Saturday, July 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Anson Heinlein, often called the "dean of science fiction writers," was born 105 years ago today. Heinlein's writing stressed the importance of individual liberty and self reliance, the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought, and the influence of organized religion on culture and government, among myriad other topics.

Heinlein was a prolific writer, his bibliography consisting of 32 novels, 59 short stories and 16 collections published during his life. Four films, two TV series, several episodes of a radio series, and a board game derive more or less directly from his work. Many of his works reference his own "future history,"

Heinlein's juveniles, S.F. novels for young adults, set many a youth on a quest to self-fulfillment and the close examination of the popular wisdom of the day. I count myself among those fortunate youth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Frédéric Bastiat!

Claude Frédéric Bastiat (30 June 1801 – 24 December 1850) was a French classical liberal theorist, political economist, and member of the French assembly.

Bastiat asserted that the sole purpose of government is to defend and protect the right of an individual to life, liberty, and property. From this definition, Bastiat concluded that the law cannot defend life, liberty, and property if it promotes socialist policies, which are inherently opposed to these very things. In this way, he says, the law is perverted and turned against the only things (life, liberty, and property) it is supposed to defend.

Those regular readers of The Tireless Agorist will recall an early essay, The Unseen in Economics, where we explored Bastiat's essay What is seen and what is not seen in political economy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's Hemp History Week!

How much do you know about industrial hemp?

Hemp is not Pot

First, let's get one common misconception out of the way. Marijuana and industrial hemp are not the same thing. Let's hear from Dr. David P. West, who holds a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding from the University of Minnesota. (There's lots more information on the myths and realities of hemp and marijuana at the link.)
Botanically, the genus Cannabis is composed of several variants. Although there has been a long-standing debate among taxonomists about how to classify these variants into species, applied plant breeders generally embrace a biochemical method to classify variants along utilitarian lines.

Cannabis is the only plant genus that contains the unique class of molecular compounds called cannabinoids. Many cannabinoids have been identified, but two preponderate: THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient of Cannabis, and CBD, which is an antipsychoactive ingredient. One type of Cannabis is high in the psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and low in the antipsychoactive cannabinoid, CBD. This type is popularly known as marijuana. Another type is high in CBD and low in THC. Variants of this type are called industrial hemp.

The conflation of the word "marijuana" and the word "hemp" has placed a heavy burden on public policymakers. Many believe that by legalizing hemp they are legalizing marijuana. Yet in more than two dozen other countries, governments have accepted the distinction between the two types of Cannabis and, while continuing to penalize the growing of marijuana, have legalized the growing of industrial hemp. The U.S. government remains unconvinced.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Story Updates 6/3/12

For your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure, updates on the TSA's security theatre, California's underground economy, the community roadbuilding project in Hawaii's Polihale State Park, mainstream rejection of FedGov's unemployment statistics, and Tombstone, Arizona's attempts to get the U.S. Government to allow them to repair their domestic water system. As a bonus, we introduce Cato's Police Misconduct website.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

California vs. the Productive Class

California is sinking fast economically, as we explained in States in Budget Crisis.
The Los Angeles Times points out that California placed 48th in a study of business-friendly states, trailed only by New York and New Jersey -- and that was the good news. A few weeks later, the Times reported even more dismal information.

Leading with the news that Chief Executive magazine had named California the worst place to do business for the eighth year in a row, they went on to detail some of the reasons.

Its 10.9% unemployment rate is only lower than Nevada's and Rhode Island’s. A third of U.S. welfare recipients live in California, the report noted. High state taxes and bundles of red tape make operating a business in the state unaffordable to many companies, critics say.

Last year, 254 California companies moved some or all of their work and jobs elsewhere -- 26% more than 2010. Most chief executives in Silicon Valley said they won't expand in the state, according to the survey.
In The California "Austerity" Trap, Robert Upshaw points out that California's expected budget shortfall has mushroomed to $16 billion and in response, Governor Jerry Brown offered a plan that ups the top tax bracket rate by 3% for the next seven years and increase sales taxes by one-fourth of 1 percent for four years.

In response to these woes, California's solution is to attack its underground economy, estimated by the state at between $60 and $140 billion, rather than lowering the tax and regulatory burdens that have driven that substantial portion of the economy underground, as Reason reports.

Friday, June 1, 2012

History Through a Different Lens

Author's Note: The theory advanced here is painted in extremely broad strokes, since I wanted to tell the story in one easily-digestible blog post. I'll expand on particular issues in future blog posts.
As part of the exploration of the transition that society is facing, it would be well worth our while to understand how we got into this sorry mess in the first place.

I often wondered how a society founded on innovation, self-reliance, and respect for the individual and individual choice above all else morphed into the society we see around us today. I found one plausible explanation in the pages of The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, by Kevin Carson.

When I first started reading The Homebrew Industrial Revolution (THIR), I was expecting a technical treatise. However, before the author got to that, he embarked on a tour of the evolution of society during the Industrial Revolution that is, to put it mildly, considerably at odds with the one we all learned in public school.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fondling Fees Expected to Double

You may soon be paying twice the price for that affectionate send-off you receive from agents of the Transportation Security Administration. The Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an increase in the one-way fee from $2.50 to $5.00, and in the round-trip fee from $5.00 to $10.00. No "two-fer" specials have been announced to date.
The author of the proposal, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said that the current fee structure only covers about one-fourth of TSA's airport security costs and that people who fly should bear a greater cost of TSA's $7.6 billion budget – rather than taxpayers as a whole.
Let's not forget that they're going to need all these funds to expand VIPER, the Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams, which have been increasingly a presence in metro stations, ballgames, on highways, in truckstops, and at Amtrak stations. Talk about an appropriate acronym!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Story Updates 5/27/12

If you haven't liked the Tireless Agorist page on Facebook you haven't heard the latest on some of the stories we've reported here. Click the link above and like the page, or use the button near the bottom of the sidebar to stay up-to-date.

Today we've got updates on Detroit, Emily Miller, armed drones, Tombstone, AZ's ongoing water battle, a new source for Phoenix Society type information, and more on the Ron Paul Revolution.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Tipping Point

"In matters of fashion, swim with the current.
In matters of conscience, stand like a rock."

Thomas Jefferson

Important lessons and a glimmer of hope for liberty activists can be found in the conclusions of research conducted at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as in the work of Malcolm Gladwell.
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion.

To reach their conclusion, the scientists developed computer models of various types of social networks. The initial state of each of the models was a sea of traditional-view holders. Each of these individuals held a view, but were also, importantly, open minded to other views.

Once the networks were built, the scientists then “sprinkled” in some true believers throughout each of the networks. These people were completely set in their views and unflappable in modifying those beliefs. As those true believers began to converse with those who held the traditional belief system, the tides gradually and then very abruptly began to shift.
It's important to note that these results are based on a core of "true believers," completely set in their views, but that the traditional-view holders were open-minded to other views. Those assumptions hold two important lessons for liberty activists.

The first: As Thomas Jefferson argued, "In matters of fashion, swim with the current. In matters of conscience, stand like a rock." Know your principles, stand firmly in support of those principles, and don't get distracted by secondary issues.

