Sunday, June 28, 2015

Libertarians and Culture

You won’t need a link; this week the Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage.  All are welcome.

It apparently needs to be said that the only proper libertarian position is that marriage isn’t any business of the government – at any level.  From a solely libertarian viewpoint, marriage is nothing more than a voluntary contractual arrangement. 

This isn’t the view of many so-called libertarians.  They are praising the decision.  They only desire a world of subservience and dependence, in which they suck on the pig’s teat for their succor.

Like gaining legitimacy from a government that has violated the life and property of countless billions of individuals is something to be desired.  “Oh great god government, destroyer of nations, destroyer of life and property, I look to you for legitimacy, please send your blessing upon me; bring me salvation and make me whole.”  This is the prayer of those libertarians who praise the ruling.

Don’t believe me?  Just ask the bleeding hearts:

Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the same-sex marriage case makes clear that what is at stake is equal access to liberty, the freedom to marry. (Emphasis in original)

There is also praise for the ruling at Cato, see here and here.

What “liberty” and “freedom” does one gain by having their marriage blessed by an illegitimate government?  I find none.  Yet this doesn’t mean there is no gain to those individuals so blessed.  There is certainly a gain for those so blessed via access to services and the like.  From the government, benefits such as Social Security and Medicare are now available; from private employers, various state-mandated (and, without doubt) voluntary benefits are now available – whether the employer wishes it to be so or not.

Of course, these benefits could also have been made available via contract.  All such benefits are nothing more than contractual agreements – I know the statement is fuzzy when it comes to government benefits, but the principle is the same; it is more easily explained when using the private example:

I work for the Hard-Nose Conservative Company; no matter how much I insist, they will not provide medical benefits to my “partner.”  I find another opportunity with the “Welcoming Company.”  We agree that they will provide these benefits.  I change employers.

See how that works?  No force required; no judgement in a 5-4 decision.  It’s called a contract.

The “freedom” that these so-called libertarians proclaim is the freedom from voluntary relationships.

But none of this is the main point of my post – the point is culture.  As a libertarian, I say smoke pot, snort coke, visit a pro, choose your gender, marry whomever you want, whatever.  As long as you impose no cost on me, I have no standing to intervene.

But this doesn’t mean I am obliged to celebrate such rulings – even as a libertarian. 

However, culture matters.  I suspect there is not a single example in history where a growing libertine culture has not destroyed the previous, prevailing culture within a few generations.  Decadence comes with a cost.

Every thriving – even surviving – society requires governance; not government as the term is currently understood, but governance.  The lowest level, closest to most voluntary, most decentralized level of societal governance, is the family.  Destroy the moral foundations of family and you destroy society.  Of this there is no doubt, and history has enough examples.

This Supreme Court ruling is not the beginning of this destruction; the road to decadence began long ago.  I need not provide a list of examples (this would make for too-long-a-post on its own): just consider every act that chips away at the family, consider how these are now acceptable – and even praised; many by libertarians. 

The libertine libertarians celebrate decadence.  They are cheering on the doom of us all.  They ensure that those who might otherwise be attracted to the libertarian message but at the same time are mature enough to understand that culture matters will not consider joining the libertarian cause.

Call me thick and you would be wrong; this isn’t a libertarian issue.  It is an issue of culture, and culture will determine the future of this society, far more than any narrowly defined libertarian theory.  Libertarian theory speaks to nothing more than the legitimate use of force.  Everything else is what defines a society.

I see no reason for this destruction to be praised.  A libertarian need not praise this decision to remain libertarian.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Man-Made Global Greening

This week’s column (PDF) from John Mauldin is good, really good.  He offers a guest post from Jesse Ausubel, Director, Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University.  Don’t let the source fool you (maybe I should be more cautious?).

The title of Ausubel’s post is “Nature Rebounds.”  In it, he examines the increasing forestation, crop yields, demand for commodities per unit of output, efficiencies in the production of proteins, etc.  In virtually all cases, he sees…well, he sees that “nature rebounds.”

But nature isn’t rebounding in a vacuum; it is rebounding in a world where man has more impact than ever in history: there are more of us than ever before, and on average, globally, we have a better standard of living – more people are in the middle class (meaning they have access to and the means to acquire more things) than at any time in history.  Both population and consumption are blamed for the destruction of mother earth, of Gaia, yet Ausubel demonstrates with numerous examples that the opposite is occurring.

Note: while much of his data is US based, not all of it is.  He addresses the point that he focuses primarily on America:

People will object that I have spoken little about China and India and Africa. I respond with a remark from Gertrude Stein, who came from Oakland. Stein said about 1930 that America is the oldest country in the world because it had been in the 20th century longer than any other country. In fact, as early as 1873 America became the world’s largest economy, and since then a disproportionate share of the products and habits that diffuse throughout the world have come from America, particularly California. My view is that the patterns described are not exceptional to the US and that within a few decades, the same patterns, already evident in Europe and Japan, will be evident in many more places.

