The Wire: The Sixth Season

Of course, HBO’s “The Wire” only lasted 5 seasons, but David Simon’s post romp as public intellectual to the chattering opinion classes suggests a sixth season: how a paunchy middle class white dude pimped the stories of the Baltimore city streets to a life of wealth, fame and self-appointed status as a de facto translator of black America to the progressive vanguard.

But rest assured, what Simon is saying now—government is just “us” and it’s failings are to be blamed on lack of institutional trust fueled by the evil designs of libertarianism–is not what he said on The Wire.

Granted, what he is saying now may make him the toast of the town on social media and the Washington cocktail circuit, but that jive bullshit would have never been green lighted for television, much less becoming a cult cultural phenomenon, even to the point that it’s sociological lessons are now taught for university course credit. Of course, without the fame of The Wire, no one would care to toast Simon on Twitter or in the halls of the Roosevelt Institute, and he would be just another obscure casualty of a Baltimore Sun layoff.

Then again, perhaps a 6th season of The Wire would be redundant. After all, its lesson would be the same as the first five. Institutions serve themselves and the people who work within them invariably serve the institutions. The Wire’s terminal conclusion was that life simply goes on.

Hillary vs Jeb

The artistry of American democracy…Its first and only rule: the degree of vitriol and exaggerated importance is inversely proportional to the differences between the candidates. From such a principle we can infer that Hillary vs Hillary would be the most contentious campaign in US history. Instead, we will simply have to make due with the titanic struggle between vs…

Political Science

Political science is not moralizing. It is not liturgical recitation from sunday school scripture. Nor is it mere statistical interpolation of voting patterns to predict elections. Predicting elections may be a type of science but there may be a more fundamental science to be had if the outcome repeatedly proves irrelevant to the policies enacted or enforced.

Political science, like all sciences, applies a specific methodology(the scientific method) to explain and predict rational patterns within a specific domain of study. In this case, the specific domain of study is the organization and exercise of political power. There may be some that try to divine a type of justice that animates such an organization of power, but such musings preponderate on the side of prescription(“the ought”) and not description(“the is”). Hence, they are the stuff of political church, not science.

In a previous post,The FBI pwns you, I gave an assessment of an observed phenomenon of state security organs defeating network layer obfuscation. The official explanation claimed only innocuous investigative exploitation of “criminal stupidity.” I, however, offered a competing explanation: the FBI was resorting to application layer exploits to thwart network(IP layer) anonymity. I then advanced a prediction: the FBI and other organs of state security are seeking to bundle application layer exploits under an extended legalized wiretapping regime.

Recently, from Boing Boing FBI secretly seeking legal power to hack any computer, anywhere:

But under the proposed amendment, a judge can issue a warrant that would allow the FBI to hack into any computer, no matter where it is located. The change is designed specifically to help federal investigators carry out surveillance on computers that have been “anonymized” – that is, their location has been hidden using tools such as Tor.

The amendment inserts a clause that would allow a judge to issue warrants to gain “remote access” to computers “located within or outside that district” (emphasis added) in cases in which the “district where the media or information is located has been concealed through technological means”. The expanded powers to stray across district boundaries would apply to any criminal investigation, not just to terrorist cases as at present.

Were the amendment to be granted by the regulatory committee, the FBI would have the green light to unleash its capabilities – known as “network investigative techniques” – on computers across America and beyond. The techniques involve clandestinely installing malicious software, or malware, onto a computer that in turn allows federal agents effectively to control the machine, downloading all its digital contents, switching its camera or microphone on or off, and even taking over other computers in its network

Note, I also offered a corollary to the prediction: the extended wiretapping regime would effectively allow unfalsifiable data laundering from the NSA’s three-hop graphical dragnet. If the “wiretap” failed, the likes of the FBI could make a request up the “corporate intelligence ladder” to the NSA for the mother of all wiretaps: the 3-hop graphical dragnet. The information gleaned from that data could be “reversed-engineered” to fall within the “legal wiretap.” Once the network devices are seized, it is trivial to ex post facto plant a “vulnerability profile” that would “launder” the evidence collection. From a forensics standpoint, it would be difficult to falsify such after-the-fact subterfuge. The only circumvention of this totalitarian “law enforcement technique” would be to have redundant snapshots of the devices in question outside the jurisdiction of any one intervening authority. If the FBI could seize the device but couldn’t get all the redundant snapshots, then a comparative forensic analysis could take place that would expose the subterfuge.

Now, in these two little posts of mine we have seen an actual example of political science. An observed phenomenon: an explanation of the phenomenon, a prediction, a confirmation of the prediction, a prediction corollary that demonstrates the importance of jurisdictional differentiation to stymie the totalitarian pattern of exercised political power.

Of course, for my statement to be a scientific statement, the statement itself has to be subject to falsification. But who is going to falsify it? The political scientists? Let me know when you actually find one…1

1 Death of the Liberal Paradigm

Pravda, Inc.

Back in 2010, the subject matter of this recent American Conservative article, Our American Pravda, was a dominant theme of my blog. Just compare, for example, my deconstruction at the time of Christine O’Donnell,Andrew Codevilla & the Country Class with the last part of Unz’s article. Frankly, I had no idea who Boris Berezovsky was(apparently, Boris Yeltsin’s puppet master), but his idea of exporting the fake American two-party political model to Russia as means to sustain a bloodless Russian oligarchy was, unfortunately, spot on. Numerous times I laid out the working mechanics of the American culture war–precisely how it negates and thwarts any possible challenge to the status quo–but perhaps my aforementioned linked post was the best and most concise explanation of it. But I’m just making a straight-forward application of Orwell. Mr. Orwell’s work gave us the socialist version. You just have to tweak it a bit to apply it to our present-day capitalist version.

Often is said that we as Americans are the most heavily propagandized people in the history of civilization. But the distinguishing factor of our propaganda is that we actually believe it. The difference between Pravda and Pravda, Inc is that under the Soviet Pravda model, when the walls came down, the people cheered their destruction. But under Pravda, Inc, if our walls came tumbling down, we would dress in sackcloth and ashes and mourn our eternal intent to rebuild the damn things. Pravda, Inc. demonstrates the most virulent form of social control is that which is propagated by the illusion of choice.

Will the US Government Attempt to Extradite Julian Assange?

What’s the most libertarian-oriented network that broadcasts in the United States today? The answer is Russia Today. But the Russian regime is hardly any exemplar of libertarianism. Quite the opposite, actually. Indeed, the brute characteristics of the Russian regime has led some conservative commentators to denounce RT as an insidious propaganda tool against the US. But the propaganda directed against the US is actually true.

No doubt, if we had MSNBC-Russia or Fox-Russia, specifically broadcasting to a Russian audience, those network subsidiaries would be very libertarian-oriented. They would be continuously informing the Russian public about the hypocrisy and crimes of the Russian regime. Russian nationalists and patriots would accuse those networks as being agents of seditious propaganda. But the propaganda would be true, nonetheless.

But, of course, we know that MSNBC and Fox are slavish legitimizers of their own regimes. Likewise, we know RT is not in the business of de-legitimizing Putin.

So what we have is an example of hacking plutocracy. And we know it is hackable because the plutocrats are busy trying to hack it themselves. This political “hackability” of plutocracy is really the strategic basis of the whole document-sourced journalism concept. I discussed this dynamic in a whole series posts back in 2010. The intent of Julian Assange(who, of course, I don’t know personally, so I can only divine intent from his writings, statements, and actions) was to use document-source journalism as a means to put governments in a type of liberal political competition(Assange most definitely is a liberal in the philosophic sense). But any “liberal outcome” would be a consequence of a political dynamic and not a legal one. As I wrote in my old post, The Revolutionary as Entrepreneur :

The political hack is not so much cherry-picking laws from jurisdictions to create some sort of international tapestry of legal protection outside the jurisdiction of any one State, but rather more of a hack of playing competing legal jurisdictions off one another to protect itself from ex post legal interpretations or legal changes for prosecution by any one jurisdiction. This makes it more of a political hack than a legal hack.

