Archives for category: Quora

Did any Greek political philosophy (500 BC – 500 AD) align with American libertarianism?

…as answered on Quora….

Elements of liberal-libertarian individualism can be found in most schools of ancient philosophy.

Plato’s admonition to favor persuasion over force — seeing civilization as the triumph of persuasion over force* — could ably serve as a libertarian motto.

The idea of natural law, especially as developed by the Stoics, provided an important perspective for the growth of the rule-of-law idea so vital to classical liberalism, and, more narrowly, the tool that is “rights,” from which libertarianism grounds its limited and limiting conception of justice.

But it is in Epicureanism we might see the greatest libertarian foreshadowing among the Greeks. Epicurus, I think, offered a number of important concepts that spurred the growth of the libertarian idea.** Chief among these is a stripped-down conception of justice as the rules that allow people to form compacts for mutual protection. Both utilitarianism and contractarianism find early formulations in Epicurean writings — most of which are, alas, lost.***

And there is something in Epicureanism that is not to be found in Platonism, Aristotelianism, or Stoicism: absolutely no aggrandizement of the State, no conception, even, of its moral legitimacy. The State of Epicurus’ day, and all the associated politics surrounding its warfare and plunder and busybodyism, was something Epicurus advised his followers to avoid. He imagined a better system, in his simpler, non-lofty idea of mutual protection compacts. But they could not be put in place generally in ancient times, so Epicurus advised avoidance of the State. He was a social schismatic, if not a utopian.

In his attitude towards the State Epicurus was, in effect, applying the same approach that he applied to religion: debunking.

The four-fold cure serves, I think, as a good summary of Epicureanism:

  1. Do not fear death;
  2. do not fear the gods;
  3. good things are easy to get;
  4. suffering is easy to endure.

Epicureans argued that much of our phobias about life derive from superstitious myth and religious hectoring about afterlife punishment by vengeful and mercurial deities. Epicurus himself developed a scientific viewpoint to show that there is no afterlife, and thus nothing to fear in that regard, and that the gods, if any there be, would be uninterested in human affairs, so they were no threat. He saw the cosmos as complex but not conspiratorial. The social world, on the other hand, did have malign conspiracies everywhere, and, though one could fear them, the best recourse is pain- and threat-avoidance, for the thing most needful for a happy life was a baseline cheerfulness and a resistance to fear.

A friend of mine told me, recently, that he sees Epicureanism as being all about fear — fear of pain. I think this is exactly backwards. Fear exacerbates pains. One should try to avoid complex habits of life that conjure up more pain than they are worth, that is the Epicurean strategy. But with what pains one is inevitably delivered in life, we had best use philosophy and the therapies of desire to deal with them. I beseech thee: do not get caught up in fear.

Indeed, decades ago I reformulated the four-fold cure as an anti-phobic discipline:

  1. Do not fear death;
  2. do not fear the gods;
  3. do not fear boredom;
  4. do not fear suffering.

And once you have mastered these attitudes, apply them against politics, which is filled with what Max Stirner called “wheels in the head” — made-up and reified notions of State Sovereignty, moral authority, and Divine Justice as imposed via the State. All that is just nonsense that some people use to get you to conform to their outrageous demands. These notions are carried over from religious superstition. They mask what is really going on in the political realm.

De-mystify all that.

There is a pipeline from Epicureanism to libertarianism. It is not for nothing that one perceptive Christian author quoted nearly five full pages from the Data of Ethics by the great libertarian theorist of the 19th century, Herbert Spencer, as exemplary of Epicureanism in modern times.**** The affinity is quite striking.

What is even more striking, though, is how little explored it is.

* “From Force to Persuasion,” in Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures in Ideas (The MacMillan Company, 1954), pp. 87–109.

** See Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W. W. Norton and Company, 2011), for a discussion of the historical importance for the Renaissance and the Enlightenment of the unearthing of the great Epicurean poem by Titus Lucretius Carus.

*** But see James H. Nichols, Jr., Epicurean Political Philosophy: The De rerum natura of Lucretius (Cornell University Press, 1976).

**** William DeWitt Hyde, From Epicurus to Christ (The MacMillan Company, 1904), pp. 10–15.

About the image, above: Harry Browne and a statue of Epicurus. Harry Browne’s How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World was reviewed by philosopher John Hospers in Reason magazine, under the title “The New Epicureans” (March 1974).

