Archive for July, 2010

Clean-up in Aisle 7; Or, In Which I Heroically Litter Walter Block's Post on Littering

July 26th, 2010 No comments

 I refer to Walter Block’s the July 14 Mises Blog post Defending the Litterer, an excerpt of his “Defending the Undefendable” book.

In his final two paragraphs, Block concludes:

In the light of the inflexibility of the government, and its apparent lack of interest in accommodating public tastes, how is the litterbug to be viewed? The litterbug treats public property in much the same way he would treat private property if he were but free to. Namely, he leaves garbage around on it. It has been demonstrated that there is nothing intrinsically evil about this activity, and that but for governmental calcification, it would be as widely accepted in the public arena as it is in the private. It is an activity that should be regulated by people’s needs, not by government fiat.

We must conclude, therefore, that far from being a public enemy, the litterer is actually a hero. The courage exhibited by the litterer, given the intense campaign of vilification directed against him, is considerable. Even more important, the behavior of the litterer who purposefully “takes the law into his own hands” can serve as a protest against an unjust system.

I left the following comment:

TokyoTom July 25, 2010 at 10:49 pm

If littering is “heroic”, then so is the wholly self-interested use of other publicly-owned resources, open-access commons, and poorly-policed private property. Who cares what others – envirofascists, the lot of them (from my neighbors to others who use the resource)! – think? It is our DUTY to be heedless of others; those smug goody two-shoes who think they’re doing the “right thing” by not inconveniencing others (or who ridiculously devote time and effort to clean up what us good libertarians – as a public service – despoil) are actually doing everyone a DISSERVICE, by refusing to help accelerate a shift of all property into the hands of people who will fall all over themselves to cleanup after us!

Brilliant; I see it clearly now: BP is being HEROIC for messing up “wild resources” like “fish”, “shrimp” and “oysters” and “walruses” in the Gulf, the livelihoods of the lowlifes who catch them, and the budgets and property of other people living down there who like a “clean environment”. It’s the polluter, after all, whose public-spirited acts show that the real problem is not the one who indirectly injures others, but the government system that hasn’t assigned private property rights to all so-called “common pool” resources (or gotten out of the way, so the big boys could claim them for themselves)!

Same is true with all of those corporate polluters whose concentrations of money enabled them to persuade judges to ignore strict common-law protections of private property, and who deliberately proceeded to pollute Willy-nilly (in a public-spirited way, of course). Rather, it was all of those stupid people forced to breathe in the dirty air, drink the dirty water and on or in pollute land who then petitioned big brother to help who were wrong, and who subverted the noble goal of the industry owners of homesteading pollution rights to do pretty much whatever they wanted.

But I’m confused about one small thing: if “public-spiritedness” is for enviro fascists and suckers, then why are you appalling to it by calling litters “heroes”? Doesn’t our mission – to see the end of all public ownership and the destruction of all commons – demand that we eschew all sappy appeals to “community” or common good, and insist on individual selfishness instead?

This would be good to know, because it would mean that LvMI commenters could put down the burden of trying to police comment threads, or upbraiding authors who disappoint. Instead, we could all nobly (oops, selfishly, I mean?) become litters, even here!


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A note to Tom Woods:Mises & property (and commons & IP): Is libertarianism now "merely a veiled apologia for capital”?

July 25th, 2010 No comments

I refer to Tom Wood’s post on Mises’s Vision of the Free Society, regarding Ludwig von Mises‘s book, Liberalism.

I left the following comment (emphasis added):

TokyoTom July 21, 2010 at 4:11 am


I’ll need to take a look at this book; what can be covered in a book review is obviously limited.

However, I would note a few thoughts:

1. Even now, “to champion property is to invite the accusation that liberalism is merely a veiled apologia for capital”, as you note, and “The enemies of liberalism have branded it as the party of the special interests of the capitalists,” as Mises observed. This is the case not simply because people then as now do not understand how a market society functions, but for the very good reason that statism is running rampant, allowing the direct owners of capital and executives to cream profits while shifting risks to all of society.