Certainly, Assanges’s current appeal to Ecuador for political asylum is an example of this. Ecuador itself is hardly a liberal(legally speaking) paradigm.

But we do have to express some disappointment that “document-sourced journalism” has seemingly been stalled. Our friends at CNN are only glad to give us a synopsis why: See yourself as the next Assange? Good luck. I would offer up my own summary that in part dovetails with the CNN one.

(i) the US and The Western Global Financial System will cut off any legal avenue for the necessary financial means to support any viable document-sourced journalism operation

(ii) As a result of (i), the contextual expertise needed to sift through the (often massive) leaked documents largely can only be found with vertically integrated corporate structures subject to same problem of (i). That is, individual agents can execute a political hack sans a legal one, but vertically integrated global corporations cannot. Hence, our global corporate media agents now are dropping their planned entrance into this space.

(iii) individual agents can perhaps hack a political defense against “political charges” but the political hack may very dissipate if the charges are “sex crimes.” This, by the way, is hardly paranoia or conspiracy theory. George Orwell, who I consider the greatest political commentator of the 20th century, laid it out very clearly that accusation of sexual pathology was Standard Operating Procedure by the regime against “enemies of the State.”

The summary of the summary is this: politics may be hackable but capital is not. Politics is plutocratic but capital has become largely oligarchical. Simply, if someone like Assange cannot be charged legally with a “crime against the State,” but Wkileaks nonetheless can be cut off from the Global financial banking system, then this is exhibit A of a definition of oligarchy of capital. Not only is Capitalism been severed as a necessary condition for political freedom, but Assange and Wikileaks threaten to demonstrate that Capitalism is converging to a sufficient condition for a denial of political freedom. You doubt this? Well, simply read this recent editorial by the Washington Post that advocates a proper course of action if Ecuador grants Assange political asylum: revoke Ecuador’s “free trade” status.

Simply, if the oligarchy of capital is sufficient to stall out document-sourced journalism, then we shouldn’t expect an extradition of Assange by the US Government. Frankly, that would be stupid because it would be exactly that kind of outrageous politically motivated action that could spur DSJ back into major play. If the US was going to charge Assange with a “legal crime,” they could have already done so and extradited him directly from the UK.

For those who continue to put capitalism at the root of political legitimization, the case of Assange and Wikileaks should serve as a cautionary counter-factual of why that position may need to be re-evaluated.


As a side note, I would like to extend my congratulations to Michael Moynihan for his current gig with the Washington Post. A “libertarian” writer I would most associate with de-legitimizing ” western dissidents,” and a media organization that perhaps best represents the “capitalist” version of the Kremlin is a very predictable thing to behold. Onward “golden age…”

Roberts Affirms the Total State Model

Yesterday, the Roberts court affirmed the Obama defense of the so-called “Affordable Care Act.” To me, it is not a particularly surprising result. Two years ago, I noted that the Obama Admin’s principal argument relied on the classification of the mandate as a tax and that the legislation–all 2000 pages plus–was carefully crafted to categorize any penalty as an excise tax. As I wrote at the time, Obama–his “socialist” caricature notwithstanding–wasn’t arguing the case by making appeals to the Communist Manifesto. He was merely relying on past American constitutional precedent. He had “the firm’s” legal team carefully draft the new rules of the health care political economy to pass compliance strictly with the firm’s monopoly power to tax.

And it passed the compliance test. Indeed, John Roberts used this decision to affirm the role of his court to be the adjudicators of compliance and not the arbiters of constraint. Really, the judiciary is the only possible monkey wrench in a model of total government by political competition/rent-seeking. Yesterday, Roberts proclaimed that the role of the judiciary is not to save us from democracy, which, of course, means “the firm.”

We simply pose a simple question to Mr. Roberts: who wrote that 2000 page piece of legislation? Who could compose an entire model of political economy from the mere power to tax in a fully “compliant” manner. Justice ain’t that blind, sir….

Incredibly, there are some so-called libertarians who are hailing this decision as a bulwark against the future regulatory State because of some speculative nonsense that Roberts has now taken the “commerce clause” off the table. Sheeeeyyyyyytttttt. The regulatory state ultimately derives from the power to tax. The Firm more or less is the regulatory state. It is not going anywhere.

Let us dispense with the romance and the delusion. Politics is a rent-seeking game. Richard Posner and the Chicago School had it wrong. It is not a game where nothing is being redistributed, that is, where outlays = rents. Tullock and the Virginia School have the better model but resorted to a ridiculous “inefficient market hypothesis” to try to save liberalism in a public choice context when it became apparent that rents >> outlays. Tullock, himself, in explaining why he couldn’t convert to the libertarianism, more or less admitted that he simply preferred the blue pill to the red pill–he was too married to the institutionalism he was critiquing to defect.

If we accept that firms can arise in a “free market” of horizontal trading partners because a hierarchy of economic governance can sometimes prove to maximize economic rents relative to a regime of horizontal trading partners–as a consequence of the frictional costs of bargaining–we have to accept the reality of “firms” in political competition. It is indefensible to hold a position of firms as a consequence of economic rent-seeking in a free market but no firms as a consequence of rent-seeking in political competition. Yes, we can think of political parties as “firms,” but the actual firm is the State.

Today we know(or we should know) that Madisonian Democracy is a horribly flawed political concept. The idea that high institutional frictional costs constrain political competition/rent-seeking is just wrong. On the contrary, the high institutional transaction costs are what actually guarantee the emergence of “the Firm.” Equal competitive agents(“gangs”) fighting over rents in a highly frictional environment can be literally infinitely wasteful. To avoid this, you thus have a type of hierarchical, economic governance that emerges–the Firm.

John Roberts, “evil genius,” I think not. I think the evil geniuses are these libertarian think tanks and mags that keep propagandizing “proper role of government,” “limited government,” and demonstrate infinite capacity to find “silver linings” in libertarian-conservative fusionism. You doubt the “State as Firm?” Well, sometimes you just have to actually give a demonstration of the empirical reality. Below is just the “legislative component” of “the Firm.” Do you see any silver linings, any evidence of limited government, any evidence that it matters one fuck whether it is the monopoly power to tax or to “regulate” regarding the ends of our Firm?

