Destroying the middle ground

Here’s a thought experiment for you. Imagine yourself in an alternate United States where the First Amendment is not as a matter of settled law considered to bar Federal and State governments from almost all interference in free speech. This is less unlikely than it might sound; the modern, rather absolutist interpretation of free-speech liberties did not take form until the early 20th century.

In this alternate America, there are many and bitter arguments about the extent of free-speech rights. The ground of dispute is to what extent the instruments of political and cultural speech (printing presses, radios, telephones, copying machines, computers) should be regulated by government so that use of these instruments does not promote violence, assist criminal enterprises, and disrupt public order.

The weight of history and culture is largely on the pro-free-speech side – the Constitution does say “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. And until the late 1960s there is little actual attempt to control speech instruments.

Then, in 1968, after a series of horrific crimes and assassinations inspired by inflammatory anti-establishment political propaganda, some politicians, prominent celebrities, and public intellectuals launch a “speech control” movement. They wave away all comparisons to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, insisting that their goal is not totalitarian control but only the prevention of the most egregious abuses in the public square.

So strong is public revulsion against the violence of 1968 that the first prohibition on speech instruments passes rapidly. The dissidents used slow, inexpensive hand-cranked mimeograph machines and hand presses to spread their poison; these “Saturday Night Specials” are banned. Slightly more capable printers still inexpensive enough to be owned by individual citizens are made subject to mandatory registration.

A few civil libertarians call out warnings but are dismissed as extremists and generally ignored. Legitimate media and publishing corporations, assured by speech-control activists that their presses will not be affected by any measures the speech-control movement has in mind, raise little protest themselves.

Strangely, the ban on Saturday Night Specials fails to reduce the ills it was intended to address. Violent dissidents and criminals, it seems, find little difficulty in stealing typewriters, copiers, and more expensive printing equipment – none of it subject to registration.

The speech-control movement insists that stricter laws regulating speech instruments are the answer. By about 1970 convicted felons are prohibited from owning typewriters. A few years later all dealers in printing supplies, telephones, radios, and other communication equipment are required to have federal licenses as a condition of business, and are subject to government audits at any time. The announced intention of these laws is to prevent dangerous speech instruments from falling into the hands of criminals and madmen.

In 1976 the National Writers’ Association, previously a rather somnolent social club best known for sponsoring speed-typing contests, is taken over in a palace coup by an insurgent gang of pro-free-speech radicals. They display an unexpected flair for grass-roots organization, and within five years have developed a significant lobbying arm in Washington D.C. They begin pushing back against speech-instrument restrictions.

But the speech-control movement seems to be winning most of the battles. In 1986 ownership of automatic so-called “class 3” press equipment is banned except for federally-licensed individuals and corporations. The media is flooded with academic studies purporting to show that illicit speech instruments cause crime and violence, though for some reason the researchers making these claims often refuse to publish their primary data sets.

In unguarded moments and friendly company the speech-control movement’s leadership describes its goal expansively as confiscation and bans on all speech instruments not under direct government control or licensing. For public consumption, however, they speak only of “common-sense regulation” – conveniently never quite achieved, and always requiring more restrictions designed to increase the costs and legal risks for individuals owning speech instruments.

Free-speech advocates begin referring to the speech-control movement’s tactics as “salami-slicing” – carving away rights one “reasonable” slice at a time until there is nothing left. Document leaks from major speech-control lobbying organizations confirm that this is their strategy (they call it “incrementalism”), and that they intend to continue lying about their objectives in public until the goal is so nearly achieved that admitting the truth will no longer prevent final victory.

But much of the general public, the American moderate middle, takes the speech-control movement’s public rhetoric at face value. Who can be against “reasonable restrictions” and “common-sense regulation”? Especially when pundits assure them that free speech was never intended by the framers of the Constitution to be interpreted as an individual right, but as a collective right of the people to be exercised only as members of government-controlled or sponsored corporate bodies.

But by 1990 many individual private owners of telephones and computers, though themselves still almost untouched by the new laws, are nevertheless becoming suspicious of the speech-control movement and increasingly frustrated with the NWA’s sluggish and inadequate counters to it. Awareness of the pattern of salami-slicing and strategic deception by the other side is spreading well beyond hard-core free-speech activists.

