The State Smash Podcast with Jeremy Harding

After some recent health issues delaying the release of Culture of Peace episode 5, it was a genuine pleasure to play interviewee for a change and appear on the State Smash Podcast with Jeremy Harding.

It’s a little on the longer side and NSFW, but I had fun! We get into what Culture of Peace is all about, what brought me to libertarianism, how to move the message forward, and some broader commentary on the nature of government.

Enjoy!

Lowering the Voting Age is Playing into the State’s Hands

According to the usual media suspects, we should strongly consider lowering the voting age to 16.

First of all: Is this a good-spirited push for inclusion, or a thinly-veiled attempt to push through gun control legislation? Let’s consider the question more carefully.

It seems like this should be fairly obvious. All we need to do is ask, “Why now?” Does anyone think that our endlessly wise talking heads all suddenly came to the conclusion that a more fair society requires more youth voters? To suggest this is to reveal a staggering degree of naivete.

No. This latest push is part of the March for Our Lives madness gripping the country. The Parkland shooting is the latest in a long line of obvious justifications for political action, say the progressives. The only solution to any problem–be it police accountability, drinking water standards, or obesity–is to increase the power of the federal government.

My argument is that this is exactly the problem.

School-age children are raised by government.

Consider the life of a child for most of their formative years.

Go to school. Go back home. Attend extra-curricular activities. Have a rushed dinner. Work on homework. Go to sleep. Repeat.

The life of a child is a life of government control. They spend 7 or more hours per day at the school, to say nothing of the crushing load of homework. It is not merely a part of their day, it is their day.

While the consequences of this are many, all of them are negative. Parents know nothing about their children, and children spend no time getting to know their parents. Learning, discipline, praise, expectations of acceptable behavior. All of these come from the school first, and the parents second.

Children are taught to expect government solutions.

Of course, when a child is learning is learning about government, there is a strong suggestion that the only proper way to affect change in society is by using the political means. All episodes in history are taught with this bias as well. The only way that slavery could have ended was thanks to our Great Deified Leader, who abolished it with the stroke of the Executive pen. Child labor was rampant and uncontrollable until the Wise and Benevolent Federal Government enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act. Pick an issue and see the same story repeated.

  1. Problem exists.
  2. Helpless public asks government to fix it.
  3. Omnipotent government reshapes reality to aid its citizens using the magic of regulation.

Consequently, we cannot be surprised when their response to a tragedy is to appeal to the federal government. Where the most reasonable among us might suggest improvements to security at the school in question, children who have lived their entire lives inside a government institution have no basis for reaching this conclusion.  When there is a problem, you ask the government to fix it. After all, localized solutions are barbarous and backwards artifacts of an age long past.

In fact, government solutions are a long history of failures.

The war on poverty hasn’t helped poverty. The war on drugs has only aggravated the drug problem. Monetary stimulus only worsens our economic woes. The grand attempt to fight rising healthcare costs led to a massive increase instead.

A full account of the failures of government is material for a multi-volume book series, not a simple blog post. There are already many fantastic resources available to study on this topic. The short version is that government has nothing to show for itself, and yet it never fails to get a free pass from the public. “They are doing the best they can,” we’re told. “If only we could get the schools more funding, they would be able to do a better job!” Yet, rather than accurately explaining the problem or its solution, these common refrains are generally proof of a mind shaped by public education.

Again: Problem exists? Let’s get government to fix it.

How does lowering the voting age to 16 help the progressives?

I hope it should be obvious. The goal is to get people voting before they have lived so much as an instant in the real world.

Those with lives dominated by government are more likely to vote in ways favorable to the government. These are people who have never owned a home, never balanced a budget, and never witnessed the effects of taxes on their paychecks. In other words, they are wholly isolated from the effects of their voting decisions.

Make no mistake: This is a vile maneuver made by those with a distinct agenda. If we are to be governed at all, it should at least be by adults who are fully responsible for the consequences.

If this is the direction that we are heading, it is more important than ever before that we end government control over as many things as possible. Tyranny is only a stone’s throw away.

Quick Thought Experiment: States Versus the Federal Government

If you think the federal government is superior to the states, let’s do a thought experiment!

You use your resources to have a new house built.
You wait patiently.
Your brand new house is ready!
You order a security system and have professionals install it.

But then, you make it very clear to the installers: You want them to make up the codes to get past the security system, and to not give them to you. After all, they worked hard setting up the alarms and cameras.

The house and its contents now effectively belong to the security company.

See the problem?

On Saving Humanity in One Fell Swoop

I consider myself a trusting person.

However, with time and experience, I have learned to always be extremely suspicious of those claiming to have an easy, one-size-fits-all solution to a problem plaguing humanity. Let’s walk through an example.

“All of the nutrition needed by humans can easily be made into a powder. It’s cheap to produce. We could end world hunger!”

This is the cry of the technocrat. “Submit yourself to reason,” he commands from his ivory tower, wielding his elite tower guards. “It is for your own good.”

There are a number of problems with “solving” world hunger in this fashion.

How does this nutritive powder taste? If it is unpalatable, who will voluntarily pay for it? If no one will pay for it, how will this solution be funded? If by taxation, is this not a sick irony–paying for something undesirable by stealing money and redistributing it to a company that cannot make a profit on its own merits?

How will it be distributed? For this approach to solve hunger globally, it must be applied globally. This means the heavy hand of the state is involved. How many factories should be constructed, and of what sizes? What locations should they occupy? Governments fail spectacularly at answering these types of questions. Soviet breadlines, anyone?

How will it be produced? This is follows from the previous question. Depending on the raw materials needed, how do we ensure a consistent supply of these inputs? Does the sudden shortage of one factor of production mean that humanity as a whole is suddenly cast into the merciless void of starvation?