This is undeniably the case with our financial sector, and also with the exploration and development of fossil fuel and mineral resources on land (and offshore) “owned” by government but leased to corporations. Further examples of the use of property by corporations in ways that benefit owners/executives but do identifiable harm to others are easily found; this is often coupled with the statism enabled by the growth of corporations, which growth was itself fuelled by the state grant of limited liability to the shareholders of corporations (limiting recovery not only by debtors but also by persons involuntarily injured by acts of corporations or their agents).

Unless Austrians are content to leave the criticisms of (and policy responses to) corporate excesses to socialists, Marxists and Keynesians – and to be dismissed as defenders of corporate statism – it may behoove us to raise our own voices more forcefully.

In this connection, I would note that Mises himself noted that property is imperfectly defined and leads to problems of external costs:

“Property rights as they are circumscribed by laws and protected by courts and the police, are the outgrowth of an age-long evolution. … The legal concepts of property do not fully take account of the social function of private property. There are certain inadequacies and incongruities which are reflected in the determination of the market phenomena. ….

“It is true that where a considerable part of the costs incurred are external costs from the point of view of the acting individuals or firms, the economic calculation established by them is manifestly defective and their results deceptive. But this is not the outcome of alleged deficiencies inherent in the system of private ownership of the means of production. It is on the contrary a consequence of loopholes left in this system. It could be removed by a reform of the laws concerning liability for damages inflicted and by rescinding the institutional barriers preventing the full operation of private ownership.”

2. Yes, private property greatly advances social cooperation (and may even be “the central pillar of modern civilization”), but private property is never perfect – and is supported by an array of collective institutions which order people’s market interactions – and there are many important resources that are not privately owned but which are open-access resources that must be managed collectively. I am not sure to what degree Mises has addressed such common resources, but they (and the effort to develop effective institutions to manage them) can be quite important, as was recognized by the award last year of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson:



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Libertarians and IP: Shall we replace the state with "principled" thoughtlessness?

July 23rd, 2010 2 comments

I commented previously on Stephan Kinsella’s Mises Blog post: “The L. Neil Smith – FreeTalkLive Copyright Dispute”; allow me to note the the response I received from Stephan and my reply (emphasis added):

Stephan Kinsella July 20, 2010 at 12:09 am

I don’t think the shire guys did anything wrong at all, I must say. Maybe Neil should have been given a bit more prominent credit,but it’s clear that he doesn’t want that at all–he doesn’t want them to have used it at all. Given this, what compromise can there be? He has no right to stop them. Period.

As for Ian’s overreaction: you know he tried to apologize, and then Smith wrote the reply “Little Criminals” linked above in Update 3 of my post. Do you still think Ian’s reaction was inappropriate?

TokyoTom July 20, 2010 at 2:49 am


Thanks for your note.

My point is that people should be discussing not simply IP principles but how people tick and how cooperation and community work. If you want to operate without a state, people are going to have to start thinking seriously about elemental issues of how to get along.

You prefer to talk about principles, but it’s pretty obvious here that the chief issue is both parties getting onto self-righteous snits because Freeman and others who reworked Smith’s “Covenant” completely ignored Smith before rolling out their Declaration. This elicited a nasty response from Smith, and then both sides preferred blustering, public posturing, line drawing and name-calling to any attempt at private discussion or mollification.

Isn’t rule No. 1 the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? And Isn’t Rule No. 0 the Consideration Rule: Before you act, think about who might be affected by your actions, and how they might perceive them? (Actually, just made that one up right now, but it’s simple common sense and good manners.) Where did Ian Freeman display any foresight, consideration or concern for how Smith might respond – either in advance, or in his “apology”?

Yes, I listened to the podcast, in which Freeman reads from his completely insincere and insulting “apology”. I think his co-host Mark Edge was completely right in criticizing Freeman over it. Did Freeman make another apology after that that I missed?

Yes, it’s clear NOW that Smith doesn’t want Freeman to have used the Covenant at all, but who knows how he would have reacted if he’d been given notice of the Shire attempt before it was finished, invited to participate, or given a chance to review/comment before it was made available to sign? If at that time he was still adamantly opposed, the Shire guys might also have decided to do further wordsmithing to avoid directly lifting from Smith.