The House Legislative Component of The Firm

Committee Chairperson Ranking Member
Agriculture Frank Lucas (R-OK) Collin C. Peterson (D-MN)
Conservation, Energy, and Forestry Glenn Thompson (R-PA) Tim Holden (D-PA)
Department Operations, Oversight, and Credit Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Mike Conaway (R-TX) Leonard Boswell (D-IA)
Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Tom Rooney (R-FL) Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)
Nutrition and Horticulture Jean Schmidt (R-OH) Joe Baca (D-CA)
Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture Timothy V. Johnson (R-IL) Jim Costa (D-CA)
Appropriations Hal Rogers (R-KY) Norm Dicks (D-WA)
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Jack Kingston (R-GA) Sam Farr (D-CA)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Frank Wolf (R-VA) Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
Defense Bill Young (R-FL) Norm Dicks (D-WA)
Energy and Water Development Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) Pete Visclosky (D-IN)
Financial Services and General Government Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) José Serrano (D-NY)
Homeland Security Robert Aderholt (R-AL) David Price (D-NC)
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Mike Simpson (R-ID) Jim Moran (D-VA)
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Denny Rehberg (R-MT) Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Legislative Branch Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) Mike Honda (D-CA)
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies John Culberson (R-TX) Sanford Bishop (D-GA)
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Kay Granger (R-TX) Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Tom Latham (R-IA) John Olver (D-MA)
Armed Services Buck McKeon (R-CA) Adam Smith (D-WA)
Emerging Threats and Capabilities Mac Thornberry (R-TX) Jim Langevin, (D-RI)
Military Personnel Joe Wilson (R-SC) Susan Davis (D-CA)
Oversight and Investigations Rob Wittman (R-VA) Jim Cooper (D-TN)
Readiness Randy Forbes (R-VA) Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU)
Seapower and Projection Forces Todd Akin (R-MO) Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
Strategic Forces Mike Turner (R-OH) Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)
Tactical Air and Land Forces Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) Silvestre Reyes (D-TX)
Budget Paul Ryan (R-WI) Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Education and the Workforce John Kline (R-MN) George Miller (D-CA)
Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) Dale Kildee (D-MI)
Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Phil Roe (R-TN) Rob Andrews (D-NJ)
Higher Education and Workforce Training Virginia Foxx (R-NC) Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX)
Workforce Protections Tim Walberg (R-MI) Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
Energy and Commerce Fred Upton (R-MI) Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) G. K. Butterfield (D-NC)
Communications and Technology Greg Walden (R-OR) Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
Energy and Power Ed Whitfield (R-KY) Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Environment and the Economy John Shimkus (R-IL) Gene Green (D-TX)
Health Joe Pitts (R-PA) Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Oversight and Investigations Cliff Stearns (R-FL) Diana DeGette (D-CO)
Ethics Jo Bonner (R-AL) Linda Sánchez (D-CA)
Financial Services Spencer Bachus (R-AL) Barney Frank (D-MA)
Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises Scott Garrett (R-NJ) Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology Ron Paul (R-TX) William Clay, Jr. (D-MO)
Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)
Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity Judy Biggert (R-IL) Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)
International Monetary Policy and Trade Gary Miller (R-CA) Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)
Oversight and Investigations Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) Michael Capuano (D-MA)
Foreign Affairs Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Howard Berman (D-CA)
Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Chris Smith (R-NJ) Karen Bass (D-CA)
Asia and the Pacific Donald A. Manzullo (R-IL) Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS)
Europe and Eurasia Dan Burton (R-IN) Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
Middle East and South Asia Steve Chabot (R-OH) Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
Oversight and Investigations Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) Russ Carnahan (D-MO)
Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Ed Royce (R-CA) Brad Sherman (D-CA)
Western Hemisphere Connie Mack IV (R-FL) Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Homeland Security Peter T. King (R-NY) Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
Border and Maritime Security Candice Miller (R-MI) Henry Cuellar (D-TX)
Counterterrorism and Intelligence Pat Meehan (R-PA) Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies Dan Lungren (R-CA) Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) Laura Richardson (D-CA)
Oversight, Investigations, and Management Michael McCaul (R-TX) William R. Keating (D-MA)
Transportation Security Mike D. Rogers (R-AL) Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
House Administration Dan Lungren (R-CA) Bob Brady (D-PA)
Oversight Phil Gingrey (R-GA) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Elections Gregg Harper (R-MS) Bob Brady (D-PA)
Judiciary Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) John Conyers (D-MI)
Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law Howard Coble (R-NC) Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Constitution Trent Franks (R-AZ) Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) Mel Watt (D-NC)
Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) Bobby Scott (D-VA)
Immigration Policy and Enforcement Elton Gallegly (R-CA) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Natural Resources Doc Hastings (R-WA) Ed Markey (D-MA)
Energy and Mineral Resources Doug Lamborn (R-CO) Rush D. Holt (D-NJ)
Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs John Fleming (R-LA) Gregorio Sablan (D-MP)
Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Don Young (R-AK) Ben R. Luján (D-NM)
National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Rob Bishop (R-UT) Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
Water and Power Tom McClintock (R-CA) Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Oversight and Government Reform Darrell Issa (R-CA) Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy Dennis A. Ross (R-FL) Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management Todd Platts (R-PA) Ed Towns (D-NY)
Health Care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives Trey Gowdy (R-SC) Danny K. Davis (D-IL)
National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) John F. Tierney (D-MA)
Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending Jim Jordan (R-OH) Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs Patrick McHenry (R-NC) Michael Quigley (D-IL)
Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform James Lankford (R-OK) Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Rules David Dreier (R-CA) Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Legislative and Budget Process Pete Sessions (R-TX) Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Rules and the Organization of the House Rich Nugent (R-FL) Jim McGovern (D-MA)
Science, Space and Technology Ralph Hall (R-TX) Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
Space and Aeronautics Steven Palazzo (R-MS) Jerry Costello (D-IL)
Technology and Innovation Ben Quayle (R-AZ) Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Research and Science Education Mo Brooks (R-AL) Dan Lipinski (D-IL)
Investigations and Oversight Paul Broun (R-GA) Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Energy and Environment Andy Harris (R-MD) Brad Miller (D-NC)
Small Business Sam Graves (R-MO) Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Agriculture, Energy and Trade Scott Tipton (R-CO) Mark Critz (D-PA)
Healthcare and Technology Renee Ellmers (R-NC) Cedric Richmond (D-LA)
Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access Joe Walsh (R-IL) Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Contracting and Workforce Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) Judy Chu (D-CA)
Investigations, Oversight and Regulations Mike Coffman (R-CO) Jason Altmire (D-PA)
Transportation and Infrastructure John Mica (R-FL) Nick Rahall (D-WV)
Aviation Thomas Petri (R-WI) Jerry Costello (D-IL)
Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) Rick Larsen (D-WA)
Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Jeff Denham (R-CA) Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Highways and Transit John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Bill Shuster (R-PA) Corrine Brown (D-FL)
Water Resources and Environment Bob Gibbs (R-OH) Tim Bishop (D-NY)
Veterans’ Affairs Jeff Miller (R-FL) Bob Filner (D-CA)
Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Jon Runyan (R-NJ) Jerry McNerney (D-CA)
Economic Opportunity Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) Bruce Braley (D-IA)
Health Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) Mike Michaud (D-ME)
Oversight and Investigations Bill Johnson (R-OH) Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Ways and Means Dave Camp (R-MI) Sander Levin (D-MI)
Health Wally Herger (R-CA) Pete Stark (D-CA)
Human Resources Geoff Davis (R-KY) Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Oversight Charles Boustany (R-LA) John Lewis (D-GA)
Select Revenue Measures Pat Tiberi (R-OH) Richard Neal (D-MA)
Social Security Sam Johnson (R-TX) Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Trade Kevin Brady (R-TX) Jim McDermott (D-WA)

