Henry David Thoreau: Founding Father of American Libertarian Thought | by Jeff Riggenbach

I never thought about Henry David Thoreau in terms of libertarianism, but obviously some of his views pointed in the direction of libertarianism or even some form of anarchism.

I noticed a glaring ommission in the portrayal. Thoreau was a liberal libertarian who argued for egalitarianism and later inspired civil rights leaders such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King jr. Also, I’ve never seen any example of Thoreau defending property rights as do conservative libertarians. When he moved to Walden, he lived on someone elses property (Emerson’s property as I remember which Emerson had inherited from his wife). He did his own work as he was very industrious and knowledgeable, but he was perfectly fine with receiving gifts of goods he needed and borrowing tools.

“Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house, and began to cut down some tall, arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber. It is difficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enterprise. The owner of the axe, as he released his hold on it, said that it was the apple of his eye; but I returned it sharper than I received it.”

Thoreau had some anti-statist tendencies for sure, but this wasn’t based on his feeling territorial about the home he built or protective of his private property. He apparently wasn’t even bothered by minor acts of theft.

“I was never molested by any person but those who represented the State. I had no lock nor bolt but for the desk which held my papers, not even a nail to put over my latch or windows. I never fastened my door night or day, though I was to be absent several days; not even when the next fall I spent a fortnight in the woods of Maine. And yet my house was more respected than if it had been surrounded by a file of soldiers. The tired rambler could rest and warm himself by my fire, the literary amuse himself with the few books on my table, or the curious, by opening my closet door, see what was left of my dinner, and what prospect I had of a supper. Yet, though many people of every class came this way to the pond, I suffered no serious inconvenience from these sources, and I never missed anything but one small book, a volume of Homer, which perhaps was improperly gilded, and this I trust a soldier of our camp has found by this time.”

Watching this video helped me to articulate the difference between the two wings of libertarianism. A conservative libertarian tends to argue for rights in terms of capitalist terminology (e.g., property rights and contractual rights). And a liberal libertarian tends to define capitalism in terms of civil rights. This shows a difference of priority. Conservative libertarians are more accepting of hierarchical power and liberal libertarians prefer egalitarianism (liberalism being the common thread between libertarianism and anarchism).

“I am convinced, that if all men were to live as simply as I then did, thieving and robbery would be unknown. These take place only in communities where some have got more than is sufficient while others have not enough.”

Libertarians: Rich White Males of the Republican Party

“You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.”

~ Ludwig von Mises writing to Ayn Rand

In the above videos (I think he mentions it in the first one), brainpolice2 mentioned the data of libertarians being mostly white males from the upper middle class. The point being they’re supposedly out of touch with the average person and particularly out of touch with demographics that have in the past lacked political power and representation (minorities, immigrants, women, etc).

I thought I’d seen this data before, but I decided I should verify it. I found some data from the Cato Institute (which certaintly represents wealthy libertarians). Indeed, libertarians are 82% white (80% for all demographics) and 7% black (12% for all demographics). So, that isn’t all that extremely off the average and in fact is the same as what Cato labels as liberal (both groups being below the 83% white and 10% black of conservatives). This is a bit confusing as I’d have to look at their definitions more closely, but one comparison stood out. Cato’s diagram of ideologies puts populism opposite of libertarianism and populism has the highest percentage of minorities at 15% black (and 80% white). The Democratic party tends to draw both liberals and populists which is why there is higher representation of minorities among Democrats.

I suspect, however, that with the Tea Party there has been an increase of populism among whites which oddly has combined forces (at least in part) with the opposing ideology of libertarianism. I think this is because conservatism stands between the two and conservative nationalism bleeds over into libertarianism and populism. Anyway, at least in 2006 when this data was taken, white libertarians were the demographic most opposed to black populism (opposed both in terms of ideology and minority representation).

