I, Spy

I saw this recent CEI production of Leonard Read’s “I,Pencil” posted at Coordination Problem. CEI dubbed this production a modern makeover of the famous essay, but I just sort of shrugged it off with a feeling of “how quaint.” Frankly, I don’t think I’ve used a pencil in 15 years(and it’s only on relatively rare occasions that I use a pen–for financial transactions). A more modern analog would substitute the smart phone for the pencil. And the essay itself would be a bit different in composition from the original, evidenced by a new apropos entitlement: “I, Spy.” I, Spy wouldn’t just document the spontaneous order of the production of our piece of electronics, the smart phone, it would also document the planned order of the massive intelligence complex that uses your phone–after you have purchased it for your ends– for its own ends.1

It occurred to me that “I,Spy” could perhaps shed some light on this current “Capitalism vs Free Market” debate that is taking place in the libertarian blogosphere. Unfortunately, the “laissez-faire” position isn’t quite getting through to many of our esteemed libertarian scholars. I keep reading that the “left-libertarian” position is guilty of methodological and rhetorical errors regarding state and market. Unfortunately, many, but not all, left-libertarians are undercutting the argument by trying to rationalize a moral preference, which is something you really can’t do in a social theory. The argument then becomes misplaced, shifting to a debate about what degree of hierarchy is “rational.” But the rationality of hierarchy is a function of the rent-seeking social context. And this is where the “dialectics” should kick in, understanding that what is rational in one context is not necessarily rational in another. But I think this type of debate is a distraction to the actual topic at hand.

The laissez faire position should be more or less silent on hierarchy. By this, I mean it is not a method primarily geared toward deconstructing market hierarchy vs statist hierarchy. More generally, it is not a method to validate a specific moral preference. Instead, it starts with human agency. Today, that means 3 billion plus agents and 3 billion plus moral preferences. Unlike religious and philosophical eschatology that views history as progressing toward some goal–and hence, human agency as merely an end product of something that humans actually do not control–the laissez-faire position holds to no such singular goal. Its social theory of advancing civilization is merely one of 3 billion plus moral ends coordinating to expand (and satisfy) human wants and desires.

A common critique of libertarianism is that it reduces life to the market. But I think how strange: a critique of reducing human life to human agency. That’s typically the critique of the cleric. And I would answer: by all means, let us reduce human life to the moral preference of those who deem themselves fit to define proper human agency for all us–and in some, cases, to those who simply deny it altogether. I think not. But my response carries an explicit premise that “the market” is indeed an expression of human agency. That is, the ends of market exchange serve the ends of those who make the exchange. There is no exogenous agency whose ends are furthered other than the exchanging agents. If there is such an agency that you can use market agent’s means as means for its own ends(with the two ends more or less conflicting), then I have essentially have no argument against the cleric. None.

So let us return to “I,Spy,” the modern analog to “I,Pencil.” I, Spy gives us not only the “spontaneous market order of production” but also the planned order of surveillance. When you buy your smart phone, your phone is also being used by a massive intelligence complex for its own ends(for spying, tracking, recording, data analytics)—to be potentially used against you. This introduces a rather glaring incentive-incompatibility agency problem into market exchange. It’s a sufficient problem to destroy the entire social theory of market exchange agency. The classical libertarian method(i.e, “class theory,” which I would equate to the left-libertarian method) in addition will predict that this incentive-incompatibility agency problem will be subjected to relentless rent-seeking.

Now I already can anticipate the counter-objections. (1) interested parties can circumvent the spying by adopting evasive techniques such as encryption. And there are firms who will provide these services. True, but the problem is that encryption is not a sufficient condition for circumvention. Indeed, there will come a time, if not already, when the act of circumvention fires up the red flags for increased surveillance. The problem is that encryption as a means of circumvention can be circumvented itself by a broader scope of data-analytics.2 You can’t encrypt your entire life. And cracking your circumvention will be a prime area of relentless rent-seeking.

(2) things like advertising and data-analytics in a free market could potentially introduce the same type of incentive-incompatibility agency problems. No doubt. And I can’t prove that this same problem would be overcome or highly mitigated against/counter-acted. Of course, you can’t prove either that it wouldn’t be. But the State gives us the certainty of this problem.