Some examples from Ausubel before I get to the reasons why I so appreciated this post:

Farming: crop yields are increasing while there is a corresponding decrease in inputs – land, water, fertilizers, and the like.  Chicken production has vastly outpaced that of pork or beef – chicken being the more efficient convertor of inputs to outputs. 

Forests and global greening: demand for wood products per unit of GDP is decreasing; Ausubel offers an interesting global map, contrasting the “green” of 1990 to the “green” of 2010.  Much of the world is “greener,” representing increased vegetation, over the twenty-year period.

Materials: in a study examining 100 commodities, it is found that most have either decreased or leveled off in use per unit of output of GDP; Ausubel offers a picture of a modern smartphone contrasted against sixteen material-dependent products that are replaced.  Water usage has stayed flat in the US since 1970 despite an increase in population of 80 million people.

Oceans: here is one place where Ausubel does not see the same improvements in husbanding of resources (no surprise to me, as oceans are perhaps the least “owned” asset on earth).  Yet, via the increased impact of fish farms (turning unowned into owned), he sees even the exploitation of this resource turning.

Why do I like the post?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

All Warfare is Based on Deception

 ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, James Bradley

In this book, James Bradley details the involvement of the United States in China, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century through the end of World War Two.  I have previously written about his views on Pearl Harbor as he describes in this book, disagreeing with his interpretation.  Despite the disagreement, I find the book very worthwhile in understanding the history of this time and place.

I have struggled with how to write about this book – several posts covering the story in some detail, or one post as an overview.  I have decided on this single, albeit long, post – there is so much to the detail that I would almost re-write the book if I went into any amount of detail.  I think if this overview captures your attention it would seem the best thing I can suggest is to read the book.

The Pusher Don't Care if You Live or if You Die

There is another line from this song (best known version performed by Steppenwolf) that would be more appropriate for this section, but taking the Lord’s name in vain is something I would rather avoid.

The Americans who got rich by supplying opium to the Chinese is almost a who’s who of wealth and power.  Bradley’s primary focus – as it is a name that effected Asia for the next hundred years – is Warren Delano, grandfather of Franklin.  Warren is the first famous (notorious) character for whom I find no Wikipedia page, although if you know where to look you will find him (along with a mention of the opium he traded).

But Warren isn’t alone in creating generational wealth from this trade, for example how about Samuel Russell, founder of Russell and Company (from whom a young Warren secured employ)?  He was cousin of William Huntington Russell who was co-founder of the Skull and Bones Secret Society at Yale University.

In 1856, with several other Bonesmen, [William] incorporated Skull and Bones as the Russell Trust, later the Russell Trust Association.

Then there is Robert Bennet Forbes, a member of the Forbes family of Boston.  From here you will find John Forbes Kerry and Michael Paine.  The first one should be familiar to all, but who is the second?

Lee Harvey Oswald rented a room in Dallas but stored some of his possessions in [Michael] Paine’s garage, including a supposed rifle wrapped in a blanket which Paine thought to be camping equipment. Paine's wife helped Oswald get a job at the Texas School Book Depository. Paine's testimony would later become a central feature of the Warren Commission's investigation of the assassination, particularly in regard to the presence of the purported assassination rifle in the garage of his family home.

Then there is John Perkins Cushing, another Russell and Company Partner.  Is it coincidence that one Caleb Cushing negotiated a treaty designed to continue and expand access to the lucrative trade?

U.S. President John Tyler chose Massachusetts Congressman Caleb Cushing as his representative in treaty negotiations with the Chinese. Cushing and his counterparts reached the terms of the treaty quickly and signed it at Wangxia, a suburb of the Portuguese port city of Macau, in 1844.

Yes, Caleb and John are kin.

That’s enough of that.  From literary effect, it would be appropriate to insert that forbidden (to me) line from the song here.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Missionaries played a key role in the development of the relations between the United States and China.  The Chinese would make good Christians, Americans were constantly told.  And American Christians would donate.

The former missionary, Arthur Henderson Smith wrote the most popular manual for American churchmen going to China, Chinese Characteristics:

China can never be reformed from within…She needs a new life in every individual soul…The manifold needs of China…will be met permanently, completely, only by Christian civilization.

Of course, Charles Denby, the US minister to China, had another use for the missionaries:

Missionaries are the pioneers of trade and commerce.

And one of the biggest trades for the Americans was opium; a new meaning to “salt of the earth,” I guess.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Timeline to War Update

My continual work-in-progress; more is missing than is included, and will forever be the case!