Some other demographic details:

Libertarians – second most well educated (after liberals), second most secular and least church attending (after liberals), highest percentage of males of any demographic, youngest demographic (youthful idealism?), wealthiest demographic (idealism supported by a comfortable lifestyle?), below average percentage in all regions except for the west where they have the highest representation of all demographics (I’m not sure why that is), mostly identified as Republican.

And let me compare to their opposite ideology:

Populists – least well educated, one of the most religiously identified and church attending (only slightly below conservatives), majority female, oldest demographic, poorest demogrpahic, most southern demographic, Cato doesn’t have the political identification data for this demographic (going by Pew data in “Beyond Red vs Blue”, I’d assume that this demographic would mostly Democrat).

According to Cato definitions, libertarians are socially liberal and fiscally conservative and populists are socially conservative and fiscally liberal. Since I brought up the Pew data, my guess is that these two ideologies would correlate to the Pew Demographics in the following way. Libertarians seem to be a perfect fit for what Pew labels as Enterprisers (which are basically the rich, white, males who vote almost entirely Republican and are the most loyal viewers of Fox News). Populists are probably mostly what Pew labels as Conservative Democrats and Disadvantaged Democrats (which have higher percentages of minorities, females, and the poor), although populists might also be found among the demographic Pew labels as Pro-Government Conservatives (the poor, female minorities who are almost evenly split between Republican and Indpendent).

In conclusion, it would seem that libertarians in the US are simply the rich, white, male demographic of the conservative movement who mostly identify as Republican. If I’m reading the data correctly (from the two above sources), libertarians seem less prone towards identifying as Independent than many other demographics (such as liberals or else conservatives who are some combination of poor, minority and female). Rupert Murdoch, the self-identified libertarian and former board member of the libertarian Cato Institute, is the Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, the owner of Fox News Channel. Murdoch seems the perfect representative of this libertarian demographic and he seems to have intentionally conflated libertarianism with the Republican party.

Ron Paul is another libertarian who fits the description of rich, white, male Republican. He might be a bit different than Murdoch in emphasizing civil libertarianism slightly more, but I doubt they’d disagree on much. Ron Paul did show his true libertarian colors recently.

Compared to many conservatives, I like how Ron Paul comes off as well-intentioned in his values. I get the sense that he is the complete opposite of the cynical neo-conservative who will use anything, including libertarian rhetoric, to win votes. In the comment section of the above video, there was a mocking portrayal of libertarianism which was on target. Despite good intentions, even someone like Ron Paul often comes off as a bit detached from the average American’s experience.

clownporn1 wrote (see comments here):

One of the more pretentious political self-descriptions is “Libertarian.” People think it puts them above the fray. It sounds fashionable, and to the uninitiated, faintly dangerous. Actually, it’s just one more bullshit political philosophy.

– George Carlin

Libertarianism is a fad political ideology for 13 year old boys, first year college students, and white business owners who use the “private property” argument so they don’t have to serve blacks.

This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Department of Energy.I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Then, after spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I drive back to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and the fire marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log onto the Internet which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration and post on freerepublic and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.

self pwnage you say

Hypocritical Critics of Government

Many Libertarians and Tea Party protesters like to claim that taxation is theft. The idea is that the Federal government does nothing to earn that money. It just takes our hard earned cash and then takes credit for redistributing the wealth. So, no value is added. This argument is so weak as to be laughable.

First, of course value is added. The Federal government adds the following values: oversight and regulation; services and goods provided or guaranteed (e.g., public roads, internet, public schools, state universities, utilities, military, police, emergency services, postal service, medicare, medicaid, disability, 40 hr work week, overtime, safe working conditions, child labor laws, abolition of slavery, Constitutional rights and freedoms, jury of your peers, etc); and on and on. Yes, the government redistributes wealth in doing all of this. So?

One response is that, no matter how good the benefits may seem, taxation is still theft.

One argument is that we have no choice in being taxed, we aren’t freely giving to the government. My response is that each of us is as free to leave the country as we are to leave our jobs. In some countries, people aren’t free to just leave, but that isn’t so in the United States. You can seek citizenship or asylum in another country. You can disappear into the wilderness and no IRS agent will track you down in the wilderness.