The second: Remember the assumption that "traditional-view holders were open-minded to other views." Don't waste your efforts on other "true believers" who are as committed to the growth of the state and the curtailment of liberty as you are to freedom. Leave that fringe to their own devices; the only power they have over you is the power to distract you from the education of the open-minded.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Connecting the Dots: Obama's Value

What Makes Obama Worth a Billion Bucks?

First Dot: President Obama just became the first politician to ever collect over a billion dollars in career political contributions.
His total take reached $1,017,892,305 in April, some nine years after he began his 2004 race for the Senate. Obama is widely expected to raise at least $300 million more before November.
Second Dot: The Washington Post reports White House visitor logs provide window into lobbying activity.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Is Directive 10-289 in Our Future?

I'm currently rereading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, thanks to an ongoing discussion of the book with a first-time reader-friend from the previously mentioned Absolute Write Politics & Current Events forum.

For those not familiar with the novel, it tells the story of an America choking on special favors and regulation, where each attempt to "fix" things leads only to more problems, where legislation promoted for the "common good" instead serves to line the pockets of the politically-connected, where regulations claimed to promote stability instead institutionalize stagnation. An America where "too big to fail" applies not only to banks, but to the steel mills, copper mines, and railroads of those who curry favor with the administration.

An America, in short, not too far distant from the one we inhabit today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Austrians Ascendent

The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men
how little they really know
about what they imagine they can design.

F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit, 1988

The Austrian School of economics, for many years considered "fringe," or heterodox, has nonetheless proven startlingly prescient, as the quotes from two famous Austrians in the photograph above illustrates. Now, in the midst of the Great Recession, some attention is being paid once again to the school of economic thought that led Mises and Hayek to express their contrarian positions before the 1929 stock market crash.

The Austrian School of Economics

Briefly stated, the Austrian School argues that economics is a social science, rather than a physical one, that human behavior in the aggregate is so complex as to make economic modeling all but impossible, and that the proper approach to understanding economics is through the deductive discovery of fundamental laws of human action rather than through analysis of historical data.

Mainstream economists operate primarily from the latter, inductive, form of reasoning, while the Austrian School is built on a foundation of deductive reasoning from first principles, also known as axioms.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Licensed to Live: Occupations

Author's Note: Just below the masthead at the top of the page you'll see a new Contents link. The linked page lists all Tireless Agorist columns, arranged loosely as a table of contents or reading list by category. I hope you find it useful for exploring The Tireless Agorist.

In 1787 one could get most any job or open most any business without seeking the government's permission to do so. Today, nearly one in three U.S. workers needs a license to pursue their chosen occupation, and starting a new (legal) business without the involvement of both a state-licensed attorney and a state-licensed accountant is a fool's errand. Two recent studies do much to explain the rapid growth of the underground, apolitical economy that we explored in The Apolitical Economic Superpower and the rest of the Phoenix Society series of columns.

Occupational Hazards

The Institute for Justice recently released Occupational Licensing in 50 States and D.C., a study examining the impact of licensing on 102 low and moderate-income occupations. In 1950, only one in 20 U.S. workers needed a license to pursue their chosen occupation. Today, the ratio approaches one in three.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Tireless Guide to Posts 1-100

Author's Note: As a service to my tireless readers, I've organized the first 100 columns into a table of contents of sorts, organized by loosely-defined categories. I hope this will make it easier for you to explore subjects you may have missed in the past.

Celebrating 100 Tireless Posts

This is the 100th post on The Tireless Agorist, and my 60th birthday, so I'm taking the easy way out, with a little overview and thanks to my readers.

In those posts, we've partially erected a skeletal framework of political and economic philosophy bearing the promise of a society considerably different than that which most people take as a given, but there is much yet to be constructed.

I've shared my somewhat different views on a number of topics, including economics, society, politics, and history. In the Phoenix Society series, we've explored the emergence of a new form of society that functions in spite of, rather than because of, government. We've examined numerous cases of people and communities redefining their interactions through cooperation rather than coercion, and discovered that people are surviving quite nicely by expanding that paradigm. And we've seen that one woman, aware of her rights, managed to beat back serious infringements on the right to self defense in the nation's capital.

Government malfeasance, unfortunately, has also been a common topic, from victimless crimes and a war on civil liberties in the name of safety to cases of economic and regulatory malfeasance. We've enjoyed a few rather light-hearted stories as well, and even spent a little effort on the 2012 presidential race. And through it all, I've been learning from my readers as they learn from me and from the myriad sources from which I draw my inspiration. My thanks to my readers for their input, and my promise that the next 100 posts will be just as educational, thought-provoking, and hopefully, entertaining as these first 100 have been.

As a service to my tireless readers, post 101 will be a table of contents of sorts, organized by loosely defined categories, to make exploring The Tireless Agorist a more enjoyable process.

I'd also like to invite my readers to use the comments section of this post to let me know your favorite topics from the first 100 posts, and offer suggestions for topics that you'd like to see covered in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Agorist Don

P.S. You can support The Tireless Agorist by shopping Amazon through the search box over to the right or any of the Amazon links, and I'd really appreciate it if you'd click the Facebook Like button near the bottom of the sidebar.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

States in Budget Crisis

Map courtesy of The Washington Post.

As the above map shows, more than 40 states are facing a budget shortfall in fiscal 2012. Ten states will fall short of revenue needs by 20% or more; Illinois and Nevada are both projecting shortfalls representing approximately 45% of their budgets. The top five are rounded out by New Jersey, at 37%, Texas at 31%, and California at 28%. Those five states combined project a total shortfall of just under $40 billion.

It appears that even the dismal case projected for California was an understatement. Tax revenue for the fiscal year is currently running $3 billion below projection.

It's also important to note that those figures are only for fiscal 2012. Factor in pension liabilities, estimated at more than 10 times annual budget in California's case, for instance, and the situation is untenable.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fellow Travelers and Purity Tests

Author's Note: I'm not a big fan of the whole "voting" thing, agreeing in large part with those ideological purists who consider voting a validation of the system. Nor am I seriously convinced that political action will ever reverse the current course of government. As an agorist, I think that replacing the functions of government one piece at a time in our own lives and focusing locally will have more long-term impact.

That said, I'm philosophically a pacifist, too, but in self-defense I'd certainly be willing to pull the trigger. Thus my pragmatic approach to politics, and voting. Read on and you'll understand why this explanation was necessary. I'm simply laying out a game plan for those who are convinced political action can still turn the tide. I consider them fellow travelers too, regardless of what label they self-declare, and I write for the whole "more freedom, less coercion" movement, not just those most closely aligned with my beliefs.

P.S. In this essay, I use the term libertarian in as "big-tent" a context as is possible... excluding Bob Barr, of course.

This weekend, two-time New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson won the Presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party, kicking off quite likely the most successful of Libertarian Presidential runs to date. The Ron Paul Revolution cleaned up in Nevada and Maine, claiming 22 of the 28 national delegate slots in Nevada and 21 of the 24 of the slots in Maine. While 20 of the Nevada delegates must vote for Romney on the first ballot at the convention, the Maine contingent is free to vote their conscience, since the Maine "primary" was nothing more than an unbound beauty contest staged for the press.