Is being a Republican all about maintaining the established hierarchy?

…as answered on Quora….


America’s Republican Party is a coalition of a number of anti-leftist interest groups, or, if you will, “tribes.” Though Republicans lean conservative, and conservatives tend to extol traditional hierarchies more than do progressives, it is worth remembering that almost all elements of American government were transformed in the first half of the 20th century by Progressives, and our institutions, today, are in the main both Progressive and hierarchical.

And it is Democrats (and those on the left in general) who urgently — and with increasing alarm — defend established hierarchies.

Consider a few of these:

  • the supremacy of the federal government over the states
  • the bureaucratic hierarchies of the Administrative State
  • the government of the people by the (now-armed) regulatory bureaucracies
  • the cultural hegemony of major media and Hollywood elites over “rednecks” and “fly-over country”
  • the power of major population centers over more sparsely populated rural areas

Take that last one, for a moment. Since the election of Donald Trump, Democrats have been spinning rationales for getting rid of not only the Electoral College but also the Senate, two hold-overs from the original decentralized federal system. There are not many remnants left of the original constitutional order. The whole of the Administrative state has metastasized far beyond constitutional balance, with the Executive Branch now quite dominant not only in the Imperial Presidency but also in the huge leeway the Legislative Branch has ceded to Executive Branch bureaucracies, to create and enforce and even criminalize its regulatory tasks. And the Democrats, apparently jealous of any non-technocratic hierarchy, increasingly want to rid the system of even the last vestiges of the Founders’ system. It is really quite breathtaking.

At this point, many readers will no doubt be wondering if I am a crazy man. Why, it is the left that is against hierarchies and it is the right that defends them! What kind of nonsense is this?

Well, in defense of my interpretation, I ask you to consider the difference between ideological fantasy and knee-jerk institutional practice. By their socialist-tinged fantasies, progressives (and Democrats) are indeed “egalitarian.” They talk up a good equality game, that’s for sure. But when push comes to shove, the pushers of equality shove hard, and quickly establish and defend the hierarchies that do the shoving. That is why socialism turns so quickly to hierarchical and class-based totalitarianism: because equality does not work in a unitary state, but hierarchies and class do. So allegedly “egalitarian and inclusive” leftists swiftly become tyrants.

And we see this even among our compromising progressives, who are on the whole at least not communists — they still balk at full-blown state socialism. (Though in recent years they have come out of the closet on their emotional allegiances, their commitment to the term itself.) They are now quite defensive and even hysterical about Republican attacks upon their beloved governmental hierarchies.

Another example? Public education advocates. Government k12 schooling has become less local and more state- and federal-controlled in the last half-century. And with it, the hierarchies of bureaucracy and unions and politics have usurped more and more local prerogatives. And just look how Democrats react to decentralizing notions like school vouchers, and to hierarchy-busting alternatives like charter schools!

It is not the Republicans who defend hierarchy in these cases. They seem to be leaning to decentralism.

Democrats, like technocrats, socialists and fascists everywhere, are big proponents of centralization.

And the centralism of a unitary state is of necessity hierarchical.

But is this traditional?

No. Well, not exactly.

Like I asserted above, the Republican Party is not a singular movement. It is a coalition of several major groups. And the different groups are differently conservative, if conservative at all. And though we have come to understand conservatism as being “about,” somehow, the defense of traditional hierarchies, which hierarchies are being defended in which group is open to debate.

Further, please note that the traditional American order is liberal, not traditional — Whig and not Tory, in British terms. That is, the original states of the union were sovereign in their original conception, and the union was federal, not national. Decentralist, in modern terminology — almost a distributed order.

Today’s conservatives, to the extent they hark back to the Founding period, are not talking up hierarchy, they are talking up a decentralized order of competing and balancing hierarchies.

But it gets more complicated, for the Republican Party basically overthrew the constitutional order that had failed before it reached the century mark, failed regarding slavery and the tariff. The new order delivered by Abraham Lincoln was nationalist. The Republican Party’s push for the supremacy of an imperialistic national government was far more hierarchical than the Founders’ order, and that order was not American-traditional, but European-traditional. And then came Teddy Roosevelt and a frankly imperialist Progressivism, which, in the course of both Republican and Democratic governments (the Democratic Party abandoning decentralism and constitutionalism with Woodrow Wilson), proceeded to restructure American government along centralist and hierarchical grounds.