The other argument is that, even if we are free to give taxes or free to leave this society that is funded by taxes, the government still hasn’t earned the money it redistributes. Just because politicians provide services and goods that keep the public happy, it doesn’t mean politicians have the right to our money in the first place. Why not have a voluntary tax? To be honest, it’s as voluntary as your job. If you don’t pay your taxes, there are legal consequences. If you don’t show up for work, there are consequences as well. Did your employer earn your labor? No. We live in a society where we are forced to work or else be homeless, and the opportunities for self-employment are few and difficult (with most small businesses failing because our capitalist system favors big businesses).

Similar to the politician, what does the owner or CEO of an international corporation do to earn so far beyond the worker who actually makes things in the factory? Nothing tangible, for sure. Also, what does the international corporation do to earn the resources it takes from nature which took thousands or millions of years to form? Nothing. Like the politician, they just took it. Why has it been standard practice for both corporations to swindle land from the indigenous or else terrorize them into leaving? Didn’t the indigenous people earn those natural resources for having lived there for thousands of years?

Why is it that those who criticize taxation tend to do so in defense of capitalism and often even big business? If you think the actions of politicians is unfair, then to be fair you should also consider unfair the actions of business owners, CEOs and upper management. To be honest, it’s the workers who actually make things, who keep the economy going. In the past, prior to capitalism as we now know it, the person who made things was the typically same person who sold it and profited from it.

If government is theft, then capitalism is even greater theft. Politicians make relative little money as politicians, but business owners and CEOs make massive amounts of money. The only reason politicians do the bidding of corporations (i.e., owners and CEOs) is because politicians know they have highly profitable corporate jobs waiting for them (as lobbyists to encourage other politicians to further do the bidding of corporations).

So, there ya go. One can still criticize the government for not being perfectly fair, but if you don’t apply the same criticisms to capitalism you’re a hypocrite. Of course, many (specifically Libertarians) will gladly admit our capitalist system is imperfect and unfair, but they’ll make the unfounded claim that it’s not real capitalism, it’s not a free market. Well, it’s the only capitalism we’ve ever had. Yes, there has been an occasional experiment to implement a different capitalist system, but no such experiment has been implemented on the largescale and the experiments on the smallscale don’t tend to last long. If you’re going to defend capitalism based on an ideal, then it’s hypocritical to criticize those who defend our democratic government based on their own ideals.

I covered all the possibilities I could think of, but no doubt the pro-capitalist/anti-government types would have further arguments about why their idea/ideal is better than the ideas/ideals of everyone else.

Self-Enclosed Stories, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

I often watch the videos of Stefan Molyneux. I highly admire some of his insights, but I’m also highly critical of the conclusions he bases on these insights. Here is a very high quality video he just made to which I have a mixed response.

He tells a compelling story. It’s not unlike the story told by Alex Jones and other right-leaning libertarians. Stefan is essentially an intelligent conspiracy theorist which I don’t mean as an insult. It’s just an apt description.

I have a cynical nature with a bit of intelligent paranoia thrown in. I’m quite fond of criticizing the government and the established system of modern civilization. So, I resonate with the general attitude of questioning as seen with Alex Jones or in a less bombastic way with Stefan Molyneux. I resonate, but I also feel repulsed by a tendency towards fear-mongering. At worst, this kind of fear-mongering leads to a dark sensationalism as portrayed in the above video.

My own sensibility is not any less dark, but I lean leftwards away from this rightwing way of portraying a cultural narrative. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is. Liberals seem less prone to use overt emotional persuasion/manipulation. A particular kind of right-leaning libertarian makes progressive leftwingers such as Michael Moore seem like moderates.

Noam Chomsky is no less critical of the government than Molyneux, but Chomsky would never make a video like the above. As another example, Derrick Jensen easily competes with Molyneux on the level of cynical analysis of our present society… and, yet, there is a difference. What is this difference?