“I, Spy” provides a pretty clear demonstration of the dichotomy between laissez-faire and capitalism. People like Steve Horwitz will look at the regulating agency regarding the spontaneous production side and say we only have a little bit of statism. The likes of David Gordon will look at the price setting agency and conclude– if it is not a monopoly–that we have an instance of capitalism. But what they fail to look at is the incentive-incompatibility agency problem of the planned order. This is what I deem their serious methodological and rhetorical errors regarding state and market. The root of this error is the perpetuation of viewing state actors through a microeconomic lens. The incentive-incompatibility agency problem of State Agency, however, resembles something more along the lines of a firm. In plain terms, this means you can model State agency as something that views human agency as a threat. Hence our distinction between laissez-faire and capitalism can be stated thusly: one is a means for advancing civilization while the other a means for social control. Two very different evolutionary endpoints.

Frankly, I don’t think it is even a matter of debate, any more than “sticking your hand in a fire will result in it being burned” should be a point of debate. If you want to test it, just simply challenge the planned order. In this sense, there is no need to ask Steven Horwitz or David Gordon whether or not there is a firm. Ask Julian Assange…

1 The smart phone is the real world analog of Orwell’s screens

2 Data analytics can be thought of as an applied exercise in graph theory, whereby the data analysis attempts to reveal patterns in the data in order to construct a graph object. A graph is simply a collection of vertices and connecting edges. If you can relate a sufficient number of unencrypted edges to an encrypted edge, you can likely determine the general subject matter of the encrypted edge without having to decipher it into a clear text communication. This for example, is why you can only think of something like Bitcoin as pseudo-anonymous and not truly anonymous.

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Classical Libertarian vs Classical Liberal

From “The Law,” Frederic Bastiat on the origins of the “welfare state.”

Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter—by peaceful or revolutionary means—into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.

Woe to the nation when this latter purpose prevails among the mass victims of lawful plunder when they, in turn, seize the power to make laws!

Until that happens, the few practice lawful plunder upon the many, a common practice where the right to participate in the making of law is limited to a few persons. But then, participation in the making of law becomes universal. And then, men seek to balance their conflicting interests by universal plunder. Instead of rooting out the injustices found in society, they make these injustices general. As soon as the plundered classes gain political power, they establish a system of reprisals against other classes. They do not abolish legal plunder. (This objective would demand more enlightenment than they possess.) Instead, they emulate their evil predecessors by participating in this legal plunder, even though it is against their own interests.
It is as if it were necessary, before a reign of justice appears, for everyone to suffer a cruel retribution—some for their evilness, and some for their lack of understanding.

It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.

What are the consequences of such a perversion? It would require volumes to describe them all. Thus we must content ourselves with pointing out the most striking.

In the first place, it erases from everyone’s conscience the distinction between justice and injustice.

No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them. The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are “just” because law makes them so. Thus, in order to make plunder appear just and sacred to many consciences, it is only necessary for the law to decree and sanction it. Slavery, restrictions, and monopoly find defenders not only among those who profit from them but also among those who suffer from them.

If you suggest a doubt as to the morality of these institutions, it is boldly said that “You are a dangerous innovator, a utopian, a theorist, a subversive; you would shatter the foundation upon which society rests.”

If you lecture upon morality or upon political science, there will be found official organizations petitioning the government in this vein of thought: “That science no longer be taught exclusively from the point of view of free trade (of liberty, of property, and of justice) as has been the case until now, but also, in the future, science is to be especially taught from the viewpoint of the facts and laws that regulate French industry (facts and laws which are contrary to liberty, to property, and to justice). That, in government-endowed teaching positions, the professor rigorously refrain from endangering in the slightest degree the respect due to the laws now in force.”

Thus, if there exists a law which sanctions slavery or monopoly, oppression or robbery, in any form whatever, it must not even be mentioned. For how can it be mentioned without damaging the respect which it inspires? Still further, morality and political economy must be taught from the point of view of this law; from the supposition that it must be a just law merely because it is a law.

Another effect of this tragic perversion of the law is that it gives an exaggerated importance to political passions and conflicts, and to politics in general.

