Thursday, June 30, 2005

Down with Liberty/Up with Empire

Iceberg points out an instance where New York State has decided to be brutally honest with us:

Bad Local Government/Whitfield County, Georgia Style

I have been following comments on the Kelo decision and how the takings clause of the Constitution was never meant to apply to the states. Stephan Kinsella has written a longish article on a "libertarian" defense of Kelo ( As I understand the argument, it is "libertarian" to insist that the federal government recognize and respect limits to its power. For some reason, it is preferable to have the states exercise power instead of the feds. I have begun to question whether there is any point in a libertarian's getting behind the whole Constitution in Exile movement, since there is nothing particularly liberating about having powerful and oppressive state and local governments. Statism is the problem, not the way the state is structured.

I know from experience how corrupt and oppressive local government can be, because I grew up in Whitfield County, Georgia. Whitfield County is a lovely place, and relatively prosperous, but it is blighted with an evil and corrupt Sheriff's Department, currently headed by Scott Chitwood. The WCSD has almost always been staffed by men whose laziness and cowardice are matched only by their stupidity and maliciousness. The Drug War has led the WCSD to become involved at times in the drug trade and to provide protection for drug dealers. And even when it is not itself engaged in drug commerce, the Drug War provides the WCSD with a convenient excuse to brutalize, murder and harass the denizens of Whitfield County with impunity.

Not long ago, Deputies Clay Pangle and James Cooley broke into the home of a crippled 85 year old man and shot him to death in the night. They had no warrant, and they claimed to have been responding to an anonymous tip that drugs were in the house. The elderly victim was in his bed and could walk only with the aid of a walker, yet these cowardly deputies felt so threatened by him that they killed him. This is Georgia, and you have to expect that if you invade someone's home they will try to defend themselves. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation recently cleared the deputies of wrongdoing!! The story is referenced here:

Here is a story where the WCSD tasered a woman to death, and Chitwood says none of his thugs will be disciplined:

Moreover, my own family has been harassed and tormented and threatened by WCSD thugs. Not long ago, two WCSD thugs entered my sister's yard and took several shots at her dog which was trying to flee into the woods. They claimed that someone had reported a suspicious prowler, but this was a lie. It was the middle of the day in a rural area where everyone knows one another, and no neighbor owns up to calling the thugs (nobody in their right mind would call them for anything). My sister was called home from work by her neighbor to rescue her dog and get rid of the thugs who acted as if they had every right to enter her property and kill her livestock. I personally think the visit was related to the harassment of my sister's son-in-law.

My nephew-in-law owns a stereo store and makes good living through hard work and business acumen. Deputies Pangle and Cooley, the same cowardly thugs who murdered the old man, broke into the store one night and searched it without a warrant and without any reason to believe that my nephew-in-law had committed any crime. They claimed that they had found the door of the store open and were investigating a possible break in, but they stupidly failed to realize that my nephew-in-law had installed a security camera system and had caught them on tape breaking in and yammering about how they were going to nail him for drugs. So far, Chitwood has taken no action against these bast***s, but the family has retained a vicious trial lawyer. The WCSD has offered $5K to settle the matter so far, but I don't think the family should rest until Pangle and Cooley are off the streets.

Why does Chitwood tolerate Pangle and Cooley when they are clearly a liability and out of control? They must have some leverage over him.

This is local government in action. It is not a libertarian paradise. The good people of Whitfield County tolerate this nonsense and even support the Drug War that gives the WCSD so much cover and so much arbitrary power. Your own neighbors will tax you and regulate you and spy on you and kill you just as readily through local and state government as they will at the federal level. Aside from stealing from me every payday, the feds pretty much leave me alone. It's the Town of East Fishkill, the Carmel School District and the State of New York that hit me where I live and who are most likely to kill me or drive me from my home. It's the City of New London that is crapping all over the Kelo family, not the feds.

I always liked the mantra of "that governs best that governs least", but I don't interpret it as meaning that local is better. It means less scope of government, at any level, is better. Or so say I.

It's the state, stupid! Reorganizing the state won't solve the problem. If you are infected with a parasite, you don't cure yourself by spreading the parasites around your body; you have to destroy the parasites.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

More on Pork and Making Trade Count

In my post on pork, I forgot to mention another good pork experience. Barbadian breaded and deep fried pork chops are fabulous and worth a trip to Barbados or even Brooklyn to get them.

It turns out that there are a couple of places in Dutchess County that feature free range pork, and I hope I can get there in the next month to stock up on goodies. I am just beginning to become aware that all around me are farmers' markets and cooperatives and other businesses that reflect my stated values and that would fulfill my preferences far better than the chain supermarkets and big box warehouse stores. If I want these businesses to prosper (and I do), I had better patronize them even if it involves a little more effort on my part.

The trouble is that time is so precious. As a drone with a longish commute, it is hard for me to do any trading during the week. Weekends are already full of chores.

I hope that trade at the farmers markets and farms will be more fun than the usual tiresome trip to the A&P. I have to keep reminding myself how valuable a good ham would be (let gluttony tiumph over sloth) and how good it will feel to make my trade count toward sustaining the kind of community I would like to inhabit. I rant a lot about how impotent we all are in the face of power and privilege and vulgarity, but I am beginning to understand that I have some power and influence arising from my choices as a consumer. I used to hate thinking of myself as a consumer, but I am starting to see that a consumer has a lot more influence than a citizen. If consumption can be seen as something that sustains community and permits me to enact my values, perhaps consumption can become less of a chore and more of a social activity.

I don't think this is irrational, but I don't care if it is.

Child Welfare in a Free Society

I have long had an interest in child welfare issues and have worked to prosecute child welfare cases, as a guardian ad litem in such cases, and as a court appointed special advocate in custody proceedings. I have also represented parents in divorce and custody proceedings and am a trained divorce and custody mediator. All this experience has led me to one conclusion: the state does a poor job in preventing or remedying child abuse or neglect, and the state cannot competently determine and act in the “best interests” of children. Attempts by the state to take on child welfare have resulted in large, ineffectual bureaucracies and grotesque intrusions into families. They have not resulted in happier or safer children. (This is why such agencies measure performance in terms of “activity” rather than results.)

How should child welfare issues be handled in a free society? One possibility would be to recognize more or less absolute parental rights and do nothing about abuse or neglect. This would be low cost and involve no intrusion into families, but it would leave some victims without any remedy or escape. Another possibility would be to recognize children as having all the same rights as any adult with the freedom to seek redress for abuse or neglect. However, given the dependency of children on their parents and their vulnerability, they may not be able to avail themselves of protection under such a system.

It seems clear that, if children are to be protected from abuse and neglect, some adult will have to intervene on their behalf. I would propose recognizing a right for any person to petition for custody or guardianship of any child based on abuse or neglect by a custodian. I reckon that this would lead to the development of private charitable organizations devoted to child welfare issues, and that these organizations would fund petitions and provide services to children. These agencies would be superior to state bureaucracies in that they would depend for funding on satisfying the aims of their patrons and success in performing their mission. Moreover, there would be competition among such agencies for philanthropy, and the most effective would be more likely to survive.