Both Chomsky and Jensen have a more open-ended analysis. They’re less likely to come to an absolute conclusion, less likely to tell an ideological narrative. Derrick Jensen explicitly says that no ideology is right, no single answer will solve our problems. Molyneux, however, is selling a specific ideology: anarcho-capitalism. So, the story Molyneux is telling leads to a specific ideological vision of how society should be.

In this, I sense something like naivette. Molyneux believes in his ideological vision. He has faith in the theory of anarcho-capitalism even though there is no real-world evidence supporting it.

The story told by Stefan Molyneux and by Alex Jones could be true. I have a strong suspicion that parts of it are true. My worry is that there are elements of truth mixed in with massive amounts of speculation. Alex Jones is particularly bad about ungrounded speculation, but even the more moderate Molyneux dangerously courts with the paranoid vision. The specific danger I see is that stories have a way of becoming self-enclosed worldviews which can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.

Old School Libertarians?

I always wonder why libertarianism has been taken over by rightwingers. I have nothing against Ron Paul’s supporters. It just bewilders me the association between libertarianism and pro-capitalism, between libertarianism and fundamentalism… and what in the heck do pro-capitalism and fundamentalism have to do with each other?

I know it’s an exaggeration, but sometimes it feels like present libertarianism is a movement only for militant gun-lovers, religious fundamentalists, and big business owners. Libertarianism no longer seems like a movement for the average American. Instead, libertarianism has become a haven for those with extreme ideologies and those who could care less about the civil rights of those different from them (the poor, the minorities, the immigrants).

So…
What about the early libertarians who were working class populists?
What about the socialist and progressive libertarians?
What about the hippy live-off-the-land commune-dwelling libertarians?
What about the lovers-not-fighters live-and-let-live libertarians?
What about the drug-using freedom-loving libertarians?

Where are these wild and unruly liberals?
Where are the proletariat populists willing to fight the powers that be?
Where are the Gonzo journalists willing to challenge the status quo?

I’m thinking about people like Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs. This type of person lived life on their own terms and sometimes suffered for it. I’m also thinking about people like Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick. They were free thinkers who weren’t afraid to question the norm, the consensus opinion. All of these people were intelligent. They weren’t leaders of political or religious movements. They were just everyday intellectuals who lived by their ideas and influenced the world through those ideas. They lived in the real world outside of the academic ivory towers, outside of Washington politics.

Another example is Art Bell. He is definitely a live-and-let-live libertarian. He married a Wiccan and definitely had that old school libertarian vibe. He was (still is on a less regular basis) a radio host who would allow almost anyone to speak their opinion no matter how crazy it might sound. To Art Bell, seemingly no topic was off-bounds. He did support Ron Paul (I don’t know if he voted for him), but his views mostly seemed to be liberal.

All of these guys (I can’t offhand think of a female example) were/are of an older generation. I know this kind of person still exists, but they don’t seem to get the same public attention they once did. So, what has changed in society, in the media? Why aren’t these people being heard?

I guess Art Bell is still being heard, but his show is now hosted by someone who most definitely doesn’t share this liberal/libertarian attitude. There are plenty of liberal-leaning libertarians even if the media portrays libertarians as a rightwing movement. Even populism has been recently taken over by rightwingers and they’ve been astro-turfed by corporate interests. Where are the real libertarians, the real populists, the real freedom-lovers? I don’t care about the militia groups or the people who are obsessed about guns as a symbol of freedom and patriotic fervor.

There is too much politics and too much religion mixed in libertarianism these days. Opposite to this were William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson. Sure, they loved guns… but they also loved sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. They weren’t trying to start movements of any sort. They were true independents living their own lives. Maybe it was a different time. Maybe it’s harder to live that way now. They grew up in a time before conservatives started their culture wars, their tough on crime policies, their War on Drugs. Hunter S. Thompson chronicled the ending of that era.