I could prove this assertion in a thousand ways. But, by way of illustration, I shall limit myself to a subject that has lately occupied the minds of everyone: universal suffrage.

The followers of Rousseau’s school of thought—who consider themselves far advanced, but whom I consider twenty centuries behind the times—will not agree with me on this. But universal suffrage—using the word in its strictest sense—is not one of those sacred dogmas which it is a crime to examine or doubt. In fact, serious objections may be made to universal suffrage.

In the first place, the word universal conceals a gross fallacy. For example, there are 36 million people in France. Thus, to make the right of suffrage universal, there should be 36 million voters. But the most extended system permits only 9 million people to vote. Three persons out of four are excluded. And more than this, they are excluded by the fourth. This fourth person advances the principle of incapacity as his reason for excluding the others.

Universal suffrage means, then, universal suffrage for those who are capable. But there remains this question of fact: Who is capable? Are minors, females, insane persons, and persons who have committed certain major crimes the only ones to be determined incapable?

A closer examination of the subject shows us the motive which causes the right of suffrage to be based upon the supposition of incapacity. The motive is that the elector or voter does not exercise this right for himself alone, but for everybody.

The most extended elective system and the most restricted elective system are alike in this respect. They differ only in respect to what constitutes incapacity. It is not a difference of principle, but merely a difference of degree.

If, as the republicans of our present-day Greek and Roman schools of thought pretend, the right of suffrage arrives with one’s birth, it would be an injustice for adults to prevent women and children from voting. Why are they prevented? Because they are presumed to be incapable. And why is incapacity a motive for exclusion? Because it is not the voter alone who suffers the consequences of his vote; because each vote touches and affects everyone in the entire community; because the people in the community have a right to demand some safeguards concerning the acts upon which their welfare and existence depend.

I know what might be said in answer to this; what the objections might be. But this is not the place to exhaust a controversy of this nature. I wish merely to observe here that this controversy over universal suffrage (as well as most other political questions) which agitates, excites, and overthrows nations, would lose nearly all of its importance if the law had always been what it ought to be.

In fact, if law were restricted to protecting all persons, all liberties, and all properties; if law were nothing more than the organized combination of the individual’s right to self defense; if law were the obstacle, the check, the punisher of all oppression and plunder—is it likely that we citizens would then argue much about the extent of the franchise?

Under these circumstances, is it likely that the extent of the right to vote would endanger that supreme good, the public peace? Is it likely that the excluded classes would refuse to peaceably await the coming of their right to vote? Is it likely that those who had the right to vote would jealously defend their privilege?

If the law were confined to its proper functions, everyone’s interest in the law would be the same. Is it not clear that, under these circumstances, those who voted could not inconvenience those who did not vote?

But on the other hand, imagine that this fatal principle has been introduced: Under the pretense of organization, regulation, protection, or encouragement, the law takes property from one person and gives it to another; the law takes the wealth of all and gives it to a few—whether farmers, manufacturers, shipowners, artists, or comedians. Under these circumstances, then certainly every class will aspire to grasp the law, and logically so.

The excluded classes will furiously demand their right to vote—and will overthrow society rather than not to obtain it. Even beggars and vagabonds will then prove to you that they also have an incontestable title to vote. They will say to you:

“We cannot buy wine, tobacco, or salt without paying the tax. And a part of the tax that we pay is given by law— in privileges and subsidies—to men who are richer than we are. Others use the law to raise the prices of bread, meat, iron, or cloth. Thus, since everyone else uses the law for his own profit, we also would like to use the law for our own profit. We demand from the law the right to relief, which is the poor man’s plunder. To obtain this right, we also should be voters and legislators in order that we may organize Beggary on a grand scale for our own class, as you have organized Protection on a grand scale for your class. Now don’t tell us beggars that you will act for us, and then toss us, as Mr. Mimerel proposes, 600,000 francs to keep us quiet, like throwing us a bone to gnaw. We have other claims. And anyway, we wish to bargain for ourselves as other classes have bargained for themselves!”

And what can you say to answer that argument!

In short, the welfare state, as it it is traditionally thought of today, is a symptom of legal plunder.

Charles Rowley, the “Dean of Public Choice, commenting from his blog on the recent presidential election.

