The Grand View of Ron Paul

The Grand View‘s article, entitled Electric Car Redux, illicited another lengthy comment from me, reposted here for the benefit of reaching a larger interested audience. Respect is paid to WordPress for providing a platform for intellectual broadcast and discourse: 

In a rather delayed response, I wanted to address your question about Ron Paul’s chance of success. Yet again, it seems that electric cars provide a guide. They’re a healthier, more sound, and more efficient choice, yet they are taking the long road to acceptance.

As of now, libertarian ideas – which are what Dr. Paul espouses – are outside the mainstream. People naturally find radical ideas scary, because they are unfamiliar. They lump us in with every hair-brained, social-engineering, utopia-seeking scheme around, from ‘communism’ to ‘social credit.’ But, like electric cars, liberty is not a new proposal. It is the principle that has fed every great Western civilization: Greece, with its city-states and government by lot; Rome, with its constitution and popular sovereignty; and most importantly America, which has been by far the most libertarian civilization in history.

The odds against Dr. Paul are long, but he has found a winning strategy to help Americans rediscover their civilization. He may not win, but would it hurt any of us to root for him? Every vote, every letter-to-the-editor, every rally for Ron Paul sends that much stronger a message to Washington: we’re taking our rights back. With the current regime torturing, surveying, and perjuring at home and abroad, and none of the ‘mainstream’ candidates of either party willing to repudiate these crimes, I’m thinking that it’s about time to send a message. Don’t you?

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Rendition

‘Rendition,’ opening in movie theatres across Canada today, is a fictional portrayal of the actual United States Federal Government’s practice of sending terrorism suspects overseas to be tortured. The movie depicts the saga of a man of arabic lineage, kidnapped on a return trip from business in Africa. His pregnant, American wife is left scraping together his whereabouts and demanding justice. Meanwhile, a young CIA agent is charged with overseeing the suspect’s brutal interrogation, and finds himself questioning the utility and morality of this barbaric practice. The film stars Omar Metwally, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Peter Saarsgaard, and Reese Witherspoon. 

The Libertarian Party of Canada applauds the team behind this film. Viewers should remember the sorry truth: that what happens on screen is happening in real life to some very frightened people. Those victims have been denied due process, habeas corpus, and the respect of global convention. It is especially important in times of great threat that we choose not to turn on ourselves and our values. Canadians value liberty, justice, and the rule of law – goals shared by the Libertarian Party of Canada. Not only has Ottawa failed to condemn Washington for the practice of Extraordinary Rendition, but there is strong evidence that our federal government has been complicit in the practice: a United Nations report named Canada as a participant in the practice, and a Canadian citizen was disappeared to Syria and tortured in captivity with the knowledge and aid of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Libertarian Party of Canada believes that this policy cannot be allowed to continue. It does not guard us against terrorists, and it puts every Canadian’s liberty at risk. The film ‘Rendition’ should help to raise awareness, and motivate Canadians to hold their government responsible. As the only party that opposes all forms of state coercion, our message is clear: there is something you can do. Speak, join, vote, and run with the Libertarian Party of Canada.

The Probability Broach

I’m a slow reader. That’s why I buy interesting-looking books much faster than I read them, and why I must then lug boxes of them when I move. That explains my fascination with a new project from L. Neil Smith and Big Head Press: The Probability Broach graphic novel. I know that graphic novel is a fancy term for comic book, but don’t let that deter you. It’s a great feeling when you “can’t put it down,” and I get hooked on reading this novel. It’s an accessible and fun adaptation of an inspired premise.

In an alternate present, North America is living in liberacy. Wealth abounds, money is real, and everyone carries a firearm. Our protagonist, Detective Win Bear, is thrust into this alternate reality from his own, a version of our world with a few extra dashes of fascism. Winnie, as his new friends affectionately call him, is receptive to this libertopia – thinking that it’s a more prosperous future. He learns about the North American Confederacy, the main political body of the libertarian present, and comes to realize that he has not travelled to the future but to an alternate timeline. His rescuer is revealed to be his alternate self.

