No Fallacy of Composition

Just to note, my previous post, which referenced Center for a Stateless Society in the headline, was not meant to be a broadside at the organization as a promoter of libertarian triumphalism vis a vis technological inevitability. Tom Knapp, in his latest article at C4SS, seems to think that was my intent. It appears others are suggesting I’m guilty of committing the fallacy of composition(see comments). My reply is that I was not inferring a general group(C4SS) property from a subclass of one writer but instead critiquing a strain of thought that is fairly ubiquitous across the radical libertarian space that, in this case, was expressed in an article published at C4SS. Really, I’m not saying anything different than what the likes of William Gillis articulated here. Perhaps I’m guilty of the bad headline. I will concede bad journalism but not bad logic. And I will be the first to admit my writing probably violates x known good journalistic practices and could use a good editor. However, I doubt anyone is going to volunteer their services any time soon. In the meantime, I will try to be more sensitive to good journalistic practices when composing my headlines.

Now putting that aside, let me return to Knapp’s article. Surprise, surprise, I have some disagreement with it. Knapp’s treatment, at least in this article, implies the political class is more or less a uniform, single entity. It’s not. For example, I consider the success of Wikileaks to be more of a political hack than a technical hack. Clearly, there could be no “political hack” if there was a single political class. In such a case, Julian Assange would be nothing more than a type of Emmanuel Goldstein Inner Party Psyops creation. I’m not that paranoid, yet. The fact that the political classes are not uniformly trapped in a dilemma to “pull the plug” is why Assange’s political hack can be effective. And we should be clear about something. A political hack that can be effective in engineering a degree of transparency in politics is a threat to politics itself because politics requires a certain level of opaqueness to function. Transparency, to the degree it emerges, would be an emergent property of politically protected document-sourced journalism creating a “prisoner’s dilemma” of sorts for politicians and government officials to rat out policy and each other. To re-paraphrase a classic Lenin quote, “politics is the rope by which the political class will hang itself.”

Where I agree with Knapp is the contention that liberalism(more precisely, liberal institutionalism) is not immune from a true oligarchy. And true oligarchies certainly can “pull the plug,” so to speak. Here I turn to George Orwell. Orwell, in my opinion was a profound political thinker regarding the end game of 20th century political institutions. We should note Orwell thought the end game of liberalism was totalitarianism. One of the points I have tried to make in a few of my posts on this blog is to trace Orwell from a tradition that can be traced back to the Tucker-Shaw debate and the Socialist Calculation debate. Borrowing from Orwell, a true oligarchy can arise from catastrophic liberal institutional failure. Catastrophic liberal institutional failure is marked by a civil detention regime that arises out of a permanent war regime. The permanent war regime creates a Stasis intelligence police state and civil detention is underlain by a “legal formalism” of psychological pathology. The Cold War and the War on Terror has created a vast military industrial and intelligence complex that is immune from any “democratic control.” As I pointed out in this previous post, the psychological pathologic basis of civil detention is now formally recognized by US Law. It is quite rational, and not some ranting of a conspiracy theorist, to worry about the United States being the single greatest to liberty in the world.

And I do have impatience with any sentiment that thinks that “the internet” is going to necessarily save us from “politics.” That’s because I understand how the so-called internet really works. We can talk about de-centralized, distributed networks all we want, but as a wide area network, tcp/ip packet-switched networking relies on quite a bit of collective action resolution of a large number of coordination problems. Frankly, quite a bit of this “collective action” was the product of an informal “government-industry” collaboration(originating from a diverse set of collaborations around the West; contrary to often quoted ignorance, the US government did not “invent” the internet). What today we would call IPv4 is rare example where “government-industry collaboration” proved “beneficial,” primarily because this type of coordination was an example of “planning for competition.” There wasn’t any politics involved for the most part. In a real sense, this is because none of the players(and agency players who had nothing to do with it, but, in retrospect, wished they would have had something to do with it) really quite grasped the shape or significance of the end result. But in the aftermath, the replacement for IPv4, that is the 128 bit IPv6, has been in planning for some time. Unlike IPv4, however, which was sort of an accidental product of planning for competition, IPv6 has been subject much more to politics and “planning against competition.” The NSA, for example, has had their tentacles in the formulation of IPv6 security protocols for over a decade.