No, there’s not alot of room for compromise now, but that just proves my point. The hard feelings very well could have been avoided; what good do they serve now, other than to reinforce one’s selection of principles that conveniently support one’s position, while interfering with an open discussion?


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A few thoughts from Japan on unowned/common resources, governments and whale PR wars

July 23rd, 2010 8 comments

 I left this comment on a post at Andy Revkin’s Dot Earth/NYT blog about the January run-in between the Sea Shepherd organization and the Japanese whaling fleet (emphasis added):

January 11th, 2010
3:50 pm
Andy, this dispute is in some ways very similar to the range wars between ranchers, shepherds and farmers, with all sides fighting over a resource that the federal government recognized no one as owning.

Laws re the high seas, whaling and trade in endangered species likewise prevent resource management by those interested, and encourage the use of violence, PR and politics to settle disputes.

The Sea Shepherd and others have just as much claim to protect whales as the whalers have to catch them. Too bad both sides are invested in this dispute, instead of focusing on the common goal of building sustainable fisheries worldwide.

One irony/compounding factor that many overlook is that here [in Japan] whaling fleet is involved. The private whalers have all left the business, which the Japanese government now owns and runs at a loss, cutting off its own nose to spite the enviros. Ego (and group pride)  [and political grandstanding] so often wins out over long-term interest!

I note that I’ve commented on whaling and fishery issues (including salmon and tuna) any number of times.
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Charitable discussions of IP?

July 20th, 2010 No comments

I refer to Jeffrey Tucker’s July 19th post, “L. Neil Smith on IP“; below are comments I made:.

.Jeffrey: I’m all for discussing this further, but with a little more charity than you offer to L. Neil Smith, who understandably “painted himself into a corner” as a result of an emotional over-reaction to insensitive and insincere actions by FreeTalkLive radio show host Ian Freeman and others of the Shire Society.

Your strawman doesn’t help; far from insisting that he owns all of his ideas, it’s clear from his references to “plagiarism” that Smith thinks he is simply protecting what he regards as his legitimate interests in a particular expression of his ideas.

I’ve expressed some of my thoughts – on property and copyright, and on community, respect and persuasion, in greater detail on Stephan’s thread:

But let me note that even while I see holes in Smith’s arguments (as well as in arguments by others), I feel that his reaction [that the Shire Society stepped on his toes] was completely understandable even if one rejects his position on IP [which, after, all is largely the conventional legal view]. What we consider to be legitimate “property” is quite malleable, differs from society to society, and is something that we defend fairly reflexively (especially when we see our own “rights” threatened, while those doing the threatening are quick with rationalizations, as Smith notes). [It’s natural that Smith, having grown up with these rules, would take umbrage when he feels the rules, his “rights” and the moral order have been breached, and at his expense; age and society have a way of making conservatives out of most of us.]

My modest suggestion is that those who wish to change how others think about IP consider more deeply how societies establish rights, and show a little more sensitivity to the sensitivities of others who have accepted conventional views of IP and have not yet reconsidered them. If one wishes to move away from statism, it hardly seems effective to so by starting off the “conversation” by first stepping on the toes of others and then thumbing one’s nose at them.



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[Preface added] IP Flamewars, Community and Principles; A few thoughts to Stephan on "The L. Neil Smith – FreeTalkLive Copyright Dispute"

July 16th, 2010 No comments

Stephan/others in the LvMI/libertarian community:

I tried to post a long comment on this on July 16, but it got caught in moderation limbo (and though I’ve said a dozen Hail Marys, it’s still stuck), so allow me to note to anyone who hasn’t seen it the backup copy of the comments that I posted to my blog:

IP Flamewars, Community and Principles; A few thoughts to Stephan on “The L. Neil Smith – FreeTalkLive Copyright Dispute” ;

(My purpose of a cross-link is not to capture traffic, but simply to provide access to comments that, because of too many links (I guess), I could not post here.)