The fundamentalists and the capitalists can take their faux libertarianism and stuff it.

Libertarian Nightmare

This post is about why the libertarian vision of society scares me shitless.  No offense to Stefan Molyneux, but I truly hope his ideology never becomes reality. 

The Stateless Society Fights Back: Life without a state? Really? Answers to common questions. 

Caging the Devils: The Stateless Society and Violent Crime 

In a stateless society, contracts with DROs are required to maintain any sort of economic life – without DRO representation, citizens are unable to get a job, hire employees, rent a car, buy a house or send their children to school. Any DRO will naturally ensure that its contracts include penalties for violent crimes – so if you steal a car, your DRO has the right to use force against you to get the car back – and probably retrieve financial penalties to boot. 

Call me silly, but this sounds like the worse kind of fascism.  It scares me that someone even thinks this is a good idea.  I’ve been feeling critical of the society we have now which is already a mild form of fascism that some people call corporatism, but the vision outlined here takes it a step further. 

How does this work in practice? Let’s take a test case. Say that you wake up one morning and decide to become a thief. Well, the first thing you have to do is cancel your coverage with your DRO, so that your DRO cannot act against you when you steal. DROs would have clauses allowing you to cancel your coverage, just as insurance companies have now. Thus you would have to notify your DRO that you were dropping coverage. No problem, you’re off their list.

Any homeless person would become the equivalent of an illegal alien.  But in a DRO a homeless illegal alien would automatically be assumed to be a criminal without any legal protections or civil rights.  If you were born outside of a DRO, you may or may not be able to get a contract from a DRO.  Even if you did have a DRO contract, they could drop you at any moment.  Fear would keep everyone in line because no rights would be considered inalienable. 

However, DROs as a whole really need to keep track of people who have opted out of the entire DRO system, since those people have clearly signaled their intention to go rogue, to live off the grid, and commit crimes. Thus if you cancel your DRO insurance, your name goes into a database available to all DROs. If you sign up with another DRO, no problem, your name is taken out. However, if you do not sign up with any other DRO, red flags pop up all over the system.

Not only would a homeless person be both an illegal alien and an assumed criminal, but they would be tracked.  My God, this sounds like capitalistic Stalinism.  The DRO would follow your every move in Big Brother fashion.  A DRO could potentially become so oppressive that cameras would be installed even in houses because all property is owned by the DRO.  Your entire life (work, education, shopping, entertainment) would be controlled by the DRO.  Complete propagandistic control would be possible.  It would be a Communist beauracrat’s wet dream. 

What happens then? Remember – there is no public property in the stateless society. If you’ve gone rogue, where are you going to go? You can’t take a bus – bus companies won’t take rogues, because their DRO will require that they take only DRO-covered passengers, in case of injury or altercation. Want to fill up on gas? No luck, for the same reason. You can try hitchhiking, of course, which might work, but what happens when you get to your destination and try and rent a hotel room? No DRO card, no luck. Want to sleep in the park? Parks are privately owned, so keep moving. Getting hungry? No groceries, no restaurants – no food! What are you going to do? 

All possibility of freedom would be eliminated.  Even if you wanted to escape, there would be no where to escape to.  You could attempt to sign a contract with another DRO.  However, no DRO may want to accept free agents because of their inherent criminal status.  Even if another DRO does accept you, they might be just as or more oppressive than the one you left. 

Obviously, those without DRO representation are going to find it very hard to get around or find anything to eat. But let’s go even further and imagine that, as a rogue, you are somehow able to survive long enough to start trying to steal from people’s houses.

No fuck it would be hard to get around or find anything to eat.  The sub-class of those free of DRO contracts would be forced to seek out black markets or else starve to death. 

Well, the first thing that DROs are going to do is give a reward to anyone who spots you and reports your position (in fact, there will be companies which specialize in just this sort of service). As you walk down a street on your way to rob a house, someone sees you and calls you in. The DRO immediately notifies the street owner (remember, no public property!) who boots you off his street. Are you going to resist the street owner? His DRO will fully support his right to use force to protect his property or life. 