This nonsense about “network neutrality” is laughable. There has never been any network neutrality in the “public internet,” with the public internet being marked by the transition from Arpanet to NSFNET. The theoretical OSI routing of packets at the IP layer was effectively ended by the infamous Morris worm(which effectively clogged up the NSFNET backbone by exploiting a buffer overflow in the smtp Sendmail daemons of connected mail hosts). Soon thereafter you would have the introduction of firewall application-layer packet filtering: the end of “network neutrality.” Today, “network neutrality” really means the prohibition of network providers to contract with content providers. Of course, things like the “internet kill switches” are about forcing network providers to protect the copyright content of content providers under threat of unlimited liability if they don’t adopt federal guidelines about traffic filtering. Network neutrality, my ass. In an 128 bit IPv6 world, where collective action becomes subjugated to politics, the internet might more accurately be viewed as potentially an instrument of oligarchical dystopia, not individualist utopia.

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Contra Center for a Stateless Society, Wikileaks cannot be easily replaced

Let me address the recent article Do We Really Need WikiLeaks? published at the Center for a Stateless Society. Phrases like the “social networking revolution against top-down hierarchies” are often just buzzword sentiment. Wikileaks is one of the few examples of actual libertarian anarchist counter-strategy of institutional defense from Statist aggression by successfully playing competing monopoly legal jurisdictions off one another. Wikileaks media distribution model may rely on distributed networks, and it’s journalistic model, in part, may rely on social networking, but it relies on a political patchwork for protection. The latter is not easily duplicated. Remember, Wikileaks is a journalistic organization by virtue of it’s government sources. But it is also, ultimately, a journalistic organization by virtue of it’s political protection. Without the political protection, there are likely no government sources.

Assange, to some extent, has expressed his disappointment with respect to any emergent “editorial capacity” of the the social networking model. If Wkileaks doesn’t provide any editorial synopsis of the documents, the documents disappear down a black hole. They don’t get noticed or distributed. So, the social networking journalistic model at this point relies on editorial direction(Assange has stated bloggers blog primarily to express their values to like-minded groups; it’s opinion journalism). If Assange was personally taken down on bogus charges, such as, for example, sex crimes, which are now being levied against, him, it might prove somewhat difficult to maintain an editorial team who are willing to be the next in line to go to jail for trumped up crimes. If the US government were able to successfully pierce the intricate political patchwork journalistic protection of Wikileaks, well then that would be pretty much spell the death knell of document-sourced journalism for the foreseeable time being. There would simply be no way to architect “political protection.” If, however, the political protection of document-sourced journalism proved resilient, then the “editorial problem” could likely be overcome by “competing firms” who could politically protect themselves using the same Wikileaks protection model.

People need to quit with this nonsense that the internet magically signals an inevitable death knell of the State. The hell it does…

Ron Paul: Back in the Saddle Again

Ron Paul, taking a brief respite from sending out fundraising email blasts for Tea Party candidates, has injected himself back into the national debate by weighing in on the NYC Mosque blather. Paul here takes the correct libertarian position on the matter, regarding it fundamentally as a matter of property rights and freedom of religion/speech. Paul then wraps his analysis in a more libertarian class critique, writing unequivocally that is an effort to gin up communitarian 2 minutes of hate to continue fueling the government organs of perpetual war.

Paul has been pretty much been universally condemned as a lapdog for Feisal Abdul Rauf on the conservative side.

On the progressive side, reaction has been mixed. Digby takes this as an opportunity to slam Paul over property rights and his opposition to the stimulus and to compose yet another rant against libertarians. She then writes that only the progressive left has been principled on this issue and appeals to a statement by Senator Merkley as the best exemplar of this principled stand. Merkely, in part, however makes an appeal to George Bush’s WTC ruins Bullhorn speech that was actually a call to War. Merkley, who was in the Oregon Legislator at the time of the Iraq War, voted for “Oregon House Resolution 2” which in part stated:

[we] (1) Acknowledge the courage of President George W. Bush, the President’s cabinet and the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States, and express our support for the victorious removal of Saddam Hussein from power; and
(2) Praise the courage, dedication, professionalism and sacrifices of the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States and their families in the defense of freedom.

Merkley’s consistent position over time has been one of typical left-communitarian claptrap. Give lip-service to the fundamental rights of any given group, and then support official actions that unleash massive and lethal state violence against such groups.