In 2001, an eminent historian named Prettyisland publishes a book entitled “Printing America”. In it, he argues that pre-Civil war Americans never placed the high value on free speech and freedom of expression asserted in popular history, and that ownership of speech instruments was actually rare in the Revolutionary period. He is awarded a Bancroft Prize; his book receives glowing reviews in academia and all media outlets and is taken up as a major propaganda cudgel by the speech-control movement.

Within 18 months dedicated free-speech activists led by an amateur scholar show that “Printing America” was a wholesale fraud. The probate records Prettyisland claims to have examined never existed. He has systematically misquoted and distorted his sources. Shamefaced academics recant their support; his Bancroft Prize is revoked.

The speech-control movement takes a major loss in its credibility, and free speech activists a corresponding gain. Free-speech advocacy organizations more willing to confront their enemies than the NWA arise, and find increasing grassroots support – Printer Owners of America, Advocates for the First Amendment, Jews for the Preservation of Computer Ownership.

The members of these organizations know that many people advocating “reasonable restrictions” and advocating “common-sense regulation” are not actually seeking total bans and confiscation. They’re honest dupes, believing ridiculous collective-rights theories because that’s what all the eminent people who gave Prettyisland’s book glowing reviews told them was true. They honestly believe that anyone who doesn’t support “common-sense regulation” is a dangerous, out-of-touch radical.

Free-speech advocates also know that some people speaking the same moderate-sounding language – including most of the leadership of the speech-control movement – are lying, and are using the people in the first group as cat’s paws for an agenda that can only honestly be described as the totalitarian suppression of free speech.

Increasingly, the difference between these groups becomes irrelevant. What has happened is that four decades of strategic deception by the leadership of the speech-control movement has destroyed the credibility of the honest middle. Free-speech activists, unable to read minds, have to assume defensively that everyone using the moderate-middle language of “common-sense regulation” is lying to hide a creeping totalitarian agenda.

The moderate middle, unaware of how it has been used, doesn’t get any of this. All they hear is the yelling. They don’t understand why the free-speech activists react to their reasonable language with hatred and loathing.

The preceding was a work of fiction. But I’d only have to change a dozen or so nouns and names and phrases to make it all true (some of the dates might be off a little). I bet you can break the code, and if you are “moderate” you may find it explains a few things. Have fun!

387 thoughts on “Destroying the middle ground

  1. Yeeeee-up. I would have just added the common argument that it’s OK to regulate or ban modern free-speech technology, because it wasn’t in existence when the amendment was written. (I have confounded several friends who have claimed “The 2nd Amendment covers muskets, not assault weapons” by replying “So then the 1st Amendment doesn’t cover radio, TV, and the Internet?”)

    Your insight regarding the destruction of the moderate middle is especially interesting. I think something similar has happened regarding abortion. The middle ground, though held by a large chunk of the country, catches flak from both sides, which both see the middle as clueless or dupes of the Other Side at best, and their advance guard at worst.

  2. >I think something similar has happened regarding abortion.

    Agreed. I think that situation is different, though, because strategic deception seems to be commonly practised by both the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” movements. I say that as someone who’s pro-choice myself, but regard for the truth forbids me from ignoring that some elements of “my” side are often dishonest in their propaganda.

    In the controversy I was actually writing about, OTOH, only one side is systematically lying. We both know which one.

  3. “This is less unlikely than it might sound; it describes basically all other nations on the planet regardless of how lofty their constitutional free-speech protection might sound” seems a more accurate sentence for the first paragraph. Seriously, American free speech law is deeply weird by international standards. Awesome, but unusual. A cartoonist I’m fond of did a nice one on this topic recently: http://www.filibustercartoons.com/index.php/2013/03/06/playing-with-free-speech/

    (I know that this is completely unrelated to your point. But I find it interesting.)

    About your actual point, I dislike the idea that we have to react to extremists by jumping down the throats of moderates. It’s both crass and poor tactics. Don’t let “They honestly believe it” stop you from standing up for what’s right, of course, but you do better by trying to convince the moderates than you do by pounding your chest.

  4. >I dislike the idea that we have to react to extremists by jumping down the throats of moderates.

    I’m not a big fan of it either. But reality is what it is; if you can’t tell the venomous snakes from the non-venomous ones, you have to treat all snakes as venomous. The fact that your inability isn’t the non-venomous snake’s fault is irrelevant.

