The Horowitz Challenge

Writes Steve Horowitz:

The next time you’re engaged in a political discussion with someone who has very strong views different from your own, ask them if they can name two famous thinkers or politicians whose politics are opposed to theirs who they also think are very smart and genuinely concerned with making the world a better place. If they can’t, it’s not clear they are able to grant the good faith such discussions should have.

I believe Horowitz here is mainly referring to cross-ideological dialogues and not intra-ideological warfare, so I stick to that. In other words, as a libertarian, I will stick to conservatives and progressives.

I admit that I don’t have much tolerance for conservatives these days because I don’t tolerate “pro-war” sentiment particularly well. And I frankly respect no one who is an advocate of such sentiment. It is clear, to quote Randolph Bourne, that “War is Health of the State,” and to quote myself, “Perpetual War is the Health of the Rogue State.” Quite simply, war is the ultimate expression of collectivism. And there is always an interest of a ruling class that underlies it. Perhaps, Emmanuel Goldstein’s Tract, “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” in Orwell’s Novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, provides an object lesson. The section “War is Peace” almost prophetically outlines how war will serve the interests of the ruling class. But then again, it is never clear if Goldstein or the “Brotherhood” actually exist or if they are just necessary fictions perpetuated by the Inner party. So, even though I’m quite aware of the writings of neo-conservative authors and institutions like the PNAC, I do not think they operate out of good faith nor have succumbed to any delusion.

I have no tolerance or respect for social conservatism. There are no serious writers/philosophers here. It’s not like these people are reading Edmund Burke or Russel Kirk. It’s all biblical claptrap. I’m not interested in debating what Jesus or the Apostle Paul really thought about the State. America founded on “Judeo-Christian” principles is a myth akin to advocating that Rome was founded on “Jupiterian” principles.

The “American Conservative Magazine” represents a strain of conservatism, the more paleo type, that belies much of the current conservative movement and views such with skepticism. I’m not sure how coherent it is, however, from a historical standpoint. Someone like a Ron Paul is really deriving from a liberal tradition, even a radical liberal tradition, and then passes it off as “conservative.” The so-called “Old Right” isn’t really that old, being a 20th century movement derived from latter 19th century liberal opposition to 19th century conservatism. And it, frankly, it never held much sway over the Republican Party. In the end, it’s chief intellectual product was Ayn Rand. A rather laughable thing is this new term, “constitutional conservative,” which i gather is supposed to denote a historical coalition of Christian, pro-life Randians who affixed their signatures to the constitution.

On the progressive/liberal side, I should note that my little blogroll has a number of “progressive/liberal” blogs that I am serious disagreement with on economic issues and the role of the State. But they share in common a “power elite analysis” of the ruling class. However, particularly in regard to economics, I think it’s bit incoherent to ascribe to a “power elite analysis” of the political class but yet advocate massive spending by such a corrupt class as a remedy of economic ills. I certainly aware of the John Rawls critique of what we might call “libertarian justice” and the type of Charles Taylor communitarian critique against liberalism itself, including the Rawlsian version. I respect Rawls but his justice theory is susceptible to a Public Choice critique. In terms of communitarianism, I admittedly have nothing but disdain for it. The State is not a “community.”

Frankly, many progressives suffer from their own historical myths just as conservatives do. In particular, that progressivism arose as an institutional correction to American “Laissez Faire.” It’s almost endemic to conflate Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” with “Laissez Faire.” Smith’s metaphor was actually introduced in his theory of moral sentiments, which attempted to explain human empathy/sympathy(“other regarding”) as an emergent property of self-regarding human social behavior. In the Wealth of Nations, it is used as a metaphor, on occasion, to argue against trade serving mercantilist ends. Laissez Faire, however, originates from the French tradition, and was a critique against the corrupt French political economy. In the original meaning, it really means a rejection of the Political Economy itself. And that’s not Adam Smith.