The likes of Digby think the Mosque controversy is one of fundamental importance as a battle between left-communitarianism vs right-communitarianism. Not it’s not. It’s a distraction; it’s a symptom. The issue here is permanent war and this has been recognized by Ron Paul, to his credit, from the start.

Lawrence O’Donnell, however, in substituting for Olbermann, used the first segment of Countdown to explore why Ron Paul is the only politician to give a clear and forceful statement on the issue. The reason is because he is applying libertarian principles to cut through the communitarian claptrap and identify the real issue of class war.

Going Galt or Going Ingsoc

Jim Henley sums up why, in the end, he rejected libertarianism:

The “progressive” case for libertarianism always held that private charity and voluntary mutuality could and should replace (what passes for) the Welfare State in succoring the needy, halt and lame. And the State as an institution is an engine of such evil that one (me) wants that to work out. Still! But the road from Here (the actual existing American mixed economy) to There (minarchism, say) seems to run through very resentful country.

In other words, “sub-humanization” of the poor would be an integral part of any cultural mechanics necessary to end the “welfare state.” This cultural change, necessary to precipitate any political change, would thus mitigate the very cultural basis of spontaneous emergence of voluntary aid institutions supposed to serve as a replacement. Henley also links to this post at Crooked Timber that attempts to explain why there is no “libertopia,” why there is no “Going Galt.” You see, it’s the network effects of the State that make even it’s inefficient provision of public goods a far more preferable thing to the prospect of private or community provision of such. Libertarians have a far better deal by simply “free-riding” in suburbia.

My rejoinder to Henley is that any “sub-humanization” of the poor is a type of cultural devolution and such things result in more deplorable statism, not less. The problem here, to some extent, is that Henley is projecting the “conservative sense” of the welfare state, which is often focused on things like food stamps, medicaid, public housing, income streams to the poor, etc. The libertarian, however, will analyze the welfare state more in terms of the flow of economic rents resulting from monopolies in such things as money,land,tarrifs, and patents. These economic rents are certainly “welfare” and from public choice we know that this rent-seeking reduces overall welfare. It wouldn’t be inaccurate, as a generalization, to think as these “rents” as a form of moral hazard. And that seeking these rents creates institutional moral hazard. In this sense then, I don’t think, culturally speaking, that “habits of mind required to thrive in a society ‘without a net’,” when the “safety net” refers to institutional shielding of players/agents from the consequences and responsibilities of their actions, is something to be dreaded if it were to magically happen. The thing to dread culturally is the “habit of mind” required to thrive in a society built on moral hazard.

So what is cultural devolution? Cultural devolution is characterized by an embedded culture of “scapegoats.” The poor, immigrants, “muslims,” whatever. Cultural devolution is a by-product of institutional moral hazard. You can almost classify the degree of institutional moral hazard in a society by the extent of it’s slums. Social Democrats love to talk about the benefits of official society in Europe, but they tend to gloss over the problems of urban slums(disproportionately populated by immigrants). This is the result of a heavily subsidized official sphere; if you are outside this sphere, then you have no chance. Often, using simplistic game theory analysis, the State is “explained” because of a public goods “prisoner’s dilemma.” Whether you think this is a compelling argument or not, there is another undeniable reality that the State “free-rides” off informal cooperation in the many embedded cultures that make up “the culture.” If “formal law” was efficiently enforced, everyone would be a criminal, a felon. In this sense, relative peaceful cooperation of society is explained in large part by informal cooperation. Cooperation based on formal law suffers from it’s own prisoner’s dilemma, indeed, one that is aptly characterized by the very name of this dilemma. Where all players are criminals, individual players are incentivized to be “informers.” Consequently, undermining informal cultural cooperation is the gateway to a despicable statism, because then players are truly caught up in a prisoner’s dilemma of the formal “Rule of Law.” In a partial cultural devolution, you will find stark contrasts between “official society” and the slums. In a full blown devolution of culture, you find the emergence of totalitarian Stasi police states, and in the very worst of these, such as Nazi Regime, you will see outright, systematic extermination of those in the slums.

To summarize, my answer to Henley is that if “Going Galt” refers to the likes of Pame Gellar or Leonard Piekoff, or the ignorant rantings of “constitutional conservatives” or tea partiers, I would say that we should prefer to not go Galt.