American exceptionalism was driven from the earliest years of colonialism through the first 150 years of the Republic by large white male majorities, many enthused by the Protestant work ethic. From the 1920s on, female white voters, of the same European stock, swelled the ranks of such voters. Not all such voters, of course, were enthused by American exceptionalism. However, save for the FDR and the Lyndon Johnson years, those white voters, supplemented by others, proved sufficient to uphold the exceptionalism ideal.

This is no longer the case. On November 6, 2012, Mitt Romney secured 60 per cent of the aggregate white vote – men and women combined. He secured 73 per cent of the white male vote. In 1980 that would have carried him easily into the White House. In 2012, given poor support from so-called minorities – 5 per cent among blacks and 15 per cent among Hispanics – the Electoral College proved to be out of reach. The white population in the United States is sliding towards minority status, as European immigration relatively declines and as birth rates among the black, Hispanic and Asian communities far exceed those among whites.

As the state itself grows, under such impulses, so welfare dependency expands. The relationship is symbiotic. That has been the hidden and enormously successful objective of progressive politics since FDR took office in 1932. By 2016, with Obamacare by then controlling one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the impulse will be irreversible.

It is no surprise that sub-populations that live significantly off the welfare state vote for candidates and parties that promise to sustain and to extend that welfare state. As food stamps expand from 31 per cent to 43 per cent of the population, as occurred during Obama’s first term, and as the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reforms are rolled back by presidential edicts, as occurred in 2012, so the social market economy digs down ever – deeper roots.

The Democratic Party makes one major error in quietly gloating over this transformation. Social market economics is not the monopoly jurisdiction of any single party. By 2014, the Republican Party will have adjusted to political reality. Mitt Romney was its last shot in support of American exceptionalism. Both parties henceforth will become social democratic in nature. And American exceptionalism will be a historical relic.

In short, the welfare state–in this instance one driven by non-white demographic changes–is the root of legal plunder. That’s how Mr. Rowley answers Bastiat.

My response to the likes of Mr. Rowley is that the “classical liberal” model can perhaps plausibly explain one side of the equation–the rise of welfare subsistence transfer payments. But it fails miserably at explaining other things. For example, I don’t think single black mothers, stoner hippes and hispanic immigration explain a banking oligarchy, a vast, encompassing military-intelligence complex and burgeoning prison complex that makes its coin by imprisoning this said welfare underclass.

The classical libertarian position, however, can explain both things. In this sense it is a science of political economy. Unfortunately, Mr. Rowley’s position is a moral preference masquerading as a science.

Further, I would also refer to the excellent scholarship of Thaddeus Russell to undercut Rowley’s moral preference regarding the implicit superiority of white protestant work ethic culture. And I would reference the work of the classical French libertarians regarding the very definition of civilization. Civilization, one that is advancing, is marked by an increasing satisfaction of increased human wants and desires. Unfortunately, Mr. Rowley seems to share the conservative position that views civilization as a form of vice.

Finally, this business of “American Exceptionalism” that Rowley refers to. Exceptionalism literally means “exception to the rule.” In our context, this can mean either one of two things. One, the historical exception of American Legal Jurisprudence from the corrupting influence of rent-seeking on the monopoly provision of law. In other words, the actual existence of a “rule of law” immune(or relatively immune) from political rent-seeking. Or two, the very definition of immorality: exempting yourself from the moral rules that you enforce on(or expect from) others. In other words, lawlessness. The classical libertarian position views American Exceptionalism as the national morality that legitimizes and glorifies legal plunder.

Libertarianism and “classical liberalism” are not the same things…

On Holbo’s Critique of Libertarianism

Dialectics and Context. Jason Brennan posted a particularly visceral reaction to John Holbo’s critique of libertarianism. Pooping on the welcome mat of the bleeding hearts as Brennan characterized it. Devoid of any context, I would agree with Brennan’s description. But Holbo’s essay has to be considered in the relevant context. And this relevant context was Gary Chartier’s essay propounding “market means, socialist ends.”