The gist, which I see as semi-self-evident, is that libertarians and others who would like to build a non-statist society need to pay sincere attention not simply to “principles” but to the hard work of building the sine qua non of cooperative society: a strong sense of community.

Without real community, which entails trust, mutual respect, commitment, patience, more than a little common courtesy and, yes, shared principles and rules, we are merely bickering and self-justifying and self-aggrandizing individuals and factions – for which “principles” can simply be a line of division.

Are those here genuinely interested in a free society? If so, they should understand what they need to do to actively help and not hinder the effort.

Kind regards,


[I’ve just copied the link to this post to the main comment thread; here is the link and my comments:

The following comment on Stephan Kinsella‘s July 14 post, The L. Neil Smith – FreeTalkLive Copyright Dispute, got caught in moderation (too many links, methinks), so I’ve copied it below:
TokyoTom July 15, 2010 at 10:55 pm.


Thanks for bringing this to our attention, laying it out for us and providing all the links. I’ve been listening to the radio show.

I also appreciate your effort to expose what you see as fundamental problems with statist IP and to explore a different intellectual foundation.

I have a few comments.

First, the co-host, Mark Edge, basically has it right: FreeTalkLive radio host Ian Freeman has acted like a jackass and a jerk, and appears “congenitally incapable of not being condescending”. Someone else on the show mentions Freeman’s “d*ck move”. And “crusty” L. Neil Smith clearly over-reacted as well. This is not simply a surface issue, but a deep one. What the brouhaha is about is REALLY about is about frustrated human reactions when community breaks down and leaves us with little but emotion and self-righteous posturing on “principle”.

Rather than really being about IP, the whole thing seems to me to be about Smith feeling – understandably in my view – like he was slighted, and the negative pissing contest that resulted. The eager young Shire guys got caught up in their own project, and it seemed never even to enter their minds that they should have troubled themselves to let Smith know in advance that they intended to use Smith’s work in drafting their own declaration. If that happened in a real community of people who knew each other, wouldn’t we all think that the Shire guys had ignored what seems like a natural protocol? Where is the “compassion” that some on the talk show referred to?

This discussion of human interaction and emotion is NOT a side issue — in a real stateless word, how would people deal with each other, and reach agreement on principles and how they apply in particular circumstances? Our mass society makes it easier to act more shallowly and self-interestedly, and easier to diss and mock others while finding convenient self-justifications – including statements of principle (“my work is property!” or “IP is theft!”) – for doing so. This is clearly evident in the Smith-Freeman IP dispute, but we also see it on practically every blog, including threads here. Modern technology makes it possible for us to have great conversations with interesting people all around the world, but it also makes it difficult to satisfy our need for REAL community, and makes it easy for us to act more immaturely and less responsibly.

Second, as to what IP “should” be, Stephan will not be surprised to hear that I agree with Mark Edge’s suggestion is that “property” is really no more than what a community of people AGREE is property … and it there is a very wide realm of economic interests that human societies have treated and do treat as a legitimate property interest. (A separate, but related issue, is the negative role that the state can play.) In short, a society can very well agree that a producer of intellectual work has some claims regarding control, compensation and copying, even when the work passes out of his/her hands.

I made a few comments to Stephan’s November 2009 post on “Intellectual Property and Libertarianism”, which I have gathered together here:

I copy them here for the interested reader two of my comments (on society, property and IP) that Stephan left unaddressed;


Basically, “property” is simply the name we give to the resources that we are able personally to protect, as well as those which – via sophisticated shared mechanisms that continue to be developed within communities over time – we can protect, plus our recognized share of common assets.

In a state of nature, very little is secure, as most life forms have limited means of securing or maintaining exclusive control over assets. What one predator catches, another often soon steals. Different species have developed different ways of coping with the ongoing struggle, utilizing varying degrees of cunning, speed, strength and cooperation.

Humans have triumphed over the rest of nature because we have found sophisticated ways of balancing individual initiative and moderating intra-group struggle with cooperation, and devised methods to acquire, use and defend resources.

