Friday, March 16, 2018

Rothbard’s Legacy

Would you be as protective of Murray Rothbard if you hadn’t actually met him?

So asks Michael Malice of Tom Woods, at a little after the 45 minute mark of this podcast.  Woods responds:

Yeah, I would.

Woods goes on to describe the vast body of work produced by Rothbard.  For Woods, purely on a scholarly level, this is sufficient reason to be protective of Rothbard’s legacy.

After offering several personal experiences, Woods continues with a story of Neil McCaffrey and his relationship with Rothbard.  To make a long story short, he and Rothbard didn’t see eye to eye on many political and religious subjects.  According to Woods:

McCaffrey deviated from [Rothbard] quite a bit.

Yet Rothbard and McCaffrey remained really close.  Wood’s reaction?

That’s the kind of guy we should all try to be.

Yes, I think so too.


I have been browbeaten recently and publicly regarding my relationship with Rothbard; for some reason it is found lacking – not based on my expectations but perhaps for expectations others have of me. 

Yet I don’t think Rothbard would have taken this as seriously.  Of course, I never met Rothbard so I can’t say this from any firsthand experience.  But Woods has met him, and Woods has said it.

This reaction has me weighing the possibility of altering the focus of this blog.  Maybe, more so, refining it.  Because I don’t feel I have a beef with Rothbard, and I doubt he would have one with me.

But I don’t want there to be any confusion about this.  So I am thinking to ensure nothing like this comes up again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Kind Word and a Gun

American self-proclaimed hegemony is over where it really matters for any real and perceived hegemon—the military field. It was over for some time now, it just took Putin’s speech to demonstrate the good old Al Capone truism that one can get much further with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.

-        The Implications of Russia's New Weapon Systems, by Andrei Martyanov

Vladimir Putin gave a speech on March 1.  During the speech he announced several new weapon systems.  He offers that these systems have been developed due to the unilateral withdrawal in 2002 by the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty – despite Russian attempts to dissuade the US government from this decision. 

NB: I am no expert on such matters; after offering several excerpts from Putin’s speech I will leave it to the aforementioned Mr. Martyanov to comment.

Russia’s concern?  Anti-ballistic missiles reduce the check that mutually-assured-destruction placed on the use of nuclear weapons.  Putin suggests that the Russians have attempted several times in the intervening years to re-engage on this matter; in the meantime, the United States has installed anti-ballistic missiles in several locations surrounding Russia.  Given these actions, Russia has not stood still:

During all these years since the unilateral US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, we have been working intensively on advanced equipment and arms, which allowed us to make a breakthrough in developing new models of strategic weapons.

These new weapons are designed to circumvent the anti-ballistic-missile defense systems of the United States.  I cannot say which, if any, of these systems can perform as claimed.  However, I am hard-pressed to recall meaningful bluffs on serious issues by Putin in the past.  In any case, only one or two of these announced systems need to be feasible in order for this to be significant.

First up is the Sarmat:

Weighing over 200 tonnes, it has a short boost phase, which makes it more difficult to intercept for missile defence systems….Sarmat will be equipped with a broad range of powerful nuclear warheads, including hypersonic, and the most modern means of evading missile defence.

Putin suggests that there are no range limitations on this new missile; more importantly, it can attack from either the North or South Pole.

Moving on, Putin describes the next breakthrough – an energy source:

One of them is a small-scale heavy-duty nuclear energy unit that can be installed in a missile like our latest X-101 air-launched missile or the American Tomahawk missile – a similar type but with a range dozens of times longer, dozens, basically an unlimited range. It is a low-flying stealth missile carrying a nuclear warhead, with almost an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception boundaries.

Missile launch tests and ground tests have been successful.  After showing a video…

You can see how the missile bypasses interceptors. As the range is unlimited, the missile can manoeuvre for as long as necessary.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Undefending the Defendable