The Senate Legislative Component of The Firm

Committee Chairman Ranking Member
Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry (5) Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Commodities, Markets, Trade and Risk Management Ben Nelson (D-NE) Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources Michael Bennet (D-CO) John Boozman (R-AR)
Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation Sherrod Brown (D-OH) John Thune (R-SD)
Livestock, Dairy, Poultry, Marketing and Agriculture Security Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Food and Agricultural Research Bob Casey (D-PA) Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Appropriations (12) Daniel Inouye (D-HI) Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Herb Kohl (D-WI) Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Defense Daniel Inouye (D-HI) Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Energy and Water Development Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Financial Services and General Government Richard Durbin (D-IL) Jerry Moran (R-KA)
Homeland Security Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Dan Coats (R-IN)
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Jack Reed (D-RI) Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Tom Harkin (D-IA) Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Legislative Branch Ben Nelson (D-NE) John Hoeven (R-ND)
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Tim Johnson (D-SD) Mark Kirk (R-IL)
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Patty Murray (D-WA) Susan Collins (R-ME)
Armed Services (6) Carl Levin (D-MI) John McCain (R-AZ)
Airland Joe Lieberman (I-CT) Scott Brown (R-MA)
Emerging Threats and Capabilities Kay Hagan (D-NC) Rob Portman (R-OH)
Personnel Jim Webb (D-VA) Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Readiness and Management Support Claire McCaskill (D-MO) Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
SeaPower Jack Reed (D-RI) Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Strategic Forces Ben Nelson (D-NE) Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (5) Tim Johnson (D-SD) Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Economic Policy Jon Tester (D-MT) David Vitter (R-LA)
Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Bob Corker (R-TN)
Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Securities, Insurance, and Investment Jack Reed (D-RI) Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Security and International Trade and Finance Mark Warner (D-VA) Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Budget Kent Conrad (D-ND) Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Commerce, Science and Transportation (7) Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Maria Cantwell (D-WA) John Thune (R-SD)
Communications, Technology, and the Internet John Kerry (D-MA) Jim DeMint (R-SC)
Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Roy Blunt (R-MO)
Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Mark Pryor (D-AR) Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Mark Begich (D-AK) Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Science and Space Bill Nelson (D-FL) John Boozman (R-AR)
Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Energy and Natural Resources (4) Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Energy Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Jim Risch (R-ID)
National Parks Mark Udall (D-CO) Richard Burr (R-NC)
Public Lands and Forests Ron Wyden (D-OR) John Barrasso (R-WY)
Water and Power Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Mike Lee (R-UT)
Environment and Public Works (7) Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Tom Carper (D-DE) John Barrasso (R-LA)
Green Jobs and the New Economy Bernie Sanders (I-VT) John Boozman (R-AR)
Oversight Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Transportation and Infrastructure Max Baucus (D-MT) David Vitter (R-LA)
Water and Wildlife Ben Cardin (D-MD) Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Finance (6) Max Baucus (D-MT) Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) John Cornyn (R-TX)
Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth Bill Nelson (D-FL) Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Health Care Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness Ron Wyden (D-OR) John Thune (R-SD)
Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Taxation and IRS Oversight Kent Conrad (D-ND) Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Foreign Relations (7) John Kerry (D-MA) Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics Affairs Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) Jim Risch (R-ID)
African Affairs Chris Coons (D-DE) Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
East Asian and Pacific Affairs Jim Webb (D-VA) James Inhofe (R-OK)
International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Jim DeMint (R-SC)
European Affairs Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) John Barrasso (R-WY)
International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection Ben Cardin (D-MD) Bob Corker (R-TN)
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (3) Tom Harkin (D-IA) Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Subcommittee on Children and Families Patty Murray (D-WA) Richard Burr (R-NC)
Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Rand Paul (R-KY)
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (5) Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) Susan Collins (R-ME)
Contracting Oversight (Ad Hoc) Claire McCaskill (D-MO) Rob Portman (R-OH)
Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs (Ad Hoc) Mark Pryor (D-AR) Rand Paul (R-KY)
Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security Thomas Carper (D-DE) Scott Brown (R-MA)
Investigations (Permanent) Carl Levin (D-MI) Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Daniel Akaka (D-HI) Ron Johnson (R-WI)
Judiciary (6) Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Administrative Oversight and the Courts Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Herb Kohl (D-WI) Mike Lee (R-UT)
The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Dick Durbin (D-IL) Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Crime and Terrorism Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Immigration, Refugees and Border Security Chuck Schumer (D-NY) John Cornyn (R-TX)
Privacy, Technology and the Law Al Franken (D-MN) Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Rules and Administration Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Small Business and Entrepreneurship Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Veterans’ Affairs Patty Murray (D-WA) Richard Burr (R-NC)

The Social Justice of a Police State

Fareed Zakaria recently published a piece, Incarceration Nation, that points out there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America – more than 6 million – than were in the Soviet Gulag Archipelago at its height. The imprisonment rate in the US is approaching 1 per 100 which is generally an order of magnitude greater than the other western-styled democracies around the globe. Zakaria notes that this gap between the US and the rest of the world is relatively recent phenomenon. Thirty years ago, at the start of the so-called “Reagan Revolution,” the US incarceration rate, though at the outer bounds, was nonetheless in line with other civilized democracies. Since then, however, the US incarceration rate has more than quintupled.

I mention the Zakaria article because it offers a relevant contextual backdrop to this recent Cato Unbound essay, A Bleeding Heart History of Libertarianism, by Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi. Both of these authors are academics involved in the so-called “Bleeding Heart Libertarian Project” to marry distributive justice to libertarian political theory. The preferrred distributive justice paradigm is the Rawlsian one. The intent of their essay is to demonstrate the compatiblity of this paradigm with a historical weaving of the (classical) liberal tradition. The corollary is that libertarianism, as typically defined, is a departure from this tradition. It is proposed then that a sympathetic adaptation of Rawls will right the course of a proper libertarian political theory.

Frankly, I would not dispute the primary thrust of the essay: that a “non-bleeding heart libertarianism” is a departure from liberalism. I would qualify this agreement by noting that a “non-bleeding heart libertarianism” is not a modern development. Historically, libertarianism is rooted in a rejection of any normative social contract rationale for obedience to the State. Of course, we are talking about a different history than the highly selective one outlined by Zwolinski and Tomasi. However, it is not my intention to adjudicate libertarian history in this post. I’ve previously given my account of this history here and here. Instead, I will only point out there is a reason why libertarianism departs from liberalism: namely, because liberalism inherently violates its own constraints regarding the artificiality of the State and politics. By artificiality, we mean the State is not supposed to become the source of government. At the very least, the State should avoid the evolutionary equilibrium of becoming the total source of government(i.e., a Police State). However, Zwolinski and Tomasi’s essay demonstrates how easily distributive justice can legitimize a police state and provides yet another example of bleeding hearts not exactly bleeding for everyone.

The Zwolinski and Tomasi essay begins with an erroneous, straw-man premise:

To the extent that respect for property leaves some individuals poor and destitute, individuals might be called by a sense of charity and beneficence to respond. But the moral justification of free market institutions is logically independent from any claims about the effects of those institutions on the material holdings of the poor.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Zwolinski and Tomasi mischaracterize the libertarian principle. Enforceable moral claims of any property rights regime are not independent of the material holdings of agents. Indeed, the libertarian principle is actually a moral constraint against property rights regimes. If agents are worse off under the regime than they would be without the regime, then there is no moral obligation to obey the regime. This moral constraint illuminates an essential distinction between libertarians and progressives. Libertarians are not intererested in distributive justice correcting unjust regimes. The correction is the abolition of these regimes. I would argue the classical libertarian position–if we were to,say, follow Bastiat–is that any property rights regime that requires distributive justice to retain legitimacy is probably corrupt. Following Bastiat, we would identify distributive justice as a form of bribery against defection. I would add that these bribes are much more directed at the “middle class” than the so-called poor. Thus, we can expect the so-called “social safety net” to largely consist of an array of middle-class subsidies and not a device or thing designed to minimize a worst-case condition.

Zwolinski and Tomasi identify Rawlsian justice as the “gold standard” of contemporary social justice. But as I havepreviously discussed, Rawls later modified his methodological approach to defend his principles of justice. David Friedman, in his critique of Zwolinksi and Tomasi provides a clue to the problem with Rawls’ original approach. Writes Friedman:

And one implication of that version, taken as literally as I have been taking the natural rights alternative, is that it is better to have a world where everyone is at a utility level of a hundred than a world with one person at ninety-nine and everyone else at a thousand. I have never yet been able to figure out why anyone takes either the derivation or the conclusion seriously.

The answer to Friedman’s criticism is that Rawls’ formulation was actually challenged. In particular, John Harsanyi’s “originalist position” maximized aggregate utility(straight utilitarian). Indeed, Harsanyi’s version exposed the problem with the “Veil of Ignorance” as a normative construct: it lacked a plausible risk aversion model. Rawls’ “Maxmin” version is equivalent to infinite risk aversion. Harsanyi’s “max utilitarian” is equivalent to zero risk aversion. Neither infinite nor zero risk aversion is plausible. The VOI instrument has to establish the appropriate level of risk aversion in the original position that falls somewhere between zero and infinity. Obviously, then, the VOI does not yield unique solutions and thus loses its normative power.

Friedman’s primary criticism of Zwolinski and Tomasi is that the Rawlsian conception doesn’t actually link to the historical utilitarian foundations of “classical liberalism.” But John Harsanyi’s formulation directly casts the Originalist Position in such utilitarian terms. And it is this utilitarian casting which more or less demonstrated that the normative foundation of Rawls’ theory was built over a house of cards.