Holbo essentially produced a variant–albeit a bit more impolite, boorish one–of the same critique I made in my previous post. What was Holbo saying? “Market means, socialist ends” is falsifiable. Logically, this can be cast as the Statement that market means is not a sufficiency condition for socialist ends. Now it may very well be the case that market means is a necessary condition for socialist ends, but necessity and sufficiency are not the same thing(as a programmer–with programming being more or less an exercise in applied boolean logic–I can say that kind of mistake is what can keep you up late at night conducting unexpected debugging sessions).

The crux of my critique was not any way a condemnation of Chartier’s ends(after all, I share much of them) but rather an observation that the insufficiency of market means for any explicit ends should give pause before engaging in a case that comes pretty close to suggesting that the market would achieve what the Just State hypothetically is supposed to achieve. Particularly when the intended audience may consist of those who ostensibly hold a strong moral commitment to egalitarian ends(so much so that the State is deemed a necessity). I don’t think libertarianism can make that strong of a case. And I think it’s right to be skeptical of any argument that purports to do so.

Now Dr. Long commented on my last post along the lines that my logic fails if generally applied. His example was that my position would exclude advocating the free market on the basis of prosperity(a utilitarian end). Well, yes and no. By definition a Justice of Mutual Advantage regime implies an agent is better off with the regime than without the regime. However, the free market is not a sufficient condition for any particular instance of a prosperity regime.

For example, in our context, “prosperity,” or the prosperity regime, implies a type of rapid technological advance, creative destruction, high economic growth one. I would argue all day long that a free market is not a sufficient condition for that type of thing. The evolutionary dynamics of markets are almost entirely a function rent-seeking. By rent-seeking I simply mean the seeking of returns on resources above opportunity costs. If the rent-seeking regime is relentless, then you have a high degree of firm hierarchy. And I’m not specifically referring to political/protectionist economic rent-seeking. Rent-seeking in general explains hierarchy. And although I’m often fond of repeating the statement that rent-seeking is rational, my inner Hayek will inform me that it nonetheless takes place in the context of the evolved rules regime, whether heuristic/spontaneous or planned(Hayek is my dialectics).

So, as a demonstration, I will point to this older article by Charles Davis that documented his observations during his time in Nicaragua. In one sense, you could label the local regime he observes as a type(an approximate one) of JMA regime. But it would probably fail our North American standard of a prosperity regime.

Frankly, some may think that this degree of skepticism makes weak sauce for liberty. But I would counter that liberty is something that has to be presumed, not demonstrated. And what makes for weak propaganda in terms of a positive case for liberty nonetheless wields a razor scalpel in eviscerating any moral claim of State authority.

So, if we return to the matter of John Holbo, I will contend that the relative weakness of demonstrating liberty in no way validates State Authority. Unlike liberty, State moral authority has to be demonstrated, not presumed. If you can’t or refuse to demonstrate it, then you are operating according to a presumption of authority. And that type of presumption undercuts pretty much the entire western legal and philosophical tradition. Holbo can babble on about “high liberalism” and “positive liberties,” but it is just babble. High Liberalism and Rawls(etc) still operate according to the liberal methodology. And liberalism–the liberal paradigm–cannot survive a government that operates on arbitrary authority. A government that arbitrarily dispenses with the magna carta(due process) and views the moral ends of every citizen a potential threat(requiring Orwellian surveillance) makes of a mockery of the so-called liberal social contract. We all know that the social contract is a fiction, but it’s abstraction of conferring hypothetical legitimacy has run its course. The only thing it demonstrates now, in the abstract, is the degree of illegitimacy of the State. if I were Holbo, I would be worried about that–particularly with respect to the problem of reform and correction. But he is not. To me, that is a demonstration that the State is his ends. And that disqualifies him as a liberal. Instead, it establishes him as a political right-winger.

Summary
————————–

Liberty is presumed, not demonstrated. Authority, on the other hand, has to be demonstrated, not presumed. The Crooked Timber sport game of invalidating libertarian claims is irrelevant. I don’t have to demonstrate liberty to invalidate their claims of authority. I can invalidate them by their own criteria(e.g, the so-called social contract). The obvious anomalies of arbitrary government power–in full evidence in a National Security State–presents a grave dilemma for liberal political theory. Authentic liberals should be seriously concerned by this. But, by and large, most who ostensibly claim that mantle, are not.