Turning to the post at Crooked Timber, I will point out the author appears to suffer from a particularly bad case of confirmation bias. Throw in a dash of the “public goods problem,” “economies of scale,” and “network effects,” and voila, now we know why there can be no libertopia. Of course, the author leaves out the “knowledge problem” that arises in centralized hierarchies, the public choice problem of how these centralized hierarchies will redirect resources, and ignores the fact that “network effects” are only resilient under postive and negative feedback loops operating in de-centralized networks. I would also be remiss not to point out that in Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,’ Galt’s Gultch operated as a type of georgist government. That is, the government was financed through “ground rents.” One could ask a more narrow question, putting the more general question “libertopia” aside, of why Georgism hasn’t taken hold. As this paper by Fred Foldvary elucidates, Georgism, from a liberal and public economics standpoint, efficiently resolves the “public goods problem” from an institutuional standpoint. Georgism is not crank economics, these ideas go back to the classical economists. Henry George popularized these ideas in the United States in the latter half of the 19th century as a way to explain inequality in political economy. Henry George became one of the most famous persons in America, and indeed, in the world. His fame was comparable to a Benjamin Franklin or an Albert Einstein. But today he is hardly known. What happened?

My answer is that it doesn’t make for good politics. And for liberalism, politics is the lifeblood of legitimacy for the ruling class. We can go back to why the Constitution superceded the Articles of Conferation. The latter was a weak federal government financed by ground rents. This was not sufficent for the nationalist expansion envsioned by the likes of Hamiltonian. For Henry George’s time, “Georgism” would, in the end, prove diffcult to implement politically, and the 19th century Robber Barons would use their great wealth to institutionally finance the “progressive era,” which was the capturing of reform and directing it toward a permanent monopoly fusionism between the political classes and the capitalist classes. Liberalism became “Corporate Liberalism.”

The problem with liberalism is that politics has always gotten in the way of liberal ideals. And we are not stumbling on a path, however slowly, toward a liberal ideal. Corporate liberalism, progressivism has given us massive carnage of wars between Corporate States in the 20th century. And now, in the 21st century, we are presented with the inexorable instutitional reality of an unaccountable permanent war State. We are descending into the Orwellian vision, although in a modified way. This is catastrophic failure from a liberal perspective. Do you think the posters at Crooked Timber give a shit. Well, I should say they give a shit if it’s the Republicans in control. If it’s the Dems, not so much. What they advocate for is a one party state. In the end, that’s Ingsoc.

Fuck Ingsoc.

Obama Admin to Charge Julian Assange with Espionage?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that federal prosecutors are exploring possible criminal charges against Julian Assange. The Volokh Conspiracy examines if Assange can be prosecuted for Espionage. The answer seems to be yes. To quote Julian Ku, the author of a post that was linked to at Volokh:

And if I were Assange’s lawyer, I would advise him to avoid the U.S., and international waters and airspace, for as long as possible.

This predictable turn of events brings up an previous post I wrote condemning Michael Moynihan’s doublethink at Reason.

If the US Government were to arrest Julian Assange, it’s entire case would primarily rest on making the case that Assange was not a journalist but rather an anti-american ideologue engaged in espionage against the United States. That Reason, a purported libertarian publication, would publish drivel supporting the US government’s underlying argument in this matter of fundamental importance is despicable. And you don’t get off the hook by claiming to support Wikileaks while attempting to eviscerate it’s legal protection. If Moynihan is too stupid to realize that stripping Wikileaks of it’s journalistic protections makes Julian Assange a prosecutable enemy of the State, then my suggestion to Moynihan is to find another fucking profession.

It remains to be seen if Moynihan supports the prosecution of Assange for the crime of espionage. Meanwhile, Assange has anticipated this and Wikileaks has since signed an official agreement with the Swedish Pirate Party to host the public web servers while Assange has landed a job as a columnist for the Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, a move that will afford him some protection as a journalist under the Swedish constitution. However, over the weekend, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, working in conjunction with US Intelligence operations, leaked an arrest order for Julian Assange for sex crimes to a Swedish Tabloid. After 24 hours and the cycling of this story intentionally in the news, the arrest order was withdrawn. The timing alone should make it obvious that was an intelligence psyops operation, but listening to the flaky interview given by the spokesperson of the Swedish Prosecution Authority in the aftermath, and reading the criticism of the abnormal behavior of the Swedish Prosecution Authority in this matter from former Swedish chief prosecutors makes the obvious indisputable.