All posts by Richard

Capitalism: The Known Unideal

A cautionary tale.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15—20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions—then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

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John McAfee for POTUS

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John McAfee is one of three potential Libertarian Party presidential candidates. I think he wins the first nationally televised debate hands down.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iib0nyobUQM

Here’s the start of an op-ed piece he wrote in which he tells it like it is.

This article may disturb some people. For that I apologize in advance, but I feel compelled, at this point, to step outside the narrow path of acceptability. I am moved to bare my heart and confess my thoughts.

I am writing this to the disaffected, the disenfranchised, the angry and frustrated. I am speaking to the heart of Americans who feel alienated from the government that we ourselves created.

I’m speaking to those of you who may have left the comfort of your home on a dark night and wandered down lonely streets, or those who have glimpsed, in the people closest to you, the depth and mysteries within that person, and felt an exquisite communion – even for a moment.

I’m speaking to the people who have questioned, and irrespective of the cost, have sought answers, or to those who have traveled extensively and seen and experienced ways of living which seem alien to our culture.

And I’m speaking to those of you who have viewed themselves in the mirror of your own existence, and experienced a profound epiphany of self revelation – or who at least looked with the hope of finding one.

I will tell you who I am – without polish or apologies – without pride or shame, and I will tell you why, after 70 years of inhabiting this planet, I am speaking out.

Everything of value in life I have learned from experience. I am not a great student or a great reader. I was thirty years old before I read my first book, cover to cover. It was Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. I was dealing drugs in Mexico at the time and it was the only English language book I could get my hands on.

I was arrested in Mexico …

You can read the rest of the article at Business Insider.

I endorse John McAfee as the Libertine Libertarian Party presidential nominee and the next POTUS. How could I not? 🙂

Tomorrow’s dreams

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The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (NIV)

Life is what happens … while you’re busy making other plans.

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ (ESV)

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines?

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. (NIV)

Make a new plan, Stan! … Just get yourself free.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (KJV)

Leave the sorrow and heartache before it takes you away from your mind. When sadness fills your days, it’s time to turn away. And then tomorrow’s dreams become reality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztn1G8WCkII

I am an anarchist

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What’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? About 6 months.

That’s the joke. Well, I suppose it’s funny. Because it took me 12 years to make the transition (and we’re still waiting on my co-blogger Tim).

But, all joking aside, what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist?

(You may or may not like the following definitions. But they’re the ones I’m using. 🙂 )

An anarchist is a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism. Anarchism is

a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups

A minarchist is a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes minarchism. Minarchism (also known as minimal statism) is

a political philosophy and a form of libertarianism. … it holds that states ought to exist (as opposed to anarchy); that their only legitimate function is the protection of individuals from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud; and that the only legitimate governmental institutions are the military, police, and courts.

Minarchist and anarchist are both species of libertarian. They’re both for freedom. But a minarchist is a minimal statist, whereas an anarchist is against the state entirely. That’s the nub of their disagreement.

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So why am I an anarchist? Because I’m a libertarian! Quod erat demonstrandum.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell. A libertarian is for freedom and thereby against all forms of compulsion or coercion. The state is that organization that acquires its revenue by physical coercion and achieves a compulsory monopoly of force and of ultimate decision-making power over a given territorial area. Therefore a libertarian is against the state as a matter of principle.

The argument above is valid, but of course its conclusion is only as good as its premises and these are open to question. Is a libertarian necessarily against all forms of compulsion or coercion? I’ve argued elsewhere that libertarians are huge fans of initiating force. All freedoms are good but some freedoms are better than others. Is freedom from minimal state (minarchist) coercion a genuine freedom of the right kind? I say so, but a minarchist might beg to differ.

And what about Murray Rothbard’s definition of the state? Is it correct? Does it rule in organisations that are not states, or rule out those that are? For example, suppose that a hypothetical minarchy one day decided to abolish compulsory taxation and fund its minimal state activities by voluntary donations only. Would it still be a state, or would it now be an autonomous collective of some sort, such as an anarcho-syndicalist commune? The latter, according to Rothbard, since it is in the nature of a state that it acquire its revenue by physical coercion.

I reserve the right to secede from New Zealand, either alone or in free association with like-minded others. (I already declared that I am a governing authority.) In my next post I explain why I am an anarcho-statist.

For now I leave you with a couple of Stephan Kinsella classics, viz., his account of what libertarianism is and his explanation of what it means to be an anarchist.

because the state necessarily commits aggression, the consistent libertarian, in opposing aggression, is also an anarchist.