The standards for what might constitute abuse or neglect warranting a change of custody or guardianship should be set high enough to discourage frivolous petitions but low enough to protect children from serious injury.

This proposal would permit us to dispense with intrusive, costly and ineffective child welfare agencies while providing a mechanism for removing children from dangerous homes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


The author of Pig Perfect-- Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them was on Morning Sedition today.

One of the main premises of the book is that swine were meant to roam free and to feed on mace and grass, and swine raised this way are way more delicious than corn fed, factory raised swine. This strikes me as a plausible explanation to a phenomenon that I have noted: most of the pork products I get at the market are vastly inferior to the pork that I grew up eating and loving, and the only way to make them tolerable is to season the crap out of them. I rarely eat pork other than sausage, although I grew up believing that it was the food of the gods, because it just doesn't taste right. Occasionally, I buy a ham, but I am almost always disappointed in it. Chops and loin? Forget about it.

Our pigs lived in the woods and ate acorns and other mace and grass that they foraged. We supplemented their diets with "slop", leftovers from our own meals, and sometimes corn in winter. We made sausage, with Grandpaw's secret blend of hot peppers, smoked hams, bacon and other cuts of fresh and cured pork. We had pork at every meal, and we used pork fat in much of our cooking, eg in green beans in the pressure cooker. It was always delicious, however processed or prepared, and I never tired of it.

No longer a farmer, I depend on others to supply me with pork products, and I have been by and large horribly disappointed over the years. There have been a few exceptions. Prosciutto bought in the Belmont section of the Bronx was a wonderful discovery. I had some slices of unsurpassed homemade ham with local red wine in a bodega in a cave on Grand Canary over 15 years ago, and I still drool when I think of it. Herb's barbecue joint outside Murphy, NC serves up fabulous pulled pork, presumably from locally produced swine.

I am inspired to go on a quest for some good old fashioned pork from hogs raised the way God intended. Perhaps I don't have to settle for inferior pork from anonymous corporate factory farms. I'm going to get me some "niche pork" even if I have to pay through the nose for it. I might even let a few hogs run on the mountain out back if Mrs Vache Folle would allow it and if it did not have the unmistakeable stink of effort.

I feel a little idiotic that I did not think of this before now. Mrs Vache Folle staring buying cage free organic eggs a few years back. They cost more, but they are so superior to the factory eggs that I would not consider going back to eggs with added cruelty. She also buys organic, local chicken when she can get it, and this is also a superior product. Surely, there is likewise a source for quality pork in the Hudson Valley.

This decision to buy the right kind of pork also plays into my desire to trade with folks whose practices are known to me, preferably within my own community, rather than give my custom to nameless and faceless entities whose practices may well be evil and unhealthy.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Statism as Mental Illness

Freeman at links to Anthony Gregory's post where he describes acceptance of government as "mass psychosis". If this diagnosis is accurate, we can hope for psychotropic medications to be developed to combat the disease, or we can hope that years of intensive therapy will effect a cure. It seems clear to me from talking with statists and having labored under the statist illusion for most of my life that very few people consciously adopt the statist stance. Rather, they find it thrust upon them insidiously and overtly through a constant barrage of state-supporting memes. The idea of the state becomes by this process unproblematic and part of the unquestioned substrate of social reality. The idea becomes self reinforcing as it is necessary to interpret all experience in the light of the statist background.

Professor Herve Varenne of Teachers College, Columbia University once remarked in a seminar that he thought of nationalism as a virus, a disease to be treated. I have come to think of all aspects of statism, including nationalism, as a cognitive disorder, an infection by a cognitive virus, and it is necessary to attack the virus, comprised of a complex of statist memes, in order to heal the patient. All humans have some level of immunity in that just about everyone has a point where they will view the state as too intrusive and everyone has some capacity to reason. My kinsmen of the last generation, to whom I paid insufficient heed in my youth, also had a tradition of suspicion of government and love of liberty to protect them from the statist illusion.

But the statist virus feeds on certain natural human tendencies. For example, we are a social animal, and we tend to want to belong to a pack. The state disguises itself as the pack writ large and undermines other voluntary groupings. We are quick to adopt in-group/out-group thinking. We are also pretty gullible in our juvenile phase to render us receptive to teaching, and the state takes advantage of this by filling our heads from an early age with statist nonsense. We also tend to reify abstractions such as the state itself and come to think of them as having an unproblematic concrete existence. Moreover, we live in a fairly complex world where most of our dealings with others are anonymous "traffic relationships", and the state plays on our fear of our fellow man. Once you accept the premise of the legitimacy of the state, there may be no limit to what you might empower the state to do, especially if your fear is heightened.

Short of a massive re-education effort, complete with camps surrounded by concertina wire, what is to be done to combat the statist disease? The key is for the uninfected to fight memes with memes and to problematize and deconstruct the idea of the state at every opportunity. The point of attack should be to question relentlessly the very legitimacy of the state. We want to engender cognitive dissonance in the minds of the masses. Much of what the state does depends for its effectiveness on obscurity, and the very act of shining a light on these processes will serve to weaken their impact.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Libertarianism for the Masses

One of my self-appointed missions as a “lay” libertarian is to tell the world about the blessings of liberty and to persuade my conspecifics to adopt libertarian viewpoints. The foundations of libertarianism have been laid and are sustained by the some of greatest intellects, but the movement is pitiably small. What, I wonder often, would it take to give libertarianism mass appeal? I found an interesting table on the Internets showing the practical significance of IQ at , and this set me to thinking about just who American voters are and how they might think.

Libertarianism appears to me to appeal to the intellect and may well have most of its following on the “right side of the Bell Curve” so to speak. But this constituency is, at best, 20% of the population. Libertarians will never win over all of this 20%, because many of them benefit from the state and see themselves as most likely to be in the ruling classes. Being smart does not guarantee ethical or moral superiority. (I, for one, have a massive IQ, but this is so counterbalanced by character flaws that I have never achieved more than a position in the middlebrow legal profession and I have, to my shame, devoted a considerable part of my career to service to the state.)

The key to victory over the forces of the state lies with “Joe and Judy Sixpack” in the 85-115 IQ range. This is 50% of the population. These are the “sheeple” whom we must work to disillusion, and they are unlikely to be swayed by intellectual arguments, however elegant and however brilliantly made. Indeed, they have a streak of anti-intellectualism that renders them immune to reasoning in many cases. They are, in my opinion, better reached through moral and emotional appeals. Their moral capacity is not inferior by any means, and these are the “salt of the earth” that contributes the most to the wealth and health of the country.

The 20% below 85 IQ are probably out of reach, since they will almost certainly go for anyone who promises them ponies.