Property has been a key tool, but we can readily see that our “property” has its roots in the ways that our cousin creatures invest energy in marking out territory, fighting (individually or in groups) to protect their young, and growling over bones. At the same time, we can see that animals treat each other as dinner, make calculated decisions as to when to “steal” resources that others are guarding, and as well find advantage in cooperating, both with relatives of their kind and with others.

Our need to defend property from other groups has fed our inbred mutual suspicions of “others”, and our ongoing battles, both for dominance within groups and to acquire the resources held by rival groups, – and has led directly to states.

Bruce Yandle has addressed the ascendance of man through methods such as property to facilitate cooperation and to abate ruinous conflicts over resources; he has an interesting short piece I`ve excerpted here:

To tie this in more closely with Stephan’s battle with libertarians and others over IP, I note I have further discussed the ways that groups have, in order to strengthen group cohesion and dampen conflict, of developing and inculcating mores; formal religions are obviously just one branch of this tree:

– see my discussion with fundamentalist here:

– and my discussions with Gene Callahan and Bob Murphy on whether there are “objective” moral truths, or simply a felt need on their part to find some:

These are relevant because they explore not property per se, but our related need to make our property rules stick, by tying them to “sacred postulates” of one kind or another. The problem with this, of course, is that it makes us difficult to abandon what we all pretty much assumed was sacred, like IP. (Of course it also makes even discussing property quite difficult at times.)

Published: November 20, 2009 9:13 AM


The deep roots of “property” are not in principle but in simple competition, physical defense of assets valuable enough to make the effort worthwhile, and in the grudging recognition by others – more willingly offered by those who share bonds of community – that yielding to others’ claims may be more productive than challenging them. This is as true for rest of creation as it is for man. While we have developed property to a a very sophisticated degree, at it’s core property remains very much about the Darwinian struggle to survive and prosper, violence, theft and calculations as to when challenging control over an asset is not worth the effort.

To the extent we’re past that, which is quite a ways indeed, property is a social construct that is flexible (though rigidified in various ways, including legislation) and based primarily on practical considerations as to what parameters best engender wealth and respond to shared purposes by minimizing free-for-alls, externalities, free-riding & rent-seeking and facilitating voluntary transactions.

Elinor Ostrom has spent alot of time documenting sophisticated local community property rights, all of which at the end of the day all supported by threats of sanctions and violence against rule breakers and outsiders.

It’s natural that we feel strongly about what we consider to be ours, but this feeling is a gut one that is not in essence grounded on principles deeper than our sense of fair play and just desserts in a community to which we feel we have bonds of common purpose.

And we have a natural tendency to dress up our shared institutions – such as property rights – in moral precepts.

But we always remain subject to problems of theft, especially so as our bonds of community and shared purpose loosen. Libertarians are absolutely right to keep shining a spotlight on how the state has become an instrument of theft.

As for IP, as specialized knowledge can be quite valuable, it seems quite possible for me to imagine a society that developed IP and enforced it mutually, as a way to minimize high costs for protecting trade secrets.But such rules would not be enforceable against other societies, unless resort is made to government. And it seems clear to me that there are substantial rent-seeking costs now associated with state-granted IP.

Published: November 20, 2009 at 11:54 am

Kind regards, your local friendly misanthropic enviro-fascist,


TokyoTom July 19, 2010 at 11:32 pm
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Finally: Andrew Napolitano: Bush and Cheney Should Have Been Indicted for Torturing, for Spying and Arresting Without Warrants

July 13th, 2010 No comments
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Al Franken's opening remarks at Kagan confirmation hearing

July 13th, 2010 No comments

I’ve commented previously on some recent comments by comedian-turned-Senator Al Franken regarding the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on corporate funding of political speech.

I’ve just run into Franken’s remarks at the commencement of the Senate hearing on the confirmation of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Attorney General Elana Kagan

While I don’t agree with the Left’s legislative agenda, I share the view that corporations are a driving factor in the growth of our government, increasingly rancorous fights over controlling government and corporations, and increasing mutal mistrust among citizens. As a conservative lawyer, I also share a concern that the Supreme Court, both under liberal and conservative majorities, is playing too much of a legislative role, in which it cares more about a political agenda than the Constitution. Accordingly, I am sympathetic to Franken’s recent remarks, which I excerpt here (emphasis added):

Last year, I used my time during these hearings to highlight what I think is one of the most serious threats to our Constitution and to the rights it guarantees the American people: the activism of the Roberts Court.  

