Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Wednesday, July 20, 2005


    I recently rediscovered Rush. The Canadian rock trio, not the fat Republican blowhard. I used to be a big fan, and now I'm reminding myself of why. Their lyrics always had something subtly (or not so subtly) libertarian and subversive about them, and Neil Peart (the drummer and lyricist) is listed among libertarian celebrities.

    Tom Sawyer
    No his mind is not for rent
    To any god or government
    Always hopeful, yet discontent
    He knows changes aren't permanent

    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
    I will choose a path that's clear
    I will choose freewill.

    Posted by Tom, 7/20/2005 7:26:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Holy crap this blows

    Playgrounds without swings? Teeter-totters? Merry-go-rounds? Running? What is this crap?

    "It's too tight around the equipment to be running," said Safety Director Jerry Graziose, the Broward County official who ordered the signs. "Our job was to try to control it."

    How about swings or those hand-pulled merry-go-rounds?

    "Nope. They've got moving parts. Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."


    "Nope. That's moving too."


    "Well, I have to be careful about animals" turning them into litter boxes.

    Cement crawl tubes?

    "Vagrants. The longer they are, the higher possibility that a vagrant could stay in them. We have shorter ones now that are made out of plastic or fiberglass."

    Tell you what. All you hand-wringers worried about stupid crap like this can put your offspring in a big plastic bubble where they can't be harmed by anything, and they can remain infantilized for the rest of their natural lives. Those of us who want our kids to grow into adults would like to pick up some of this perfectly good playground equipment at auction and put it in our back yards.

    Posted by Tom, 7/20/2005 7:21:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    Time for Plastic Surgery

    According to this article, minimum payments on credit cards are about to get higher. Now is the time to get your financial house in order. I did it with Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, and I highly recommend it. If you live on credit cards, you're digging your own grave.

    Posted by Tom, 7/19/2005 6:26:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    Property vs. Poverty

    This article by Ronald Bailey links to an even better article by Hernando de Soto. Both articles discuss the role of property rights in helping put an end to poverty. Bailey's article discusses Friends of the Earth International's complete inability to see the facts directly in front of their noses. De Soto gets into the nuts and bolts of what property rights does for the capitalist system, to wit:

    I do not believe that the absence of this process in the poorer regions of the world - where five-sixths of humanity lives - is the consequence of some Western monopolistic conspiracy. It is rather that Westerners take this mechanism so completely for granted that they have lost all awareness of its existence. However, it is this system that has given the West an important tool for development. The moment Westerners were able to focus on the title of a house and not just the house itself, they achieved a huge advantage over the rest of humanity. With titles, shares and property laws, people could suddenly go beyond looking at their assets as they are (houses used only for shelter) to thinking about what they could be (security for credit to start or expand a business).

    Why is this important? Because the poor are not actually poor, they just can't use the wealth that they have:

    As we are now discovering, these countries' principal problem is not the lack of entrepreneurship: according to the studies done by the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru, the poor of the developing world have accumulated nearly 10 trillion dollars of real estate during the past forty years. What the poor lack is easy access to the property mechanisms that could legally fix the economic potential of their assets so that they could be used to produce, secure, or guarantee greater value in the expanded market.

    (emphasis mine)

    He then goes on to describe the process a developing nation should use to develop formal property rights law that recognizes and respects the local traditions of those living in poverty. He wraps up by turning the discussion to the humanitarian application of economics in this arena:

    If we push for reform, not in the name of an ideology, Western values, or the agendas of multinational firms and international financial institutions, but rather, with the interests of the poor in mind, the transition to a market economy - in whatever shape you want ('Third Way', 'social market economics' or just plain 'capitalist') - will become what it should always be, a truly humanistic cause and an important contribution to the war on poverty.

    It all sounds eminently reasonable to me.

    Posted by Tom, 7/13/2005 6:23:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Think the police are there to protect you? Think again.

    Once again the Supreme Court has upheld the principle that the cops are not responsible for anyone, not even those they've sworn to protect and serve.

    In the Colorado case, a woman made repeated phone calls and paid a visit to police within a few hours, asking them to find her estranged husband against whom she had a restraining order. She thought he had taken their three daughters. The man eventually turned up at the police department with a shotgun he had just purchased. Police shot and killed him, and the bodies of his murdered daughters were found inside his truck.

    The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the woman was not entitled to have officers enforce the order.

    You are responsible for you. There is no other. Burn the restraining order and learn to defend yourself. Buy a gun if necessary.