How do libertarians reach these folks in the middle? The GOP, to some degree, appeals to the libertarian impulses of this constituency by claiming to want smaller government and more freedom, and libertarians need, in the first instance, to convince them that the GOP is blowing smoke up their *****. Beyond that, we need to figure out how to make freedom desirable rather than frightening. I am open to suggestions, and I would love to see the libertarian intelligentsia apply itself to this problem more vigorously. We will never become free by lobbying the ruling classes to let us alone. We have to mobilize ordinary people.

Political Spectrum Revisited

The hideous spectacle that passes for public discourse these days, along with recent SCOTUS rulings, have caused me to question the way I think about the "political spectrum", ie left/right, liberal/conservative, and so on. I have for some time been thinking in terms of social/economic liberalism/conservativism and the political map that places folks in one of four quadrants based on these dimensions. I am beginning to change my mind.

Senator Durbin feels compelled to apologize for comparing the USG's policy of torture to that of certain 20th Century despots, whereas the policy that provoked the comparison apparently warrants no apology. One of my conspecifics at work characterized the torture as little more than making captives listen to Black Sabbath, but the public defense of the policy seems to be simply that "it is not as bad as Hitler", and no one bothers to deny the allegations of abuse. Meanwhile, the regime's "intelligentsia" play the "treason" card by claiming that questioning policy in Iraq and elsewhere is "unAmerican". We see the makings of an anti-war movement in Congress, but the establishment in both parties appears to be in "stay the course" mode. "We" are at "war", the most collectivist enterprise imaginable, and "we" need to support "our" troops, get behind "our" commander in chief.

Meanwhile, in the medical marijuana case, SCOTUS says the feds can regulate anything because there is nothing that does not have an impact on interstate commerce. My conspecifics' arguments about this center mainly on whether, as a political question, folks should be allowed by the state to use medical marijuana. Moreover, I interpret the New London eminent domain ruling as a sign that the state really owns your property and can take away your privilege of occupying it whenever it suits the purposes of the gang that controls the state apparatus. My conspecifics argue about whether it is fair for New London to do what it is doing.

When I argue that the state has no legitimate right to regulate either medical marijuana or to interfere with private property, I get blank stares from both the left and the right. Both the lefties and righties agree that the state can legitimately do more or less whatever it wants subject to the majority's will, and they disagree only on what it should do in particular circumstances. The same is true, I think, of the GOP and the Democrats in general, the liberals and the conservatives, and everyone in between except my fellow libertarians and anarchists (and I'm not so sure about some of them).

The important political divide is not a matter of one side's favoring economic freedom over personal freedom or vice versa; rather, the most significant political divide is a matter of the degree to which one recognizes coercive state action as legitimate. There really isn't a "dime's worth of difference" between the two major political parties. They are both firmly on the totalitarian end of the spectrum in that they agree that the state is all powerful, and that we do not yet live in an Orwellian nightmare of total control is due to our rulers' realization that it is more efficient at present to let the people believe that they have some vestige of control over their own lives and property and that "free range" sheeple are at present more productive than their caged counterparts. These totalitarians argue over what freedoms the state should allow the people, whereas the ant-statists argue over what powers, if any, the state should be allowed to exercise.

The political spectrum can meaningfully be represented by a line along one dimension with anti-statists on one end and totalitarians on the other, and we essentially live in a one party state. The task on the liberty end of the spectrum is to problematize and demystify statism and its underlying assumptions whenever we encounter them. Most people do not, I think, consciously consent to the legitimacy of the state; rather, they acquiesce in it and fail to recognize that there is an alternative.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Wal Mart

Robert Greenwald was on Morning Sedition today discussing his documentary on Wal Mart. See for details. The gist of the movie, as far as I can tell, is that Wal Mart is owned by greedy bast***ds that make $10 billion a year and don't pay their employees enough or provide them with good enough benefits. Moreover, they discriminate against women and force people to work overtime and won't let their employees unionize. Although Greenwald never came out and called outright for coercive state intervention against Wal Mart, the implication of his remarks and the web page is that the "democratic process" should be used to change Wal Mart. It appears that he means legislation and coercion.

Here's where I come out on Wal Mart. I hate to shop there because I don't like the atmosphere in the store or the complete lack of service. They sell a lot of crap, and the prices aren't really all that fantastic. I also think that businesses should be a good bit more socially responsible, and I am willing to pay more for goods to patronize businesses that are more in keeping with my values. But if other people want to shop at Wal Mart, it is none of my business. And if Wal Mart doesn't care what people like me think and prefers to continue employment practices that I find objectionable, there is nothing I can do about it. It is morally repugnant to me to consider participating in coercing the owners of Wal Mart to bow to my will or to adopt my values.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with the kind of "democratic process" that involves declining to shop at Wal Mart if I am offended by something that they do. I am also free to suggest to others that, if they don't like Wal Mart, they don't have to shop there. If I want to live in a world of mom and pop shops or a world where employers are fair, as I see it, to employees, then I should determine how much I am willing to pay in higher prices or inconvenience to express my values and preferences. I don't have to invest in companies that do evil in the world, and I should be free to encourage others to join me in making our economic actions conform to our social or religious values. That's freedom of association at work.

It is also completely rational for me to tie my economic activities to my moral values. In doing so, I am taking action directed at fulfilling my subjective preferences. If I buy a snowblower, for example, I would like to be certain that I am not helping the retailer or maker from whom I am buying it violate my moral values. For example, I would be willing to pay considerably more for a snowblower from a libertarian seller.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Iron Bridge

Lately, Mrs Vace Folle and I have been spending vacations on pilgrimages to ancestral villages. Having such a theme for vacation allows us to avoid the usual tourist destinations and to explore off the beaten path. It also adds interest to sights and circumstances that might otherwise escape the notice of a traveller. This fall, for instance, we are off to Ruthenia and the village of Gladyszow.

A couple of years ago, we (along with Mrs VF's brother) went to Shropshire to explore the origins of Mrs VF's paternal great grandfather. We visited, among other things, the delightful town of Shrewsbury which was home to the family for a time and the location of the beloved Brother Cadfael mysteries. The family lived near the Abbey where the Cadfael series is set. We also visited the quaint village of Condover and the vicinty of Lyth Hill which affords a great view of the area, the same view that Mrs VF's ancestors must have enjoyed.

In addition, we took a day trip to the Ironbridge, where the Industrial Revolution got its start. The area is named for the bridge of iron across the river, and it was home to an iron foundry, a china factory, and several other early industries. Many of the buildings and facilities have been preserved and may be toured. There are museums devoted to iron working, pipes and plumbing, pottery and bone china, and an interactive Victorian village. The processes employed and working conditions are explained. If you had told me that I would spend hours at the Museum of Iron and like it, I would have deemed you insane. But I loved every minute and wish that I had had two or three days to spend there and at the other attractions (I never got to the museum of plumbing).