So, while some Republicans may hold the constitutional order up as a sort of liberal/libertarian fantasy, in practice they are thoroughly nationalist rather than federalist, imperialist rather than nationalist, and wholly submerged in the trappings of the patriotic mumbo-jumbo of allegiance to the hierarchies established last century, not by the Founders. (Can there be any greater betrayal of the constitutional order than Republicans’ beloved “one nation indivisible” — written by a socialist?) Most Republicans are “conservative” by being Progressives of a hundred years ago. And Democrats are progressives of the flavor they got addicted to in the Sixties.

A more pathetic pair of bumbling parties could hardly be found. And of course, like most Americans, they were “educated” in America’s propaganda mills, the public schools. Which means, much of what they know ain’t so. Our national faith comes in two disgusting flavors.

Now, I admit: there is still something to the “traditional hierarchy” biz.

The kind of progressive that Republicans tend to be is the kind that pushed for Prohibition, way back when. You know, to “save the family.” Not the overtly technocratic kind, of John Dewey and The New Republic. The fact that their “conservative” variety of Progressivism was perpetrated in the name of the family might seem to indicate the defense of the trad hierarchy of domestic life — but that is illusion as well. Not only did Prohibition subordinate individual liberty to state and federal usurpation and totalitarian control, it was also a de facto rebellion of women against men, for the Dry ranks were largely made up of women and a few ambitious, moralistic male busybodies. The women were rebelling against a culture of male drunkenness. (More than understandable.) So modern social conservatism began with the overthrowal of the central element of a patriarchal hierarchy — quite anti-traditional — and then was roundly rebuked by the complete failure of said “experiment.” But did social conservatives learn? No. As alcohol Prohibition ended, new federal programs prohibiting other drugs grew and grew, and were used with startling cruelty against non-white, non-bourgeois out-groups.

Now is the time for me to try to make some sense of “left vs. right” in modern ideology. The rightward motion is not, I think, to defend “traditional hierarchies.” It is for the defense of some in-group against perceived or real out-group threat. And the left is the Cult of the Other, defending some out-group from exploitation or oppression by an in-group — some in-group “of the right.” Of course.

None of these are stable positions. Both sides defend and attack hierarchies, “depending.” Why? Because the in-group/out-group dimension maps orthogonally to the power/freedom dimension.

So, what to make of all this? Well, hierarchies of competence are good, while hierachies of “power” (if by this word you mean oppression or unjust exploitation) are indeed bad. Individuals and in-groups must be defended from criminals and oppressive powers, and individuals and out-groups must not be oppressed in service to the cause of the aforementioned defense.

What is good about “traditional hierarchies” is that they often defend groups that deserve to thrive or dissipate based on free association. What is bad about them is what is bad about new hierarchies: when they aid in centralizing agendas, oppression, and exploitation by class or by individuals . . . that is when they are evil.

So, to answer the original question — “Is being a Republican all about maintaining the established hierarchy?” — better here at the end than in the beginning: sometimes; depends upon which group and which hierarchy.

As for me, I think it is clear: the Republican Party is an ideological mess, conservatives are confused, and their opponents, the progressives, are even worse.

A pox on both their in-groups.


Photo: Ralf, Flickr, some rights reserved
Why do most Americans consider Marxism evil?
…as answered on Quora.

Is that true?

If it isn’t true, it should be. Hundreds of millions of people died because of attempts to create socialist utopias by men who were inspired by Karl Marx, and who identified themselves as Marxists. Karl Marx, in his day, cooked up an alternative to liberalism and the rule of law. He ridiculed the very idea of “bourgeois freedom.” Hating the idea of private property, he believed that “society” should own the means of production. Though he said the ideal, end product of the revolution he promoted was a “stateless society,” he believed that there would first have to be a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” He advocated slaughter as well as expropriation to carry through on his “revolution.”

Power corrupts, you know: once power becomes concentrated in a dictatorship, of all things, it is really hard to dissolve it. The socialist tyranny quickly proved a palpable reality, in the case of its first instantiation, the USSR, while the promised stateless utopia has been shown up to be a mere fantasy. It never happened.

It could not happen the way Marx conceived it.

I need to repeat: the dictatorship notion — the “state socialism,” as it came to be called — was a recipe that could only end in disaster, with outrageous moral horror. And it did.