  5. > About your actual point, I dislike the idea that we have to react to extremists
    > by jumping down the throats of moderates.

    Sadly, I have routinely found that disagreeing with the so-called moderate position tends to brand oneself as an extremist, and no matter how rational and calm is one’s argument often it will be met with wild hostility (which is then further enforced by all the memebots who agree with the raving “moderate”).

  6. Halfway through I started thinking what this post is probably about, and then I managed to google what “Printing America” is really named. :)

  7. Does the destruction of middle ground say anything about which side is right? Does the fact that one side is systematically lying mean their position is wrong? (And if so, how would that apply in the case of abortion?)

    You see, I saw the article as a flawed* analogy until I realized it’s only about the mechanism of destroying the middle ground, which is likely to happen in any situation with similarly-powerful incompatible sides. (*flawed analogy because I don’t see free speech to be analogous to the object of your analogy)

    Also, are you sure the NWA and other free-speech advocates don’t systematically lie?

  8. Ummm, It’s interesting, but i think we can all agree on the opinion that killing is easier than writing something good enough to fuel violence, isn’t it? You have a blog, you write a lot, and are good at it. Can you move a mob to violence? The rules of engagement are different from weapons powered battle to literary battles.
    I can’t agree with you when you put on the same ground a killing machine (thinked, created and sold for this only purpouse) and a (general purpouse) machine that can be used to stir up killing.
    As I can’t agree to considerate the same the freedom of speech and the freedom to own a weapon.

  9. Pingback: Destroying the middle ground • bring back unix

  10. Most probloggers, and other advocates of the not-first-amendment in question, advocate not jumping down the throats of anyone on the other side, on the basis that more can be accomplished by sounding rational and reasonable than by screaming and pointing fingers (The other side usually supplies shrill irrationality on a regular basis). Indeed, they tend to be far harsher towards the subject’s bloggers that don’t meet a reasonable standard of quality. For example: http://www.wallsofthecity.net/2012/10/the-truth-about-the-truth-about-guns-and-robert-farago.html

  11. What you are describing is very much like what is happening in modern (not so Soviet) Russia.

    There is a list of three topics which have been declared taboo: narcotic substances (incl. methods of preparation and consumption), suicide (incl. methods of and suggestion to), and child pornography. There is lots of rhetorics like “how *can* you support drugs and child pr0n”.

    Any web site hosting pages on these topics is blacklisted and required to take the offending pages down, in this particular order. A site that complies with the takedown may be unblacklisted.

    Every ISP is required to subscribe to the blacklist and to block access to blacklisted pages (by URL), sites (by Host: header) or hosts (by IP address). If an ISP has no technical capacity to block individual URLs or host names, they are required to apply the next, more general and easily implementable level of blocking.

    The system has already demonstrated its rate of false positives. The most ridiculous was when a site related to the Eve Online game was blacklisted for a description of in-game “boosters”, which are colloquially called “narcotics” by the Russian-speaking players.

    Some users set up VPNs and I2P and Tor, and suggest that more people do so. Others suggest that this may lead to bans on VPNs and anonymization and encryption devices.

  12. I am not very well versed in the USA first amendment legal interpretation and its consequences. However, as a contrast, in the EU (where I live), there is no absolute interpretation of Free Speech. Most countries have these “moderate restrictions” you talk about.

    You cannot deny the holocaust in most of the continent, and in Germany it is a crime to do so. Companies are not persons and have no free speech rights. Advertisement is not protected by free speech.

    Now, how does that work out in the EU? Are we worse off than in the USA? And in what way are we worse off?

    Obviously, we could ask the same questions about Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, various countries in South America, and South Africa.

  13. Pingback: What we need is common sense, reasonable regulation of speech - An NC Gun Blog

  14. @Jacek Kopecky
    Also, are you sure the NWA and other free-speech advocates don’t systematically lie?

    Yes, well actually I have no reason to think they do, others could give more definite answers. The problem is that the banners lie on just about *everything* culminating in the “blood flowing in the streets” bullshit every time they lose ground.

    @Hacker
    I find this somewhat surprising; if I may ask why wasn’t it obvious by the halfway point of the first paragraph?