While working conditions were considerably less comfortable and safe than now and hours were longer, I did not get the impression that the denizens of Ironbridge lived in a Dickensian hell by any means. The owner of the foundry lived within 50 yards of the facility in a fine, but not ostentatious, home and was present at the plant and known to the workers. The workers were drawn to Ironbridge from surrounding areas by the opportunity for work outside the semi-feudal situation they were used to. Many workers were women, especially in the pottery and china trade, and this seemed to empower them. The developments at Ironbridge and elsewhere transformed the world.

At Ironbridge, the Industrial Revolution can be seen and touched. As matter of fact as the presentations were, I could not help but be awestruck. It is a far more worthwhile place to visit than Stonehenge.

Are We Already Living in Anarchy

David at Cantillon's Paradise remarks that we may already be living in an anarchy since there is anarchy between governments and most people simply prefer government provision to private provision. Could it be the case that the Kingdom of Heaven is all around us and we just don't see it? David's argument rests in part on the assumption that there is no barrier to entry in state formation or the formation of private alternatives. Accordingly, the state is not a monopoly in the Austrian sense.

I don't agree. I doubt that the subjects of government manifest a preference for government versus a private alternative. In my own case, I acquiesce in the government's actions, albeit grudgingly, because the state may imprison or kill me if I do not. I do not prefer the state; I simply have no practical alternative except to minimize my contact with the state and to forego its "blessings" whenever I can. If I start a private alternative to the provision of services supposedly provided by the state, my potential customers will still be taxed to pay for my state-provided competition, and the state may well be indifferent to whether anyone uses its services or not as long as it gets its money. This is definitely a barrier to entry in my book. I can start a private security company, but it won't be able to compete with the police for the same security dollars. I can hire a private security company to guard my property, but I can't get my money back from the Town of East Fishkill that goes to fund the EFPD. I can use an arbitrator, but I still have to pay for the state's court system. I can send my kids (if I had any) to private school, but I will still be taxed mercilessly to support the public school. Accordingly, anyone who wants to compete with the state is at a significant disadvantage. I have no education in economics beyond freshman level college courses, so I concede that I may be misinterpreting the concept of "barrier to entry".

Moreover, if I try to start a state within the state, the existing state will probably not permit this. In some cases, this already happens in that enterprising individuals and groups try to operate protection rackets and control territory, but the state will use violence to shut down this competition whenever it can. There is no way to opt out of subjection to the state except to move to some other state, and this is highly controlled. And if starting up a state is barrier free, why doesn't this happen more often? It seems like a sweet deal to have a state and a flock of subjects to fleece. Maybe it's just cheaper to buy an existing state than to start up a new one. Again, "barrier to entry" may have a much different meaning than I am giving it.

UPDATE: David has pointed out that he is referring to a "market in coercion" and that there cannot be barriers to entry in such a market.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Guilt by Association

I have been following with some interest and a good deal of confusion the occasional on-line pissing matches that arise between Tom Palmer and his defenders and the people at Lew Rockwell, especially Stephan Kinsella. Kinsella seems to take a perverse pleasure in baiting Palmer and has even set up a web site devoted to mocking Palmer. Palmer seems never to pass up a chance to take a swipe at Lew Rockwell or the Mises Institute. The crew at No Treason sometimes takes up Palmer's banner.

The most frequent charge Palmer or his fans at No Treason level against Rockwell and Mises appears to be that these institutions sometimes feature writers who have had some dodgy associations, eg connections, sometimes tenuous and fleeting, with Holocaust deniers, Southern heritage groups, or non-mainstream religious organizations. The implication is that the writers are anti-semites, racists, or homophobic theocrats by virtue of these connections and that Lew Rockwell and Mises are also guilty of these things by association with the writers.

I read LRC and MI articles and blog entries religiously and have for about a year now. I have never detected any hint of anti-semitism or racism, and I don't really have any idea what the writers think of homosexuality. Writers have problematized Israeli policy and have questioned conventional wisdom about the War Between the States and other historical events, but nothing in these works can, IMO, reasonably be said to be anti-semitic or racist. Politically incorrect? You bet. Hatemongering? No.

A case in point is Gary North. The articles I have read have all been either curmudgeonly advice to work hard and save money or economic or social commentary. He is against government schools, I gather, and he has a tendency to predict disaster a little too readily. He appears to be anti-state, anti-war, and an advocate of the free market, and his articles fit in with the LRC theme. Lately, I have learned that Gary North is or was a Christian Reconstructionist and that this ideology looks forward to and works to bring about an era in which Christians control the government and apply Bibilical Law. This entails a substantially smaller government and free enterprise, but it would also entail some rather illiberal curtailment of freedom, eg prohibitions on homosexuality.

I do not share Gary North's vision of the end goal, if that is his vision, and, although I am a Christian, I would not coerce anyone into following Biblical Law. Does that mean I should shun him and avoid his writings? I don't make a habit of shunning people who disagree with me about religion or politics, and I believe that it is better to engage and listen to them. Do LRC and MI endorse Christian Reconstructionism by virtue of publishing Gary North's essays that do not advocate this ideology? It does not appear to me to be the case.

I do not agree with Tom Palmer's apparent view that the war in Iraq is desirable or that libertarians should embrace the warfare state. The enactment of Tom Palmer's apparent ideology means that people are being killed and maimed right now, and not in the abstract. Tom Palmer apparently supports killing people now because they are Iraqis and are in the way of the aims of the USG, whereas Gary North is said to support executing homosexuals some day in an unspecified future when Biblical Law is enacted. Assuming both are true statements about these men's views, which is more morally reprehensible? Do having these views make these men anathema? I can't imagine how I could even live in a world where I associated only with people who agreed with me on every important issue. I certainly cannot imagine disassociating myself from people solely on the basis of their associations!

I suspect that an underlying issue is that Palmer and his supporters are socially liberal while LRC and MI represent a much more socially conservative point of view. In a free society, both social liberals and conservatives will be able to live out their preferences, and neither will be required to celebrate the existence of the other. I suspect that there is a fear that neither side is really devoted to freedom and that, given the chance, the conservatives would enact some kind of Biblical Law and the liberals would make it a crime to disapprove of them.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Children at Risk!

When I was 5 years old, I walked several blocks alone in Cleveland, OH to kindergarten. The rule was that if you were too immature to walk by yourself to school, you were too young for school. At that time, I spent most of my days outside in the neighborhood playing with other kids and not under direct surveillance by adults. I had boundaries that I had to respect, but I was free to move within the several block area that was open to me as long as I was home for meals.

Later, when we moved back to Georgia, my boundaries expanded greatly, and I remember as a 10 year old riding my bike up to 10 miles or so from home. As long as I came home for meals, I was free to move about as I pleased and even do a little work here and there. I knew not to take candy from strangers and never to get in a stranger's car, and I never got abducted or molested and I never knew anyone who did.