Liberalism’s rule of law establishing decentralized power structures and a distributed system of social organization is the main foundation of nearly everything good in modern life. The institution of private property that the rule of law protects allows human being to avoid tyranny as well as to advance out of poverty.

The communist idea of erasing the boundaries between people (by abolishing private property and the rule of law) and centralizing power in a unified State inevitably leads to murder and totalitarianism.

Besides, Marx’s crackpot notions — I do not think he was right about much of anything, really — are so off-base that attempts to enact his program can only lead to perverse results.

Anyone who knows the history of the Soviet Union and Red China knows enough to regard Marxism as pure poison. And if Marx’s contemporary Mikhail Bakunin could recognize the entelechy of authoritarianism in Marxian communism, we who possess the history as well as the theory to explain why have no excuse.

America was more resistant to communist ideas than most other countries in the last century. Americans, who inherit a form of government founded squarely in the liberal tradition of John Locke and Montesquieu have been immunized against the pernicious doctrine.

The only people of any significance who do not follow this line are those who have been baptized in the intellectually shallow waters of the modern university, where Marxism still thrives under taxpayer subsidy (what suckers taxpayers are). The universities do not let Nazis teach. For the same reason all the Marxists should be fired.

Yes, Americans should stop subsidizing the most murderous ideology ever cooked up by the mind of man. But though most Americans have little truck with communist ideas, they are so badly educated that they cannot see what is at stake — they do not understand how wrong it is to even pretend that Marxism is intellectually respectable in the slightest.

I define as “evil” all intentional harm done with malice aforethought. Karl Marx hated the rich and sought their destruction and expropriation; Marxists today are no better, and in one sense worse: they ignore the history that Marx himself could not know — though he should have foreseen, for it was not just Bakunin who saw it.* You have to be a fool not to see the inanity of the Marxian system. Or the evil.

Alas, fools there are aplenty — and some follies, such as socialism, turn fools into knaves, into terrorists and tyrants. Some follies are quite dangerous. And none is more dangerous than Marxism.

Most Americans have enough common sense to see through the communist buncombe. But I understand: our quasi-socialistic public schools and cult-ridden, subsidized institutions of higher learning can and have programmed many thousands of youngsters to grow up notseeing the obvious, even praising evil as though it were Goodness and Truth.

It is one reason I feel more at home among normal Americans than with the “college trained.” There is so much nonsense among the so-called “educated.”

Still, at least until recently, even most leftists could see though Marxism. But because they valorize collective action and state coercion over individual responsibility and voluntary community and free association, they have lacked the intellectual equipment to resist Marxism strongly enough.

And so that old evil doctrinal farrago seems to be coming back.

What a horror show.

* Consult Eugen Richter’s eerily prescient Pictures of the Socialistic Future (1893) for a fine example.

Could the US founding fathers be guilty of creating a nation based on slavery?

…as answered on Quora….

Seems a funny way of putting it.

  1. America’s founders weren’t creating a “nation.” They created a federal union, with each state as a separate sovereign governing in a republican fashion its nation of free people. That is a better description.
  2. Some of those free people in those states owned slaves, in most states. Thomas Jefferson had written anti-slavery passages in his Declaration of Independence, but they were removed by the Continental Congress for fear of alienating states dominated by slaveowners. But most founders recognized that slavery was the opposite of freedom.
  3. The state of Vermont, independent at the time of the Revolution and through the Philadelphia Convention, formally abolished slavery in 1777. It entered the union in 1791. For the next seven decades, northern states, one by one, legislated against the institution of slavery. In the aftermath of the Civil War, slavery was abolished in all states by the 13th Amendment. (Arguably, the federal union ceased to be at that time, and a nation-state was then created — not because of the abolition of slavery, but because of the manner in which it was accomplished . . . but that is another and quite thorny issue.)
  4. At the time of the founding of the United State in the late 18th century, few countries had abolished slavery, though it was not widely practiced in Europe any longer. But it had been practiced from time immemorial. So in that context, did the founders create a political union “based on slavery”? All of civilization was in part “based on slavery.” That is, slavery was a worldwide phenomena. And it is still practiced in Africa and Asia, especially in Muslim-majority countries.
  5. What the founders did do was proclaim freedom as central to their cause. And that proclamation (declaration) along with their expressed desire to “secure the blessings of liberty” leavened the culture and allowed the states of the union, and then the federal government (after a horrific war in no small part the result of this issue), to repudiate slavery. Over time. Which is how social change happens.