I noted that for years, conservatives running for the Senate have made it almost an article of faith that they won’t vote for activist judges who make law from the bench. And when asked to name a model justice, they would often cite Justice Thomas, who I noted has voted to overturn more federal laws than Justices Stevens and Breyer combined.  In recent cycles, they would name Chief Justice Roberts.

Well, I think we established very convincingly during the Sotomayor hearings that there is such a thing as judicial activism.  There is such a thing as legislating from the bench.  

And it is practiced repeatedly by the Roberts Court, where it has cut in only one direction: in favor of powerful corporate interests, and against the rights of individual Americans.  

In the next few days, I want to continue this conversation.  Because I think things have only gotten worse.

Our state has banned all corporate spending on elections since 1988.

And yet in January, in Citizens United, the Roberts Court nullified our laws and turned back a century of federal law by allowing corporations to spend as much money as they want, whenever they want, in our elections.  Not just federal elections.  Duluth elections. Bemidji elections. Minnesota elections.

There is a pattern here.  Each of these decisions was won with five votes.  And in each of these decisions, that bare majority used its power to help big business.

There’s another pattern here.  In each of these decisions, in every one, Justice John Paul Stevens led the dissent.

Now Justice Stevens is no firebrand liberal.  He was appointed to the Seventh Circuit by Richard Nixon.  And he was elevated to the Supreme Court by Gerald Ford.  By all accounts, he was considered a moderate.

And yet he didn’t hesitate to tell corporations that they aren’t a part of “‘We the People,’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.”  And he didn’t flinch when he told a President that “the Executive is bound to comply with the rule of law.” …

But before I turn it over to you, General Kagan, I want to talk a bit more about one of the decisions I mentioned.  I want to talk more about Citizens United.  

Now, you’ve heard a lot about this decision already today, but I want to come at it from a slightly different angle.

There is no doubt: the Roberts Court’s disregard for a century of federal law-and decades of the Supreme Court’s own rulings-is wrong.  It’s shocking.  And it’s torn a gaping hole in our election laws.  

So of course I’m worried about how Citizens United is going to change our elections.  

But I am more worried about how this decision is going to affect our communities-and our ability to run those communities without a permission slip from big business. ….

Along with the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Motor Vehicle Safety Act are three of the pillars of modern consumer safety and environmental laws.

But here’s something else they have in common.  They were all passed around 60 days before an election.

Do you think those laws would have stood a chance if Standard Oil and GM could have spent millions of dollars advertising against vulnerable congressmen, by name, in the last months before their elections?  I don’t.

So here’s my point, General Kagan:  Citizens United isn’t just about election law.  It isn’t just about campaign finance.  

It’s about seat belts.  It’s about clean air and clean water.  It’s about energy policy and the rights of workers and investors.  It’s about health care.  It’s about our ability to pass laws that protect the American people even if it hurts the corporate bottom line.  

As Justice Stevens said, it’s about our “need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government.”

I’m definitely not in favor of a passel of burdensome federal laws, which lessen our freedom, spur on further interventions and encourage further investments in backdoor lobbying. But I do think corporate statism, enabled and driven by special grants of limited liability, legal entity status and the like, is the chief root of our problems. To have saner and less corrupt government, we have to strike at the root, and emphatically insist that it is individuals that have Constitutional rights, not “corporations” representing investors and executives, all of whom have their own Constitutional rights.

Corporations are creatures of the states, and we should acknowledge that states have the ability and responsibility to limit their rights and privileges. In this regard, we should recognize the Citizens United decision as a further usurpation of states’ rights and erosion of our Constitutional federalist system.

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I Can't Stand Cant, Or, LeBron James and our Collectivist Scorn of "Collectivists"

July 13th, 2010 No comments

A recent post on the Mises Economics Blog by contributor S.M. Oliva, “LeBron and the Collectivist Mentality“, which rails against “collectivism” and hypocrisy in the treatment of professional athletes, has provided an opportunity to hold up a mirror to LvMI posters and commenters. I left a few comments that I copy below, along with related responses from others. 