Nowadays, I almost never see unchaperoned kids at the playground or out on the road on a bike. Parents don't even let their children under 10 or so outside to play without keeping them under constant surveillance. They don't even let them wait by themselves for the school bus. Today's parents put themselves under so much stress because they cannot let their children out of their sight and because they are overwhelmed with worry.

What has happened to make parents so protective? I doubt that there has been a significant increase in child abduction or molestation, although these are publicized internationally when they occur. My parent friends seem to think that there are kidnappers and pedophiles on every corner. Is it that there are fewer spare children? My parents knew that if I died or went missing, my sister was still there as a backup, and they could have more kids. Heck, that's why people have multiple children, isn't it? Nowadays, there are a lot of only children with no emergency backup, and the parents get late starts at reproducing so they can't necessarily replace their kids if something happens to them.

I think that it is all the pictures of missing children on milk cartons and the media's hysterical reporting of "amber alerts" and such that make parents assess the risk of abduction and molestation incorrectly. In fact, the probability of such an unfortunate event is orders of magnitude less than the probability that a child will be injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident. Yet parents don't think twice about letting their children ride in cars. The risk of abduction is less than the risk of drowning, but parents still let their kids go swimming.

I suspect something sinister behind the misrepresentation of the risk of abduction/molestation in the media. Is it a plot by cranky curmudgeons to keep annoying children behind closed doors and out of public view? Is it the education lobby trying to gin up support for more school time and after school programs? It may be the media trying to keep kids in front of TVs or playing video games. It may be the government pumping us for more money and power for cops. In any event, a lot of kids are missing out on a lot of good times and the chance to develop independence and to exercise freedom.

Are Americans Too Depraved to be Free?

I am not an economist or a political scientist or a philosopher, but I see part of my mission as a libertarian "layman" to spread libertarian memes whenever I can and to problematize statist memes whenever they come up in conversation. I was talking with some reasonable and pleasant conspecifics from church the other day when I revealed that I was a libertarian extremist. When I opined that there was way too much government, one woman, highly educated and intelligent, remarked at once: "I am grateful that we don't have men with guns running around in our neighborhood killing people. Don't you think having government and rules keeps us safe from this kind of disorder?" I replied that the only legitimate purpose of government would be protect us from violence, but she was so convinced of the depravity of her fellow humans that she would not consider any lessening of government control. I have often encountered this type of argument: people cannot be trusted to be charitable to the poor so the state must provide; people can't be trusted to take care of their elderly family members so the state must provide; people lack self control and must be protected from self destructive or negligent behaviors; and so on.

I have been led to wonder whether my political views are informed by an overly optimistic assessment of the morality of my fellow humans. I have no illusions about our intelligence or gullibility, but I have always assumed on some level that enough folks can be relied upon to do the right thing that we do not need constant surveillance and control. Maybe I have been particularly lucky in the folks I have known, but for the most part, the people I have known are generous in charitable works and giving, reasonably honest in business dealings, and not at all apt to do violence to others. I'm not saying that I have never been robbed or defrauded or assaulted (I have), but these have been exceptional events. 99.9% of the time, I have been able to rely on the kindness of strangers and the basic decency of my neighbors and others I encounter every day.

I cannot see into the hearts of my fellow men, but I have a hard time believing that all this goodness and civility is due to fear of the state, that they are just waiting for the state to weaken before they go on a barbaric rampage. Am I naive for believing this?

I realize that there have been riots and other mob violence in America and that there are, in fact, criminals. Some form of law enforcement might always be necessary. I suspect, however, that the majority of Americans would not engage in violence or theft or trespass even if the state were to wither away altogether. There is probably some percentage of the population that would become criminals if the state did not deter them, but I don't see this as substantial. I have no data to back up this assertion, but this is what a lifetime of interaction with humans has led me to believe. My statist conspecifics don't know what people would do if the hand of oppression were lifted, but they appear to assume the worst.

The state benefits from the widespread assumption that people are barbaric and that the "thin blue line" is all that stands between civilization and barbarism, and I would not be surprised to learn of instances where the state has cultivated such a belief. Indeed, dependency on the state itself might well help to create the kind of person who would descend into barbarism without state support and control. And when the state takes over an area of life, the competing institutions of civil society are apt to atrophy, and individuals will be less likely to accept personal responsibility for the things that have been socialized. Why would I tithe for the poor when the state taxes me for their supposed benefit? Why would I plan for my parents' old age when the state has this in hand and has taxed me mercilessly for this purpose?

I wish that I had some better arguments to hand when I encounter the "people are evil and must be governed" meme. All I seem to have now is "no they are not", and this does not work all that well. I would welcome suggestions from my imaginary readership.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Anti-war Caucus

Congressman Chas. Rangel was on Morning Sedition today. He is a leader in a bipartisan caucus in Congress that is calling for an exit from Iraq. He pointed out that the tide was turning and that it was becoming much more "comfortable" for more people to discuss ending the illegal and immoral war in Iraq. Forty or so members are on board, about 10% of Congress, and I pray that their momentum continues until it becomes "uncomfortable" for all but the most immoral wingnut to express support for the war. If troops are still there in 2006, let's hope that the war becomes the central issue of the mid-term election campaigns and that politicians will distance themselves from the evil GW Bush. Maybe even the moribund MSM will get on the bandwagon when they see the writing on the wall.

I was gratified that the possibility of impeachment was discussed on the program as a serious prospect. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld and the rest of the criminal conspiracy in the current regime all warrant impeachment and prosecution. If there was ever a case for impeachment and criminal sanctions, this administration has made it. I hope that the time comes when disgust with this gang becomes so overwhelming in the public that it becomes uncomfortable to defend them. Let the neo-con conspirators crawl back under their rocks where they belong. The MSM should broadcast the impeachment meme and take the lead on this as the trials of the neo-cons will be the greatest reality show ever. I would watch every minute and even put up with their mindless pundits for the chance to see these bast***ds squirm in the dock and do the "perp walk". In the end, putting the gang in those nice cages in Gitmo would be sweet irony. To me, that is the best argument for keeping Gitmo open.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Senators Have Nothing Better to Do than Worry about Flag Desecration

According to USA Today (, the worthless scoundrels in the US Senate are within a couple of votes of passing an amendment to the Constitution to outlaw flag desecration. This will then go the states for ratification where there is the possibility that the sheeple will vote to restrict their own liberty. Orrin Hatch says flag desecration is not speech protected by the Bill of Rights, that it's just offensive behavior. Why would anyone desecrate a flag other than to make a political statement, Orrin? What really concerns Orrin and his ilk is that someone might not buy in to the idolatry of the state. Orrin does not see anything wrong with raising the flag in connection with an illegal and immoral war in Iraq or in flying the flag over the Capitol and White House where the USG does its evil deeds. That's real desecration, in my opinion. Every day, Orrin and his colleagues take the moral equivalent of a crap on the country that the flag used to stand for, and now they want us all to bow down and worship the federal government.