The idea of blaming the founders for slavery while not crediting them with the principles that were corrosive to the ancient institution, seems tendentious and . . . twisted . . . to me. Could it serve as part of an agenda on the totalitarian left to discredit individual liberty by means of its opposite — the better to institutionalize not chattel slavery but mass political slavery, the slavery of socialism?

Not Irrelevant:

Did white people oppose slavery?

What did Austrian economists think of slavery?

Why is capitalism not the root cause of slavery?

How different would the U.S. be if it didn’t have slave labor in its beginning stages?

Who thinks slavery was avoidable?

Who was the first U.S. President whose immediate family owned slaves?

Where do human rights come from?

Do commies support mass immigration? Ah, what a question!

. . . as deliberately not answered on Quora. . . .

I did not click “Submit” because I never submit to Marxists, or to socialists of any kind.


I don’t want to die but I ain’t keen on living either. What do you think of a statement like this one?

…as answered on Quora….

I don’t want to die but I ain’t keen on living either.

What do I think of that?

It would be helpful to know how old you are. If young, I would counsel caution. It is probably a passing phase. And if you make irrevocable decisions in your current condition, you may prevent the flowering of future values and life options. Pushing through a time like this, taking hints from traditional virtues as promulgated by most common sense folks from our species’ long past seems wisest.

I thus suggest a Stoic ethic.

But much may be said for a pared-down hedonism, as well: finding little to live for in this world is no great tragedy, the trick being to take control of your options and make the most of the little you find enjoyable. And meaningful. This is the Epicurean way: minimax. Avoid the worst pains and accept as more than adequate that which is enough. Savor what you have. Be at peace with it. And certainly do not fret about what you cannot change. Including your past. Including your itches and hankerings or lack thereof.

The great danger of your predicament is to fall downwards to the next level: nihilism. Seeing no value in anything, one chooses to act in ways that in turn yield little of value, and in your wake you can scuttle goodness in the future, for you or others. Nihilism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. What begins, perhaps, in mistake, if acted upon can make all too real the initial error.

One should avoid making errors that compound upon themselves.

The condition you identify, of ennui and perhaps consequent anomie, is not too far from melancholy or sadness. And, in such a condition, what to do? I have taken the Epicurean plan, as described by T. H. White in The Once and Future King:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

The world is a curious place, and curiosity is the apt response. It provides for many of us who are not far from your condition a source of harmless and even utile pleasure. Self-education. The first step to take control of one’s life is to take control of one’s education. And once one does this one steps above mere Existence and into the status of self-actualization, up to the level of Historical Man (or Woman). And then many more options open up.

And here is a truth that the philosopher Herbert Spencer expounded upon: a course of action set upon to the point of habit conjures up its own pleasures.

Acting as if life mattered makes life matter.

I think this is true despite seeming like a kind of magic — and no matter what your age.

Epicurus said that as well, in his epistle to Menoeceus:

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.

And if you wonder why bother with wisdom, consider: its opposite is folly, and folly provides its own punishment. If you embrace folly, ruin is most likely. And with it, misery.


Left: Harry Brown; Right: Epicurus.

Why is not more made of the fact that the supposed Trump economy is really just a chimera based on a loan against the future that serves the rich very well, while mortgaging the middle class’s future and especially that of their children?

…as answered on Quora….

Is that a fact or a theory?

I am not saying it is not true. But the likelihood of a default on the debt is very high, so who ultimately pays may be a bit of an open question. The incidence of the burden shall shift.

Why is not more made of this, though? Great question.

The answer is easy: it is not just about the “Trump economy.”

Economic policy madness is a truly bipartisan effort. The recent and quite unhinged “stimulus” bills that Trump signed ran through the House of Representatives under control of the Democrats, as well as through the GOP majority Senate.

Fiscal irresponsibility is the basic position of both major parties.

Any attempt to characterize this as a mere partisan or personal failure is a nonstarter. The truth of our predicament is that our rush into the future is chaotic and crazy and by consensus. Confronting the truth of government today? Americans simply cannot handle the truth.

Which is perhaps the real reason our politics is so . . . mad. The double bind we have collectively embraced must have some effect. The effect is a kind of schizophrenia. All Americans are implicated. All. And thus politics is basically the drivel of madmen.

If communism is so bad, then how come the USSR was able to increase industry to match or beat that of the Western powers?

…excerpted from an answer on Quora….