Besides being extremely easy to read, with stunning artwork, the book depicts the practice of much of libertarian/confederal theory. The political order borders on anarcho-capitalism, but with a minarchist defense league in the Confederacy. It shows how free banking, with backed currency, leads to cash of ever-increasing value. Thus, everyday items and services become extraordinarily inexpensive. The concept of underground cities is broached (excuse the pun) by the denizens of the North American Confederacy going underground at every intersection. The novel even shows how crimes are adjudicated in the absence of a sovereign state.

Some of the book may seem fantastical to many, even many minarchist libertarians. The point is, though, that it presents an ideal and a direction. L. Neil Smith has presented here a model of a particular libertarian vision – one that mirrors the goals of the Confederation Society. Even if a lot of libertarians are policy-oriented and have no opinions about political theory, this novel shows that the form of government and the resulting policy are interrelated. It shows that the negativity exhibited by many libertarians is a byproduct of living in the shadow of repeated tyrannies. Each victory for liberty will make life that much better and easier for our descendants. That truth, well-known by the better of America’s Founding Fathers, is why the American Revolution was the quintessential turning point in the history of human freedom, and why Hamilton’s subsequent coup, by way of the Constitution, was so damaging.

I could go on forever, but I recommend reading it first-hand. Without further adieu: The Probability Broach.

Thank you, Mr. Smith, for your contribution to culture and liberty.

A Thin Line Between Tradition And ‘More Of The Same’

The results are in: Ontario is saddled with four more years of a Liberal majority, and First-Past-The-Post remains our electoral system.

Ontarians can hardly be blamed for trying to pick the lesser of four evils. Most people voted against extending government funding to religious schools. The Ontario Libertarian Party doesn’t want to see more government-controlled education, either. Most people voted against increasing the influence of the extremist NDP. Again, the Libertarians couldn’t agree more. But with all these decisions, did anyone else get the sense that there really wasn’t much of a choice? If this election were a home renovation, it would be like only getting to choose between beige, eggshell, light brown, and taupe paint. So, we chose beige. Great. We’ll get another four years of slow growth, stifling regulation, corrupt government, and rent-seeking. It’s more of the same.

On the other hand, Ontarians made a wise choice in refusing to abandon the wisdom of tradition in our electoral system. Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) Representation was overwhelming rejected across the Province. Even those of us clamoring for more ‘color’ in Ontario politics didn’t want this system for a number of reasons. Firstly, we don’t want the new color to be red; many small parties that would be enfranchised by MMP are communists or other fundamentalists. Secondly, Libertarians believe in representative government, and are against the corrupting power of party insiders. The power of parties over individual, riding-representing MPPs would have increased with the introduction of at-large, party-list MPPs. Our inherited system was shaped by generations of evolution of the liberty-oriented Anglo-Saxon political culture. It’s our tradition.

So, if the Ontario Libertarian Party is bored with the status quo, but respectful of tradition, here’s what we would like to see by the next election: We are working toward building a true alternative to Canadian socialism. The party has regrouped since its membership was lured by the broken promises of the Harris Tories. We are not looking for representation for radical parties, because we don’t see ourselves as such. Rather, we are pursuing a sea-change in the role of government in the lives of every Ontarian. Please visit our website (http://www.libertarian.on.ca/) for our specific visions for the future. But in order to do this, in order to be seen as a true alternative, the first step is for us to contest all 103 ridings across the Province.

Our reaction to this election is clear. We accept that meaningful change comes slowly, and we’re glad that Ontario didn’t abandon its traditions to accelerate it. But now we have an opportunity. We have four years for every disaffected voter, every victim of extreme taxation and regulation, every believer in peace and good governance, to join us – as a candidate, activist, or otherwise – to ensure that next time we give Ontarians a viable choice for a better life.