    — Foo Quuxman

  15. Beautiful.

    On the other hand, on both free speech and weapons I believe in reciprocity: You’re against the right to own and carry weapons? Why, sure! Let’s just make it so that no one with a weapon comes to protect you, ever! What? You don’t want it this way? Why, sure! Let’s change it then and make it so that only those who dislike and hate you ever come to “protect” you with weapons! Better, eh?

    Same for free speech: So, you’re against free speech? Oh, certainly! We’ll start by forbidding your anti-free speech speech then! What? You didn’t meant that? No worries! Your correction is forbidden too!

    Here in Brazil we have a saying: “Pepper in the eyes of others is refreshment.” Too bad our own laws aren’t like the US in both matters though. :(

  16. “A well educated population being necessary to the functioning of a democracy, the right of the people to keep and own books shall not be infringed.”

    Obviously, as long as there is a public library system, there is no problem with banning private ownership or printing of books. It is only education that maters and that is within the sphere of government.

  17. @Hacker
    > Halfway through I started thinking what this post is probably about, and then I managed to google what “Printing America” is really named. :)

    I knew what the post was really about in the first sentence of the first paragraph, but I have no idea how one would construct a google search that would answer that.

  18. Winter on Monday, April 15 2013 at 7:19 am said:
    “I am not very well versed in the USA first amendment legal interpretation and its consequences. However, as a contrast, in the EU (where I live), there is no absolute interpretation of Free Speech. Most countries have these “moderate restrictions” you talk about.

    You cannot deny the holocaust in most of the continent, and in Germany it is a crime to do so. Companies are not persons and have no free speech rights. Advertisement is not protected by free speech.

    Now, how does that work out in the EU? Are we worse off than in the USA? And in what way are we worse off?”

    That’s exactly what I was thinking all along my reading. Funny, OK, but too catastrophic and manicheistic to be taken seriously.

    It’s really simplistic to believe that because a government isn’t allowed to put “morality offenders” (broadly speaking) in jail, there would be no such thing as media censorship or public lynching still possible. Which is probably even worse. I’m pretty sure America too has powerful private medias with an agenda…

    So… Yeah. Anyway. Denying the Holocaust: bad in Europe, neutral in the USA. What does that change in your daily life? Absolutely nothing, I’m afraid.

    American free speech is a very peculiar thing, but Americans don’t seem to see this, and tend to think it’s granted to them as a natural given, which is nonsense, and america-centric, of course.

    (Still, I am personally against such “moralising” laws in France, and our actual government is terrible at this shit. But that’s another problem. The fact is we are not living in the fantasy world described above. Neither in Germany…)

  19. Pingback: Linkage | Uncouth Reflections

  20. Don: It’s all right. I’ve long since given up expecting Europeans to understand the American theories that surround the Bill of Rights.

  21. I had you sussed by the end of the second paragraph…although the use of “Saturday Night Specials” in the fifth was absolute confirmation ;)

    Well played.

    When I look at the America I see politically shapeshifting around me, I am not optimistic for the future of the 2A. I do not see sufficient numbers of people capable of taking the stance required to defend this freedom. You can belong to all the gun clubs, NRA, grassroots gun rights orgs etc, that you like…..but the enemy does not care about speeches and letters and marches and petitions. They only care about engineering palatable strategies to apply lubricant to assist in sliding the Overton Window into the realm of government domination.

    We own them. We fund them. They work for us. When the dog bites the master, you shoot the dog.

  22. PS. I really did Laugh Out Loud when I figured your “Arming America” pun.

    Bellesiles -> Belle Isles -> Prettyisland

    Nice :)

  23. Don: if it helps to understand the difference when we hear someone say “Why do you feel the need to have a scary ebil assault cop killer machinegun?”[1] we think they have it exactly backwards, the proper question (to them) being: “Why do you feel the need to control people?”

    [1] Which they almost always know nothing whatsoever about and therefore make ridiculous errors

    — Foo Quuxman

  24. One of the key failures of this analogy is that there isn’t a very big business push behind the use of firearms. Ignoring the particulars of firearms retailers and manufacturers, firearms are only rarely used by the parts of professions with which they are directly associated (police, military, etc).

    Most businesses use typewriters or some variation thereof today. At my office, the average employee has 2 keyboards. We all share common printers and photocopiers. Typing is an essential skill in order to perform the job. There isn’t a single position in the company which involves firearms. Restricting the access to typing tools would inconvenience almost all businesses and hurt the economy substantially.