The comment thread was interesting; those who disagreed were quickly branded “collectivist!”, but my comments about how LvMI posters and commenters also prominently exhibit judgmental group-think and ignore human nature were met by quite a bit of head-scratching. (I can almost hear people saying to themselves,”But wait, aren’t we all SUPPOSED to jump in and condemn “collectivist” mentalities in others? If not, then what? How strange – are you sure you belong in our church?”)

My intention in showing that Austrians’ own actions belie the beliefs that they profess was not to put a finger in anyone’s dogma, but to suggest that a better understanding of our very social human nature would lead to commentary that is not only more sympathetic, but more productive. After all, as Walt Kelly‘s Pogo once said:

We have met the enemy and he is us!

Historically, shared problems can be solved either by reaching shared understandings, or by victory over the opposition and coercion. Our tribal predilections tend to make the latter a default mechanism, but is tribal conflict also a tenet of Austrian principles? If so, maybe we can find a slicker way of condemning collectivist thinking elsewhere.

Here are some of the relevant comment strings (emphasis added)

TokyoTom July 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

Skip, I agree with much of your post, particularly in your criticisms of reporters, but it seems to me more than a bit blind as to community/tribal dynamics, and overly doctrinaire as a result. Understanding such dynamics may help you. I’ll try not to wax too prolix.

Let me start off with a copy of a Twitter post I made yesterday:

“@naufalsanaullah Diff btwn Lebron,Goldman? GS just rich ppl ripping us off;were never on OUR side;LeBron BETRAYS by switching allegiance”

Man has an exquisite moral sense, that we acquired via the process of evolution, as an aid to intra-group cooperation. Our moral sense, rituals and “sacred postulates” (later, religions) have played a central role in the evolution of man as a social animal, by providing a fundamental way of ordering the world, the group`s role in it, and the individual`s role in the group – thereby abating commons problems both within and created by the group. While we certainly have made progress (partly with the aid of “universal” religions) in expanding the boundaries of our groups, we very much remain group, tribal animals, fiercely attentive to rival groups and who is within or outside our group, and this tribal nature is clearly at work in our cognition (our penchant for finding enemies, including those who have different religious beliefs that ours).

You condemn “collectivism” but ignore that all men live in and rely on communities. The tribal reactions of Clevelanders to Lebron’s decision to leave them, and their perception of the cavalier manner in which he “stabbed them in the back”, are quite understandable. Attempts to apply moral suasion is a natural, instinctive behavior, and one that some libertarians (Richman and Callahan) deliberately endorse, and that others like you also reflexively resort to.

Such reactions are particularly strong in sports, which serves as a proxy for war. In this arena, LeBron James is seen not as a simple mercenary, but as a hometown champion,which makes his decisions to leave and the way he announced it even more difficult for locals to bear.

In railing against such reactions, you are not simply spitting into the wind of human nature, but essentially manifesting a similar reflexive group reaction.

The existence of similar groupthink and tribal reactions at LvMI is behind much of the hostility to enviros, including little ol’ me.

See also my comments to Stephan Kinsella here [regarding the origins of “Principles” in coordinating behavior within groups]:



PS: Sorry if this is a bit scattered; it’s late here, and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open until the World Cup final

mpolzkill July 11, 2010 at 1:54 pm


As long [as you] aren’t like the other 99.99 percent or so of other “enviros” (statists), I for one don’t have any problem with any fetish you might have.

TokyoTom July 12, 2010 at 1:29 am

mpolzkill, thanks for the comment. I have damaging “fetishes” for liberty, commitment and responsibility within community, and competent management of shared resources and institutions.

You: “Watch for an amazing surge in the popularity of boxing if an American of even Cooney’s meagre talent, weight and pigmentation were to emerge today.”