Yep.  There is that Stalinism.  Your neighbors and your family would get payed to spy on you.  The paranoid’s worst nightmare would become reality. 

So you have to get off the street. Where do you go? All the local street owners have been notified of your presence, and refuse you entrance. You can’t go anywhere without trespassing. You are a pariah. No one will help you, or give you food, or shelter you – because if they do, their DRO will boot them or raise their rates, and their name will be entered into a database of people who help rogues. There is literally no place to turn. 

The DRO contract will probably prohibit anyone helping those without contracts.  And if you helped one of these homeless criminals, you’d lose your contract too.  People would just walk past these starving, wretched sub-humans. 

So, really, what incentive is there to turn to a life of crime? Working for a living – and being protected by a DRO – pays really well. Going off the grid and becoming a rogue pits the entire weight of the combined DRO system against you – and, even if you do manage to survive their scrutiny and steal something, it has probably been voice-encoded or protected in some other manner against unauthorized re-use. But let’s suppose that you somehow bypass all of that, and do manage to steal, where are you going to sell your stolen goods? You’re not protected by a DRO, so who will buy from you, knowing they have no recourse if something goes wrong? And besides, anyone who interacts with you will get a substantial reward for reporting your location – and, if they deal with you, will be dropped from the DRO system. 

All property would be tracked, but would the DRO stop there? Of course not.  The DRO would implant all people with tracking chips.  With the advance of technology, they could do all kinds of things with brainwashing and neural manipulation.  Your very body would be the property of the DRO.  Trying to escape the DRO would involve having to steal your own body. 

Will there be underground markets? No – where would they operate? People need a place to live, cars to rent, clothes to buy, groceries to eat. No DRO means no participation in economic life. 

The homeless illegal alien criminals would be forced to create underground markets or else they’d die.  If those underground markets were destroyed by the DROs, the starving sub-class would revolt.  The DRO is just a capitalistic version of feudalism.  Each DRO would be an anarcho-fiefdom.  People created democratic states in the first place to escape the oppressive rule of feudal lords.  Why would we want to create a new feudal society? 

I’m painting a dark vision.  I am a pessimist afterall.  A DRO theoretically could work out as this guy thinks, but it seems improbable considering the real world historical examples of mining towns that were the perfect example of oppressive anarcho-capitalism.  And I’m certainly not alone in my doubts: 

  – COMMENTS (from above quoted article) – 

Matt: “In a stateless society, contracts with DROs are required to maintain any sort of economic life – without DRO representation, citizens are unable to get a job, hire employees, rent a car, buy a house or send their children to school.” WTF! You just replaced oppressive government with oppressive corporate rule. If you can’t get a job, hire employees, or rent a car, etc. without their permission how is this anywhere close to a voluntary society? 

Edward: I am with Matt on this one. I have listened to many of your podcasts and been in and out of here for a while but upon hearing this madness I just dont know anymore. How can you insure the type of people drawn to your DRO organizations arent the same as those who are now on our government and law enforcement/military rosters. This whole arangement to me if far more dangerous that what is currently going on. DRO is the absolute authority on my ability to be alive! What if I want off your DRO grid and do my own farming and build a house myself? Well I cant! I cant own property or a house because Im not DRO covered!!! So “crime” is my only option if i want to live without the DRO coverage!?!?! I say “crime” because according to this system i am now a rouge (criminal) even though I had a peaceful nonviolent nature and I just wanted to exist on my own. The crime here is? 

masonkiller: Matt, Edward, there is a difference. If both of you don’t like a certain DRO or the way it’s running, then you have the option to break your contract. Therefore, voluntary. In our government, they have the same powers, only you didn’t sign anything. You HAVE to be in the system, you can’t say you don’t want to. Though I have other fears with DRO’s. How could you prevent one that had enough funding and owned it’s own bank or was in cahoots with a corrupt bank from coercing people into signing contracts with force and, in turn, creating a new government? 