We might want to distinguish ‘communism’ from ‘Communism.’ That latter is sort of trade-marked (‘“anti-trade” marked’?) by the political implementers of the Marxian paradigm.

Karl Marx, you may remember, prophesied a classless, stateless future of communism, share and share alike, and all that. He was quite vague on how it would work out. But he did think the capitalists first had to be expropriated by the workers, and the economy run by ‘a dictatorship of the proletariat.’ This gave the Bolsheviks and their later imitators an excuse to set up state socialism, where the Communist Party runs the unitary state which in turn runs everything else. It is ‘communist’ only by an association of ideas and by tradition. But no utopian-minded communist in her right mind wanted that.

Besides, as others have noted, a moneyless industrial society didn’t work. So the Bolsheviks quickly backpedaled, adding markets back in under the New Economic Policy. As Michael Polanyi and others have shown, the Soviet Union engaged in a lot of fakery to make their central planning seem to work.

Ludwig von Mises explained why it couldn’t work. Capitalism is mass production for the masses. Market societies use dispersed knowledge gleaned especially from private markets in production goods and the firms that make up the productive sector to distribute resources to their most valued uses. Without private property and real market signals, socialists find themselves in a sea of arbitrary decisions, without guide. The Soviets never succeeded much in mass production for the masses, but by hook and crook and a rigid class system, the USSR succeeded in making hydrogen bombs and rockets for a pretty good space program (it helped that they were willing to risk cosmonauts’ lives to an extent NASA never found acceptable). But that isn’t mass production for mass consumption, it is mass production for Big Projects, which we know the ancients mastered in the megalithic period. Pyramids and all.

Slavery and the organization of a religiously oriented (ideologically controlled) servile population can indeed do amazing things. But not beat capitalism at its own game.

So, what of communism? The communal production of a limited set of goods for common needs can work in small groups. That this manner of economic organization produces a great abundance of consumer goods or can be carried on in an egalitarian fashion are fantasies of romantics who cannot think very well. Human being run up against calculation problems, as Mises explained, as well as the Dunbar number, and similar problems.

Few tribes actually engaged in communism for all goods produced. Individual and family property was a commonplace throughout the primitive world. But some things were done communally. But in societies more complex than mere tribes, some method of organization had to develop, and these included honor standards, allowing the adulation of Big Men — chiefs — whose vigor, intelligence, and social skills allowed for elaborate hierarchies to expand economies out of rudimentary forms. Some of the most successful of these chiefdoms became conquerors, and found ways to grift off of sedentary populations, after conquest, and civilization with their states were born.

In all the upward progress and sideways motions of societies and their histories, communism haunted the imaginations of poets and sages and shamans and priests, probably for reasons that psychologists have theorized: as lingering dreams expanding on the yearning of strapped adults for their lost childhoods, when benevolent parents and other adults provided all and made everything work like magic.

Communism of that sort is a dream and a yearning, and deserves, in most cases, little more than eye rolls.

Communism of the Soviet variety deserves a finger on the trigger, for Communists lie about what they are doing, and the contradictions of their own ideas mean they are always one small step away from mass murder.


While I should be writing something for pay, or mowing the lawn, today I wrote a bunch of answers on Quora:

Can authoritarianism come to America?

It’s here. In the platforms, habits, demands and reverenced rhetoric of both major parties.

And it is going to get worse and reach its full flower with the new coronavirus menace, for people of vacuous spirituality demand to be “saved” by the sacrifice of others’ freedoms.

That’s authoritarianism in a very popular form.

It is effrontery first, tyranny second.

twv (5/13/20)

Why is it that people either intensely love Trump or […] intensely hate him?

I do not either intensely hate Trump or love him. You may be surprised to discover that this attitude is actually very common in America.

I do find him funny, though. But his enemies are funnier, if not in a praiseworthy way. He is not the idiot that his detractors incessantly insist he is, for it is obvious that he is smarter than most of his political opponents.

But he really is a different creature in the White House, and he breaks many norms. Since presidents following those norms have led us to war and insolvency, seeing them broken does not offend me much. I laugh at those who are offended, but I also chuckle at his adoring acolytes.