In a recent column, The Underground is Surfacing, we discussed The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, by Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie. The book's thesis is that "we are in fact living at the cusp of what can only be called the libertarian moment." Independents are now the largest voting block in the country, their 41% share outstripping both Democrats and Republicans, and they hold political positions very similar to those reported for Millennials (18-to-29-year-olds) surveyed in a recent Harvard study.
In general terms, only 20% of Millennials feel the nation is generally headed in the right direction, opposed to 43% who think it's off on the wrong track and 36% who aren't sure. Only 15% disagree with the statement "Politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Criminalizing Dissent

In First Amendment (1791-2012) R.I.P. we discussed H.R. 347, the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act, that further criminalized the First Amendment. Slate concisely summarized the new law like this.
It is a federal offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison to protest anywhere the Secret Service might be guarding someone. For another, it’s almost impossible to predict what constitutes “disorderly or disruptive conduct” or what sorts of conduct authorities deem to “impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.”

Instead of turning on a designated place, the protest ban turns on what persons and spaces are deemed to warrant Secret Service protection. It’s a perfect circle: The people who believe they are important enough to warrant protest can now shield themselves from protestors. No wonder the Occupy supporters are worried. In the spirit of “free speech zones,” this law creates another space in which protesters are free to be nowhere near the people they are protesting.
Among others, three major upcoming events will test the impact of this new law on First Amendment activities. First comes Chicago's NATO Summit, May 20-21. The Presidential nominating conventions follow this fall, first the Republicans in Tampa, August 27-30, then the Democrats in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 3-6.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Millennial's Libertarian Leanings

As we saw in The Transformational Generation, the generations that grew up on the Internet have a different view of the future than that represented by the left-right, progressive-conservative, Democrat-Republican paradigm. We saw that play out when The Largest Libertarian Society in History took on the crony capitalism machine and sent SOPA and PIPA to the graveyard.

Most recently, we observed that The Underground is Surfacing, with people of all ages taking their destiny into their own hands, refusing to wait for solutions from an increasingly bloated and incapable political machine. And now, courtesy of the Harvard University Institute of Politics, we have data on the 18-to-29 year old generation that backs up these observations.

Although Harvard's report leads with the possible impact of their findings on the 2012 election, the real story goes far beyond November, and it's mostly bad news for the two-party system and the political machine in general. Forbes took their own look at the data and arrived at somewhat similar conclusions, although they too generally focused on the short term and the upcoming election.
These attitudes betraying both the traditional left and right fall generally within the bounds of libertarianism. Live and let live. Individual responsibility is as important as collective responsibility. Avoid military interventions. Distrust both government and corporations. Protect civil liberties.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Killer Cattle Prods

According to a new report published on Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, the electrical shock delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death.

The study, which analyzed detailed records from the cases of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after receiving shocks from a Taser X26 fired at a distance, is likely to add to the debate about the safety of the weapons. Seven of the people in the study died; one survived.

The New York Times reported the statements of two prominent doctors who concurred with the results of the study.
“This is no longer arguable,” said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement.”
Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a professor of medicine in cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that the study "had persuaded him that in at least some of the eight cases, the Taser shock was responsible for the cardiac arrests."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Underground is Surfacing

So far in this series about the Phoenix Society, we've addressed the massive size and rapid growth of the underground, apolitical economy, the rising decentralization and individual empowerment in response to the ongoing failures of centralized, top-down control, detailed specifics of new technologies that hold the promise of decentralizing production, new tools for and attitudes toward collaboration, and the decentralization of production. But the story of the Phoenix Society is not only in the depth of the changes occuring at the edge of the future, but the breadth of support for these changes, even among those who have yet to realize their depth.

Stories that explore the widespread acceptance of this new decentralized paradigm are everywhere, and a number of those stories have been told here at The Tireless Agorist. In Detroit: America's Greece, we saw examples of residents reclaiming homes taken by banks and government agencies, community gardening projects, voluntary cleanup efforts, neighborhood watches, and new sorts of microbusinesses, all the result of individual initiatives, not government programs.

Accidental Agorists Rebuild A Road tells the story of a community of volunteers repairing a road vital to their well-being because the government couldn't or wouldn't get the job done and they weren't willing to set around and watch their livelihoods destroyed. Meanwhile, Tombstone, Arizona Clings to Life as the citizens still wait after more than a year for permission from the government to repair vital water systems that are in an area protected by the Wilderness Act.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tombstone, Arizona Clings to Life

The Monument fire last June destroyed over 30,000 acres, some of it endangered species habitat, in Cochise County, Arizona. It also destroyed the primary source of water for Tombstone, Arizona, a town of 1,500 and, owing to its fame, host to more than 400,000 visitors each year. Within days of the fire being extinguished, the town already knew they had a big task on their hands. Flooding that followed the fire destroyed the catch basins as well as some of the pipeline.
As of right now Tombstone still has water thanks to some wells, but they said they're just not enough. Kern said, "Our wells can keep up but if we had a major fire or something in town that could drain our water supply really fast."

Because of that risk, workers said they're not going to let Mother Nature beat them, but fixing the mess won't be easy.

Wright said, "It's do-able. To think they did it in 1880 and did it all by hand, I guess we can find a way to put it back."

City works said they're confident they can get in here, get everything cleaned up, and build new water basins but they're going to have to wait because the flooding probably isn't done. They said if they do any work the next flood will likely wash it all away.
Now, almost a year later, the town is starved for water, forced to rely on two ground wells (one compromised by arsenic) to meet its needs, although it normally draws 50 to 80 percent of its water from springs in the Monument Fire burn area. The delay is not caused by Mother Nature, or by a technical problem.
The City of Tombstone is squaring off against the U.S. Forest Service over water rights in a fight to rescue “The Town Too Tough to Die.” Citing the Wilderness Act, the Forest Service is refusing to allow the city to repair its waterlines to mountain springs it has owned for nearly seventy years – and which date back to the 1880s. This refusal is threatening residents, private property and public safety with the risk of a total loss of fire protection and safe drinking water.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Barefoot College - Electrifying Empowerment

In some of the poorest villages of India and Africa, illiterate grandmothers are bringing the gift of light. This is the amazing story of Barefoot College, responsible not only for training illiterate solar engineers, but also water engineers, designers, communicators, midwives, architects and rural social entrepreneurs.

Barefoot College, established in 1972 by Sanjit "Bunker" Roy, has been championing a bottom-up approach to education and empowering rural poor since 1972. Roy's vision was to educate the local people, who would then be able to use the skills and knowledge to raise themselves from poverty. He initially hired what he describes as "paper-qualified urban professionals," but found they would spend only a few months at the project before leaving for positions in the cities. Beginning in 1977, he began using local people who had attended the college to do the teaching, designing the programs to use simple technology in innovative ways.
Roy's model -- educating local people through peer-to-peer learning -- is transformational in that it relies on the passing on of traditional skills and knowledge rather than an emphasis on outside educators bringing new ideas and influences. Local people are trained as doctors, teachers, engineers, architects, designers, mechanics, communicators and accountants.

Roy has disrupted the model that many NGOs and well-endowed foundations promote in the developing world, namely a top-down approach led by outside, often governmental, institutions.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

CISPA: What's Next?

