Category Archives: politics

Revisiting the definition of rights

I believe my derivation of Rights from first principles provides the most consistent definition. Let’s see how it holds up in various circumstances, where other formulations fail.

My position on abortion recognizes viability as the existence of an independent person. This is the beginning of a human life’s ability to exist with a mutual recognition of rights.

In the context of criminal justice, a violation of the someone else’s rights demonstrates a non-recognition of rights. As a consequence, the violator’s rights may then lose recognition. Under imminent threat of violence, a person may defend themselves or others against the violator. The violator forfeits the right to life through non-recognition. Following the crime, justice may demand incarceration or punishments, as the violator’s rights are diminished. The death penalty is the ultimate retaliatory non-recognition of the violator’s right to life.

The consistency of this definition of rights across abortion, self-defense, criminal justice, and the death penalty strengthens the case for it being correct.

The Proper Role of Violence in a Civilized Society

We need conversations about the proper role of violence in civilized society. Intellectual discussion about violence is not incitement.

We are repeatedly reminded that violence is never the answer. It’s the proper message to convey to children at the playground. The principle continues to apply generally to most situations ordinarily. However, with adulthood comes the responsibility to understand the world more deeply. This includes the understanding that the world is not a safe place. Even if one never commits an act of violence, there are those who would initiate force in contravention of norms. Maturity requires nuance.

All rights are derived from the right to life as a human being. That necessarily includes the right to protect that life through self-defense and defense of others. We immediately see a legitimate use of violence for defense.

Mutual defense extends collectively to territories organized into defense pacts. This may be at the level of nation states or military alliances like NATO. Military action to repel foreign invasion is another legitimate use of violence.

In libertarianism, the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) has primacy. The NAP prohibits the initiation of force.

The philosophy of Objectivism holds that the initiation of force is an evil violation of individual rights against which the government should protect its citizens.

http://wiki.objectivismonline.net/Initiation_of_force

Protection from the initiation of force entails the use of retaliatory force in self-defense and the defense of others. Minarchists believe this to be the government’s only legitimate role—to protect individual rights through the monopoly on retaliatory force wielded through the due process of law.

Guy’s Take #61 – Blockchains, A Square Peg for Round Holes provides this revelatory nugget on the topic of government protecting property rights. A system of state violence is what secures physical things. Digital information, such as NFTs, can never secure anything, because physical security ultimately relies on violence.

Having entrusted government with a monopoly on violence, Robert Malone asks the right question.

Ryan McMaken writes The Constitution Failed. It Secured Neither Peace nor Freedom. This article should remind us of how words on a document do not protect freedom. Protection relies on humans committed to those principles to defend them with violence.

One of the fundamental principles encoded in the Constitution is the Second Amendment, which protects our right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and defense of others. Whenever we see foreign governments violate the rights of individuals, Americans lament “if only they had the Second Amendment…”.

The larger purpose of the Second Amendment remains customarily unsaid. It is to empower the people to have the necessary means to mount an armed insurrection to remove a government, when it has fallen into tyranny. The Declaration of Independence was an act of insurrection, which founded the United States of America. The Second Amendment preserves the tradition that brought the country into existence.

What endangers the American people today is the growing apprehension toward being able to discuss what would constitute justifiable use of force, as envisioned by our Founding Fathers in authoring the Second Amendment. The Boston Tea Party suggests that an act of taxation without representation crossed a red line. Absent other examples, that remains our gold standard as a comparable. Has America experienced usurpations and acts of tyranny that far exceed the historical standard? Without a doubt. Have the goal posts moved on where to draw the red line? Without a doubt. However, without the freedom and the intellectual honesty to have that academic conversation, the American people will not know where the red line needs to be. Without a proper basis in rational thought, the danger is that individual Americans may decide unwisely for themselves, and then it will be too late.

Therefore, we should have that discussion sooner than later.

Retaliatory Force

What is the ethical framework for how to respond to the unethical behavior of others? When is it permissible to use retaliatory force?

Something that confounds our reasoning is not having a thought-through ethical framework for how to respond to the unethical behavior of others. This applies to violence, coercion, lying, and other forms of trespassing.

This is why we see widely varying opinions about politics. Most recently we see Sam Harris beclowning himself in support of opposing Trump by any means necessary, including to lie, cheat, and censor. MAGAs see Trump’s actions as justifiable retaliation. Others say how dare he?

Has anyone seen a treatise on the ethics of self-defense and mutual defense (economic, legal, reputational, physical force, etc.)? Seems like a major topic that is given insufficient thought, as people are operating without guidance on such matters. “Cancel culture” emerges.