Me: I agree with Matt and Edward completely. Stefen is a very well intentioned and educated guy, and I fully appreciated his video on The Myth of the Free Market. However, the system suggested here is so inorganic and structured by a left brain thinker that it denies people the ability to exist without attachment to a system that enslaves them. I’d suggest Arno Gruen’s book, The Insanity of Normality to give a more complete version of why people commit crimes. Furthermore, I believe you’d see the err in this system by realizing it still functions as a dominator in a larger context. I don’t think that this system really factors in and analyzes human behavior and motives. Only by addresses the underlying issues of a humans instincts and desires and their response to forced compliance within any system can you truly offer a better solution to the worlds issues. This isn’t necessarily better or worse just different. There is a great video on youtube that comments succinctly on this idea. I will post it as soon as i find it, but it basically shows the cycle from anarchy to democracy to fascism etc. just being a constant loop. I would suggest that the only way out of that cycle would be remove the leveraging device – money. More difficult to put into effect than to say, yes, but with usury being imbedded in the current monetary system through Interest, Inflation and Income tax, you can never get away from oppression. To say that you propose a stateless society is just slight of hand. Maybe you don’t intend it, but the idea of having DRO is the state. Peace 

  

To be fair, the following video is the same guy defending himself against the charge of being naive. 

 

My response to this video is that my own criticism of naivette still stands.  Stef misunderstands.  His naivette isn’t in his criticism of the present system but in his proposal of his own system.  Stef admits in this video that his utopian society is improbable (which I was glad to see him admit).  His argument is that it’s improbability doesn’t matter.  He states that all advances have come from those who attempted the improbable and so we should continue to strive for the improbable.  He believes his idealized society is “the right thing to do”. 

I think his admitting the improbability of his own ideal still can support the critics.  The people who strove for the improbable did so because they believed it to be probable.  If Stef doesn’t believe it’s even probable, then why risk everything for most likely gaining no benefit.  Considering past examples, not only is his utopia improbable but that his utopia will turn into fascism is highly probable.  We should consider all possibilities including the negative possibilities.  His idealism is noble and his moralizing is righteous, but that doesn’t change my assessment. 

Let me share another video that shows the personal context.  

Stef is obviously angry and sad.  The way he expresses himself here seems to imply he has suffered himself in some way.  His response to suffering has been to commit his life to his ideal. 

Derrick Jensen talks about this (and I think Stef would agree to an extent).  We are all victims in this society.  There are two common responses.  Either the victim becomes a victimizer or becomes a defender of victims… and, I would add, that it’s easy for the defender of victims to become just another victimizer (which is how popular revolts sometimes lead to dictatorships).  Stef idealizes free choice, but ideals have a way of becoming distorted when they’re implemented in reality.  Stef hasn’t explained why his ideal will be the first ideal in history not to end in more oppression, violence, and suffering. 

I sympathize with his emotion, but I fear his utopianism.  I respect his devoted idealism, but his bright and shining utopia casts a dark shadow. 

 – – –  

To end on a humorous note, let me offer an example of a normal day in your local DRO corporatocracy: 

Little Johnny comes home from the company-owned school.  His mommy brings him cookies and milk bought from the company-owned store. 

“How was your day, Johnny?” 

“Mommy, I learned today that Coca-Cola tastes better than Pepsi. In science class, we did a blind taste test. One kid said Pepsi tasted better and he didn’t get a gold star. I got a gold star because the teacher said I was a good company kid.” 

“That’s nice, dear.”

Glenn Beck Conservatism: an example

I’ve been dissing Fox news and by default dissing those who take Fox news seriously.