I ask any diehard minarchists who are still minarchists after having read both of Kinsella’s essays to read them both again before commenting.

Good reasons why I’m not voting to keep the flag

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My late father was a good keen outdoorsman. He loved sailing and hiking but back in the early ’70s we lived in the Midlands in the heart of England, a long way from bodies of water bigger than puddles and mountain peaks worth climbing.

Also my father worked in the British motor industry and in the early ’70s he could see that the industry was starting to tank. So he and my mother decided that the family would emigrate to somewhere with bigger wilderness and better job prospects. IIRC, the options were the U.S, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Fortunately, my mother vetoed the U.S., otherwise we might have ended up in Detroit. We emigrated to New Zealand in 1975 and settled in Wellington.

I’m glad that we did. I still have a bond with the mother country but I’m a Kiwi now. I spent my childhood in England but grew up in Godzone. When I became an adult I also became a NZ citizen. So to cut a long story short, what I’m getting around to saying is that because of my background I’m personally rather fond of the current NZ flag. It consists of the Union Jack which represents the land of my birth and the Southern Cross which represents my adopted homeland. But I’m not voting to keep it. Why not?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not voting to change to the John Key tea towel design either. I’m not voting in the second flag referendum and I didn’t vote in the first. Why not?

Firstly, because my vote won’t make a difference. The current flag is winning in all the recent opinion polls by a clear margin. Twice as many people are against change as are for it. I’m calling the result of the second flag referendum now. No change.

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Secondly, because no one can change my flag. I don’t have a flag! I don’t want a flag, but if did I could have any flag I wanted and stick it on a pole and fly it. Many Kiwis already fly the unofficial New Zealand flag, the silver fern. Good on them. Go the All Blacks! No worries.

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Thirdly, because the entire debate is pure political distraction and engaging in it is exactly what Key wants. As Martyn Bradbury concludes

We have 99 problems in NZ – a fucking flag isn’t one of them.

Voting only encourages these arseholes.

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Fourthly, because the entire flag referendum process is a needless waste of money which would be better spent elsewhere and I refuse to sanction it by voting. Flag this irrelevant debate and spend $26m on hungry kids. Is what the government would have better done instead.

Fifthly, because a state-initiated binding referendum is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis who’ve signed petitions to get non-binding citizens-initiated referendums on things that actually matter, such as reducing the number of MPs in Parliament, not reducing the number of firefighters in the New Zealand fire service, not being criminalised for smacking their children, and so on. All to no avail.

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Sixthly, because I’m the founder and co-leader of Not A Party and it is incumbent on me to set a good example. 🙂

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Seventhly, because how the gang that runs New Zealand chooses to brand the monopoly on violence it claims and maintains over the country’s territorial area is none of my business.

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Eighthly, because when all is said and done it’s just a coloured rectangular piece of cloth and so not worth fighting over.

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Voluntary exsanguination

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There’s been a lot of heartbreak and hostility in recent years over the issue of voluntary euthanasia, which remains illegal in New Zealand—for now.

Euthanasia activism began in New Zealand in 1978 when some secular humanists formed the Auckland Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

In 1995 National Party MP Michael Laws sought to introduce his Death with Dignity Bill. The Bill failed, as did NZ First MP Peter Brown’s Death with Dignity Bill in 2003.

More recently, in 2012 Labour MP Maryan Street submitted her ‘End of Life Choice bill’ to the private members ballot. But then Voluntary euthanasia bill withdrawn. Street admitted at the time that “”the move was simply pragmatism, she said, and she “absolutely” planned to put it back in the ballot after the election.”” Unfortunately, due to Labour’s dire defeat at the polls in 2014, Street failed to re-enter Parliament. Moves by Iain Lees-Galloway to adopt Street’s bill were scotched by new Labour leader Andrew Little.

Last year in June, Parliament received the petition of Maryan Street and 8,974 others requesting

That the House of Representatives investigate fully public attitudes towards the introduction of legislation which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable.

The petition asks for a change to the existing law. The closing date for submissions is today, Monday 1 February 2016. You might have missed it.

In October last year, ACT leader David Seymour lodged a private members bill that would legalise voluntary euthanasia, the End of Life Choice Bill. Seymour’s bill may or may not get drawn from the ballot.

So that’s the state of dying in New Zealand. Our deaths remain natural, illegal, or self-inflicted. Or life goes on, sometimes in terminal pain.