For example, if public institutions are captured, lying, and coercing, what range of retaliatory behaviors are within the realm of ethical responses that should be employed?

The muddiness of this topic is exemplified by the left’s view of DeSantis being authoritarian in enacting policies that retaliate against corporate power colluding covertly with the federal government and global elites. Whether such actions are considered pro-liberty or authoritarian depends on perspective. This divide is a cold civil war.

Sadly, the ethics of retaliatory force is a topic outside the Overton Window. We are unable to have an intellectual conversation in public, so no one can figure out the red lines, responses, and rules for this cold civil war. Thus, random flailing volatility will abound.

Even Sam Harris invokes self-defense (against an asteroid impact) to justify the actions against Trump. Trump is accused of going against peaceful transfer of power (some calling it an insurrection), after his own Presidency was attacked by the unpeaceful transfer of power, as presaged by text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Trump’s term in office was under constant attack by the Russia Collusion Hoax based on the Steele Dossier, the falsified FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page, and impeachment trials.

Here is Sam Harris’ response. https://twitter.com/alexandrosM/status/1560355035149582337?t=CKrEcUpP5HpsyUeawM6JFw&s=19

Retaliation and reciprocity lead to an infinite regress in escalating tit-for-tat retribution. After a while of this back-and-forth, no one can remember who started it, nor the threshold that was a red line crossed. It becomes intractable like the Israel-Palestine conflict, where each side considers the other the aggressor.

After years of chaotic cold civil war, who is going to remember whether America fought against a Russian influence operation abetted by Trump, whether Sam Harris defended the Earth from an asteroid impact (Trump’s fault), or whether Trump fought back against the career bureaucrats and intelligence community aligned against him?

Our Democracy – what it looks like

The establishment elites and regime apologists routinely accuse their political opponents as being a threat to “our democracy”. What does our democracy look like?

Democracy is disempowerment. It directs public activism to elections as the means of exercising power, concentrating power in elected representatives. They want to channel people’s energy into voting as the method to enact political change. They want to manufacture consent of the governed, acceptance of a mythical social contract, and lend legitimacy to a representative government. Institutions are erected to concentrate power and control into the chosen few, while diffusing the cost over the many, who are subjects to being ruled over (administratively, legislatively, and judicially).

Democracy is controlled opposition. Once the public is convinced that voting is their most important channel for enacting change, then elections can be controlled via ballot access. The nomination process to become an election candidate is designed by the party elites. It is an oligarchical establishment controlled system, where big money, big influence, and big crony interests dominate the party leadership. Primary elections are openly rigged, as the party Rules Committee routinely tilts the playing field to favor their preferred candidate and disfavor dissidents and outsiders. The manner in which Republican and Democrat nominees are chosen by denying access to unacceptable candidates and allowing access only to those candidates acceptable to the party establishment is identical to how totalitarian regimes in China, Russia, and Iran control ballot access.

Democracy is corruption. Once in office, democratically elected officials are corrupted by lobbying, bribery in the form of campaign contributions, and being able to take advantage of insider knowledge of pending regulation or legislation to make timely stock trades prior to government actions causing large movements in the stock market. Nancy Pelosi’s net-worth is a good example of this phenomenon, as she has accumulated over $135 million in personal wealth on a $210,000 salary as a member of the US House of Representatives for nearly her entire adult life. The gains in net worth while US senators and representatives are in office is obscene.

Above all, democracy is majoritarian rule. It is a partisan, tribal, collectivist approach. Majoritarianism is a non-recognition of minority preferences and rights of individuals. A moral society places rights above all else, as human life is the standard of value that everything is measured against and that human behaviors work to preserve and advance. When a majority gets to decide, individual preferences that are not in agreement will be disregarded. This is entirely immoral where such decisions belong to the individual. (How would a democratic decision-making process work between two wolves and a sheep regarding what to eat for dinner?) Democracy is antithetical to individual rights.

Majoritarianism leads to institutional capture, regulatory capture, and ideological capture in courts and juries. Community organizing (activism toward rallying popular support for some political cause) grows a block of voters to exercise their power to place elected officials into power. These officials appoint political allies into non-elected offices as career bureaucrats that continue to advance the political agenda beyond elected terms of office. These agencies are usually responsible for writing rules, codes, regulations, and policies that are imposed upon the public with administrative punishments (fines, licensing, credentials, permits, etc.). When organizing is able to form a large enough voting block, this concentration of power and the consequent shaping of the bureaucratic make-up lead to institutions and regulations becoming captured.