I don't own a US flag, and I don't want one. I will not fly one over my home or attach one to my car. I hate the USG, and displaying the flag has become a show of support for that government rather than an expression of love for my countrymen. Desecrating the flag shows contempt for the USG, and a healthy contempt for the USG is for me a sign of patriotism in an American.

In fact, American nationalism itself, which flag worship is meant to bolster, is probably unhealthy for freedom. When we think of ourselves as Americans, rather than Georgians or New Yorkers, it is easier to accept the idea of a powerful central government far removed from our daily lives. Orrin wants us not only to acquiesce in federal tyranny but to love it as well. I say get rid of your US flags now before it becomes illegal to do so.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Anti-lynching Apology

I hear that the US Senate has issued an apology to victims of lynching and their descendants for failing to enact anti-lynching legislation over the last century or so. Now, I don't cotton to lynching any more than I approve of state sponsored murder, but what the hell are Senators doing making such an apology? It is fitting and proper to express regret, outrage, condolences, what have you, at the phenomenon of lynching. But by what right do these Senators apologize for their predecessors in declining to enact federal anti-lynching legislation?

Lynching is murder and the conspiracy to commit it by private individuals. Unless this happens on a federal enclave or there is some other basis for federal jurisdiction, our Constitution (when it meant something) does not authorize the United States to act in the matter. It is a state matter to be prosecuted at the state level, and every state has always had laws on its books that prohibited murder. For the federal government to exercise jurisdiction would have been a violation of the Constitution and an usurpation of state power. Senators might plausibly have voted to preserve the prerogatives of the states without being pro-lynching, and there is no reason for anyone to apologize for such a stance. There are legitimate arguments for limiting federal power, not the least of which is that the Constitution provides for this.

From the perspective of a states' rights advocate and a libertarian, the Senate ought to apologize for enacting a lot of legislation rather than its failure to enact an anti-lynching statute. They can start by apologizing for the Patriotic Act, the resolution authorizing military action in Iraq, and No Child Left Behind. That will do for the first day, and there will be enough aplogizing to do to keep the Senate busy for a hundred years.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Men's Rights

In a post at Roger Ailes

Roger takes Madam Schafly, the notorious scold, to task for some of her comments about women who make false claims of domestic violence to gain advantage in divorce and custody actions. Mrs. Schafly raises a valid point, however, and the issue should not be delegitimized simply because she has raised it.

I have quite a bit of experience in domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, divorce and child custody from almost all the angles (I have never been a judge), and I feel qualified to hold forth on this issue. Two points should be made clear at the outset:

1. Some men (and women) are abusive b*****ds from which their mates and their children want protection.
2. Some women (and men) make false accusations of abuse against their mates for various reasons, perhaps to gain advantage in a divorce or custody proceeding or just out of plain spite.

These are the facts, and any just system for dealing with domestic violence should take these facts into account. Victims of abuse in want of protection should not be confronted with too many obstacles at the outset. It is fitting and proper, therefore, that they be able to obtain temporary orders of protection with minimal proof, including their own testimony. This protects legitimate complainants while doing relatively little harm to the accused, provided that an early hearing date is scheduled. This aspect of the system in many states is not particularly problematic.

The system breaks down, however, at the next stage, that of the so-called evidentiary hearing. In all too many cases, the courts fail to require any further proofs at this stage and will continue the restraining order solely on the basis of the complainant's accusation. This decision is bolstered in many cases by teams of social workers in the courthouse, many of whom are trained in the school of thought that women never lie about domestic violence. Abusers are smooth talkers, often charming and credible, so the social workers say, and victims are so cowed by them that they may seem incredible and inconsistent in their testimony when confronted by the accused. What is a court to do? If the order is lifted and someone gets killed, there will be hell to pay. The safe course is to continue the restraining order and require the accused to come up with proofs of his own innocence. Perhaps he can be ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation at his own expense, and a guardian can be appointed to investigate the allegations of abuse. In the meantime, he can stay away from his children or at best have supervised visits until he establishes that he is not a danger to the children. This will take months.

At best, the father will be vindicated and win unsupervised visitation with his children, but his bid for custody and visitation will be tainted by the accusations of abuse, and that he has not been the caregiver for some months, through no fault of his own, will be held against him. Meanwhile, the false accuser will not be held to account for her actions. This unjust situation arises, in large part, because the judges, their social worker advisors, the psychologists, and even the guardians have all been trained in the "women never lie about domestic abuse" school.

The "women never lie" school serves to prioritize and privilege protection of women and children over the rights of fathers to due process. An argument might be made that this is the least harmful way in the aggregate to deal with the situation, especially if false accusations are rare. A few innocent men will be raped by the system in the name of protecting large numbers of women and children from violence. If, however, false accusations are not so rare, the system is completely broken and is designed to dispense injustice.

Even if false accusations were historically rare, I submit that the system as designed encourages false accusations, especially in the case of working class and lower class families where accused men cannot afford to vindicate themselves. No proof is required, much is to be gained by the accuser, and there is no risk to the false accuser. This is an invitation to perjury.

The issue at stake is usually stated as "women never lie" versus "women are lying whores", and this statement of the case is close enough to the heart of the matter to have persisted as the frame for discourse for decades. It is a dead end. I would reframe the issue in terms of "how can we protect women and children from abuse while protecting men from false accusations?" One way to do this without unduly increasing the risk of violence might be to provide for harsh consequences for women who make unfounded allegations of abuse. Perhaps, criminal sanctions could be enforced. Granting custody as a matter of course to falsely accused fathers might also help to attack the dynamic that leads to false accusations by impacting both the potential gain and the risk to the accuser.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Impeach the President

Count me as one who is on board with the movement to impeach GW Bush. I realize that the Republicans in Congress are mostly corrupt and out for themselves and that the Democrats are, in addition, first rate wusses, but if the movement gets a head of steam combined with some turnover in 2006, it may gain a life of its own. Congresscritters would have to get on the impeachment bandwagon to save their own political butts.

It would be better, IMO, if the US impeached and then prosecuted GW rather than having some other country snag him for war crimes after he is out of office. There should be no pardon for GW, and the candidates for president in 2008 should be questioned on their intentions with respect to a pardon of GW Bush and any of his co-conspirators.

This is what comes of the much touted "meritocracy". You get an administration and a Congress and a judiciary full of self aggrandizing strivers who think that they deserve their positions on the basis of "merit" and who put their own personal interests before the national interest (if they ever think of the national interest at all). Thus, we have no statesmen in the Cabinet with the independence and courage to resign in protest over the crimes and follies of GW Bush, only a handful of Congresscritters who will stand up and call bulls**t on the regime and put their reelection at risk, and few judges who will stand up for liberty. With all the checks and balances, we still need men of honor and character to serve, and there is nothing about our electoral system that makes it at all likely that men of honor and character will be chosen. On the contrary, our electoral system is most likely to put men like GW Bush into office.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Morbid Obesity

I seem to be at a crossroads. Do I embrace gluttony and sloth and go on to look like Jarred before he discovered Subway, or do I buckle down and get on the diet and exercise train?