Free Burma NOW!

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The call went out across the globe, and this libertarian stood up. The people and monks of Burma had the courage to resist the criminal junta dominating their lives, and for that they are being jailed, tortured and murdered. They have no arms and no money, and they must be so scared. But what matters is the they persevere, and that example inspired me.

So, I went online, found a rally – THE rally – and took to the streets of Toronto. We grouped in front of the Chinese Consulate, so that our chants would echo through the halls of East Asia’s Evil Empire. The organizers were a mixed bag, mostly socialist, but that wasn’t important. On this day, I didn’t care if I had to sit through an NDP or Amnesty International speech calling for ‘solidarity’ and ‘less talk and more action from Ottawa.’ I knew why I was there: people are dying. People are dying, right now, for their freedom. People are dying miserable, cold, silent deaths because they know that living as slaves is worse than no life at all.

For those who don’t follow closely current events, here is a synopsis: the military of the former state of Burma toppled their civilian government in 1962. Ever since, there has been a cycle of rapprochement and crackdown. In 1988, student groups rose up in protest against their slavery. They were brutally crushed. Since then, the populace has remained largely docile – frozen by fear as in many totalitarian states. With much of the population starving, and the military junta getting rich off of corporatist deals with the Chinese and Indian Empires, a recent cut in fuel subsidies was judged too much to bear. The revered Buddhist Monks of Burma rose up to demand an apology and a return to the rule of law. Brave civilians formed human chains to protect the marching monks from the junta’s batons and bullets. Alas, human will cannot repel bullets when the shooters have iron hearts. The crackdown has begun again…

We, the relatively free, often hear these stories from parts of the world that never embraced liberty. The most conscientious among us may pause, reflect, and feel sorrow for the foreigners’ plight. But we often do nothing. Now, I’m not going to go on a paternalist rant about how awful everyone is for sitting by. If you really think about it, there’s little one can do short of giving up one’s life to wage battle in the jungles of Southeast Asia. I applaud that, but we are not duty-bound to that. I do not believe calling for your military to intervene absolves you either; in fact, it perhaps indicts you as the same type of person as General Than Shwe. The soldiers serving your state pledged to defend you, your territory, themselves, and their families. To order them into someone else’s affairs undermines the foundation of self-government.

So, what can you do?, I asked myself. I can speak, to ensure that the Burmese do not suffer in vain or in silence. That’s what these rallies are about. Children often say that if the Holocaust were happening today, they would do something to stop it. Yet, all around I see the complacency and conformism that allow such atrocities. I decided the important thing was to do something positive and to be as vocal as possible. I went on behalf of the Ontario Libertarian Party. I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with people with whom I would normally disagree. There was a great turnout that night, and we made an impact in the general consciousness. Evidence comes by way of the Toronto Star, which interviewed your author about his reasons for attending. While Ms. Surya Bhattacharya didn’t mention my oft-iterated support for the Ontario Libertarian Party, she quoted accurately my true reason for attending: “I wanted to march to show support for the monks and for the pursuit of political liberty.”

Libertarians are the most ethical people on the planet. We have mulled over ethical systems until we found pure justice: that every person owns himself, that every person deserves to pursue life as he sees fit, and that every person deserves to retain the fruits of his labor. We all believe it, but we seem the least motivated of all parties to realize our ideals in the real world. Why are the socialists in charge of the most important movements against war and tyranny? They are tyrants themselves! Regardless, we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all that will champion freedom, in whatever way they can. People are standing up to one of the least libertarian regimes on Earth. They’re doing the work for us, making the sacrifices for us; shouldn’t we join them? I’ll see you there.

The Vocabulary of Post-Modern Freedom

Libertarians often feel that they are fighting a reactive war on enemy turf. This is often true, but to what extent is it our fault. In other words, what can we control to make the political environment more suitable for liberty. Vocabulary, the language of political discourse, should be our main target.