Author's Note: I've covered the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act thoroughly in three previous columns you may want to read if you're not up to speed on the issue: CISPA Keynotes Cybersecurity Week, Who's Buying CISPA and Selling Us Out? and CISPA House Debate Starts Tomorrow.

Congress is currently considering CISPA – the Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act – a bill that purports to protect the United States from “cyber threats” but would in fact create a gaping loophole in all existing privacy laws. If CISPA passes, companies could vacuum up huge swaths of data on everyday Internet users and share it with the government without a court order. I oppose CISPA, and I’m calling on Congress to reject any legislation that:
  • Uses dangerously vague language to define the breadth of data that can be shared with the government.
  • Hands the reins of America’s cybersecurity defenses to the NSA, an agency with no transparency and little accountability.
  • Allows data shared with the government to be used for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.
Join me in opposing this bill by posting this statement on your own page and using this online form to send a letter to Congress against CISPA.

CISPA passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, with a vote of 258-168, even after this Tireless Agorist's impassioned pleas. I guess I don't run the world... yet.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Red Hat, Blue Hat, Which Hat, No Hat

There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern.
They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

Daniel Webster

Another of those infamous political discussions at the premier writer's site, Absolute Write, forced me to spend some time thinking about the differences between political groups, particularly those here in the US.

The political narrative in the US is between the left and the right, liberals (or progressives) and conservatives, or as I prefer to put it, the nanny state and the daddy state.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CISPA House Debate Starts Tomorrow

Author's Note: If you haven't been keeping up with CISPA, here are two earlier Tireless Agorist posts about CISPA: CISPA Keynotes Cybersecurity Week and Who's Buying CISPA and Selling Us Out?
The ACLU is asking that you contact your representative today because tomorrow the House of Representatives will open debate tomorrow on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, including more than 40 potential amendments. The first link above includes a lookup for your representative's phone number and even a sample script for the phone call.

Have you made that phonecall yet? Don't disappoint the ACLU, Tim Berners-Lee, Ron Paul, this Tireless Aorist, and a large group of other people. Go make your call, then come back and read what those people, and others, have to say about CISPA.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Drones Coming Home to Roost

Civilian cousins of the unmanned military aircraft that have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird's-eye view that's too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.

Customs and Border Patrol has nine Predator drones mostly in use on the U.S.-Mexico border, and plans to expand to 24 by 2016. Officials say the unmanned aircraft have helped in the seizure of more than 20 tons of illegal drugs and the arrest of 7,500 people since border patrols began six years ago.
The Federal Aviation Administration is gearing up to advance the widespread use of remotely piloted aircraft. By the fall of 2015, Congress wants the agency to integrate remotely piloted aircraft, also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles and commonly called drones, throughout U.S. airspace.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jury Nullification Still Legal

I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.
Thomas Jefferson

In celebration of a recent decision that it's still legal to discuss jury nullification, I'll take this window of opportunity to dedicate a blog post to the topic. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood determined that it's perfectly legitimate to encourage jurors to vote their conscience, even when that conflicts with the letter of the law. More specifically, she found that distributing pamphlets about jury nullification is not jury tampering, even in front of a courthouse.

Jurors have the authority to judge the law and may vote to acquit a defendant who is guilty of doing something that should not be a crime.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Who's Buying CISPA and Selling Us Out?

Congress is currently considering CISPA – the Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act – a bill that purports to protect the United States from “cyber threats” but would in fact create a gaping loophole in all existing privacy laws. If CISPA passes, companies could vacuum up huge swaths of data on everyday Internet users and share it with the government without a court order. I oppose CISPA, and I’m calling on Congress to reject any legislation that:
  • Uses dangerously vague language to define the breadth of data that can be shared with the government.
  • Hands the reins of America’s cybersecurity defenses to the NSA, an agency with no transparency and little accountability.
  • Allows data shared with the government to be used for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.
Join me in opposing this bill by posting this statement on your own page and using this online form to send a letter to Congress against CISPA.

For those who haven't yet read my previous column, here's a brief analysis from CNET. Others can skip ahead to Who's Selling Us Out?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

CISPA Keynotes Cybersecurity Week

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 3523, is Congress' most recent incarnation of the SOPA/PIPA battle that the Internet community fought and won handily in January of this year.
Congress is set to act on cybersecurity legislation that has been making its way through committees in both chambers for several years. The House is set to vote on these bills during the week of April 23, dubbed "Cybersecurity Week." The Senate will take action soon after.

The House is expected to kick off Cybersecurity week by taking up HR 3523, a bill sponsored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).

The House Intelligence Committee approved the bill in a secret session held one day after the bill was introduced and without a single public hearing on the legislation.

The Rogers bill creates a sweeping "cybersecurity exception" to every single federal and state law, including key privacy laws---the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Wiretap Act, the Privacy Act—allowing private companies holding our private communications to share them with each other, with the National Security Agency (NSA), and with other intelligence and defense agencies, and all other agencies of the federal government.

...under Rogers, once your personal information is in the hands of the government, all bets are off. It can be used for any national security purpose, including to track patterns of communications to decide whether to seek authorization to wiretap you. In can be used to prosecute you for any crime, provided an intelligence agency also finds at least a significant national security or cyber security purpose for the information.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where in the World is Ron Paul?

... and what's Wolf Blitzer doing in that tire swing?

On April 4, FOX Nation asked "Where in the World is Ron Paul?" They weren't looking very hard. Ron Paul is all over the place, and he's drawing crowds the other Republican candidates only dream about.

Monday, April 16, 2012

White Male Privilege

It must be nice to be a baby boomer heterosexual white man.

During an online discussion about voting, after I sarcastically recommended the lesser of two evils theory, I got this clever non-sequiter dropped in my lap.
It must be nice to be a baby boomer heterosexual white man.
My reply, although pointed, was far too brief.
Actually, it sucks. We can't blame our failures on the inequities in the system and postulate that if only we get the right people into political office they'll fix everything. We have to face the stark reality that the One Percent's idea of "equality" is to destroy the "privileged" middle class so that all the ninety-nine percent are equally disadvantaged and dependent on their largess, rather than removing the roadblocks that allow everyone to compete with those who are politically protected and achieve all they're capable of achieving.

My concept of equality does not mean we're all equally powerless to do anything without permission from the state and grateful for whatever paltry portion of our own efforts they deign to let us keep.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our Crumbling Infrastructure

We Americans today have been a lot like a generation who's inherited our grandparents' mansion. People drive by going "nice house," but when you go inside it, it's falling apart.
Stephen Flynn

An economy runs on infrastructure, and America is no different. Energy and fresh water must be available wherever it's needed, and waste of all kinds must be removed to maintain a healthy environment. Roads, bridges, waterways, aviation and transit systems keep people and products moving. Dams and levees are critical to taming mother nature's propensity to provide too much water in one instance, too little in another.

And America's infrastructure is falling apart, as Pew Research reported back in 2008.
The numbers are staggering. More than one in four of America's nearly 600,000 bridges need significant repairs or are burdened with more traffic than they were designed to carry, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Homebrew Production Model

In earlier columns in this series, we've explored technologies that promise to challenge mass production and distribution of goods, much as decentralized arts have begun to challenge the major media outlets and local farming is becoming a nascent threat to factory farming; technology that will soon be as readily available to the local craftsman as farming implements are to the local farmer.