The list could continue on like this for a long time indeed. The technocrat will no doubt have very scientific explanations for how to solve each of these in turn. This leads us to the most fundamental flaw with the entire approach: humans are not homogeneous. You and I are not factors in an equation, equally serviceable in the machinations of grand and terrible governmental enterprises. We are men and women with widely varying tastes, cultures, and ideas.

Money is the great unifying force by which these many preferences can co-exist. A one-size-fits-all solution is not needed. We may all specialize in what we are good at, and receive money in return. Money can be traded for that which we desire. In this example, it allows us to shop for calamari, bean sprouts, canned cranberry sauce, potatoes, ice cream, and and endless list of other things. We buy only what we desire to buy.

Viewed in this light, grocery stores are the unappreciated miracle in every city. The preferences of millions are satisfied, and all that the market asks is that you do something to help your fellow humans in return. Earn money–both you and your employer are better off for the trade. Spend money–both you and the store are better off for the trade.

4 Ways to Make Real Progress Toward Liberty

This post is adapted from an excellent conversation with a dear friend, via Facebook. He originally asked about term limits, which are extremely low on my list of priorities. In response, he asked for my top four.

#1 is self-improvement.

Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn. Then, learn some more. The curricula taught in schools, both public and private, is practically worthless. It’s worse than knowing nothing about history–it’s wrong history. Worse than no economics–it’s wrong economics. Without going into much detail on these particulars, let me just say that a person who spends 10 minutes a day studying a the works of a figure like Murray Rothbard can run intellectual laps around a clown with a PhD in economics like Paul Krugman. You can and will become a force to be reckoned with and respected, simply by making the decision to invest your time in self-study of these topics.

To quote the great H.L. Mencken: “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.”

#2 is State nullification of federal laws.

There is an extremely strong historical, logical, moral, and even constitutional case to be made for this approach. I can give you a broad overview if it interests you, but the best reference on the subject is Tom Woods’ book, simply titled “Nullification.” This is notably different from the other three items on the list, in that it requires large-scale organization to make it happen. However, I think the evidence is clear that begging politicians to “repeal Obamacare” or “streamline the tax code” never manifest themselves in ways that are beneficial from the perspective of States’ rights. Working at the State level requires far less manpower and money than trying to influence things like the presidential election, and yet people always seem to shoot for the least attainable goals. This is my answer to that.

#3 is to ridicule and ignore the ruling elite.

It’s a great thing to be critical, but even better is to make a laughing stock out of them. Make the political class the butt end of every joke. Craft and share hilarious tales of government ineptitude. Then, when they demand your respect, ignore them. Sit down during the pledge of allegiance. Stay home on election day. Gather up all of the pomp and the circumstance and kick it back in their faces. Consent is the one thing that keeps them in power. For great reading on this, try “The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude,” written in 1553 by Etienne de la Boétie. It’s free on mises.org.

#4 is to share your intellectual journey with others.

Make videos, start a website, write articles, speak at small events. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Force yourself to go toe-to-toe with their ridiculous arguments. It will strengthen you to press onward. This step also has the great benefit of building your social circles. I can’t even begin to tell you how many friend requests I’ve gotten just from taking these things head-on.

So, there’s a top 4. The list somewhat presumes that you are a radical, but take it for what it’s worth. If you are curious as to why this list is not more like a set of policy prescriptions, my answer is simple. There is an endless sea of well-researched papers published by massive think tanks like the Heritage Foundation. Does anyone care? No. I’m not an extensively credentialed D.C. satellite group like that, so my opinion is correspondingly even less appreciated by those who write legislation. Besides, my entire position is that no one should be writing legislation at all. This all goes back to point #3 on the list. Rulers can only rule with consent. If you withdraw your consent, you’ve already done more than the vast majority of people who devote their lives to politics.

One more quote: “The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” – Frédéric Bastiat

When we realize how genuinely insane that prospect is, we start to see the state for what it is: organized crime.

The Thing You Cannot Say in Public

You know, I’m glad our choices for President of the United States are so blatantly terrible.
 
It’s about time some people started to realize the truth: It doesn’t matter who wins.
 
No matter how much hysterical screaming is hurled at you from friends, family, and coworkers, it doesn’t matter.
 
This is The Thing You Cannot Say in Public, and yet, you know it’s true.
 
Trump’s policies would be different in tiny ways from Hillary’s. That’s true. But the entire system remains intact, no matter who sits in the Oval Office. The State, as an organization, is wholly unfazed by your voting. It doesn’t care. You are nothing in face of Leviathan.
 
Your mind may tell you that voting is a waste of time, and that it changes nothing. But we get caught up in the television ads. The radio ads. The latest polls. The debates. The water cooler conversations. The flag waving. The ritual of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at public events. The singing of the National Anthem. The bumper stickers. The yard signs. The banner ads. The smartphone games. The fundraising mailers. The talk radio shows. The local political party meetings. The scandalous comments. The opinion pieces about the scandalous comments.
 
It is inescapable. Why? The State depends on the fact that your emotional defenses will wear away before Election Day.
 
“But we can’t let Trump win!”
 
“But we can’t let Hillary win!”
 
Listen to yourself, and then listen carefully to me.
 
No matter how many times you play Chess, and no matter who you play it with, the game is the same. Chess is a war game. You can play quickly or slowly. You can play in silence or engage in a lively volley of insults. Your pieces can be plastic, glass, stone, or anything else. Chess is still a war game.
 
You can switch sides every time you play, but the game is the same. Chess is always war. Chess does not care what team wins. If you want peace, you have to play a different game.
 
No matter who you vote for, the winner is always the great enemy of mankind: The State.