Assisted suicide, or assisted dying as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of New Zealand (Inc.) prefers to call it, is illegal in New Zealand.

Can people simply stop eating and drinking to hasten death?

Yes, stopping eating and drinking will hasten a death, eventually. This is the option many New Zealanders use now. However, it is less than optimal, can take days or weeks, and often requires palliative sedation to relieve negative symptoms of the fasting process.

But what if there’s a legal loophole, wider than a gaping arterial wound, that permits the possibility of a quick, painless, assisted and *legal* means of dying for the terminally ill whose ongoing existence does them more harm than good and who wish to end it all prematurely? I think there might be. Here’s why.

1. Giving blood is legal.

2. Taking blood is legal.

3. Refusing a blood transfusion is legal.

Therefore,

Assisted exsanguination is a legal means of voluntary euthanasia.

This simple means of dying with a little help from your friends and family is subject to some minimal legal constraints that must, of course, be observed.

The Human Tissue Act 2008 covers the legalities of taking blood. Read it and you’ll be displeased but not at all surprised to learn that blood is a “controlled human substance”. But you don’t have to be a “qualified person” to take blood, provided it is not “for therapeutic purposes or for health practitioner education or any kind of research” and the blood is not for sale or transfusion.

Libertarians uphold the right of the individual to his/her own life, liberty—and lifeblood.

Live and let live—and let blood.

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You’re gonna get what’s coming

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You’re gonna get what’s coming.

Well, you would if it were up to me.

I have always believed that the ideal society is a meritocracy.

A meritocracy is a society in which each individual gets what he or she deserves. Anything less than this is unjust.

But that’s not saying very much. In fact, it’s not saying anything at all, unless accompanied by an account of what it is that each individual deserves. Preferably such an account will be a full-fledged moral theory, but let’s go pre-theoretical, and assume, just for the sake of my argument here, that each and every member of society deserves at least a roof over their head, a bed to sleep on, clean running water and enough to eat. Even our worst criminals are guaranteed this. (Oh, and ultra-fast broadband, of course, that most fundamental of all human rights.)

There are two main types of moral theory, viz., deontological and consequentialist. (Or three main types, if you count virtue ethics.)

Deontology (or Deontological Ethics) is an approach to Ethics that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions (Consequentialism) or to the character and habits of the actor (Virtue Ethics).

(It’s all much more complicated, of course. Consequentialism is almost synonymous with utilitarianism, and as we all know utilitarianism is wrong, wrong, WRONG! Because Ayn Rand said so! And so did the man whom she described as “the most evil man who ever lived”! And so say I! Woe to him who creeps through the serpent-windings of utilitarianism. But, again just for the sake of my argument here, let’s not damn utilitarianism. Notwithstanding that it’s damnable.)

There are two main types of political ideology, viz., capitalism (by which I mean free trade without government intervention) and socialism (by which I mean free trade plus progressive taxation).

Now oversimplifying (somewhat more than) somewhat, capitalism is a deontological political ideology (whereby you get to keep everything you earn) and socialism is a utilitarian political ideology (whereby you get to keep a proportion of what you earn, the rest is redistributed by the state, ostensibly on the basis of need).

Capitalism basically says that you deserve to keep the fruits of your own labour, and to hell with the consequences. So capitalism is deontological in theory. And it can be considered as a species of voluntaryism. So it is virtuous in that sense. But it makes no explicit provision for caring for the poor and leads to ever-growing wealth inequality so is vicious from the point of view of utilitarianism.

Socialism, however, isn’t any better in practice. In fact, it is worse because its attempts at wealth redistribution (to achieve a more just distribution of wealth as per whatever measure of desert is used) only serve to achieve a different unjust distribution of wealth, usually by overtaxing the middle classes. (Let’s face it, the ultra-rich do indeed have more wealth than they can possibly need so are not actually any worse off if they pay a higher tax rate, and I am who to say.) So the middle classes get doubly screwed by a mixed economic system, first by unfettered capitalism and then by capitalism’s fetters.

So capitalism wins the day but it is still a badly flawed system.

Which is why I am neither a socialist nor a capitalist. I am an anarchist looking for a flavour of anarchism that has both the virtues of capitalism (it must be an entirely voluntaryist system) but yet serves to more or less guarantee that there is at least an adequate (albeit perhaps very basic) standard of living for all.

Footnote. Non-utilitarian versions of consequentialism are less vile. What if the moral basis of property rights is rule-consequentialism? Food for thought would be a great way to make a living.