Both an ecological and economic case can be made for the wastefulness of the current production-push model of goods creation. Making cheap, disposable goods centrally and distributing them globally in a never-ending cycle uses considerably more resources and energy than crafting durable, repairable goods for a smaller geographic area. As with produce, the hidden costs of socialized infrastructure account for a considerable portion of the supposed economic advantages of mass production.

The counter-argument can be made that only centralized production lines can produce many goods, such as today's sophisticated electronic consumer goods. To continue down the path toward a more decentralized economy, new models of decentralized production will be necessary. Fortunately, some models have already shown themselves to be viable, and others offer great promise.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Detroit: America's Greece

As most everyone knows by now, Greece is broke. The government has borrowed all there is to borrow. They've made all the promises they can possibly make. And they're going to be able to deliver on neither obligation. Bondholders and citizens alike have discovered that the well of unending plenty is dry. But this didn't happen overnight, and even now there is much denial of the final outcome, although the signs have been on the horizon for years. The euro-based Greek economy is dead; what the establishment will do to recreate a replacement "official" economy is yet to be seen. Nor is Greece the only euro-state in trouble. Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain are in similar shape, with many others not far behind.

Meanwhile, the Greek people are seeking their own ways around the mess that their national leaders have created, to some degree with the cooperation of those leaders, as we discovered in Greece Surrenders to the Underground Economy.

Detroit, like Greece, has failed. The government of Detroit is collapsing, soon to be replaced, one way or another. Battles have erupted between the Detroit City Council and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to determine which group will take temporary control of the city (and eventually the ultimate blame for the collapse of Detroit's political machine).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Around the Web 4/5/12

I'll be traveling to visit friends today, making it a good day to encourage my readers to catch up on interesting stories around the web.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Accidental Agorists Rebuild A Road

Here's the story of a community getting together to repair a road, bridge and all, because the government couldn't or wouldn't get the job done and they weren't willing to set around and watch their livelihoods destroyed. What this Tireless Agorist finds most interesting is that they don't even realize they're agorists, or that they're involved in a voluntaryist, entrepreneurial, counter-economic political demonstration of direct action, as surely as Mahatma Gandhi and his supporters on the Salt March. This is how the world will change.
Their livelihood was being threatened, and they were tired of waiting for government help, so business owners and residents on Hawaii's Kauai island pulled together and completed a $4 million repair job to a state park -- for free.

Polihale State Park has been closed since severe flooding destroyed an access road to the park and damaged facilities in December.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources had estimated that the damage would cost $4 million to fix, money the agency doesn't have, according to a news release from department Chairwoman Laura Thielen.
The state couldn't get it done for at least two years, so Ivan Slack, owner of one of many businesses reliant on the park, went looking for volunteers.

Monday, April 2, 2012

“Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks.”

“Turn around,” Mr. Florence recalled being told by jail officials. “Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks.”

The New York Times informs us that the Supreme Court ruled on Monday " that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband."

The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who declared "every detainee who will be admitted to the general population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed."

Kennedy gave three reasons to justify routine searches — detecting lice and contagious infections, looking for tattoos and other evidence of gang membership and preventing smuggling of drugs and weapons.

The opinion of the four dissenters, authored by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, declared that strip-searches improperly "subject those arrested for minor offenses to a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so. Breyer said jailers should have a reasonable suspicion someone may be hiding something before conducting a strip-search.

In his dissent, Breyer also pointed out that inmates in the two New Jersey jails already have to submit to pat-down searches, pass through metal detectors, shower with delousing agents and have their clothing searched.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Elizabeth Warren, Clueless or Complicit?

On March 8, 2007 the University of California Berkeley Jefferson Lecture Series presented The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class: Higher Risks, Lower Rewards, and a Shrinking Safety Net.

Since the title of the lecture closely paralled a topic I've been intending to explore, I decided that watching this lecture would serve to help me collect my own thoughts in preparation for writing on the subject.

The lecture was delivered by Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University and past chair of the Congressional oversight panel created to oversee the 2008 U.S banking bailout. She conceived and led the establishment of the U.S Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and is currently a US Senate candidate from Massachusetts. I've embedded the video, and I recommend watching it if you have the time.

What Ms. Warren Got Right

She opened her lecture by expressing her belief that "The single most important economic shift of the second half of the 20th century, in the United States, [was] that that millions of mothers poured into the full-time paid work force. A woman in 1970 who had a 16-year-old child was less likely to be in the work force than a woman in 2003 who had a six-month-old child at home. It was a profound shift in America."

"The median family in America went, over a 30-year period, from being a one-income household to a two-income household."

Year-Round Fools

In honor of April's Fool day, I've decided to feature a site that reports on fools year-round,'s Daily Brickbat. For those unfamiliar with the site, the Daily Brickbat is a mini blog where they post a very brief summary of something particularly ridiculous that someone in power has done on that particular day. Links are always provided to more conventional coverage so you can share the tale with friends. Highly recommended for those times when you want a laugh, a reason to bang your head against the wall, an opportunity for a double facepalm... or a site you can share with friends who desperately need a wake-up call about the abuse of authority.

A sampling of a half-dozen recent posts:

Officer Leatherface: Judy Sanchez says she heard someone pounding on the door of her Fitchburg, Massachusetts, apartment, and almost immediately after that someone started cutting through the door with a chainsaw. Several armed people rushed through the door forcing her and her family to the floor. It was a team of FBI agents who figured out about a half hour later they were supposed to raid the apartment next door.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Malum in se, Malum Prohibitum

When it comes to the proper role of government, most people seem to agree on a few basic issues; murder, rape, fraud, theft and vandalism (acts of aggression against individuals and their property) are almost universally accepted as violations that government should prevent or punish. Conflicts tend to arise only after we step beyond that common theme.

Two legal terms illustrate that fundamental split: malum in se and malum prohibitum.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Not Worth a Continental

In The Perils of Paper Money, I introduced David Wolman's article A Short History of American Money, From Fur to Fiat, which appeared in The Atlantic in early February.

In that essay, I explained briefly how money, once disconnected from any objective standard of value, has historically devalued over time. This is starkly illustrated by the story of the Continental Currency issued during the American Revolution. This tale, relegated to two brief paragraphs in The Atlantic article, is central to our understanding of the concept of money. It provides an important cautionary tale concerning our existing Federal Reserve System and the peril of money grounded in nothing but the full faith and credit of any government.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Open-Source Freedom

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein

Northwestern Localist asked an interesting question in response to the column Homebrew Production is Coming.
How many years are we from designing and building our own farm equipment, transportation, etc. etc.? This kind of technology makes massive centralized government control less viable.
I happened to know the answer is zero, which sent me searching for something I vaguely remembered, and that led me to the today's column. While Northwestern Localist won't be printing up a tractor on a RepRap machine any time soon, his question goes far beyond that, to the concept of shared knowledge.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Higher Education Bubble

With almost a trillion dollars in loans outstanding and an estimated 27% of those loans more than 30 days in arrears, it's getting easier every day to predict the next segment of the economy to collapse.

Those who understand how the bubble-blowing combination of the Federal Reserve and government policy destroyed the housing market, fueled the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s, and shares some level of responsibility for every nationwide recession since 1913 watched in trepidation when "college for all" replaced "home ownership for all" as the entitlement mantra. It's starting to look suspiciously like they were right once again.