Rawl’s modified approach to his theory of justice was developed in his later book, “Political Liberalism.” Political Liberalism more or less concedes the lack of a rational foundation for a unanimity regarding hypothetical justice principles. Political liberalism is an explicit shift from the rational to the “reasonable,” a shift from justice as “moral” to justice as “political.” It is here that Rawls lays out the ideas of the “overlapping consensus” and “Public Reason.” The government stays neutral between competing moral foundations. Justice is a “political product” defined by the overlapping consensus of moral dialogue. Reasonable discussion is supposed to validate Rawls’ principles of justice. In practice, however, it merely roots justice in the cultural war. So, the gold standard of contemporary social justice turns out to be the overlapping consensus between Rush Limbaugh and Daily Kos. This, of course, is a farce. But it only points out the inherent flaw of “Public Reason.” Public Reason has nothing to with liberal justice; instead it is entirely rooted in a communitarian war over “recognition.”

The Zwolinski/Tomasi essay makes it clear that “recognition” plays an important in who “qualifies” for justice. They propose a rather high barrier of entry to qualify for being “poor.” Evidently, “Poor” excludes the social rift-raft and the unemployed. To be properly poor means to be employed. But this is a silly and obviously artificial exclusionary construction. An obvious solution to maximize the condition of our properly defined “poor” would be to simply to maximize the barrier of entry to qualify to work. A “social justice claim” reduces to a protectionist claim, which is often the case. This type of protectionism becomes particularly insidious when you consider that who is legally “recognized” to work in a National Security State becomes a matter of public debate of an overlapping consensus between Rush Limbaugh and Daily Kos. This is hardly justice; rather, it’s a moral perversion.

In the past I have discussed the concept of the “Pink Police State.” The Pink Police State, like all police states, delineates a clear demarcation of privilege between the professional classes and those who are shit out of luck in terms of inclusion in the club. In other words, it is “the illegals,” the scapegoats, and the “unrecognized” who take the full brunt of a police state. It breeds a permanent underclass. The Pink Police State, however, is a type of classification that likely portends a flourishing recognition of a “libertarian” professional class. This professional class will spare no opportunity to equate unprecedented recognition with an unprecedented condition of human liberty. And the primary aim of this community will be recognition, not justice(or reform). In this vein, the Bleeding Heart Libertarian Project simply appears to be an exercise in professional recognition. It is difficult to take seriously claims of distributive justice in a police state, particularly if the “bleeding heart” concern for the poor excludes the very victims of this police state. But this is exactly how a professional class can babble about social justice in an underlying context marked by an unprecedented political economy of a prison industrial complex.

The West is accustomed to regarding “Police States” as restricted to non-democratic states, but “voting” has nothing to do with its definition. The definition is as follows: (1) undue restrictions on the freedom of mobility, the freedom of transactions, the freedom to work (2) perverse rates of domestic incarceration (3) system-wide domestic surveillance organs engaged in domestic spying in all aspects of the social, economic and political life of its citizens. The makeup of these organs will usually entail some degree of a secret police and an unaccountable intelligence complex (4) the militarization of the borders (5) an arbitrary distinction between law and the exercise of power by the executive agency (6) a militarization or para-militarization of “law enforcement” (7) a social context where the government actively propagandizes a permanent enemy, a permanent threat, a permanent war (8) a social context that glorifies the organs of authority, “the men and women in uniform.”

The United States is a Police State. And the Pink Police State that will be its social justice…

The Irrationality of Politics

I apply a Public Choice methodology to model politics. Public Choice provides a positive, microeconomic model for the political process of redistribution. The essential dynamic of the model can be reduced to a government market for purchasing legal recognition as means to secure economic rents. In the literature this is referred to as “rent-seeking.” The academic literature studies the effects and consequences of “rent-seeking” on the the liberal democratic model.

It is, however, a mistake to view the Public Choice model as “libertarian.” It is a methodological approach. Typically, in the literature, it is one particularly concerned with reconciling rent seeking with the liberal rule of law. The public choice methodological route to the libertarian position is to demonstrate that the rent seeking becomes the source of the decision-making rules. By decision-making rules, we mean super-majoritarian “constitutional constraints.” This result essentially means that the rent-seeking becomes the source of the so-called “social contract.” In terms of Buchanan and Tullock, we would call this condition the union of the protective and redistributive state. Both Buchanan and Tullock, as liberals, would view this equilibrium condition as anamolous. However, the libertarian views this equilibrium condition as likely and expected.

This union of the protective and redistributive state leads us back to classical libertarian class analysis born from the more radical French liberal tradition. The primary insight from this tradition is law not as an instrument of justice, but of plunder. Bastiat clearly wrote, in such as essays as “The Law,” what we should expect in this equilibrium condition of law as plunder. We should expect a moral framework to legitimize it. We should expect that anyone who dares to doubt the morality of these institutions to be deemed a subversive or a dangerous utopian. Today, we can expect the label “racist” to defintely be thrown in. If you dare to engage in public discourse, you will find youself up against an organized machinery fully vested in the political economy of the status quo. If there exists a law which sanctions slavery or monopoly, it must not be mentioned. Still further, as Bastait wrote, morality and political economy must be taught from the point of view of such laws. Finally, a particularly tragic side effect of this plunder equilibrium condition is exaggerated importance given to political passions and conflicts, and to politics in general.

Our positive(as opposed to normative) model provides us with a critical framework to examine our modern context. “American Exceptionalism” is a moral framework for legal plunder. The exaggeration of political conflict can become no more absurd than Newt Gingrich’s recent proclamation concerning the presidential election: “this capaign will come down to american exceptionalism against saul alinsky radicalism.” The absurdity lies in the positive fact that anyone who actually challenges the moral framework of american exceptionalism is effectively disqualified from becoming a “viable candidate.” The more effective the exclusion, the more exaggerated the political dialogue becomes, with opponents casting each other as extremist threats to the “consented” moral framework. Of course, neither political candidate denies the moral framework nor is either candidate in any way a challenge to the status quo. Both are heavily financed by the same institutional sectors. Indeed, we can almost predict an inverse mathematical relationship between the policy differences of the candidates, represented by quantity Δp, and the likelihood of the political dialogue being cast in the exaggerated, doublethink vocabulary of the cultural war.

The positive model of the microeconomic foundations of politics describes a rational process. Rent-seeking is rational. The positive model for irrationality relates directly to the rationality of democratic action–for example, voting–challenging the systematic bias of an institutionalized moral framework of something like American Exceptionalism. The traditional Public Choice model of rational ignorance pits the public goods problem of an informed general voter against self-interested politicians, bureaucrats, and rent-seeking minority interests. But this traditional model is rooted in an assumption of an equilibrium condition that does not violate liberal constraints. If, however, our equilibrium condition is the “anamolous one,” that is, the union of the protective and redistributive state, then our rationality problem regarding democratic action now must contend with the problem of institutionalized systemic bias.

Rationality and Bias

The failure of rent-seeking to conform to the expectations of the rational model(Tullock) led Bryan Caplan, for example, to formulate an alternative microeconomic rent-seeking model, “rational irrationality,” that roots a systemic bias in voters. This model treats voting as a type of pyschological divergence, a a rare chance to indulge in a private cost-free fantasy game, one that is unencumbered by the usual rigors of real life that do impose costs on bad decisons. Voters, in a word, are delusional. They can afford to be delusional because they do not have to bear the full costs of bad voting decisions. Caplan’s model is a replacement for the “Rational Ignorance” voter model of Public Choice.