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.
“The right of self-defense is the first law of nature…”
-          George Tucker
Most libertarians live within the intersection of these three ideas; leave it to Murray Rothbard to point out where and why this is not always valid.
This chapter is entitled “War, Peace, and the State.”  I have read and used portions of this essay in some of my past work (here and here, when reviewing the book “Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism”); I have not previously gone through the entire chapter in detail.
I am not sure how to properly phrase this: this might be my favorite work of Rothbard’s (of what I have read).  It is on the single-most important topic for libertarians to consider, and Rothbard introduces a wonderful method of deconstructing the use of weapons – one that runs counter to the intersection represented in the above three statements.
Rothbard introduces the reason why he decided to tackle this subject:
The libertarian movement has been chided by William F. Buckley, Jr., for failing to use its "strategic intelligence" in facing the major problems of our time. We have, indeed, been too often prone to "pursue our busy little seminars on whether or not to demunicipalize the garbage collectors" (as Buckley has contemptuously written), while ignoring and failing to apply libertarian theory to the most vital problem of our time: war and peace.
Rothbard gleefully takes on the challenge, suggesting that, once complete, Buckley might regret making such a challenge.
Let us construct a libertarian theory of war and peace.
The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit violence ("aggress") against another man's person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another.
In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.
There is nothing earth-shattering in this; however, it is necessary to state as Rothbard demonstrates that this simple axiom can then answer the most complex problems of man – and turn the defendable on its head!
Rothbard suggests that we set aside the issue of the state initially; what of relations between private individuals?  Is it permissible to commit violence against an innocent third party when one is taking action against the guilty second party?  The unequivocal libertarian answer is no!
Even during the criminal act, the victim may not spray bullets into a crowd in an effort to stop the guilty party.
If he does this, he is as much (or more of) a criminal aggressor as Smith is.
And from this, the application to the issues in war are evident.  Group of people A are going after group of people B for some violation of person or property.  Is it permissible for group A to blow up village C in an attempt to harm B?  Again, the libertarian answer is a clear no!
The libertarian's basic attitude toward war must then be: it is legitimate to use violence against criminals in defense of one's rights of person and property; it is completely impermissible to violate the rights of other innocent people. War, then, is only proper when the exercise of violence is rigorously limited to the individual criminals. We may judge for ourselves how many wars or conflicts in history have met this criterion.
Not many, however it should be noted that there were times when war was conducted by the principles and not the commoners – this (generally) during the European Middle Ages.  It was also true for much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for European countries (and those with European heritage) when fighting each other; the system broken by Lincoln and the North in the American Civil War, and then in Europe with the Great War.
And this brings us to the key insight, the reason why I so appreciate this piece by Rothbard: the weapons of modern technology – nuclear bombs, gas, pretty much everything fired from an airplane or ship – are different from their predecessors not only in degree, but also in kind:
Of course, one answer to this is that when the degree is the number of human lives, the difference is a very big one. But another answer that the libertarian is particularly equipped to give is that while the bow and arrow and even the rifle can be pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals, modern nuclear weapons cannot.
Yes, the bow and arrow or rifle can also be used aggressively – the point is that these can be used against the specific target.  Inherently today’s modern weapons – best represented by nuclear bombs – cannot; inherently, such weapons can only be used indiscriminately.
These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction….We must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a sin and a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification.
Maybe not as important, but also inherently a violation of the non-aggression principle.
This is why the old cliché no longer holds that it is not the arms but the will to use them that is significant in judging matters of war and peace.
Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.  Yet here is Rothbard, undefending this seemingly very defendable statement. 
For it is precisely the characteristic of modern weapons that they cannot be used selectively, cannot be used in a libertarian manner. Therefore, their very existence must be condemned, and nuclear disarmament becomes a good to be pursued for its own sake.
Sure, the nuclear bomb kills no one if it is not launched; yet it can do nothing other than initiate aggression against tens-of-thousands of innocents when launched.  The weapon itself is undefendable via libertarian theory (to say nothing of general moral conscience).
And if we will indeed use our strategic intelligence, we will see that such disarmament is not only a good, but the highest political good that we can pursue in the modern world.
So…if liberty is the highest political end and nuclear disarmament is the highest political good, it seems to me that libertarians (myself included) might spend more time focused on nuclear disarmament and war and less time on…well, I will let Rothbard tell it:
…the forestalling of massive annihilation is far more important, in truth, than the demunicipalization of garbage disposal, as worthwhile as that may be. Or are libertarians going to wax properly indignant about price control or the income tax, and yet shrug their shoulders at or even positively advocate the ultimate crime of mass murder?
In other words, maybe we should spend more time undefending the defendable.
Rothbard continues next by introducing the state into the equation.  As this post has run long enough, I will continue this examination in a future post.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Open Borders Equals Liberty?

Stockholm, Sweden: 63-year-old Daniel Cuevas Zuniga was peddling home after his night shift.  He stopped to pick up an object that he thought was a toy:

It was an M-75 hand grenade. Manufactured in great numbers for the Yugoslav national army, and then seized by paramilitaries during the civil war in the 1990s, the grenades are packed with plastic explosives and 3,000 steel balls, well suited for attacks on enemy trenches and bunkers.