    Posted by Tom, 7/12/2005 6:50:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, July 11, 2005


    I'm finally reading the Old Testament, and am currently in Exodus. I just got done reading the handing down of the Law in Exodus 20 through 23. Except for the line about suffering a sorceress/witch to live, I saw none of the Republican Party agenda. (Don't get excited, Democrats, there wasn't even that much from your platform, and you're not exactly free of witch-hunting yourselves.) What amazes me, now that I've actually read at least a portion of the Law, is that it is primarily concerned with A) property rights and B) getting offenders to restore the victims. That sounds awful libertarian to me. In fact, it's almost exactly the legal prescription given by Mary Ruwart in her fantastic book, Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression. I am now even more energized to read the Old Testament, and I'm eager to see what else it holds that will surprise me.

    Posted by Tom, 7/11/2005 7:24:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, July 7, 2005

    The Warlord Objection

    I'm tired of hearing this objection, and I'm glad someone has finally put together some arguments against it.

    Basically, the warlord objection goes like this: in the absence of a central state, we will be in a condition of perpetual warfare as private warlords vie for control of society. Robert Murphy tackles this reasoning head-on, first by insisting that we compare apples to apples:

    When dealing with the warlord objection, we need to keep our comparisons fair. It won’t do to compare society A, which is filled with evil, ignorant savages who live under anarchy, with society B, which is populated by enlightened, law-abiding citizens who live under limited government. The anarchist doesn’t deny that life might be better in society B. What the anarchist does claim is that, for any given population, the imposition of a coercive government will make things worse. The absence of a State is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to achieve the free society.

    He then sets up the conditions required for the warlord objection to be logically consistent:

    For the warlord objection to work, the statist would need to argue that a given community would remain lawful under a government, but that the same community would break down into continuous warfare if all legal and military services were privatized. The popular case of Somalia, therefore, helps neither side.[i] It is true that Rothbardians should be somewhat disturbed that the respect for non-aggression is apparently too rare in Somalia to foster the spontaneous emergence of a totally free market community. But by the same token, the respect for “the law” was also too weak to allow the original Somali government to maintain order.

    This also states by implication that government holds sway necessarily by consent of the governed. No government on earth would be able to handle the problems of a Somalia, were a majority of the citizens committed to a course of nastiness. Governments gain their ill-gotten reputation for efficiency largely by the fact that their citizens mostly want to be left alone and don't want to hurt anyone.

    Next, he smacks the "social contract" crapola right upside the head:

    I can imagine a reader generally endorsing the above analysis, yet still resisting my conclusion. He or she might say something like this: “In a state of nature, people initially have different views of justice. Under market anarchy, different consumers would patronize dozens of defense agencies, each of which attempts to use its forces to implement incompatible codes of law. Now it’s true that these professional gangs might generally avoid conflict out of prudence, but the equilibrium would still be precarious.”

    “To avoid this outcome,” my critic could elaborate, “citizens put aside their petty differences and agree to support a single, monopoly agency, which then has the power to crush all challengers to its authority. This admittedly raises the new problem of controlling the Leviathan, but at least it solves the problem of ceaseless domestic warfare.”

    There are several problems with this possible approach. First, it assumes that the danger of private warlords is worse than the threat posed by a tyrannical central government. Second, there is the inconvenient fact that no such voluntary formation of a State ever occurred. Even those citizens who, say, supported the ratification of the U.S. Constitution were never given the option of living in market anarchy; instead they had to choose between government under the Articles of Confederation or government under the Constitution.

    But for our purposes, the most interesting problem with this objection is that, were it an accurate description, it would be unnecessary for such a people to form a government. If, by hypothesis, the vast majority of people—although they have different conceptions of justice—can all agree that it is wrong to use violence to settle their honest disputes, then market forces would lead to peace among the private police agencies.

    Now, some will cry foul and say that our dear author is creating a straw man to pummel about the head and shoulders. And they would be right, except for one thing: this is the exact argument I've had to deal with over and over and over and over again. I hear way too much about this stinking "social contract", which I never signed, and how it supposedly makes everything all turtledoves and rose blossoms. Pardon me while I puke.

    Mr. Murphy wraps up with a discussion of the "gang takeover" scenario, and shows how it too would be mitigated by market forces. All in all, an excellent article. I call it a keeper.

    Posted by Tom, 7/7/2005 7:12:00 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, July 6, 2005

    Future Totalitarians of America (FTA)

    Apparently it's hip now in Pennsylvania to give budding statists an outlet for their desire to push other people around with the guns of government. It's a contest called "there ought to be a law". This year's winner suggested we force people (at gunpoint if necessary) to put seatbelts on their dogs. I got news for our budding Stalin: we're not exactly thrilled with the seatbelts on people laws. Perhaps you ought to find a new hobby, like burning ants with a magnifying glass or something.

    Yeah yeah, maybe I'm being harsh on the little cherub. It just frosts my fanny to see them being taught the finer points of bureaucratic bullying at such a tender age.

    Posted by Tom, 7/6/2005 5:49:00 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...