Apparently, obesity isn't all that bad for you, and I don't have to be attractive to women or anything, being married and all. Also, eating and napping are wonderful things. Sloth and gluttony are not the deadliest of the deadly sins, and I have heard that some Frenchmen have petitioned the Church to downgrade gluttony from deadly to venal. And it's not as if I am all that slothful or gluttonous, either. A surplus intake of 100 calories a day (about two Oreos) can add up to big weight gain over several years.

On the other hand, if I gain another pound, I will have to buy my clothes in the "Big and Tall" (I am not tall) section. I get winded playing fetch with Jasper, and he does all the work. It is becoming more difficult to reach all the nooks and crannies in the shower. I have a family history of diabetes and coronary disease.

I've been down this road before and have lost and regained about three tons. What I like to do is to set unreasonable and unattainable goals and then drive myself crazy with self loathing when I fail. I am a catastrophic thinker. If I'm not running 5 miles a day and lifting weights every day, then I might as well not exercise at all. If I am not on Scarsdale/Atkins/South Beach to the max, then I might as well be on the "Super Size Me" diet. I am a maroon.

This time, I think I will try something else, something sustainable. I have a bold new idea: eat somewhat less and exercise somewhat more, and keep track of my weight. My wife does this and has never strayed much from her fighting weight. A pound or so a week might be doable if I can cut out or use up just 500 calories a day by dieting and exercising. No pudding at lunch and less beer might just do the trick if I combine this with a brisk walk (perhaps with the dogs). If I am just a little mindful, I think I can improve my health and appearance without driving myself insane and without depriving myself of my principal pleasures in life. This might be easy for a sensible person, but with God's and the wife's help I may be able to do it despite being less than sensible.

I will adopt my favorite Bible verse as my mantra: Like a dog to its vomit, so returneth a fool to his foolishness. If I think of dog vomit before every meal, this should help me cut down. Then maybe I can finally get to the weight where I used to think I was fat.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Recruiting Goals

I heard that the Army has been missing its recruiting goals lately by as much as 25%. A kinsman of my wife is a recruiter, and he has indicated that his job has become much more difficult.

What surprises me is that the Army is able to entice anyone at all to join now that there is a high likelihood of service in a dangerous area in a meaningless and evil cause. Even if the new soldier is not used in Iraq or Afghanistan, who knows what further evil lurks in the hearts of the current federal administration?

Up until the current administration, I could understand someone's enlistement. Hell, I did it myself about 25 years ago. I was attracted by the adventure and the challenge of the thing and believed, against all reason, that I was serving in the defense of my country. The propaganda ("Be All That You Can Be") was at least plausible, and the educational benefits were enticing.

In the First Gulf War, I worked as a Judge Advocate at a mobilization station where Guardsmen and Reservists were preparing to ship out to the conflict. The soldiers I dealt with were mostly ready to go but a little taken aback that they were being deployed in a mission that seemed to have so little bearing on national defense. They had signed up for the home guard so to speak and expected to get called up for defense of the homeland, not some foreign adventure. Poor schmucks, I thought. Soon after the war, I resigned my commission in the Reserves because I realized that I was at risk of being deployed abroad in conflicts with which I had issues of conscience.

What about the troops in Iraq now? I don't know enough now to decide whether they are mainly dupes in a mission they never contemplated or if they are mercenaries.

Anyone who signs up now is either a complete fool or a mercenary.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Libertarian Collectives

I often hear objections from statist conspecifics that the libertarian ideal is "every man for himself", and I confess that some libertarians I have known seem to dream of such a state of affairs. But there is nothing about libertarianism that precludes collective action or the formation of groups for mutual aid or any other reason. In fact, I expect that a move to a more libertarian society would be accompanied by a proliferation of collectives. As the state retreats, other institutions of civil society would have more room to flourish. Where the state is all-encompassing, it seems at times that nothing matters except the individual and the state, and other institutions, such as families, wither away into irrelevance.

In a free society, voluntary associations and social institutions would be able to develop more freely and to evolve to meet the needs of members. They would have important functions that are now usurped by the state and would compete to perform these functions.

The form of the family might well be quite different in a free society. There would probably be a multiplicity of forms, many of which would be quite different from the"traditional" family now ostensibly favored by the state. We tend to forget that the "traditional family", to the extent that there is such a thing, was a strategic response to a particular set of social and economic circumstances and that, in the absence of coercive interference, the structure and function of the family will change to meet changed conditions. Extended families may become more cohesive with more significant expectations and obligations, especially if the family holds property for the benefit of its members or serves as the basis for mutual assistance.

Churches would probably be strengthened by the reduction of the state since many of the functions of caring for the poor and other charitable works would likely fall to religious organizations. Congregations might well serve as a form of adopted extended family for many people in this age of geographic mobility. Education may become a bigger part of the ministry and mission of churches, and this help make churches an even bigger focus of community life.

Neighborhoods might become more cohesive as neighbors might find it desirable to know more about each other and to collaborate in securing needed services.

Far from being a world of "every man for himself", I expect that a free society will be made up of a variety of strong, healthy collective institutions. The man who is "for himself" alone will be impoverished and insecure compared to his neighbors who are actively engaged in their community.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Constitution in Exile

The Supreme Court has just ruled that using medical marijuana grown and used in-state and not part of the general marijuana market affects interstate commerce so much that it is subject to federal regulation. Burton Wechsler, my con-law professor, told us 20+ years ago that the commerce clause was a catch all and that any limits on federal power had been pretty much written out of the Constitution. (He also referred to Rehnquist as the "Greatest legal mind of the 18th Century".) Burt was right about the meaninglessness of the Constitution as a check on federal power.

He was also right, IMO, in what seemed to me at the time a kind of "class struggle" interpretation of the development of con-law. He saw major cases in terms of winners and losers. When he asked us to describe a case, he wanted us to tell him who won and who lost, what was the prize and what was the price. "Don't tell me; tell Aunt Minnie!" he would urge us to boil cases down to something a lay person could understand.

The Constitution's being nothing more than a tool for legitimizing argumentation, it seems utterly correct to me that all Supreme Court cases are ultimately decided on a political basis. Folks are for states' rights when states are doing what they want them to do, and the same folks are for federal power when states are doing things they do not like. Both "left" and "right" are guilty of this, except that the left has not pretended as much to a devotion to federalism.

I am saddened to admit that federalism is an anachronism, and the states are becoming little more than political subdivisions or administrative regions. We are a few steps away from a single central state with power over every aspect of our lives. Is there any chance that the states will push back? I am not sure that it even matters. My adopted state of New York is hardly a bastion of liberty, and my home state of Georgia once used its sovereignty to justify oppression of some of its citizens of color. Heck, even my county and town governments are monstrous taxers and interested in just about every aspect of my life. Its the very idea of the state that is problematic, and smaller scale won't help me much us if I am in the libertarian minority.