Equally insidious and possibly more treacherous, majoritarianism results in the government agents who are responsible for the system of justice to discard objectivity and impartiality. Police selectively enforce, and they target groups with bias. Prosecutors selectively prosecute, harshly charging those they target for punishment, and being lenient toward their allies. Judges, who have near-supreme decision-making power over their courts, are emboldened to discard objectivity and impartiality, as groups become more polarized ideologically. When a judge feels safe to side with a strong majority, instead of being true to their oath to protect the constitution and following legal precedent where applicable, they have near-absolute power to make tyrannical and sinister decisions over people’s lives in service to the majority and in violation of individual rights. Moreover, even an individual’s right to trial by jury becomes powerless if their community has been captured ideologically by an overwhelming majority. This becomes the predators-and-prey dinner party manifested into society.

Finally, democracy is divisive. When the stakes are so large and elections are winner-take-all, as in America, people will organize culturally along political left-right lines in the fight for gaining a majority. As the levers of power grow and become more corrupt, the stakes become larger, and the political divide becomes more extreme. Truth itself will become distorted as truth-seeking institutions in journalism, academia, and science become corrupted in service to politics. Noble lies become the tool to control the narrative for the regime in power. Censorship is the method to sustain those narratives. The struggle for power is all-consuming. The country naturally tears itself apart.

This is what democracy looks like.

Indirection – evasion and circumvention

Following up on indirect aggression, we can see that indirection is a technique that is used in many ways to evade responsibility, conceal involvement, and circumvent regulation and authority.

  1. Despite a moratorium on gain-of-function research, NIH funded gain-of-function research indirectly by funding EcoHealth Alliance, which then directed funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
  2. Missouri AG Eric Schmitt is suing the Biden administration for colluding with social media companies to censor on behalf of the US government. This is an attempt at circumventing the Constitution’s first amendment protection of free speech, which prohibits the government from censoring. Nancy Pelosi among other government officials have threatened to regulate tech platforms unless they censor “disinformation” and “fake news”. The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird illustrates the government’s enduring interest in controlling speech to advance the regime narrative.
  3. The government frequently acts through intermediaries to preserve plausible deniability. Intelligence assets are used to do the dirty bidding of our government, whenever they want to hide their fingerprints. Consider the role of National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and their connection to the CIA in destabilizing foreign governments toward regime change and color revolutions.
  4. The US and its NATO allies are currently engaged in a proxy war against Russia using Ukraine.

Institutional Capture – they are corrupt

It should be clear to everyone that government has long been corrupted by moneyed interests, a process known as institutional capture. Our public institutions now serve those crony interests and not the people at large.

Large corporations hire lobbyists to influence lawmakers and write legislation that favors those corporations over competitors and imposes barriers to entry to new upstarts. Elected officials are bribed with campaign contributions toward re-election, and they seem to be immune to enriching themselves by insider trading and conflicts of interest. Corporations bribe regulators and bureaucrats with future employment. The upper echelon of elites is bribed with million dollar book deals and speaking opportunities worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per engagement. Regulatory agencies are bribed to approve certain products based on fraudulent evidence and to prevent competitive products from getting to market. All of this corruption is the status quo.

What is more covert is the degree to which corporations and seemingly private institutions are also captured and corrupted.

Wikipedia is captured by establishment actors to promote propaganda.

UnHerd: Wikipedia co-founder: I no longer trust the website I created

The White House has been signalling for quite some time that it is engaged in suppressing dissent in the private sector.

Now, evidence emerges from whistleblowers that DHS is colluding directly with Twitter to censor speech that the government does not like, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. The government is prohibited from directly censoring speech. Instead, the government is colluding covertly with private actors like social media companies, journalists, and fact checkers to spread disinformation, suppress dissent, and enforce narrative control. They will get away with it, unless corporations resist or victims fight this corruption in court. Instead, we see ever-growing collusion to implement regime narrative control through collaborations like the Trusted News Initiative.

Elon Musk is a self-declared free speech absolutist. Seeing the importance of Twitter as a digital space for public dialog, Elon is offering to purchase Twitter and take it private in order to protect free speech for everyone. Immediately, the European Union announced the passage of the Digital Services Act, which mandates content moderation practices. This demonstrates how hostile European governments are to free speech and how Elon’s ownership of Twitter would threaten to dismantle the collusion to implement government censorship.

Hopefully, Elon’s purchase of Twitter will close and he delivers on his promise to uphold free speech. We need a radical dissident to champion individual rights despite the regime’s relentless infringements. We need someone with FU money to actually say FU, when it matters the most.

indirect aggression – wielding state power

An earlier article titled corporations acting as agents of foreign governments describes one form of indirect aggression. No one would dispute that when a person hires a hitman to murder someone, the hiring party is guilty of aggression against the victim, even though the violence was indirect. We must recognize the same causal connection when government wields the machinery of state violence indirectly through private entities; and similarly when private entities wields government power indirectly against their competitors and the public at large.