Caplan’s criticizes “Rational Ignorance” for confusing ignorance with bias. However, Caplan’s methodological flaw is to equate bias with irrationality. The paradoxes of rent-seeking have been a topic of concern for Public Choice theorists for some time. Gordon Tullock’s edited compilation, “Efficient Rent-Seeking: Chronicle of an Intellectual Quagmire,” formalizes the problem quite nicely. The standard to the Tullock Rent-Seeking game is one with dissipation of monopoly rents and high social costs. In others words, the redistribution transfers nothing and wastes real resources. But this solution turns out only to be a special case. In general, competition for rent where the the probability of capture/winning the rent is a function of agent/player investment exhibits no general equilibrium pattern. That is to say, the general space of equilibriums do not necessarily have solutions in the Nash Equilibrium sense, meaning that agents/players do not know the equilibrium strategies of the other players.

The paradox of rent-seeking arises in the rational model without any consideration of bias. The rational model extends to the general class of games characterized by competitive entry into a profit-making situation. The question is whether in such games we should expect rents to be under dissipated, fully dissipated, or over dissipated. I turns out the solution set for this type of game consists of all 3 equilibrium types. In this sense, the rational model has no real equilibrium. This outcome could be thought to pose a serious existential quandry for capitalism/markets since there is no real expectation of regularity under the rational model. That is to say, the rational model implies a market economy to be a potentially chaotic thing. That the Tullock paradox is not treated as an existential threat to the market economy is because empirical observation demonstrates that market economies by and large behave as expected–full dissipation of rents–when we have competitive entry and declining marginal returns on agent investments. But there is no logical reason to restrict our equilibrium to this standard solution.

One possible explanation for our empirical observation of market regularity is that humans have a bias toward standard market behavior(historically, “rationality” then became conflated with the bias). This hypothesis would obviously fundamentally undermine Caplan’s “rational irrationality” argument. Of course, observation of the behavior is not necessarily a scientific demonstration of the bias(this is the mistake Caplan makes in trying to extend observations in political rent seeking to a general principle of bias). However, given that the rational model does not actually have any logical reason why we should expect the standard solution, if we propose that humans are biased against the standard solution, then we shouldn’t expect the standard solution to appear in any context. Put differently, market regularity may not be scientific proof of human bias toward market thinking, but it’s a convincing empirical contradiction of the argument of human bias against market thinking. The observable divergences of political rent seeking from the standard solution are not proof of human bias against market thinking. If this were the case, we should also see the same bias introducing the same divergences in the generalized rent-seeking game that extends beyond politics. In short, we should never(or rarely) see full dissipation of rents in any competitive context. Markets are useful social tools not because they are rational, bur rather because they are “regular.” In logical terms, we would say rationality is a necessary but not a sufficiency condition.

Political Failure and Bias

The Public Choice Rational Ignorance voter model only holds in the special case of political competition resulting in the dissipation of monopoly rents. If we have a case of under dissipated rents or over dissipated rents, we shouldn’t expect Rational Ignorance to be explanatory. The mistake Caplan makes is to interpret this failure of Rational Ignorance to indicate irrational anti-market bias for human agents. However, we should expect this bias, if it were to be the case, to similarly influence all games that have competitive entry for profit-seekers, so that disspation of rents followed the same pattern as political competition. This assumption is reasonable because the rational model has no real equilibrium regarding rent dissipation.

The actual observed equilibrium in US political competition is one of severely under dissipated rents. The total observed rent-seeking expenditures are orders of magnitude smaller than what they should be relative to outlays. This divergence has become particularly pronounced since 9-11(the acceleration of the Security State) and the subsequent financial bailouts. The challenge the likes of Caplan would throw out is how to square my position regarding human bias with the massive under dissipated rents in political competition. Caplan would argue that the same human bias that makes markets perform more or less regularly should be able to effectively reform the divergent behavior of rent dissipation in political competition.

Caplan’s argument would have merit if not for the fact that the difficulty of reform is explained by the systemic, institutional bias that evolves around maintaining the current equilibrium. As predicted by Bastiat, this is the encompassing political economy of a moral framework that arises to legitimize plunder. The need for a political economy of moral legitimization is actually particularly telling about the nature of human bias. It arises to thwart reform.

Caplan’s probable appeal to an absence of reform in the light of massive under dissipated rents is not an argument for his version of bias. On the contrary, our current political context demonstrates how foolish the idea of reform through political channels is. Everyone knows that we have a corrupt political economy, and there are plenty of competing theories/ideas floating around on how to reform it. But the political actors are so tied into the political economy of moral legitimization that today our most trusted domestic news source is the comedy channel and Jon Stewart.

Paleo-Libertarianism: The God that Failed

Hans-Herman Hoppe defines praxeology as an “a priori science of human action” akin to a branch of applied logic. Praxeology rejects the methodology of the modern scientific method applied to economics. This doesn’t mean adherents of the praxeological method reject the natural sciences. It simply means they reject the methods of natural science applied to economics, and/or that the methods associated with natural sciences have any relevance to economic theory.

Praxeology derives its modern roots from the original socialist calculation debate wherein both Mises and Hayek, representing the 2nd generation Austrian school, concluded that the argument against the social rational agency implications of Neoclassical static welfare equilibrium required a heterodoxical methodology. Mises went the praxeological route and Hayek the evolutionary/biological route. Today, the evolutionary/biological methodology is in quite in vogue while the praxeological route is disparagingly associated with Ayn Rand(erroneously, however). Of course, the original heterodoxical complaint against neoclassical welfare equilibrium, that it in no way represented a dynamical theory, turned out to be quite correct. Any dynamics of Macroeconomic equilibrium, void of microeconomic foundations, are generally not taken too seriously any more(sans the partisan political realm). And no one credibly would suggest these days that microeconomics follow a methodology of Hamiltonian mechanics. However, it is erroneous to think that elements of natural science do not have any relevance to economic theory. In particular, complexity theory, that includes such concepts as network effects, lock-in and path dependency, have a great deal of relevance to economics. Indeed, it is the concept of path dependency that pans the validity of praxeology.

A demonstration of this is to consider Hoppe’s thesis from “Democracy: the God that Failed.” Hoppe’s political theory argues that liberalism itself was a mistake. In a sense, Hoppe echoes Hobbes’ original argument made in Leviathan. However, Hoppe employs an “Austrian methodology,” one that relies heavily on “Time Preference” to propose a modern argument for the preference of monarchy over democracy. The argument here is that monarchy would be governed by a more future-oriented, low-time discounting whereas democracy is driven more by present-oriented discounting. This creates a major difference in the incentive structure of the governing systems, particularly with respect to the rate of “plunder.” Since hereditary monarchy would have a vested interest in the long-term preservation of rule(future-oriented outlook), there would be more constraints on bad policies compared to liberal democracy’s present-oriented discounting incentive, which offers little or no constraints.

Hoppe’s argument is in the form of an ex-ante efficieny claim regarding the “path” of Monarchy. In the literature, this type of path dependency is referred to as a second-degree type. This simply means that subsequent events have revealed an earlier action to be inferior to a given alternative. This is the result of imperfect information: i.e., no one knew (or it was a disputed point) at the time that monarchy, in this case, was the superior path over democracy. However, I would suggest that ex-ante efficieny claim is based an unjustified extrapolation over the current path. Namely, Hoppe is implictly making a ceteris paribus assumption regarding the recognition of the legitimacy of hereditary rule. If this legitimacy, in the age of enlightenment, is challenged or questioned, then even our future-oriented, benevolent monarch has to waste considerable resources to enforce/maintain recognition of legitimacy. Eventually, the organs of the monarchy would have to extend into every sphere of civil society, particularly in education, to maintain recognition. This enforcement of the moral framework is what leads to a political economy of plunder, by which we really mean a “security state.” And the monarch eventually becomes a figure-head to the real power, which would be the organs of this security state. Thus, the “private property of the realm” eventually becomes collective property. Observers at the end of that timeline then argue that Hobbes’ Leviathan was the “God that failed.” And there is great regret that liberal democracy wasn’t the path taken.