On Chartier’s Left-Libertarian Symposium Paper

A brief commentary on Gary Chartier’s published left libertarian symposium paper. Firstly, I would categorically emphasize that if the State actually served the means to the ends that Gary enumerated, then I would have to support the State. But, of course, we know the State doesn’t serve those ends, rhetoric notwithstanding. The special privilege of monopoly, which effectively exempts the State from the thing it is supposedly enforcing, is the root of an agency problem that can be laconically summarized as “yes we are all equal, but some are more equal than others.” Depending on the institutional context, this agency problem can be an entirely intractable one transcending any whiff of democratic constraint(which is how I would classify the United States).

But Chartier, I believe, takes his critique a bridge too far. While he rightly points out the failures of the State to serve as the means to his stated ends, he explicitly poses a different construct, “the freed market,” as the replacement. Now some people are fond of using that term, but it’s not one that I use. The reason I don’t use it is because there is an implicit moral end attached to it. And this goes back to the original essay written by William Gillis where it is first used. While I understand the revulsion caused by the expropriation of the term “free market,” we should nonetheless remain cognizant that the term means a market serving no moral ends. This goes back to the days of Adam Smith and the critique of mercantilism. Mercantilism, of course, is trade geared toward and serving explicit nationalist ends(today, the “new mercantilism” may be said to serve oligarchical ends). This is equivalent to protectionism. Indeed, there is a one-to-one(if and only if) logical relationship between protectionism and trade serving exclusionary ends. Each is a sufficient condition for the other. So to get to the long and short of it, you really can’t categorically say that a free market will have A,B, C but not D,E and F.

Now while Gillis’ original use of the term conveyed an implicit moral end, Chartier, I think, makes it explicit. And this perhaps delineates an important distinction between the liberal and the committed leftist. The liberal would only propose that market exchange absent protectionism likely results(or at least approximates a result) in agents with different moral ends nonetheless coordinating to mutual advantage. This gives us a regime of a Justice of Mutual Advantage. But this is a bit different from a regime satisfying explicit(usually egalitarian) moral ends outlined above.

For our hypothetical committed leftist, JMA likely is not good enough. However, I would propose that a JMA argument against the class critique of explicit moral ends is a sufficient one to make. If our “leftist” rejects it–given that the merits of the class critique are empirically obvious–it is a clear to me that the preferred end of the leftist is actually the State itself and not the ends the State is supposedly enforcing. And I would contend this exposes our hypothetical leftist for he/she actually is: a conservative.

However, by trying to substitute the agency of the market for that of the State, you essentially have subverted the entire argument. You have swung one too many punches, exposing yourself to a particularly effective undercut: namely, why the market cannot serve as the same agency as the State. The argument subtlety shifts. And it is an argument you are going to lose.

In any event, that’s my two cents…

Winning the Future

Rent-seeking is rational. The political discourse is doublethink. These two sentences succinctly summarize the likely efficacy of political action as a reform mechanism. Politics by and large serves as both the ends and means of the status quo. In this sense, democracy is not an expression of political agency. Rather, at best, it serves only as a mere constraint mechanism against said agency. But in this role, it is quite unreliable. And in the United States, it is a reliably futile mechanism.

So, given the above, let us address the recently published Reason.com articles separately making the case for either Obama, Romney or Johnson. The first two more or less are variants of “the lesser of two evils” argument. But this type of argument Res ipsa loquitur concedes the premise outlined above–namely, the futility of voting as a corrective mechanism. Unfortunately, this premise invalidates the “lesser of two evils” argument as a type of non sequitur. If voting excludes a corrective action, then there is no enforcement remedy to provide some assurance that A will indeed be less evil than B. The best case that can be concluded, as a truth statement S, is that S= (A will be less evil than B) OR ( B will be less evil than A).1 In other words, we can only be sure that one that candidate will end up less evil than the other. Which would be the less evil candidate cannot be evaluated as a truth statement(S=A(B) || B(A), we can evaluate S to be true, but we cannot evaluate the “truthfiness” of A(B) or B(A) individually). I would call this the “Present Indeterminate Inequality of Evil” argument. But this is no argument. Devine foresight is the very definition of an intractable public goods problem with respect to voting. Hence, this is no argument for rational voting.