I have updated the timeline.  It has grown so large that I have had to split it into two pages for the blog, as follows:

Book references will be found at the bottom of each page, for convenience…(well, relatively speaking).

This update includes relevant dates from the books “The Pearl Harbor Myth: Rethinking the Unthinkable,” by George Victor; “The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War,” James Bradley; The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, James Bradley.  The new items are in red. 

All three books focus primarily on Asia; until now I have had very little in the timeline that reflected contributory events outside of Europe.  In doing so now, I have decided that this timeline should not end with V-J day.  While for the most part the war in Europe after 1945 was a Cold War, events in Asia – preceding and during World War II – shaped the hot wars that continued until at least the end of Vietnam – to include the Chinese Civil War and Korea.

Items in parenthesis refer to (book:page); book references can be found at the end of the post.  Where helpful, I have added hyperlinks in addition to page references.  I have also added specificity to several previously unspecific dates.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sheldon Richman: Almost Right About Libertarianism

Sheldon Richman has posted a piece in defense of libertarianism; it is in response to a critique by a mainstream (meaning totally ignorant) writer on the subject.

He gets many things right in responding to the ignorant (on the topic) critic: neither Rand Paul nor Ayn Rand are/were libertarian, in fact both have run from the label; libertarian theory does not require a perfect world, where everyone plays by the rules; libertarian theory is anything but – in fact the opposite of – elitist.

There are a couple of nits that I will pick, however, with Richman.  Referring to the author of the hit piece, Richman writes:

…he asks a good left-libertarian question: "How, exactly, does one get government 'interference' out of business when business wants it there most of the time?"

How is this a left-libertarian question?  The thinnest of thin libertarians (you know, the ones who actually believe the non-aggression principle; the ones who leave more room in the tent) would ask the same question and would be concerned about the same issue.

Then there is this:

What [libertarian theorists] sought was a world without aggression; where free and peaceful social cooperation (including but not limited to voluntary exchange in the market) was extended to all areas of life… (emphasis added)

Libertarian theory also fully embraces peaceful (if I may translate peaceful as non-aggressive) social non-cooperation, but then this is where left-libertarians such as Richman get thrown off the tracks.  They write about basic income guarantees, or people shouldn’t discriminate based on race, gender, age, or whatever. They cannot even see their own contradictions when they appear in one article.

For example, let’s rewrite the earlier question – which Richman wrongly attributes as a left-libertarian concern – as an actual left-libertarian concern:

"How, exactly, does one get government 'interference' out of social causes when left-libertarians want it there most of the time?"

Because left-libertarians have no answer to the question: when my property and your social cause butt heads, who wins?  For left-libertarian theory to hold any water requires the initiation of force (aka “government” as it is commonly known today). 

But then this would expose left-libertarian theory as not holding any water.

Ron Paul and the Death Penalty

Ron Paul has written a very good piece regarding the death penalty.  I will begin with his conclusion:

Until the death penalty is abolished, we will have neither a free nor a moral society.

As I have developed in libertarian thought, I have moved away from acceptance of the death penalty.  I would say that I agree with every word written by Dr. Paul in this piece, but “every” is always a dangerous word; so let’s just says I agree with virtually every word.

He wrote a very interesting paragraph; I will break it up into bite-sized pieces:

As strong as the practical arguments against the death penalty are, the moral case is much stronger.

This paragraph comes right before the conclusion; a good portion of what precedes the paragraph examines the practical arguments: the death penalty is an expensive undertaking; pretty much everything that government touches isn’t run well (think TSA and a 95% failure rate).

But it is the moral case that interests me – and it is a moral case that is accepted within every major religious tradition and also within the non-aggression principle: the right to (call it “ownership of” if you like) my life, to be free from coercion.  The Golden Rule (although I like the application of the Silver Rule, personally).

Since it is impossible to develop an error-free death penalty system, those who support the death penalty are embracing the idea that the government should be able to execute innocent people for the “greater good.”

This is the sentence that struck me.  This is precisely what is accepted by a good portion of the American population when it comes to the myriad overseas adventures since 911…and Vietnam…and World War Two…and…well, you get it.

It is the idea that makes “collateral damage” acceptable; the idea that allows unthinking people to spout off “war is hell” as a get-out-of-jail-free card for every evil conceivable to man.

Carpet bombing Dresden; Hiroshima and Nagasaki; fire-bombing Tokyo; napalm; starvation sanctions; drone strikes on wedding parties.  It’s all good because probably at least one person who got it was maybe thinking about doing something really bad in the future.

The idea that the government should be able to force individuals to sacrifice their right to life for imaginary gains in personal safety is even more dangerous to liberty than the idea that the government should be able to force individuals to sacrifice their property rights for imaginary gains in economic security.

I agree: war is the issue for libertarians.