Fitch Ratings notes that the "The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently reported that as many as 27% of all student loan borrowers are more than 30 days past due. Recent estimates mark outstanding student loans at $900 billion- $1 trillion."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Homebrew Production is Coming

Author's Note: The Homebrew Industrial Revolution, by Kevin Carson, goes into great detail about many of the concepts underlying this series of posts. A number of columns will focus on information gleaned from there. Well worth the time to read. Highly recommended.
In the first column in this series, The Apolitical Economic Superpower, we discussed the rapid growth of the untaxed, unregulated economy that currently provides 50% of the world's jobs, and is expected to provide two-thirds of the world's jobs by 2020, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In The Rising Phoenix Society, we learned of David Obi, who brought electricity to the masses in Nigeria by working an underground distribution deal with a Chinese manufacturer. We looked at local and urban farming as an example of the growth of apolitical employment in the US, and touched on regulation and infrastructure costs as two reasons that smaller-scale production may prove increasingly more competitive with factory farming in the future.

We also noted the great changes in the creation and marketing of literature, music, photography and other arts over the last few years, thanks to the largely unregulated and tax-free internet. We mentioned the grassroots effort that arose in opposition to the corporate-driven attempt by government to squash that great blossoming of creativity. We also observed that education (as opposed to government managed and financed "schooling") is on the cusp of a similar great transformation.

However, there's one major element of society that has and always probably will remain within the Domain of the Dinosaurs; the holy trinity of mass production, mass marketing, and mass distribution. Like it or not, that model is a keystone of the modern economy. The current assumption is that centralized mass production, with its requirements for massive capital investments, high energy and transportation costs, reliance on nation-wide infrastructure, considerable administrative overhead, and reliance on a production-driven throwaway consumption model is the only viable model for production.

Can that model be challenged by one without all those drawbacks? By the process of negation, that model would include low capital requirements, low overhead, local distribution, and build-to-demand production of durable, repairable goods. Unless goods can be economically produced in much smaller batches on much less expensive equipment, that model is a non-starter. But innovations on the horizon suggest a strong possibility that those conditions will be met in the not-too-distant future.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Greece Surrenders to the Underground Economy

The Guardian recently published Greece on the breadline: cashless society takes off, an all-too-brief look at what's happening in the streets of Greece in response to their government's international monetary woes. This paragraph is what triggered my reaction and the title of this post.
The Greek parliament recently passed a law encouraging "alternative forms of entrepreneurship and local development", including exchange networks such as Volos's, giving them official non-profit status for tax purposes.
As I read it, Greece has surrendered to the underground economy by writing off a significant chunk of future tax revenue, and it has to do primarily with "exchange networks such as Volo's." To understand, we have to go back to the top of the Guardian's story.

Around the Web 3/23/12

Here are few interesting articles that I've noticed in the last week or so that I thought might be of interest to those who enjoy The Tireless Agorist.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pizza Federalism, Kickstarter and the Arts

Discussion of federalism is all the rage these days among conservatives. Such conversations are generally framed by the Tenth Amendment, interpreted as an issue of "States Rights," and then dismissed by the left as a throwback to the days of the Civil War.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
I believe a more honest appraisal of the concept requires consideration of the Ninth Amendment as well, and others are becoming at least tangentially aware of that idea.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
When both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments are included in the discussion, federalism expands to encompass "pushing government decisions down to the lowest democratic level possible," as Jonah Goldberg notes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Government Integrity Analyzed

A consortium led by the Center for Public Integrity, a "nonpartisan" watchdog group, released a report on the integrity of state-level governments on Monday.

Not one state got an "A," the breakdown was 5 "B"s, 19 "C"s, 18 "D"s, and 8 "F"s.

I found it particularly telling that this "nonpartisan" watchgroup did not issue grades for either the District of Columbia or the federal government.

Here's how they begin their lament.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Booze Cause of the Economic Crisis

Everybody should believe in something; I believe I'll have another drink.
Author unknown

Appearing at Real Clear Politics today, Causes of the Crisis, wherein Robert Samuelson proclaims "Four years after the onset of the financial crisis -- in March 2008 Bear Stearns was rescued from failure -- we still lack a clear understanding of the underlying causes."

He makes note of the two competing theories; that Wall Street, unregulated, took too many risks, and that mortgage-lending standards created the housing bubble. He then examines the case for a root cause of both.
Actually, both theories are correct -- and neither is... But the fact that these theories are not mutually exclusive suggests that both were consequences of some larger cause. Just so. What ultimately explains the financial crisis and Great Recession is an old-fashioned boom and bust, of which the housing collapse was merely a part.
In this, Samuelson is correct. He then proceeds to give a history lesson, pointing out that the boom began with the decisive defeat of double-digit inflation in the early 1980s, (while failing to address the cause of, or cure for, that inflation, however). He points to two mild recessions in the ensuing years, and gives credit to the Federal Reserve for "defusing" those two threats. He then states "booms become busts because justifiable confidence becomes foolish optimism," and continues his history lesson by spreading the blame everywhere; on investment banks, households, lending standards, regulators, ethical standards, even criminals. But not one word of explanation as to how "justifiable confidence becomes foolish optimism."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Exploitation: A Matter of Perspective

Matt Yglesias asked what was perhaps a rhetorical question at Slate on Friday, in his column The Real Story Is Everywhere In China Where They're Not Making Apple Stuff.

He first notes that "Public radio's popular This American Life episode about abuses in the Foxconn factories that make Apple products has been retracted on the grounds of the "significant fabrications" it apparently contained."

Matt then suggests that perhaps Apple's real sin was in "exposing our delicate western sensibilities to the misery [of Chinese workers]."

As he points out, "You don't read articles about working conditions in factories making socks destined for export to Kazakhstan, and you don't read articles about working conditions on the rice farms that people eagerly leave to go toil in the sock factory."

And then it's time for the rhetorical sucker punch. I use that term as a compliment, not a pejorative; it's an important question to ask.
When you read something bad about a Foxconn factory and then see that thousands of people line up for the chance of a job at one of them, that really ought to make you wonder. What were those guys doing the day before they decided to stand in line? How did that look?
Well, Matt, thanks to the New York Times, this Tireless Agorist can answer that question for you, through the eyes of a young man born in China and now attending an American university. He sent the following note to David Pogue, who included it in his column What Cameras Inside Foxconn Found.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

30 Seconds to Destroy Democracy

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold
is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

Thomas Jefferson

Author's Note: Regardless of your position on the Presidential candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul, I believe you will find this attack on the democratic process profoundly disturbing. If the rule of law means nothing at the lowest levels of the political process in America, how can we expect it to have meaning at the highest? Please share this column with everyone you know. Our silence grants a foothold to tyranny.

If you believe that democracy is still alive and well in the United States, I invite you to watch the video below. In less than 30 seconds, from the call for the vote to the closing of the convention, you'll see an attack on democracy intended to destroy the will of the people, bringing to mind Jimmy Doolittle's 30 seconds over Tokyo, intended to destroy the will of a different people. This Tireless Agorist is sure that just as the raid on Tokyo provided a morale boost for the American people, the Athens-Clarke County Republican Party establishment got a boost in their morale from believing they had successfully completed their raid on democracy.