So reports the New York Times.  Zuniga died; his wife, Wanna, peddling ahead of him was also blown off of her bicycle, shrapnel penetrating her body.  Trying to crawl back to her husband, she was stopped by the police who happened to be nearby.  The explosion shuddered windows 50 feet away.

According to the Times, “Much of the problem is the supply of surplus weapons.”  Wait a minute.  These “surplus weapons” have been available since the 1990s.  But when did this use of hand grenades begin?

Affixed to the wall in Mr. Appelgren’s office in Stockholm’s Police Headquarters is a chart showing the increase in the use of hand grenades. Until 2014 there were about a handful every year. In 2015, that number leapt: 45 grenades were seized by the police, and 10 others were detonated. The next year, 55 were seized and 35 detonated. A modest decrease occurred in 2017, when 39 were seized and 21 were detonated.

“We have lost the trust from the people who lived and worked in this area,” said Gunnar Appelgren, a police superintendent and specialist in gang violence.

What kinds of gangs?  Blond-haired, blue-eyed Swedes?

Varby Gard has produced a street gang, the Varby Gard Network, which the police have been monitoring for two years. It is led by a Tunisian man and populated by first- and second-generation immigrants from Finland, the Balkans and Africa, said Lars Broms, a detective who is investigating Mr. Zuniga’s death.

Finland?  One of these is not like the other.  I am guessing that there is an untold backstory to this Finnish invasion.

Perhaps the truth can be found here:

Last year, Peter Springare, 61, a veteran police officer in Orebro, published a furious Facebook post saying violent crimes he was investigating were committed by immigrants from “Iraq, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Somalia, Syria again, Somalia, unknown country, unknown country, Sweden.” It was shared more than 20,000 times…

If you believe such a post would prompt an official investigation you would be correct.

…Mr. Springare has since been investigated twice by state prosecutors, once for inciting racial hatred, though neither resulted in charges.

I didn’t say that the investigation would be rational.

“Give them 20 years, and we’ll have the same as in L.A.,” Mr. Broms said.

Cultural appropriation?  I have no idea – am I supposed to consider this good or bad?

Illegal weapons often enter Sweden over the Oresund Bridge, a 10-mile span that links the southern city of Malmo to Denmark. When it opened, in 2000, the bridge symbolized the unfurling of a vibrant, borderless Europe, but in recent years it has been more closely associated with smuggling, of people, weapons and drugs.

What changed in “recent years”?

“Crime is increasing and increasing, and they aren’t doing anything about it,” Mr. Garrido said. “It’s denial. Swedes are very good people and they want to change the world. They want the rest of the world to be like Sweden. And the reality is that it’s completely different.”

Yes, everyone around the world generally lives by the non-aggression principle, fully infused with western liberal traditions honed via several centuries of their own culture and tradition.  Invite them all – they are just waiting for the chance to unleash their latent liberal impulses.

So Mr. Zuniga, who was nearing retirement, had planned his exit, squirreling money away to build a house in Thailand, where his wife’s family lived. He told friends he planned to go in April.

Even 10 years ago wasn’t the desired immigration route pretty much the other way?


Trump cautioned about Sweden a year ago, when he pointed out the problem.  The backlash from the establishment – including Swedish politicians and the same New York Times that is the source of this report – was immediate and intense.  What is the New York Times saying today?

Even President Trump weighed in on the issue, saying that after taking in “large numbers” of immigrants, Sweden was “having problems like they never thought possible.”

There are calls for military intervention within Sweden.  To any sentient being it should have been obvious that the unchecked “open borders” immigrant influx unleashed in 2015 would result in such drastic government reactions.  For example:

·        Backlash on Open Borders

This is the “liberty” that results from open borders. 

While we are at it, we might as well invite a few commies….

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Have a Dream

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

-        Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963, Washington, D.C.

Walter Block has written a brilliant piece, echoing this most famous line of what is perhaps King’s most famous speech.  From Walter:

I recently heard a young black male student give thanks to the fact that at my school, Loyola University New Orleans, for the first time in his academic career, he has had teachers who “look like him.”

Walter offers several thought-provoking counters to this student’s joy:

I have a brown belt in Shoto-Kan Karate. Virtually none of my senseis (teachers) look like me. Well, yes, they all had heads, feet, arms, heads, and, I presume, the usual complements of kishkes (inner body parts), but that is where it ended.

What mattered to Walter is the content of his senseis’ character.

I identify with the New Orleans Pelicans. Yet, apart from maleness (and age and athletic ability too!), virtually none of them “look like me.” Should I be perturbed at that fact? …Not if I want them to win, which I certainly do.