Of course, today, “Laissez Faire” is a synonym for “unregulated capitalism.” But the reality is that capitalism is operating quite regularly, indeed in a very predictable way one would expect when the players write the rules for their own advantage(“law”) and use politics to enforce monopolies. This is the very thing the old french radical liberals decried. It’s a tragedy that this word has become dirty, that in in the popular mind, it supposedly stands for the very thing it was originally against. It is a rare debate where an opponent(on the progressive side) will recognize this. It’s not necessarily out of malice. More often than not, it’s ignorance.

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Modeling Capitalist Regime Change

I read this article, Our Political Economy, Time to Hit the Reset Button that was in the LeftLibertarian.org feed. I have some problems with that analysis.

To begin with, I think it’s a common misinterpretation of Schumpeter to view “creative destruction” as a driver of continual regime change. And by “regime,” it is meant the framework of a political economy. Schumpeter wrote at a time when the intellectual classes viewed socialism as inevitable. “Creative Destruction” was Schumpeter’s mechanism to explain why capitalism would converge to this regime as an endpoint. This has not happened, and, frankly, Schumpeter’s theory fails to explain why there was a renaissance of “liberal capitalism” in the 2nd half of the 20th century.

Additionally, I think it is a mistake to conflate something like the Industrial Revolution with regime change. The Industrial Revolution is something I call a “technological singularity.” And there has been precisely one of these in human history. That technological singularity was driven by energy-dense fossil fuels powering steam turbine engines. As Michael Shermer pointed out in his book, “The Mind of the Market,” the available “tools” for the agricultural economy, right up until the time of the Industrial Revolution, was around the same order of magnitude of the available “tools” of hunter-gatherer society. The “Information Age,’ which is more or less built over the quantum mechanical properties of semiconductor devices(electronics) that serves as the basis for binary State machines(computers) is not a technological singularity because in the end, every machine still relies on the same energy source that powers the steam turbine engine, namely fossil fuels. The Steam Engine itself, without energy-dense fossil fuels, would not have been sufficient for any technological singularity. The “next” technological singularity will only occur when we have efficient battery storage of renewable energy, in particular, solar energy.

The Political Economy of Complex Systems
Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” is not a sufficient mechanism to model regime change. Indeed, I think it’s accurate to posit that Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” was his alternative to Marxian class theory to explain why capitalism would converge to the same regime end point. But, in reality, there is no final regime end point in capitalism. Let’s examine this thesis from a complexity model.

A complex system is a nonlinear system that will nonetheless exhibit a normal pattern of emergent order regulated by a diverse mix of positive and negative feedback mechanisms. To model the effect of politics and class theory(that is to say, the political economy), we introduce a flow of economic rents that serve to dampen the negative feedback mechanisms. In other words, positive feedback mechanisms begin to dominate. Or more simply, moral hazard is introduced. At such point, there will begin a predictable chain events of increasing intervention to enforce an artificial stability. A system characterized by increasing intervention to enforce an artificially stable equilibrium loses resiliency, meaning that it becomes more and more susceptible to larger crises from shocks and disturbances. At some point, the system must transition to a new regime.

The last two regime changes I would document would be Keynes/Bretton Woods and Chicago/Washington Consensus. At this point, we are certainly in crises. The “shock” of AIG’s bailout, the consequence of it “insuring” the performance of CDO securities by writing essentially naked puts on the credit worthiness of the firms who were trading in these securities, and, in a very real sense, relying it’s ability to issue it’s own corporate paper to cover any loses, instead of re insuring or hedging it’s own risk, resulted in massive intervention by the Fed. The collapse of AIG would have triggred a chain reaction collapsing the credit worthiness of a large number of institutions, sending them into their own death spirals. Of course, at root of the whole thing is the relative worthliness of these underlying CDO securities to begin with. The Fed’s intervention, using massive amounts of newly high-powered money to recapitalize the big banks, leaves the Fed itself highly leveraged. The new shock would be a “currency crises.” With a loss of foreign confidence in US bonds, there would only be a very small oligarchy of six US banks that could support the government bond market. Of course, these are the same institutions that the FED has highly leveraged itself in propping up.