But just as Doolittle's raid strengthened the resolve of the Japanese people, so too has this action strengthened the resolve of those who expect their voices to be heard through peaceful, democratic means and the rule of law.

Shocker: Hybrid Cars Stalled

First Shocker: General Motors has announced it will idle production of its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid for five weeks because of slow sales, in spite of efforts to boost the vehicle's consumer appeal. The shutdown begins March 19th and ends April 23. Approximately 1,300 workers at the Hamtramck, Michigan factory will be out of work for that period.

The Volt was launched with great fanfare last year, but has suffered a rocky start with sales far below projections. Its primary purpose has been to serve as a lightning rod for critics of the Obama administration's auto-industry bailout and concurrent emphasis on alternative energy. It's also a fine example of crony capitalism at its best.

The company currently has an inventory of more than 6,000 Volts on hand. At current sales volumes, that represents almost a six month's supply.
The world's No. 1 automaker sold just 7,671 Volts last year. Some 1,203 Volts were sold last month, about double the number for January, but well below December's total of 1,529.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Rise of the Phoenix Society

In the first column in this series, The Apolitical Economic Superpower, we discussed the rapid growth of the untaxed, unregulated economy. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it already provides an estimated 50% of the world's jobs. And in only eight short years, they estimate that two out of three workers world-wide will be employed in jobs outside the control of government, in the apolitical economy that this article from Foreign Policy refers to as System D.
By 2020, the OECD projects, two-thirds of the workers of the world will be employed in System D. There's no multinational, no Daddy Warbucks or Bill Gates, no government that can rival that level of job creation. Given its size, it makes no sense to talk of development, growth, sustainability, or globalization without reckoning with System D.

Beware the Ides of March

Caesar, beware the Ides of March... a day for all the world's autocrats, despots and grandees to ponder the consequences of their deeds.
Salman Rushdie, today, on Twitter

Salman Rushdie's tweet seems an appropriate call to this Tireless Agorist to recap those articles I've published that address autocrats, despots and grandees, and the consequences of their deeds. I'll even throw in a column or two that offers some hope for the future. I've categorized the articles for your convenience. The groupings are just rough approximations; some essays may fit in more than one category.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

California's Broken Sex Registry

Meet Joe. Joe is a convicted sex offender. He will remain on the California Sex Offender Registry for the rest of his life. His crime? Consensual sex with the woman who is now his wife. He was convicted of statutory rape, defined as lewd and lascivious acts with a child, because he had sex with his underage girlfriend.

Her parents found out about their relationship and chose to press charges. She was just shy of 16. He was 18. After his jail term, and the three-year period when they were not allowed to see each other for fear of his reincarceration, they were married. They are still married ten years later. Joe and his wife deal with the issue every day. They've had to put a restraining order on a neighbor who was constantly harrassing him. Because registered sex offenders are not allowed to live within 2000 feet of a school or a park, even finding a place to live was extremely difficult. Joe and his wife now live in a trailer park, and Joe hasn't been able to find a stable job since he was required to register.

"We're together, we're married, he did everything he was supposed to do... and it's sad to live this way. I'm scared all the time." says Joe's wife. Having been declared a victim by the state, she is still being victimized by the state ten years later.

A Government Big Enough...

A government big enough to give you everything you need,
is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.

Gerald R. Ford, 38th President of the United States, August 12, 1974.

According to a report just released by the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has almost doubled, from $940 billion to $1.76 trillion, in just two and a half short years. Dial the way-back machine to September 9, 2009, and listen to President Obama.
Now, add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years -- less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration.
It's also very unlikely that this is the end of the story. In 1966, when Medicare was just a glimmer in power-hungry politician's eyes, the government projected that Medicare would cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual tab was $110 billion, falling just short of a factor of ten miscalculation.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Today I Beat Up Your Mom

There's apparently nothing in the world better for one's self-righteous pride than verbally threatening and mentally beating up on an older white lady who's enabling your sense of privilege, at least if you're of the mindset of the author of this Daily Kos "Diary."
"If you say one more fucking thing I'll go find your manager and all three of us can discuss this."

At that, she suddenly deflated. Now the look in her eyes was fear. She looked down and meekly mumbled "Ok. Sorry sir."

I left then, proud of myself and still full of anger.
The Diary of DuzT, cleverly titled "Today I told off a cashier who was trashing the president," is a poster-child example of Dr. Michael Huemer's essay that we recently discussed in Why People Are Irrational About Politics. Thanks, DuzT.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pink Slime - It's "For the Children"

Take all the scraps and connective tissue left over from slaughtering cows. Throw it in a big vat. Grind thoroughly. Squeeze it through a thin tube and spray it with ammonia hydroxide. (yes, the same stuff that's in that bottle labeled "Ammonia - Do Not Drink" stored under your kitchen sink)

Sound appetizing? I didn't think so. It's banned in the United Kingdom. Even McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell, hardly bellweathers of cullinary excellence, want nothing to do with the stuff anymore, although they have used it in the past.

It's perfectly legal, after all. The U.S. Department of Agriculture first approved it for human consumption in 1994, and according to Beef Products Inc. more than 70% of the ground beef sold in the U.S. contains the stuff. Curiously though, a number of grocery chains, including Publix, have recently announced they do not use it, and other meat outlets are running away from it rapidly now that consumers are becoming aware of the issue.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why People Are Irrational About Politics

Author's Note: This is one of those articles almost guaranteed to make you mad, no matter what your political persuasion. I felt the same way reading the essay that forms the backbone of this column. So please read it all the way through before collecting your pitchfork, lighting your torch, and heading off to the comment section to slay the village monster. Thanks.
We've all had political discussions with people who refuse to think rationally about the issue at hand. In the face of overwhelming opinion, they stick religiously to their own, obviously errant, views. And of course, we've never been guilty of such transgressions ourselves, right?

Dr. Michael Huemer, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, has some distressing news for all of us. He recently gave an interesting TEDx lecture that I discovered on YouTube. The lecture is a distillation of his paper Why People Are Irrational About Politics.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Prohibition Fails Again

Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can't stop what it's meant to stop.
We like it.
It's left a trail of graft and slime,
It don't prohibit worth a dime,
It's filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we're for it.
-- Franklin P. Adams (1931)

Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to a group of Latin American leaders on Monday, demonstrated the brilliance and open-mindedness so typical of current Washington leadership when speaking of drug legalization.
It warrants a discussion. It’s totally legitimate for this to be raised. It’s worth discussing … but there is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization.
That's the best you've got, Joe? Really? It's worth discussing, but nothing's going to change? That's real progressive of you. Let's look at a few facts, since you've at least admitted that the topic is legitimate and worth discussing, shall we? Here's a nice, concise summary of my position, courtesy of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Drug prohibition has made criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens, cost the taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, made drugs more dangerous, created powerful criminal syndicates, increased violent crime, corrupted law enforcement at all levels, and expanded the size and scope of government.

Emily Miller Wins Another Battle

The war is far from over, but Emily Miller has won her second battle for the Second Amendment in Washington, DC.