However, I happen to know some people who take Fox news seriously and so let me try to explain the views of one particular person who I think may be representative.  First off, this person is highly intelligent and highly educated.  He has been in positions of authority where he has had influence on the community, on the youth, and on private businesses.  He is a respectable upper class American who is fairly well off even during this economic downturn, but he is retired and worries about his future.  And he is a fan of Beck and O’Reilly.  My point being that these bombastic pundits have great influence, and this influence has real-world consequences.  Ignoring the lunatic fringe, there are wealthy and powerful people who listen to these conservative commentors, and such people to varying degrees base their opinions and actions on what they hear from these sources.  Let me now describe in detail the beliefs of the specific person I have in mind, and as far as I know this is an accurate portrayal.

He doesn’t believe that the US system of capitalism/democracy is perfect but that it’s better than any other system. He believes the governmnet should play a minimal role as a referee for markets, but otherwise should let “free” markets solve the world’s problems. He believes that with the correct rules and incentives set up, capitalists will act towards the greater good of all. He believes in Rand’s ideal of enlightened selfishness and interestingly this fits into his Christian view of fallen human nature. Capitalism translates selfish nature into moral outcomes. In personal terms, he believes that capitalism supports people like him and so he sees his comfortable lifestyle as the direct result of capitalism (and of his own hard work rather than privilege).

He believes that the wealthy deserve their wealth because (in most cases) they’ve earned it. He believes in the American dream that almost anyone can work their way up into wealth and power. And he believes that the success of the wealthy upper class does genuinely lead to overall improvement in society. For this reason, he is against laws that help the minorities and poor. He believes our society is mostly free from racism except for the liberal “reverse racism” which he sees as a serious threat. He believes that if a poor minority living homeless in a ghetto really desired wealth and power (or simply a secure job with decent pay and benefits), then that person just has to work hard and they’ll be rewarded.

He also believes the powerful elite are that way because their culture and/or genetics are superior. His view partly comes from the book the Bell Curve which was criticized for arguing that blacks are inherently inferior on the level of IQ. He believes in social darwinism and believes it probably has led to real evolutionary genetic changes. Besides all of that he believes “white culture” is superior simply because Western civilization has been the most brutally effective imperialism in history. He believes “white culture” should be forced onto other groups. He believes everyone in America should be taught in only English even in areas that are and have always been predominantly non-white and non-English speaking.  He is strongly against multi-culturalism which he sees as a destructive force of the “white culture” that our country was founded on and which holds our country together.

Like Beck, he is a bit split between his libertarianism and his Christianity. He believes that morals need to be forced onto people and that with moral issues people shouldn’t be free to do what they choose. He is against gay marriage, sex education, pre-marital sex, abortions, legalization of drugs, etc. He beilieves that homosexuality is either a disease or a moral failing, and that homosexuality is a sign of a decaying society. He is for the government institutionalization of family values and heterosexual marriage, and he would like Christian beliefs and values to be more prominent in society such as prayer in public places and the 10 commandments posted in public buildings. But his libertarian-leanings makes him prefer states rights. He would, in theory, be open to these decisions being made on the local level… but probably not if it didn’t lead to the outcome he’d prefer.

He is very patriotic and used to be in the military.  His patriotism is mixed with his Christian identity.  He believes that America is a Christian nation and should embrace this identity and embrace it as a role in the international world. I get the sense that he sees America as the shining beacon and big brother of the world, and that Americans shouldn’t apologize for their superior power. He is a Neocon in supporting America’s constantly fighting other countries and toppling governments. I don’t think he sees anything wrong with torture and extraordinary rendition as long as they’re effective and I think he believes they’re effective. In the past, he has been against protesters who question and criticize the government.

Like Beck, his libertarianism comes out in response to perceived “socialism”. He believes liberals control the media and the education system. He sees it as a culture war with a clear us vs them. If “socialism” became a big enough threat (in that he feared possible loss of his prestige, wealth, and comfortable lifestyle), he would be willing to join a revolution. Basically, he is for the status quo as long as it fits his vision of America’s past which is seen through the Neocon lense of the utopian 1950s when industry was booming and when the socialist civil rights movment hadn’t yet torn this vision asunder.

Or something like that.