 years ago).

Is it possible to have the “old and good law” of the Middle Ages with the air conditioning of today? I don’t know, but I will keep thinking on it.

However, there is no doubt: today the state controls far more of my life and takes far more of my wealth than occurred during much of the Middle Ages – even to a serf. Tradition has been destroyed and now even reason is being destroyed.

And we are the poorer for it, as relative wealth and poverty cannot be measured solely in terms of the availability of air conditioning.

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So much for my original, slightly edited, comment.

As long-time readers know, bionic cut his teeth on the non-aggression principle.  So, what started me down this path of examining culture, custom and tradition?  It came from reading and considering “libertarianism” from some of its strongest advocates.  I will not name them; my descriptions will have to be enough for your curiosity:

1)      The property owner is free to choose any punishment he likes in retaliation for a violation of the NAP.  To suggest anything else makes one a thick libertarian.
2)      The non-aggression principle allows for every manner of libertine behavior.
3)      Culture, tradition and the patriarchy must be destroyed if we want to achieve a libertarian society.

While offering critiques of some of these positions, someone challenged me to take on Hoppe with the same venom.  Well, I took on Hoppe, but found I could not muster the same venom…because he actually made sense.

I return to one of my comments to Nilo, from above:

I have written, perhaps not often enough, that there is much in the western liberal tradition that is good – however, what I believe to be correct: the primary advantage has been economic. I cannot say that it is true regarding our social, religious, cultural, or political lives.

The non-aggression principle is “good” law.  But from where does law come if not society?  And I am left to wonder: can “good” law arise from a society that is either unconcerned with (at best) or actively works to destroy (the current situation in the west) “our social, religious, cultural, or political lives”?

I know some will say that if we lived under the NAP, such culture-destroying behaviors would diminish as they would no longer be subsidized.  This is likely true. 

There is just one problem: that is a big “if.” 

For this reason I focus on culture and tradition when I consider the application of the non-aggression principle.  Someone has to do it, as there are many libertarian writers today who ignore it – to the detriment of advancing the philosophy.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tribe for Me But Not for Thee



I am following up on my post, Israel: 7 Percent Legitimate, analyzing the arguments made by Alan Futerman, Rafi Farber, and Walter Block in their paper, The Libertarian Case for Israel.  I felt at the time I was writing that I was seeing only a summary of a much more detailed examination but I was unable to find anything more online.  I wasn’t too worried about this – given how error-laden the summary is when viewed through a libertarian (or even just plain logical) lens; I didn’t believe it would get any better in the details.

There was one point that I thought would be worth further investigation, when the authors wrote:

…if modern day Jews can prove descent from the original Jewish homesteaders, which we demonstrate they can both culturally and genetically…

This cultural and genetic connection, the authors claim, can be made from Roman times – 2,000 years ago!  If the authors demonstrate this is the formal paper, I want to see it.

Well, I didn’t even have to ask, and yet I received – a link provided in the comments section: The Legal Status of The States of Israel: a Libertarian Approach (PDF).

It is 119 pages – and there is no chance I am going to dissect 119 pages.  I do want to focus on the one specific topic – the cited sentence above.  The authors begin this cultural and genetic analysis on page 521 of the journal (page 87 of the PDF).

It is now time to make our case that the Jewish purchase of land, the ownership of which is under dispute, was unnecessary. Why? Because the Jews were and are now the rightful owners of it. It was stolen from them some 2000 years ago, and the Hebrews are merely repossessing what would have come down to them in ordinary inheritance practices, from parents to children.

An overview of some of the ground covered by the authors: They acknowledge the controversy about the genetic connection between Jews of 2,000 years ago and Jews in Israel today; they also address the idea of a statute of limitations; they claim that the Palestinians in 1947 were not forced out; they paint a tribal roadmap, beginning 3,300 years ago; the tribes that occupied the land prior to 2,000 years ago don’t count (unless it was the Jews); the tribes who occupied the land after 2,000 years ago don’t count (unless it was the Jews); Palestinians of 1947 didn’t really have good title; the tribes in North America before the white man came really don’t count, so don’t try this same stunt in that case.

Yes, I am embellishing some of these a little, but not out of whole cloth.  Go ahead and read it for yourselves if you don’t believe me – the entire section on the tribal connection is ten pages. 

In each of these above-mentioned topics, the authors fall on the side of the land rightfully belonging to the Jews; in each case there are equally valid (or more valid) arguments to the contrary – both libertarian arguments and just plain-old logical arguments.  In any case, all of this effort is a waste on the authors’ part from a libertarian standpoint, as they readily point out:

We readily admit that there is no single Jew who can trace his ownership rights over any specific piece of land from 2000 years ago.  And this, indeed, would be the criterion for transfer of land titles if we were discussing individual rights.  But we are not now doing so. 

Please let that paragraph sink in a moment, before we move on.  Read it as if you are a libertarian.

No…let it sink in some more; I don’t think you really got it yet.

Instead, we are discussing tribes, not individuals.

Please let that sentence sink in a moment, before we move on.  Read it as if you are a libertarian.

No…let it sink in some more….wait…wait…wait…OK, let’s move on.

Why are we departing from strict libertarian principles at this point? 

At least they admit they are departing…but they aren’t departing from “strict” libertarian principles – they are departing from the entire basis for the non-aggression principle.  And why are they doing this?

We do so in order to insert ourselves into the “mainstream” discussion that takes place in the United Nations, in negotiations between various countries, etc. 

I am speechless.

So, let’s be clear: the entirety of this 119 page essay is a smokescreen, as the entire libertarian argument boils down to a tribal argument.  And the authors’ admit that a tribal argument is not a libertarian argument. 

So much for their “libertarian approach.”

Some Closing Thoughts

Random, each distinct from the other…

I will not repeat any of my criticisms from my first post on this essay; they all survive and are even strengthened by what I have read here.  To be clear, I am analyzing the paper on the authors’ own terms – through a libertarian lens; there might be other arguments that better defend the Israeli position, but I am playing by the rules that the authors selected.

The authors make a 2,000 year old tribal claim, on what they say are libertarian grounds but end up admitting that the claim is not on libertarian grounds. 

I can think of several far more recent tribal claims that these authors could take on.  I will suggest only one; how about taking on this one?

So far I have no takers to my “libertarian open borders for Israel” contest; instead, I find a “libertarian case for tribe – but only for Israel” essay.

What a mess.