As I described in Shall Not Be Infringed?, the Senior Editor of The Washington Times Editorial and Opinion Pages first fought and won a four-month battle to legally possess a hand gun in the District of Columbia. I followed up with DC's Plantation-Like Gun Control, a look at the District's unequal privilege of protection between the politically-connected and the lower classes, including crime statistics and demographics, finally noting "The disadvantaged of the District are legally kept as defenseless as the slaves on Southern plantations."

Now, thanks to Emily's continuing efforts, the first steps toward sanity are on the horizon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Concentrated Benefits, Dispersed Costs

The concepts of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs, when applied to government, or, more specifically, to the creation of legislation, go a long way toward explaining why it is that government always gets bigger, never smaller. When examined in the light of the Cronyism Model of legislation in contrast to the Civics Class Model of legislation, these concepts also go a long way toward explaining why it seems that as government grows bigger, it tends to benefit the citizenry less and the politically-connected One Percent more. Finally, when one understands the full importance of the two concepts taken together, one recognizes the fundamental truth of Thoreaus's statement, "That government is best which governs least."

Even at the simplest level, it's fairly easy to understand why the twin concepts of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs are popular with the legislature, and in many cases, with the citizenry as well. Let's take the case of benefits for the veterans of our armed services as an example almost everyone might support. Only a small fraction of the citizenry ever belongs to the military, and this small group has shown a willingness to step forward and defend the rest of us from barbarians at the gates, so to speak. (Whether those willing to so act have been wisely deployed by their civilian leadership is a topic for another conversation.) In this case, the argument that taking a few pennies from each citizen, and thereby amassing dollars to assure the continued welfare of the much smaller group who fought in their stead becomes an easy sell. Properly packaged, even those paying for the benefit consider the legislation a good deal all around.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

North Korea's San Sebastián Mines

I just read a post at The Ponds of Happenstance, home of fellow blogger Robert Upshaw, that tells the tale of the rise and fall of the Diamond Mountain Resort, a tourist mecca created in North Korea by Hyundai Asan, a spin-off of South Korea's Hyundai group. After Hyundai Asan invested almost a half-billion dollars in a fancy tourist resort and drew two million visitors from South Korea over a ten-year period, the operation came crashing to a halt when a 53-year-old South Korean woman was shot to death for allegedly entering a restricted area.

South Korea banned travel to the area shortly thereafter. In retaliation, North Korea has seized the remaining assets and intends to reopen the resort, hoping to attract foreign visitors.

My guess? They'll have as much success as the People's State of Mexico had reopening the San Sebastián Mines and the San Sebastián Line.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why the World Thinks I'm Crazy

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

Apple advertising campaign, "Think Different," 1997

From our earliest experiences, we are taught to respect authority. This teaching continues through the socializing experience of our schooling, and its value is proven in the success that people achieve in their careers by learning to "go along to get along." Peer pressure and the media reinforce the lesson every day. It's hardly surprising that those who develop an anti-authoritarian attitude are considered somewhat outside the mainstream of conventional society.

Bruce Levine, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist known as somewhat of an anti-authoritarian himself. He recently published an interesting piece at Mad in America examining the relationship between the mental health profession and anti-authoritarians. He begins by noting a couple of interesting conclusions he's drawn during his career.
In my career as a psychologist, I have talked with hundreds of people previously diagnosed by other professionals with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorder (AD) and other psychiatric illnesses, and I am struck by (1) how many of those diagnosed are essentially anti-authoritarians, and (2) how those professionals who have diagnosed them are not.
He follows with a definition of the anti-authoritarian personality.

First They Came for the Japanese

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Today, on the 70th anniversary of one of our government's most egregious acts against its citizenry, the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II, we should pause and reflect on that story as a cautionary tale. Claire Wolfe has done exactly that, in exquisite form, in Burning in the Camps, published at Backwood Homes Magazine.

Her myth-shattering perspective shines through in this brief quote.
Somehow, “enemy ancestry” rarely extended to German-Americans or Italian-Americans, very few of whom ever ended up in camps. It’s funny that nobody then or now much remarked on the fact that the allies proceeded to make a Gen. Eisenhower their military leader. But then, he looked like “us” and came out of mainstream culture. So his loyalty was unquestioned. So his “enemy ancestry” didn’t condemn him despite a name as German as the Rhine. (Nor should it have, of course, any more than the ancestry should have determined anyone else’s fate.)
As a long-time fan of Claire's work (see my column, Agorism, Country Style, in Hardyville), I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend you acquaint yourself with Claire's writing. Most definitely, do not miss the history lesson and cautionary tale she weaves in Burning in the Camps.

...and that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hijacking the General Welfare Clause

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. - Preamble to the United States Constitution
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; - Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution
It is held as common wisdom, and even as a matter of law, that the "general welfare," as expressed in the Constitution, provides justification for the federal government to involve itself in any area of society which it so desires. Although the Supreme Court has ruled with that understanding for nearly 80 years, as with so much common wisdom, the story is much different when closely examined.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

First Amendment (1791-2012) R.I.P.

Lady Liberty, in her guise as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and specifically "the right of the people peaceably to assemble," has been dragged to the gallows by the Senate, the rope placed around her neck by the House of Representatives, and awaits only the President's signature to drop into the abyss of history.

On February 6, the Senate passed S.358 by Unanimous Consent, moving it on to the House of Representatives, where it became H.R.347.1 On February 27, it passed the House by a vote of 388-3.

The only "no" votes were from Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.), and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). Forty-two Representatives were absent for the vote.

The bill makes it a federal offense to enter a building or grounds without permission or with the intent to disrupt a government function if "the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting" or if said area is "restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance."

Shouting and/or waving signs of protest can easily be construed as disruptive conduct.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Barack Obama - Political Heir to FDR

Playing off the movie “The Artist,” which won Best Picture at The Oscars Sunday, Raising Red Action Fund produced a parody trailer for “The Con Artist,” a movie starring President Barack Obama and nominated for “Worst Picture.” The Daily Caller

While watching this video the black & white production, visual effects, fill footage, music, and title cards reminded me of another era in history. The appearance of the Hindenberg aflame only enhanced the feel of the era -- that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Careful consideration led me to the conclusion that Barack Obama is, indeed, the heir to FDR.

DC's Plantation-like Gun Control

[Granting Negroes the full rights of citizenship] would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognized as citizens in any one State of the Union... the full liberty... to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856)

In my recent column Shall Not Be Infringed, I summarized the four-month ordeal that Emily Miller, the Senior Editor of The Washington Times Editorial and Opinion Pages, underwent in her efforts to legally obtain a handgun as a resident of Washington, D.C. Here's her one-sentence summary.
"Law-abiding citizens have to take a five-hour class that is only taught outside of the District, pay $465 in fees, sign six forms, pass a written test on gun laws, get fingerprinted, be subject to a police ballistics test and take days off work."
After all that, Emily ended up with permission to keep, but not bear, arms. There are no provisions for either concealed carry or open carry within the District. Its citizens must perform their jobs and conduct their daily travels defenseless; only those ordained by the establishment to keep the peace may travel armed. Of course, this includes private, licensed security firms, so the wealthy can travel fully protected by bodyguards; only those not on the top rungs of the economic ladder need be vulnerable to rampant crime.