Libertarians hardly realize that they are often using the language of authoritarians. Partly, this is due to our movement lacking a comprehensive political theory. We certainly surpass the Greens and others in having an original policy proposal for every political issue, but we noticeably overlook questions of the form of government and answers phrased in words illustrative of libertarian thought.

Liberatic, or Free State, Theory seeks to address this. It seeks to formulate a political theory, vocabulary, and worldview for libertarians in the postmodern age.

For example, libertarians should start by taking back the word ‘liberal.’ It described us from its coinage to its cooptation by socialists in liberal clothing. When we speak of liberals, we will mean the ‘big tent’ of people in the libertarian quadrant of the Nolan Chart. Correspondingly, libertarians might forego recent tradition and work within ‘liberal’ parties rather than ‘conservative’ parties.

Which brings us to another point. Libertarians are not conservatives, right-wingers, or nationalists. Though they seem to find us more comfortable bedfellows recently than socialists do, we are not them and have traditionally opposed them. Conservatism is a chronological ideology: it seeks to preserve the recent past, regardless of what that was. That’s why it is so hard to define across states and time periods. It’s opposite is not liberalism, which is a philosophical ideology, but progressivism – which seeks to move politics toward the next fashion. Libertarians will be conservatives in places like the States, where libertarianism is losing ground to authoritarianism, but they will be progressives in places like Italy, which have no recent period of widespread libertarianism. Does this make sense? Right-winger has the same problem. As you can see on the Nolan Chart above, the right-to-left political spectrum is designed to exclude libertarianism. It allocates half of the libertarian program to the right and half to the left. This has caused great damage to public understanding of what liberty is, as it isn’t taught in government schools. If we are anything, we are ‘up-wing,’ and totalitarians are ‘down.’ That sounds about right, doesn’t it? We are the ‘light-side,’ and they are the ‘dark.’ Traditional politics is endless shades of grey. Finally on this point, we arrive at the term ‘nationalist.’

This hits at the heart of the lesson. With reference made to The Ethics of Secession, which informed the liberatic position, let us all understand that fighting for a ‘nation,’ promoting ‘nation-states,’ supporting the ‘United Nations,’ or even using the word ‘international,’ are all very un-libertarian things to do. A nation-state is a particular political order, dominant in the modern world, that identifies the principle right of self-determination not by the voluntary cooperation of sovereign individuals but rather by the correspondence between a state/political class and a particular socio-ethno-linguistic group. Democrats do the same, but their group is called the ‘demos’ instead of the ‘nation,’ and its only requirement is that is be identifiable and constant. Both ideologies have an utter duopoly on political theory, and we are almost forced to use their language. That is why liberals are often called ‘liberal democrats,’ and why centrist Americans support ‘freedom and democracy’ – as if they were inextricably linked.

So, we don’t want to promote concepts like: democracy, nationalism, internationalism, the nation-state, federalism, social liberalism, conservatism, socialism, etc. Then we must have our own vocabulary. What does the postmodern liberal, the liberatic libertarian, want to see in the world?

He wants to see unitary ‘free states,’ or ‘liberacies,’ based on individual sovereignty, existing not to serve a nation or demos but to protect the liberty of all human beings within a territory. These liberacies will permit secession, incorporate sortition and other power-mediating strategies, follow an agreed system of law with no legislative capacity for the government, subordinate and divide the executive, focus only on night-watchman functions, but will remain as strong as possible in counteracting aggression. They will evolve by four methods: confederation, union, accession, and secession. Confederation is a league of two or more states, with each sending a delegation to a Congress, to provide for mutual defense. Union is the creation of one new liberacy from two, both of which are subsumed into a new government for the whole territory. Accession is the joining of one liberacy into another, where the former is subsumed into the latter. Secession is the withdrawal of a territory from a liberacy, the exercise of which is a right of all free people.