In current events, we see David Boaz of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, lament Florida Governor Ron DeSantis implementing legislation to counter Critical Race Theory, election irregularities, stringent COVID restrictions, and vaccine passports. We also see state action being taken to punish protests that block road traffic and social media censorship and de-platforming, which trammel upon free speech.

Libertarians face a moral dilemma of epic proportions. The left weaponizes government power to aggress. The right weaponizes government power to aggress in their own ways and to counter the left. Libertarians want non-aggression, but they cannot reconcile their views with reality of a world filled with aggression.

Right and left engage in indirect aggression through crony relationships between private entities and governments. When private entities influence government to wield legislative and regulatory force against their competitors or the public at large, the corruption results in a phenomenon known as regulatory capture. Increasingly, we also see the government infiltrate private entities to coerce them into implementing policy that the US Constitution forbids government from implementing directly, such as censorship (content moderation). Politicians threaten to regulate or otherwise interfere in the market. Government use subsidies, spending, loans, tax policy, tariffs, export controls, licenses, permits, and authorizations as tools of coercive power. Sometimes the mere threat or even a wink and a nod are enough to influence private entities to acquiesce to a politician’s desires, as any mobster is aware. Government agencies are also looking to outsource their coercive functions to private entities, who are not subject to Constitutional constraints and legislative oversight.

Libertarians are faced with the dilemma of either to be passive (“private entities can do what they want”) in ignorance of indirect aggression, or to retaliate. When countering indirect aggression, if one’s economic power (cancel culture) and political power (voting, lobbying, and bribing for legislation and regulation) are too weak, passivity is surrendering to coercion (resigning to be victims). Alternatively, libertarians may recognize that in the face of indirect aggression having already been initiated against them, the same weapons can be wielded as a defensive measure in retaliation and this would be morally defensible. It is the principle: return fire when fired upon.

Social Media Bias

Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde of Twitter appeared with Tim Pool on The Joe Rogan Experience to explore the topic of social media bias.

Tim Pool did a reasonable job of enumerating several areas of concern.

  1. Applying a single global standard (“community standards”) to American citizens imposes “hate speech” regulations that are antithetical to American principles of free speech protected by the US Constitution. [Similar to concerns I raise:  Corporations Acting as Agents of Foreign Governments and Social Media and the First Amendment]
  2. Twitter claims to hold no politically biased agenda by intention, while trying to implement narrow goals around maximizing inclusion of users to conduct speech by protecting their physical safety (i.e., by disallowing targeted harassment and doxxing), but they have adopted ideologically biased policies that are selectively enforced in a manner that predominantly punishes conservatives.
  3. The near-monopoly status of the social media giants within their own niches combined with their unilateral decision-making that appear to most people to be politically biased in one direction will lead politicians, who are ignorant the actual issues and incompetent to formulate good solutions, will take a sledgehammer approach to regulate, and consequently make the situation much worse.
  4. The coordinated efforts among corporations to punish individuals across social media, hosting, Internet infrastructure, and payment processing systems demonstrates a terrifying abuse of power that is terrifying for how they can implement a social credit system that can unperson people in an extra-judicial manner without due process of law or avenues of redemption.

Corporations Acting as Agents of Foreign Governments

This article explores some thought experiments about the constitutionality of corporations acting at the behest of foreign governments.

4A thought experiment

An American citizen uses a healthcare web site to manage his lab results, medical images, medications, and communications with his doctors, all of whom are in the US, as is the web site’s hosting and corporate headquarters. The web site also serves citizens in other countries in the same manner. One day, the German government obtains a warrant from a German court to gain access to an American’s private health information.

Would a libertarian say that the web site is a private company and they may do as they please to violate the American’s privacy rights by handing over information to agents who have no jurisdiction? I think we can all agree that the answer must be no.

1A thought experiment

Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and every other country enact hate speech legislation that is incompatible with the American Constitutional protections of free speech. American social media web sites must enforce these “community standards” to the satisfaction of all these jurisdictions in order to do business with users in those countries. It would be costly to treat each user specifically in accordance to the laws and regulations in their jurisdiction, so the company prefers to implement a uniform set of community standards that becomes a superset of all laws and regulations in every jurisdiction. That means every country’s government mandated censorship now applies to American citizens to infringe upon their free speech rights.

Would a libertarian say that the web site is a private company and they may do as they please to violate the American’s free speech rights?

Would a libertarian agree that a private company may act as an agent on behalf of a foreign government to implement foreign laws and regulations on American citizens, such as China’s social credit system?