Path dependency often make moral arguments irrelevant. An excellent example germane to our current context is IP/Copyright enforcement. The moral arguments pro or con are irrelevant. The simple fact is that enforcement of the traditional regime of IP/Copyright in the digital world will result in a dystopian police state. Our digital world provides an efficient communication transmission model for low-entropy human language. A market process applied to this digitial world creates a “public goods” condition of sorts for human ideas in the sense that every thought and idea of humans that has been digitized–converted to a digital object– can be stored and transmitted at a cost that approaches a practical zero. Things like “disk storage” or “bandwidth” themselves are not “post-scarce goods,” but the digitial goods they store and transmit essentially approach non-excludability and non-rivalry. Any moral claim that you and I must suffer a police state to enforce another’s property rights is simply a violation of the libertarian principle(lockean proviso).

Of course, the internet, which is very much a product of path dependence, is not a moral argument or proof against ideas cast in terms of property rights. If these ideas can be enforced as property rights without making anyone worse off relative to no regime, then there is no libertarian argument against them. But the efficiency of the internet makes this prospect a dubious one in most instances. But we should keep in mind the evolutionary history of the internet. It is often claimed that the government “invented the internet.” This is a half-truth, but it is undeniable that the the US Military’s adoption of the tcp/ip protocol in the 1980s essentially enforced/solved a coordination problem that drove out competing protocols. In a global free market, where competing players are roughly equal, would a universal standard emerge? Perhaps, but it probably wouldn’t have emerged so soon or at least certainly wouldn’t have emerged without resolving a number of problems that remain unresolved today. The efficiency of a universal standard resulting from a resolution of a coordination problem often is given as evidence of the need of government collective action. Perhaps, but it is still too soon to make an ex-ante efficiency claim. This is because there is a plausible devil’s advocate argument that the internet is particularly suited for a political economy of total surveillance. In any event, any claim that the solutions to these types of problems can be deduced from “a priori science of human action” is not plausible.

We should in mind the gem of Misean praxeology, namely the marginal treatment of money, relies on a path dependency argument at its core. This is because while an “a priori” treatment of money can work out a theory of money as a commodity(subject to the ordinary rules of marginal utility and subjectivism), it can’t actually inform us what this commodity actually should be. For this, an appeal to path dependency is made regarding “gold.” The Misean Regression Theorem is a path dependency claim regarding gold. Interestingly, many Miseans treat this path as an eternal one(thus turning it into a normative claim), which, of course, is absurd.

Path dependency also wreaks havoc on Hoppe’s social theory. Hoppe extends his “Time Preference” principle to model class conflict and civil society itself. A “natural aristocracy” arises out of time preference differentials between the elite/intelligent and poor/stupid. Present-oriented discounting is at the foundation of “decivilization” of civil society. Hoppe, who sees future-oriented time preference as a necessary condition for a libertarian order, argues the need for social conservatism and religion as the foundation for civil society. In particular Hoppe asserts the need for a traditional Christian family-based communitarian order. Only from this can the “natural libertarian order” emerge.

However, historian Thaddeus Russell’s “A Renegade History of the United States” indirectly demolishes Hoppe. Russell’s revisionist historical research demonstrates that it is often the “present-oriented” “cultural dregs” who are responsible for “freedoms and liberties” we take for granted today. In one sense, this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, the libertarian motto is Carpe Libertatem. Seize liberty is not an expression about future-oriented discounting. It is an expression regarding the here and now. We can formalize these ideas by noting that future-oriented discounting can also represent a type of social “lock-in” that is neither particularly desirable nor efficient. To overcome this type of lock-in often may require a population of present-oriented discounters. What we end up with then is a social theory of culture that is rich and thick as opposed to one that is uniform and thin. Of course, the latter is not really a theory of culture. Instead, is an expression of moral preferences originating from one person’s mind.

The Rationality of Political Recognition

The South Carolina fundamentalist Christian debate audience booing Ron Paul’s suggestion of American Foreign policy following the Christian Golden Rule was instructive of the rationality argument vis a vis the support of Ron Paul. The argument for me boiled down the problem of GOP agency. This reduces ultimately to the worth of seeking libertarian recognition from fundamentalist Christianity. The boos from the Christian audience crystallized the worthlessness of this objective. They were either booing their own moral foundation or booing the suggestion that the State’s actions should not be exempt from the moral constraint. Of course, in most other contexts, any perceived failure to enforce the Christian moral foundation is viewed as a “War on Christianity.” This is classic Doublethink. Not only is there is no value in seeking recognition from Doublethink, any such recognition that is forthcoming is not only a hindrance but injurious to the cause.

Does this mean that Paul’s participation in the debates is worthless? Nope, not at all. Indeed, there is potentially great value that can be derived from his participation, particularly with respect to his critique of the unitary executive. However, the political ends of recognition–it appears the Paul campaign is now openly advocating for Rand Paul to be a vice-presidential candidate on the GOP ticket while it also works behind the scenes to secure prime time GOP convention recognition–hold no value. Recognition may be the sine qua non of communitarian political theory, and recognition may be an important element of human social theory, but in liberal political theory, recognition without justice has serious shortcomings. Indeed it is exactly these shortcomings that inform us exactly why the State is not the community.


One particular motivation for this essay was to outline a liberal political model that can rationally explain the vastly different actions taken by, say, a liberal state like Iceland in response to the International Banking Bailouts versus those of other liberal states, i.e., the United States. In Iceland, you had the rapid adoption of the world’s most liberal transparency laws and an embrace of document-sourced journalism such as Wikileaks. In the United States, we have seen the opposite reaction. Document-sourced journalism is treated by the State almost as a form of terrorism. Accused sources for leaks, in some instances, are tortured.

Often, states like Iceland(and Sweden, Switzerland, etc) are presented as counterfactual to a radical libertarian class analysis. Indeed, I can cite the case of Iceland as a counter-factual to Caplan’s case that apparent lack of corrective political reform with regards to monopoly rents implies the need for an alternative microeconomic model.

Yet this “paradox” is not a paradox if we note that the rational model of economic rent seeking has no real equilibrium regarding dissipation of such rents under competitive entry. Divergences from the standard solution of full dissipation of rents is an indication of bias but not necessarily of irrationality. Of course, convergence to the standard solution is just as much likely an indication of bias as well and not necessarily of rationality. Once we hypothesize that an equilibrium explanation most likely is a function of a “bias model,” we can arrive at an explanatory model relatively void of paradoxes.

For example, “Rational Ignorance” holds in the case of competitive dissipation of rents. In such a case, it is rational not to vote or even to waste any resources/time to become familar with the issues. The only case for “political awareness” is in the instance of a given rent-seeking threatening the boundary constraints of the decision-making rules of the liberal State. So it is rational not to vote or engage with political parties, but it may perhaps be rational to contribute to non-partisan watchdog intermediary groups, such as the ACLU or EFF. In the case of egregious violations, you then have a “reform corrective action.” Of course, the corrective action itself represents a bias for enforcing an equilibrium of rent dissipation.

However, in the context of under dissipated rents, the “Rational Ignorance” voter model certainly would not hold. There could be a case for concerted political action as means to correct this outcome but this corrective political action effort runs smack up against a systemic bias of a political economy(legitimized by a moral framework) that thwarts any such reform action. In this context, is irrational to rely on any standard organs of political action. The only effective means are “Direct Action.”

So, to unite the classical libertarian class analysis with the modern public choice model, we formalize a bias model with respect to the emergence of moral frameworks of political economy and incorporate this into the Tullock Rent-seeking game. This is a far superior microeconomic model to “explain” the Tullock paradox than, say, Caplan’s alternative. Caplan’s model can’t explain dissipation of rents in any context, including the empirical observation of the (non-political) rent dissipation in terms of regularity, the ability of corrective reform in some political contexts(e.g., Iceland) and the ubiquitous emergence of black markets in the case of under dissipated rents. Caplan’s model really reduces to a Econ professor’s need to grade on curve for Econ 101 as an explanation for political economy.