I would agree; my view is simply that it is more productive to understand such a reaction (among white Americans) as relatively reflexive and tribal, than it would be to condemn such a reaction as “collectivist”, as you and Oliva responded to michael (who seems to be addressing Cleveland, not the press). We’re individuals, to be sure, but social animals to our core. Pure individualists are a hazard if they live in a real community.


S.M. Oliva July 11, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Hmm. This sounds like a bunch of gibberish. Sorry, I really don’t see a point here.

But I would note my criticism was directed primarily at the media, not Cleveland fans.

TokyoTom July 12, 2010 at 1:52 am

Oliva, thanks for troubling to respond to my gibberish. Your reaction is understandable: not only was I blogging with my eyes half closed, but I wasn’t speaking in the cant we recite in this church ==>thus, what I say D O E S N O T C O M P U T E

Do you really have such a hard time in seeing in the visceral reactions of so many in Cleveland (and elsewhere) a natural tribal response? And a response that naturally mirrors behavior in other arenas, including LvMI blogs? This theme is something I’ve commented on several times:

You may well disapprove of the disapprobation directed at LeBron (I agree with you in part), but it behooves you to recognize it – and the response that you express and evoke here – as a manifestation of the moral suasion to which social man resorts instinctively. Those who are opponents of statism should understand the natural (and non-statist) ways in which communities of individuals and families coordinate behavior and keep each other in check. As I noted, libertarians such as Richman and Callahan (also Yandle) have expressly advocated deliberate use of moral suasion – as opposed to the state – as a means of productively addressing shared problems.


Stephan Kinsella July 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm

This is scattered. Lebron owes “Cleveland” nothing at all. He did nothing wrong whatsoever. Here Rand was right: we have a right to live for ourselves. He provided services for payment; both sides are even. His moving to Florida is not a whit different than someone changing jobs, or firing someone. People are free to associate with whoever they want.

TokyoTom July 12, 2010 at 2:00 am

Stephan, I understand where you’re coming from, but your comments are simply unresponsive to any point I’ve made. I’m not arguing about LeBron’s formal “rights” at all. Focus!

Anyone who doesn’t see the tensions between human nature and principles as we move from families to close communities to extremely loose webs has gotta be [a] robot.


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A government-fostered love of hatred: In which I rant to a buddy about some blind, stupid Left- and Islamofascist-hating neocon rant

July 8th, 2010 No comments

A buddy forwarded to me a link to a flash movie he’d received via a chain of forwarded emails headed “A Powerful, Must Watch Video”. 

I started taking a look at the flash movie, then paused and went to check out the host website:

I then finished the flash movie (“The Radical Left’s War on America”, which the reader can find here), and sent back a note to my buddy. I don’t really rant much myself, but a little anger has its time and place, and I do get tired of all of the off-the-handle polarized, partisan BS that too many people are parading around with these days. 

Here’s my note (my pal’s name has been changed).

Frank, there are reasons to be upset, including at the deluded neocon, culture & religious warrior SOBs who made this and supported the Bush/Cheney agenda that ran us off the f’g rails so badly in so many ways that we got stupid, budget-busting Dems in Congress and then the White House. If the GOP itself was not a pack of thieves and had governed responsibly without making enormous profits off of enormous wars and bubbles, we’d never have Dems to keep doing what they think government should do – spend more money.
I’m looking for a good Lew Rockwell post to send you, but meanwhile this Carlin-Bill Hicks thing will have to serve.
Bottom line? Our blood-sucking elites love to peddle fear, to distract how they are ripping us off. This is a piece of that – “small government” neocons so concerned about our economy & liberties that they want to spend MORE trillions making Muslims around the world hate us, and turning us even more into a police state; demonizing Obama and the Left as the enemy within, all so they they can ignore their own responsibility for what went on they they cheered on whole-heartedly.
This is NOT a defense of Obama or Dems; their policies are generally wrong – but they don’t hate America more than the Right does, or have an agenda even slightly more nefarious.
Stop falling for this garbage, please.

Yes! I found the Lew Rockwell quotes I was looking for! I excerpted them an earlier post, relating to the banning of Ron Paul followers from the right-wing RedState site.

I note for the record a few of my other posts on our self-deceptive and tribal love of hatred.

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