A demonstration of this “inequality indeterminacy” is the recent Matt Stoller article in Slate that made a “progressive case for Mitt Romney” on the basis that the perception of Romney being the greater evil would serve as an “eternal vigilance” constraint of sorts against a Romney presidential agency. The lesser of two evils argument gets flipped to a greater of two evils argument.

Nick Gillespie penned a “Winning the Future” rationale for voting for Gary Johnson. The argument here is that a good showing by Johnson will finally force the GOP to abandon social conservatism in favor of a platform of live and let live. This is all predicated on David Boaz’s pipe dream of the untapped libertarian electorate begging for customer service from the GOP. Gillespie and Welch expanded on this theme with their book “Declaration of Independents” that relied on journalistic buzzword gobbledygook to somehow magically convert political competition into market competition. One would think that the noxious stench of the Chicago catastrophe of applying “efficient market” to political competition would have managed to poke through the claptrap by now, but Gillespie will have none of that.2 Instead we get something like this:

We’re not talking about some sort of radical Neal Stephenson-meets-Robert-Nozick-meets-Zardoz anarcho-capitalist scenario. Just a recognition that the federal government doesn’t have to be in on every conversation we’re having (literally and figuratively).

But here’s the problem. Every time I hear Johnson speak, the phrase “tax it and regulate it” passes from his lips. Now that’s a phrase that should never emanate from the mouth of a libertarian. And this objection is not a matter of purity. Instead, it’s a matter of coherence.

For example, take pot. There is nothing here in need of “regulation.” There is no market externality to correct. It’s a plant anyone can grow. A mutually beneficial transactional market between buyer and seller works quite regularly, thank you. But by stressing a principle of “tax it and regulate it,” you are actually conceding the authority of the State to involve itself in every affair and conversation between consenting adults.

Now one might object to the above characterization by pointing out that “tax it and regulate it” is an improvement over outright prohibition. That may or may not be. But “improvement” is a bit of a different argument than the one Gillespie is claiming above. If we let U={the set all transactions between consenting adults} and let R={the set of all such transactions the State involves itself in}, then the “improvement objection” is not one where R << U(where R is decreasing). Instead, it it more or less reduces to one where R==U, given a condition that for all r in R, we merely have less involvement by the State in r than before.

Gillespie’s incoherence only reminds me of James Poulos’ “Pink Police State” counter-argument to the intellectual faux pas the Reason crowd usually serves up. Poulos’ “Pink Police State” observation was simple(expressed in the terms outlined above). Given a condition where (1) cultural freedom is expanding and (2) political freedom is decreasing, it is inevitable that R –> U(where the State will arbitrarily involve itself in each r, meaning sometimes an increasing role, sometimes a decreasing role, but always a role). Poulos then ended with a rhetorical question: is legitimization of the Pink Police State the future of libertarianism? If we go by Reason and Gillespie, then yes it is.

A consideration of “the future” provides a nice segue to rebut the nonsensical phrase “win the future.” Simply, “win the future” is the slogan of the psychopathic class. Whatever the future may bring, it is not something to be won, as if it were a type of defined competitive end. Yes, “the future” is something that can be planned and prepared for, but in the end it is still nonetheless a series of “nows.” After all, our current present is the past future that supposedly was being won. Apparently, I missed the victory party.

If we need slogans, then I can suggest two: (1) “Carpe Libertatem” and (2) “Don’t need your fucking permission.” Both emphasize that liberty is means and not an objective or end to be achieved. “Winning the future,” however, invalidates our two worthy slogans. For it invalidates liberty as means. In our current context “winning the future” simply means subjugating yourself to authoritative means for a corrupt end premised by a promise of some vague future reward. It is a slogan that passes from the lips of psychopaths, which only goes to show that if you live among the psychopathic political class, and your objective is recognition by said class, you will eventually start to sound like them.

1 The other possibility, of course, is S evaluating to false which would imply A=B.
2 In a previous review of G & W’s book, I pointed out the problems of trying to model political competition like market competition. One thing I neglected to point out, however, in that review is that the actors in market competition that G&W are relying on are also heavily vested in political competition to actually legally restrict your menu of choices.