To be continued

Murder, Inc.

With all the sound and fury surrounding “the Ground Zero Mosque” claptrap, a rather important recent story in the NY Times has been overlooked: The Large-Scale Expansion of Worldwide Secret Military Assassination Operations by the US Government.

From the article we learn:

For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

And this is a permanent war:

In a speech in May, Mr. Brennan, an architect of the White House strategy, used this analogy while pledging a “multigenerational” campaign against Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.

This reporting in conjunction with the reporting by the Washington Post and the heroic reporting by the likes of Jeremy Scahill paint a very clear, undeniable picture: We have a unaccountable secret government in the business of murder, and a cancerous growth of a secret intelligence institutional apparatus whose primary objective is to perpetuate and preserve this secret government. This a Nixonian wet dream. From a liberal institutional perspective, this is catastrophic failure.

Radical libertarians are often accused of being hyperbolic when comparing the State to the Mafia. Well, goddamned if this isn’t Murder, Inc. Some will counter that the US Secret Government is only killing al-qaeda. Well, no it’s not. It is killing innocent people as well. You have to be brain dead not to see how this spirals out of control. The NY Times piece gives an obvious example. The US Secret Government kills an innocent, highly respected official along with a suspected “terrorist.” The leader of the government of the home country has to pay “blood money” to tribal leaders to keep things quiet. The US Secret Government maintains it’s secrecy by bribery. How long before the price of the bribes becomes killing off the political enemies of these leaders? Anyone who tries to expose such an unconscionable corruption becomes an enemy of the State. The likes of a Julian Assange is a thorn in the side of this Secret Government when it comes to Afghanistan or Iraq, but he becomes a mortal threat if he documents outright political assassination. The inevitable putrid corruption of this secret government breeds a ubiquitous intelligence/police apparatus necessary to protect such a grossly corrupt government.

Politics is going to save us? Shit…As this bogus “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy demonstrates, politics continues to be dominated by communitarian distractions. Although I’m not a conspiracy theorist, Obama keeps doing a swell job of impersonating a “Manchurian Candidate.” In the end, it probably doesn’t matter if he were a programmed psychopath or not. The institutional political incentives are such that he is rewarded for acting like one.

Libertarian Tolerance

I’m amused by J Neil Schulman’s Libertarian Tolerance Test post.

I consider libertarianism to be a social theory. Libertarians, or at least radical libertarians, ascribe to liberal ideals while rejecting the State as institutional means to achieve such ideals. The State is not an enforcer of liberal justice, rather it is a enforcer of legal theft wrapped in the babble about liberal justice.

As a social theory, I would contend libertarianism probably doesn’t have much of a prospect if it’s intended to be a social theory for a coven of cannibals. In this regard, I plead conformity to social convention. And I don’t think the State is particularly necessary to guard against an epidemic of this social practice breaking out. Frankly, Schulman’s post, which I gather is supposed to be some profound challenge to libertarian justice, simply reminds me of the type of drivel spouted by a Cliff Kincaid or a Mike Huckabee.

I have a real horror scenario for you. What species is the only predator of humans? Why, that would actually be humans. Imagine the horror of being hunted by a group of coordinating psychopaths with unlimited resources? Why, that would be politics. That’s the type of horrific scenario that libertarians should have little tolerance for…

California Chamber of Commerce: Welfare Queens

Libertarians often champion economics, labor and property rights being private contractual matters and outside the legitimate domain of the public sphere. On these matters, libertarians are supposed to be in accord with conservatives. Well, except for one small problem: conservatives aren’t really down with the program. Case in point: The California Chamber of Commerce Opposition to Prop 19 on the hysterical basis that an “epidemic of stoned workers” would threaten the workplace safety of the group’s constituent member businesses. Oh yeah, it also feels it would imperil its members ability to land federal contracts.