I have been questioning the "smaller is better" mantra and probably need a refresher on the arguments. When I talk with my conspecifics in the community, I get lots of agreement on the "federal government is too big and does too much" front and even on the "what a bunch of useless maroons we have in Albany" front. But the same people would see me in hell before they would consider cutting my property taxes that subsidize their children's schooling.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Conflict over Property Rights

By Neddie Jingo has an interesting post on the transformation of his rural area by the invasion of Hummerites and other denizens of subdivisions full of McMansions. The same thing is happening in my county, and it really sucks. But what is a libertarian to do?

My road is pretty quiet, and about half the land is held by the NYC water supply agency, including the parcel next door to me. This is great for me since it will probably never be developed. Also, NYC buys up a lot of parcels as they come up for sale. In this manner, a planned development of 6 homes was thwarted. It is not that NYC outbid the developer. Rather, one of the residents put up a fuss and called in some political favors and made the project unprofitable through governmental interference. That was a decidedly unlibertarian event, but I confess that I am glad the parcel is undeveloped.

About a half mile down the road on the more dveloped end, a smallish parcel of vacant land is up for sale, and I saw some folks looking at it with a realtor the other day. This has about 150 feet of frontage on the road and is a rocky wooded slope between two other houses. Maybe it goes back and widens behind them such that a building site could be had that was not right on top of the neighbors. But to put a house on this would make this stretch of road look a lot more suburban than it already does. I wish NYC would buy it. I wish I could afford to buy it and take it off the market.

The other end of the road is taken up by a gorgeous farm encompassing hundreds of rolling acres of pasture and woodland and occupied by herds of belted galloway cattle. It is a sight that brings me joy every time I drive or walk by it. Someday the farmer will be overwhelmed by how lucrative it would be to subdivide this land and put in a crop of McMansions. That will be a sad day indeed, and I will probably not put up a vigorous protest if my non-libertarian neighbors oppose such a development by political means.

Blastocyst Endangerment

One of my conspecifics of the "right to life" persuasion professes to believe that frozen embryos should be adopted by strangers and implanted in wombs. He says that this is a popular position among his "culture of life" buddies at the Knights of Columbus.

I applaud anyone who seeks to adopt a frozen embryo. I am considering this myself once I figure out whether the Alternative Minimum Tax will thwart my efforts to reduce my tax bill with a large number of dependents of the embryonic variety. The natural parents would have to consent, or their parental rights would have to be otherwise terminated.

However, I cannot support the notion of thawing the little guys out and putting them into wombs. Thawing is fraught with peril and is of such high risk that it would be unconscionable to subject them to this. Moreover, once thawed, life in a womb is hardly a bed of roses. There is a substantial chance that the embryo will die. Anyone who contemplates thawing and implantation is, in my opinion, guilty of blastocyst endangerment. As I have previously advocated, the responsible parent of a frozen embryo will maintain the frozen state as the best way to ensure that the embryo will survive and life a long, albeit unproductive, life.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Who is an Esquire or a Gentleman?

I was trained as a lawyer and have been licensed in some states to practice law. I receive a lot of correspondence in which the title "Esquire" is appended to my name. When I worked for the Court of Claims of West Virginia, I was sometimes referred to as "Squire" by the country folk in the same way that they referred to local Magistrates. It all seems a little silly to me, and I do not believe that I am worthy of the title Squire or Esquire. In fact, I have never met any lawyer who is worthy of the title.

An Esquire is someone who is more than a gentleman but less than a knight. I understand that lawyering was once considered a respectable profession for men of quality and that the practice of law was conducted in a more gentlemanly manner. In my lifetime, however, lawyering has been entirely a commercial affair, and lawyers are simply tradesmen due no more respect than any other sort of shopkeeper or service provider. The practice of law would probably be distasteful to a man of quality nowadays. Anybody can go to law school and become licensed to practice, even sons of working men such as myself. And success in lawyering is largely a matter of commercial savvy in generating revenue. I suppose that a man of quality might practice law pro bono publico in furtherance of some noble objective, but I have not been privileged to meet such a man. For the reasons cited, I do not see that anyone is entitled to the rank of Esquire solely by virtue of being a lawyer.

Indeed, most lawyers are not even gentlemen. A gentlemen is properly understood as being an untitled member of the aristocracy and who, by virtue of his wealth, is not obliged to work for a living. Both independent means and high birth are required. I have neither; therefore, I am not a gentleman. There is no meritocratic way to become a gentleman, and there is no authority which can confer this honor upon one. You are born a gentleman (if you are), and you remain one until you somehow disgrace yourself.

I consider myself a yeoman, a tradesman of the middle class, and the scion of more or less respectable working men and women and small farmers. There is nothing to be despised in being a yeoman, and pretensions to more exalted rank show considerable disrespect for what is probably the most productive class in our society.

Failure to observe appropriate distinctions in rank also leads to the misassignment of roles to meritocratic pretenders that properly belong to the aristocracy. Where are our great men who ought to serve as statesmen and leaders in our communities? The usurpation of the roles of the aristocracy has allowed and encouraged the upper classes to evade their responsibilities. What man of quality would stand for Congress when that institution is populated by striving meritocrats and has become a den of corruption and thievery? What man of quality would accept a commission in the armed forces when commissions can be had by anyone and when service has become a job?

So, don't call me Esquire or even Mister. Just call me by my given name. Respect me if I am respectable for who I am, not for what I might pretend to be.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tough Choices for Guardians of Blastocysts

If I were appointed guardian of a blastocyst and had to decide what was in its best interests, I would be confronted with some tough choices, some of which would have to be made quickly. First of all, after more than a week or so, the blastocyst can no longer be implanted in a womb, and it will have to be frozen or permitted to develop beyond implantability. Implantation is a risky procedure for the blastocyst, and there is a good chance that it will not survive the process. Freezing is also dodgy, as the blastocyst has a good chance of dying in the process of freezing or thawing and then faces the risk of implantation in any event. The safest course, if I am dealing with an unfrozen blastocyst, would be to permit it to develop without freezing or implantation. If the blastocyst or pre-blastocystic embryo is already frozen, the safest bet is to leave it that way. I do not believe that it's quality of life will be affected by being frozen, and its survivability will be enhanced.

The unfrozen blastocyst will continue to grow for about 50 multiplications, at which point it will become senescent. The blastocyst can then be maintained in an artificial environment for years as a blob of sorts as long as nutrition is provided and toxic waste products are removed. Presumably, in our "culture of life", we would spare no expense to extend the life of the blob at this point. I would be duty bound to secure for it all the benefits of citizenship, including rights to welfare payments. After all, we are talking about a severely developmentally disabled citizen at this point, and the blob or its frozen counterpart would be entitled to every consideration given to such persons.