As for what he has done and what he believes or pretends to believe? I dislike Trump’s protectionism, his know-nothing nationalism, his crankish approach to policy, his inelegant and seemingly racist speech, but at least he is not a warmonger, and I would never side with the Deep State that demands his ouster. I am an anti-imperialist and anti-nationalist. Trump’s forays against the empire? I had some hope for him. But we did not see his ideas put into play. We saw reaction. At least now we can see who the real rulers are, for they have come out of hiding by trying to remove Trump from office. I know who freedom’s real enemies are, and they reside in the national security state and in shady global alliances of the hyper-wealthy.

But that does not get to the heart of the love/hate, does it? So let us confront one obvious truth: the main bone of contention is his sexual style. He is a traditional “alpha male.” As such, this offends beta male cultures on the Christian right and the pagan left, as well as modish feminism. But most women are not feminists, and his style does not offend everyone. And the right-leaning Christians have lost so many battles that they have in a sense given up: if God gives them an imperfect defender, they no longer prissily complain.

And the enthusiasm for Trump appears to be enthusiasm for someone who regularly humiliates their persecutors — and if any group is openly scorned in America, it is evangelical Christians . . . by coastal cognitive elites. And Trump makes a mockery of them.

Besides, could it be that Americans are beginning to see an ancient principle at work?

The Law of Nemesis turns pride and hubris inside-out, into some form of destruction. Sometimes this occurs by flaunting a parody of one’s enemies against us, other times by turning ourselves into parodies of our own values.

Bush Era hubris brought the empty and ludicrous sanctimony of the Obama years, while the selection of the ultra-corrupt Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party’s standard bearer fed fuel to the rise of Trump. Part of the comedy here is that Hillary is thought of as a feminist, but she was cruel and unjust in persecuting her husband’s lovers and victims, so a parody of Bill Clinton became her conqueror. And Trump’s most infamous sexual indiscretion? That was his boast how women would fall over themselves for a rich and powerful man, even going so far to allow such men to “grab them by the pussy.” So what do Democrats now promote? A man accused of literally grabbing her accuser by the pussy, but against her will, not, as Trump said, by permission. This is almost a parody of the basic philosophies of right and left: the right produces and entices, the left steals.

All quite hilarious. I laugh at Americans every day. Sometimes I laugh at Trump, but more often I laugh at his enemies. Ridiculous is our descent into madness!

And why?

In times past I would have given reasons out of sociology and political economy — the Thomas Theorem, the Tragedy of the Commons, etc. — but now I suggest we wonder if the gods may not be jesting, playing with us. “The Progressives have had their century, and are a proud tower of folly; now we shall inflict their fall, as we take away their power, dignity, and reason for being.”

Why the love/hate? Because the participants are too entrenched in their own fates, unable to see the principles at work.

Take a step back and laugh with the gods.

twv (5/13/20)

Do you favor libertarian separatism?

I have written about this on my blog. I will summarize.

I support putting the general government of these United States under receivership. I think all the states should secede from the union and form several smaller unions, and those unions, or the departed states, should appoint the Receiver to liquidate the assets of the U.S.A., bring home from abroad all the military and divvy it up, with close attention to major contractors of the military-industrial complex, and pay off what debts can be managed without creating a worse situation than before.

I do not think there is any other way of restoring balance to our political-legal system. Culturally, financially, militarily, monetarily, the United States is a mess.

I liked the idea of the Constitution, I confess. Federalism — as conceived by the true federalists, called “anti-federalists” — is a pretty good idea. But it was a dead letter on accession in the early 1790s, and quickly became a mercantilist national state. The nationalism grew and grew, and morphed into a new form of imperialism.

I oppose nearly everything the United States have become.

So, this all assumes the persistence of large states. It also assumes that we might be able to make an orderly reorganization. This latter is a long shot. But barring this sort of thing, I foresee major chaos, and probably a triumph of totalitarian controls. Our nation of serviles is pushing for that now. Ugh.

What should libertarians do? I do not know. In a time of chaos it might be good to have a sovereign state with a concentrated population of libertarians. But if the totalitarianism comes, then they sure would be easy to round up.

Obviously, I support secession and voluntary, peaceable assembly. But the cult of the total state is getting ugly. And the cult’s acolytes are whipping themselves into a bloodletting frenzy. I know many leftists right now who would be glad to see me carted off to a prison camp.

The biggest problem? There are just so few libertarians. Congregating in one area will mean a slight increase in influence in that area, sure, but also would entail few per cultural checks in the regions abandoned.