A second motivation was to reinforce that the “radicals” who attach great importance to recognition of Ron Paul in terms of the cause of liberty are hardly being rational. Recognition of libertarianism within the GOP is largely a dead-end. Recognition can hardly overcome the problem of the “Bastiat Bias Model.” Indeed, Christian conservatism, which is ultimately what we are talking about in terms of GOP recognition, is at the heart of the legitimizing moral framework of American Exceptionalism. Ron Paul doesn’t demonstrate the solution; he demonstrates the problem…

Why I’m Not a Bleeding-Heart Statist

Will Wilkinson’s latest statist declaration of principles and anti-principles, with respect to liberalism and libertarianism respectively, is another attempt by Wilkinson, who has “defected” from the “label,” to use the soft underbelly of the libertarian movement as an argument for the State.

I agree that the meaning of “libertarianism,” particularly in the American political context, is incoherent. But this is largely a product of trying to make it palatable with liberal democracy–in short, rebranding the libertarian meaning of liberty as a political value. I will flatly state that there is no normative case for liberty. But this is not an argument for the State because I also include the following addendum: neither is there a normative moral duty to obey the State.

Wilkinson seems preoccupied with mutable ideological labels and public connotations of conviction syndromes interrupting his ability to eclectically define himself. But we can easily separate the wheat from the chaff. If you ascribe to a moral duty to obey the State, then you are not a libertarian. If you deny this moral obligation, then you have at least satisfied a necessary condition for libertarianism.

Simple,succinct, and to the point.

Wilkinson, of course, accepts the moral obligation of obedience to the State. The first point of Wilkinson’s defense is a denial of the NAP “anti-principle.”

Here are some not-standardly-libertarian things I believe: Non-coercion fails to capture all, maybe even most, of what it means to be free. Taxation is often necessary and legitimate.

I consider “coercion” to be a strawman argument. I’ve discussed this before on previous occasions, e.g: Free Markets and Coercion. All social interactions and contractual arrangements are coercive in the sense that they necessarily impose moral constraints on agents as pure maximizers. Non-coercion is useless as a basis for a social theory because agents are not single-variable max-min optimizers–“coercion” as the single variable–because the optimal social arrangement would then be defection.

Social cooperation necessarily entails moral constraints on the part of actors. We could alternatively use the language of “personal duties.” But personal duties do not demonstrate impersonal duties, or duties to no one. In my post, I used an example of uncertainty prompting payments to third parties to insure against transactions not being mutually beneficial. A moral claim on a carpenter to be bonded and insurance payments to third parties can be superficially equated with how the market produces “coercion,” taxes, and a State tax collector–that is, until we properly distinguish between taxes,rents and economic rents. If the insurance payments are composed of economic rent, then we would have an entrepreneurial opportunity to drive these rents to trade at opportunity costs. To abolish these rents and to treat them as “taxes” and as part of the tax code would incentivize a different type of entrepreneurial opportunity, one that would look to the tax code to create and persist artificial rents.

This was a simple economic example of how the moral constraints of social cooperation do not imply nor should imply an impersonal standardization. Almost always, an argument to impersonalize moral constraints is often a narrow self-interested one.

Wilkinson’s second point is a “principle,” namely the claim that the State has reduced violence. This is a reason why, for example, we should morally obey the State. Wilkinson appeals to Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.” However, the claim of the role of the state in reducing violence can be easily questioned as an example of a “post hoc causal fallacy.” The immediate counter-problem with this claim that I would pose is to legitimately question why the liberal state is nonetheless morphing into a National Security State given it’s supposed rational role in reducing violence. If violence is at human historical lows, then why the need for CIAs, DHS, TSA,paramilitarized civilian police forces, secret police, and an unaccountable sprawling military/intelligence industrial complex? Of course, Wilkinson will simply ignore this obvious contradiction and instead can be counted on to blather on about how secure the State has made all of us while we are nonetheless forced to undergo anal cavity searches as a pre-condition to travel and buy goods/services at shopping malls.

Wilkinson’s third point of “principle” of why we should obey the state is that it legitimizes us to participate in the debate regarding “the nature and scope of specially-protected rights and liberties within the settled context of the liberal-democratic nation-state.” Of course, the historical libertarian critique is that liberalism institutionally fails to provide this “settled context of the liberal-democratic nation-state.”

In the classic sense, we can succinctly define liberalism as a political system whose ends are property and whose means are liberty. I will also include the modern update that adds an ends of justice and includes redistributive means that imposes a degree of positive constraint on liberty. The liberal legal model defines a constitutional framework of decision-making rules, justified by a hypothetical “social-contract,” that defines the constraints on what is legally recognizable within the system. In plain language, this means that legal recognition in the pursuit of property or justice cannot violate constitutional constraints. The constitutional constraints, which are decision-making rules, define the boundary conditions.

However, as I discussed in my previous post regarding the State of Nature, legal recognition, including the constitutional boundary conditions, or decision-making rules, are market goods, whether you like it or not. Specifically, economic rent-seeking of legal recognition via a monopoly price maker becomes a source of decision-making rules–that is, it changes the boundary constraints of the system. In Virginia School Public Choice terms, the equilibrium of the Tullock rent-seeking game is a union of the Redistributive State and the Protective State(the Constitutional agency). This, for example, explains the massive empirical discrepency between the magnitude of economic rents being created by the State vs the competitive outlays investing/bidding for such rents.

To restate: this is why using the Superpower US military/Intelligence apparatus as a means to protect economic rents results in the evisceration of the primary liberal legal restraint, the “Great Writ,” and why the Federal Government, in the office of the Executive Branch, as now legally sanctioned by the legislative branch, now declares itself arbitrarily outside the constraints of civilian court due process.

Wilkinson, as a liberal, should be supremely concerned with the fundamental liberal violations posed by such things as the National Defense Authorization Act. This is an example of an egregious violation of the supposed “settled context of the liberal-democratic nation-state.” But I haven’t read a peep from Wilkinson addressing these profound violations, not in any serious way that he, as a liberal, should be addressing given that he is quite aware that these type of violations are at the core of the libertarian political critique.

Wilkinson’s fourth point, an “anti-principle point,” is a fine example of “applied selective consistency.” Granted, I agree that there are legitimate critiques of Ron Paul’s version of libertarianism, but if Wilkinson ascribes to the principle that past violations of the messenger discredit the current message, then Wilkinson necessarily must renounce the State as messenger. We can simply appeal to David Hume who pointed out the real-world problem with “social contract theory:” historically, states weren’t rational products of hypothetical consent; rather they were the products of conquest and pillage. The State wouldn’t be where it is today, in a position to be an arbiter of “justice,” without the conquest, mass murder and pillage of it’s past. In our modern context, Wilkinson doesn’t seem too bothered by a State that killed millions of Vietnamese, bombed who knows how many Cambodians, killed and displaced more than a million Iraqis, is the only State to directly use Nuclear WMDs against a civilian population and directly funded the other one that used chemical WMD(Iraq), financially supports authoritarian dictaroships across the world, locks more of it’s citizens, percentage-wise, than any other country in the world, sans perhaps North Korea, engineers a racist drug war to inflicts uncountable damage globally, etc, etc, etc….Yet, Wilkinson has no problem with this State(mind you, the same State which refuses to apologize for most of these atrocities) being an arbiter of justice; however, he is morally outraged over around five years of paleo, politically incorrect bullshit from Paul’s publishing enterprise from the early to mid 1990s. I wouldn’t quite characterize that as “decades of bilking paranoid bigots with bullshit prophesies of hyperinflationary race war. Is there any evidence of Paul’s publishing ventures printing decades(meaning twenty years or more) of race war articles or advertisements?

As a libertarian, one who doesn’t root moral outrage in communitarian recognition violations, but rather in actual moral and legal institutional injustices, particularly those injustices that persist without correction, I can’t take Wilkinson’s moral outrage and critique seriously.