You know, whenever I see “Concerned Mothers Against This” or “Concerned Families Against That” babbling on about whatever latest social epidemic, I come to the conclusion that there is indeed a social epidemic: namely a social epidemic of irresponsible mothers and families who are apparently incapable of parenting their children without the aid of the State. This is, no doubt, a welfare problem. And it seems to me that social conservatives are in continual need of such welfare.

So when I read the basis of the Cali Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to Prop 19, I sensibly come to the conclusion that the organization is plagued by irresponsible members who are apparently incapable enforcing their own workplace safety rules. We are constantly inundated about how sorry the business climate is in California. Well business is bad everywhere, but I can see why it is particularly bad in California if it’s primary business interest group is infested with irresponsibility and an overriding concern to suck off the teat of federal contracts. The Cali Chamber of Commerce is part of the problem. Laissez Faire, my ass….

Conservatives’ Worst Figure in American History is the most Libertarian Modern President

I present you American History’s Greatest Monster:

Now, it should be noted that Ivan Eland, of The Independent Institute, in his recent book, Recarving Rushmore, ranked this monster, on a “Peace, Prosperity & Liberty scale,” as the most libertarian modern president and #8 overall.

Matt Lewis laments our “broken politics.” Well, I got news for you, neither the political left nor right views the other as legitimate. Of course, the radical libertarian views both as illegitimate and indeed regards politics itself as illegitimate. From a libertarian perspective, the sad fact is that history rewards our most “libertarian presidents” with either obscurity or a curse. And I’m not overlooking one Thomas Jefferson in this discussion. Eland, using deeds not words as the basis for his PP&L index, ranks Mr. Jefferson rather poorly. The “most libertarian president” according to Eland’s index is John Tyler. And for that honor, Mr. Tyler likely earns the honor of being one of the more inconspicuous figures of American History.

Michael Moynihan’s Continued Flawed Logic Concerning Wikileaks

This is an addendum to my earlier post regarding Michael Moynihan’s critique of Wikileaks as a journalistic organization.

Moynihan has since updated his critique to support his case vis a vis the criticism now emanating from the likes of Amnesty International. In particular, the issue at hand is the claim of so-called Wikileaks exposure of US Intelligence assets in Afghanistan. Moynihan continues to erroneously make the case that lack traditional of institutional support of Wikileaks, particularly by those institutions that Moynihan keeps babbling about that should be ideologically aligned with Wikileaks, invalidates Wikileaks journalistic institutional standing.

Let me put in clear terms that even someone as apparently obtuse as Moynihan can understand. Wikileaks is not a journalistic institution by virtue of any traditional institutional consensus. Wikileaks is a journalistic institution by virtue of it’s government sources, by virtue of the fact that government sources are leaking documents to it. When Moynihan writes that Assange “isn’t the guy I want as the representative of government transparency,” it should be quite clear that the type of “institution” that Moynihan prefers is exactly the type of institution that government sources wouldn’t leak documents to. In case anyone is not reading carefully, Moynihan’s argument boils down to a lack of favorable official institutional consensus thusly strips Wikileaks of any legal protections. Hence, Moynihan will crow about Amnesty International suddenly parroting the pentagon talking points while pointing out that Swedish officials have started chirping about Wikileak sources not being protected by Swedish privacy laws. This, of course, is just mere coincidence, having nothing at all do with US Pressure. No doubt…

Frankly, the US Government has no moral high ground when it comes to intelligence assets. It is beyond dispute that George Bush and Dick Cheney publicly leaked the identity of an intelligence asset for explicit political, ideological purposes. Power in the State operates above the State’s own laws. I’m pretty sure Julian Assange knows this. I’m also pretty sure that whatever “Ministry of Justice” or “Dept. of Justice” that the likes of Moynihan appeal to knows this, too.