Liberacy itself is a latin construction from the root ‘liber,’ meaning freedom, and the suffix ‘-acy,’ to indicate being in the state of. Therefore, to live within a Liberacy is ‘to be in a state of freedom.’ This is similar in meaning to ‘being in a state of happiness:’ a matter-of-fact statement on the way things are. This is differentiated from other forms of government, which have terms ending in -archy or -ocracy. These latter forms indicate the rule of a state by a particular group. For example, democracy means ‘rule of the people’ or ‘rule of the majority.’ The term ‘free state’ is something of an English translation, already in use by The Free State Project. The adjectival form of liberacy is ‘liberatic,’ while the noun is liberal or libertarian. So now, I expect to see libertarian parties support liberacy (the libertarian state) over democracy (the majoritarian state) or nationalism (the nation-state). I expect talk in libertarian clubs to discuss globalization, a libertarian phenomenon, over internationalism, a statist phenomenon. In parallel, terms like ‘interstate,’ ‘intercontinental,’ or ‘global’ should entirely replace ‘international’ as a term of art.

We should be talking up concepts like sortition, like private mass transit, like private urban design, like anti-federalism or confederalism. Here in the Canadian Confederation (notice my use of liberatic terminology to describe Canada), we should be pushing for the elimination of the Canadian House of Commons, the expansion of the Senate with a delegation from each province (selected by whatever method that province chooses), the reduction of the role of the Confederal (currently Federal) government to defense, the end of the monarchy, the changing of the term ‘province’ to ‘free state,’ the welcoming of all immigrants and even new members to the confederation, the use of sortition for free state offices, the end of the RCMP, the end of the Social Insurance Number, the institution of free banking (or rather, the de-institution of central banking), and more.

But it all starts with how we speak. We have to affect the worldview of our local cultures. Most people can’t imagine a world without nations, without fiat currency, without zoning. First, libertarians must examine their own vocabulary and worldview, then spread the words. So spread the words!

Pedemapia: A Step Forward

This newspaper’s article, entitled “Neighborhood Maps & Meetups” drew several worthwhile responses. The article made a call for work to commence on neighborhood and pedestrian maps of major cities. In turn, it drew the interest of those who are already working on these important endeavors.

Pedemapia is one such proposal. Created by a Maen Zaghloul of Amman, Jordan, it is astounding in its simplicity. The idea, contained in a unassuming Microsoft Word document, is primarily to urge map makers to add pedestrian routes to maps, but secondarily it depicts a particular symbol set to depict gradation. Changes in grade are important bits of information to walkers and cyclists.

Pedemapia appears to be the kernel of a future pedestrian mapping site. I recommend that the author pursue this goal. However lofty it may seem now, it is a chance at greatness. With a meaningful investment of time and money, and perhaps a partnership with Google Maps or Mapquest, the dream of Pedemapia is well within reach. The yield would most likely be a small fortune, and the gratitude of pedestrians worldwide.

In other news, a company called Maponics now offers detailed and researched neighborhood maps for sale, if anyone is so inclined to purchase one. If you are looking for some free entertainment, Google Labs is developing another revolutionary product: Google Transit. So far, it allows residents of select cities to chart a route on mass transit as easily as one can chart an automotive route on Google Maps. There’s still no Toronto. Hear that Google? Add Toronto. And New York for Spooner’s sake! Regardless, it is the latest salvo against the car-focused modern era.

I still believe that pedestrian and neighborhood maps are highly relevant informational tools for the postmodern era. Current maps reinforce cars and governments as the sources of legitimacy. For isn’t it only ‘public’ landmarks, highways, and roads that are featured. They are all we see of cities, so they are how we see cities. It’s no wonder Robert Moses was allowed to have his way with New York City for so many years. The pragmatist in me rejects this thinking. We should identify ourselves rather than being labeled. Neighborhoods emerge through the names on store awnings and local clubs. Pedestrian pathways are still often within the realm of private development. Both need charting, so that we can view ourselves in our own image – not contorted into the unforgiving motorways that clog and suffocate our cities.