If we have time, and if the Q Anon folks are wrong about what is really going on, a slow migration to specific regions might make sense. Perhaps to encourage the idea of restructuring by secession we should encourage the partitioning of a half dozen or so states. New York’s boroughs should be separated from the rest of New York; Chicago’s Cook Country should become a separate state; California needs to split into many pieces, with LA County being itself a separate state, and the much requested “Jefferson” created out of the north of the state snd southern Oregon; eastern Oregon and eastern Washington should become a new state of Adams; King Country, Wsshington, and the counties directly north, should become a separate state as well. The point of all this is to wrest power away from ruling cliques and make manageable states that could actually sport something close to founding era ideas of representation.

I think libertarians would have a better chance to influence politics for the better in any of the more rural new states: Jefferson, Adams, new Illinois, greater New York, etc.

But libertarians would be spread pretty thin. I fear that what will happen will be chaotic, tyrannical, and a horror. Pushing secession as a solution to problems might save the country, though, and, if not, allow for future formal bankruptcy proceedings, as I suggest up top.

I of course think all peaceful people should separate themselves from criminals, if they can. And the biggest criminal is the total state.

twv (5/13/20)

Do you agree with United States of America President Donald Trump when he says the coronavirus crisis is ‘worse than Pearl Harbor’ or 9/11?

…as answered on Quora (May 6, 2020)….

The policies chosen as a response to the contagion in most of these United States (as well as, to a somewhat lesser extent, by the federal government) will, I hazard, prove more damaging than either World War II or the insane War on Terror.

These policies may define a new era, and appear to demonstrate the willingness of the public to do damn near anything governments with a barely plausible rationales tell them to. That is, the population, alarmed by scary stories told by scientists wielding faulty models, will just stop what they are doing and submit themselves to house imprisonment.

Now, the willingness of some people to protect themselves and others in public using gloves and masks and social distancing (I was an early adopter) was a noble and respectful adaptation. But shelter-in-place and orders to close business were not. Willingness to go along with them was very, very bad.

Because the prophecies were ridiculous and the policies were bad.


I am not going to get into the epidemiology. I will leave that for others to argue about — though I was skeptical from the beginning. And I ignore the pathetic, witless arguments for ‘flattening the curve,’ which are even now being modified, in a massive migration of the goalpost, by the policy’s proponents.

I am concerned about ‘the economy.’

Attitudes about this have shown people, including many economists, to not understand the most basic elements of commerce. To worry about shutting down business and trade is notto worry about ‘money.’ It is about producing the things we use to live. Stop producing, total, and there is nothing to buy. Stop most production, and there will be huge shortages. The government can send you all your beloved checks, but if there is nothing on store shelves, then the money becomes useless.

Shutting down commerce for a week or maybe a month requires us to exist on savings of actual goods as well as ready money. And goods in the supply lines. But without production, eventually there must come insurmountable shortages, starvation, death. Even now mass starvation in third world countries has begun, and the absence of meat in stores and at, say, Wendy’s, is here. In America. Now.

Livestock is being slaughtered for want of demand.

I suppose there are vegetarians who cheer this. They shouldn’t. Their foodstuffs will be soaked up by an increasingly desperate population, and choke to nothingness fast.

This could be the end of civilization. And the population has meekly complied, because they have been fooled by the money illusion. They think money is wealth. And they have been alarmed senseless by scary stories. And by their own pathetic fears of death.

Fearing death, they have embraced policies that lead to death.

Sure, governors have kept some ‘essential’ businesses somewhat free. But they do not understand how commerce works, either. No more than the central planners of the Soviets did. So keeping some businesses open will allow for some longer rope on the noose.

The lockdown must end, or it will be the biggest hit civilization has taken since Communism — which was, remember, the insane belief that a state-free utopia can grow out of state socialism, a tyrannical, centrally planned totalitarian system.

The lockdown policies may prove worse than Communism. For socialists were greatly aided by the existence of free countries to purchase grains and other goods with natural resources and gold, and by the existence of the pricing systems elsewhere, that central planners tried to ape. Well, we cannot all survive off the wealth allowed in the pockets of freer societies, such as Sweden and Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Even if we right now normalized commerce, and re-introduced productivity, we would still face tough times, for much damage has been done. The idea that governments can switch off commerce and then restart it again is absurd. Of course, when we start really hurting, after the lockdown orders cease, many will blame capitalism.

Do not listen to these people. Ever again.

And as for Trump, well . . .

It’s the productivity, stupid.