What matters to Walter is the content of the players’ character.

I have learned more economics from Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams in the fields of racial and sexual discrimination than I have from any other two scholars…

What matters to Walter…oh, you get the point by now.

In a line that King would have been proud of – heck, he said the same thing just in a different way (emphasis added):

To return to that young black male student who gave thanks to the fact that at Loyola, for the first time in his academic career, he has teachers who “look like him.” Here is some free advice for him: No, no, no, skin color is entirely irrelevant.

Instead, Walter looks to (maybe you are getting tired of my pointing this out) the content of one’s character:

Yes, we do indeed need more diversity at Loyola but not along the usual racial, sexual, ethnic lines. Rather, there is a great need for this in terms of ideology.

Too many leftists and not enough libertarians and conservatives. 

In other words, the content of one’s character.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Road to Genocide

Or…try living life as a minority in a dying empire…

We are now at the end of the Second Balkan War.  Having recovered some of the previously lost territories, there was a new sense of optimism.  For decades, the outskirts of Empire were whittled away, mostly by colonial Western powers – a dying empire.  The end result of this most recent war was to turn the tide…if only momentarily.

The Ottomans were determined to play both sides against the other in the fast-approaching war, delaying for an extended period any real commitment to one side or the other.  Ultimately, there was only one choice that was likely.

On the one hand, Britain, France and Russia; on the other, Germany.  The Triple Entente was represented by the colonialists: France and Britain already making moves on Ottoman territories, Russia, the perennial foe, with an eye on the Straits and the Christian communities in Eastern Anatolia – bordering the Russian Caucasus Mountains.  The Entente powers might talk nice in order to win the Ottomans to their cause, but their actions spoke louder than words.

It was not helpful when the two state-of-the-art dreadnoughts – commissioned by the Ottomans, scheduled for delivery by the British shipbuilders Vickers and Armstrong in July 1914 – were requisitioned by the British shortly before the (ever-delayed) scheduled delivery. 

The day after the British decision, the Ottomans concluded a secret treaty of alliance with Germany, a nation with whom they already held a close relationship.  While the Germans would be the strong friend that the Ottomans needed, the Muslims might prove to be the right ally for the Germans in their fight against the colonialist British and French – and the envious Russians.

Once war would later break out, the Germans established a jihad bureau in Berlin, dedicated to producing pan-Islamic propaganda; they treated Muslim POWs (captured while fighting for colonial Britain) with respect toward their Islamic traditions, hoping to convince them to switch sides and fight for the German cause.

The Germans had previously established a military mission to the Ottoman Empire at the end of 1913.  Otto Liman von Sanders was nominated; he was appointed command over the forces that secured the Straits.  To the Russians, this was tantamount to the Germans having control over the Straits – an intolerable situation.

Two German ships, the heavy battleship Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau, were brought into the Straits – this in order to protect them from the more capable ships of Britain and France.  The Ottomans demanded significant concessions from the Germans in order to allow this escape; the Germans had little choice but to agree.  The ships were to be flown under Ottoman flag, in some manner replacing the two ships confiscated by the British.

Consider the accomplishments by the so-called sick man of Europe: they secured an alliance with a powerful European power in order to protect their territory from Russian aggression; they had mobilized their armed forces; they acquired modern warships.  They did all this without having to get entangled in any actual war-fighting!

But war did break out: North Africa lost; Mesopotamia occupied.  The Russians made advances through the Caucasus and into eastern Anatolia, with the Ottoman forces being routed in the initial conflicts; the British attacked at Gallipoli, where the defenses – directed by the Germans – held.  There were times on both fronts where the end of Ottoman rule seemed inevitable.

What does this have to do with genocide?  The Christian Armenian minority in Turkey numbered something approaching 2 million at the start of the Great War.  By the end of the war, the number could be counted in the tens-of-thousands.  The vast majority were killed or forced out in mass-migration.

I have written about this genocide three years ago – at the time of the 100th anniversary commemoration.  I based my post on a chapter from Rogan’s book – a book that only now I am returning to.  I took advantage of the commemoration to skip ahead in the book…after which it remained on my shelf for too long.

For those who believe “diversity” is marvelous or that open borders for people with vastly different cultural values and traditions is the path to peace and liberty, consider living in a place – especially a dying empire – where you are the minority.  Consider what happens when the inevitable scapegoating begins. 

There are too many examples in history that demonstrate the disaster for those who find themselves in this situation.  What happened to the Armenians (and other Christian populations in the region) is just one example.