  25. FWIW, the American approach to free speech and openness to debate is one of the reasons I chose to live here. Without any government restrictions, I’m able to live in the US or Canada – moving to the US was work for me, though.

  26. Interesting that you pick that analogy. Because I think that school shootings could be prevented by banning the widespread reporting of school shootings. (I do not support actually doing this, I just think it might work). The reason being: I think that school shootings have a large ‘copy-cat’ component to them. That people who are hurt and angry and broken and want to hurt others go to schools instead of, say, shopping malls because they have seen other school shootings in the news.

  27. I’ve said it in less contraversal contexts and I’ll say it again: extended metaphors do not make good arguments. They leave out all the important parts, while building up a powerful horns effect. They provide no evidence that the metaphor is valid, much less that it lines up where it should.

  28. >Restricting the access to typing tools would inconvenience almost all businesses and hurt the economy substantially.

    That is arguably true but not relevant to the actual point I was making, which is about how you destroy the credibility of the middle.

    I say “arguably” because I think you’re falling victim to hindsight bias. If we lived in a world with such restrictions we would adapt (at a lower significantly productivity level) and perhaps not be aware of what we were missing. After all, we got along without (for example) cellphones until quite recently.

  29. One minor point—well, not so minor, but it’s a distraction for this topic:

    The written Constitution does not prevent the States from implementing restrictions on speech, only the Federal government. (Well, “Congress”, but the Constitution doesn’t acknowledge any other source of legislation at the Federal level; executive orders are a second-level distraction.) The restriction on the States comes from “construction”, and “emanations” and “penumbras”.

    (As an aside, consider neo-Nazis and other racist groups: In Europe, where they are legally barred from saying what they truly feel, they can present themselves as legitimate third parties and hold seats in parliaments. Here in the US, where their ideology may be legally discussed, everyone can see them for who they truly are; and they are duly marginalized. But this is a second-level distraction.)

    Construction of the First Amendment against the states generally yields good policy (I’d trust Albany with censorship powers even less than Washington)—but it makes bad law. In some ways, it even weakens the First Amendment against D.C.: trace the legal argument which gives Congress authority to criminalize child pornography.

  30. Winter on Monday, April 15 2013 at 7:19 am said:
    >You cannot deny the holocaust in most of the continent, and in Germany it is a crime to do so.
    >Companies are not persons and have no free speech rights. Advertisement is not protected by free speech.

    >Now, how does that work out in the EU? Are we worse off than in the USA? And in what way are we worse off?

    >Obviously, we could ask the same questions about Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, various countries in South America, and South Africa.

    In Canada we have national and provincial tribunals which enforce speech laws. If you say the wrong things (e.g., publish a certain Danish cartoon) you will be robbed, threatened, harassed and potentially caged by the Canadian government.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Human_Rights_Commission_free_speech_controversies

  31. Very interesting, and I agree completely. I also think in 30 years or so, there’s going to be a similar crackdown on cars. With the advances in self-driving cars, there’s going to be a push for “nobody needs to drive their own cars!” “only criminals drive cars”, etc. It too will start as a “public safety” issue, as motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental death.

  32. Joel, you miss the Fourteenth Amendment’s incorporation of the Bill of Rights as applying to government at all levels, not just the federal government.

  33. DysgraphicProgrammer, although I don’t know about school shootings in particular, IIRC the “copycat effect” is statistically well-established with regard to youth suicides, so you wouldn’t have to go too far afield to get to a situation where the first-order effect of First Amendment restrictions really would save lives. It’s also a closer analogy to gun control, where (again IIRC and please correct me if I’m wrong) research seems to suggest that even heavy gun restrictions lead to little to negative improvement in the homicide rate but might make a real reduction in the suicide rate.

  34. Isn’t the relevant quote here that
    those who trade freedom for security will lose both?

  35. “The written Constitution does not prevent the States from implementing restrictions on speech, only the Federal government.”

    The Constitutional assertion that it is the “supreme law of the land”, and the Judiciary doctrine of “Incorporation” – also involving the Constitutional insistence on “due process” – argues to the contrary.

    The Constitutional guarantees of free speech, or RKBA, really wouldn’t mean a damn thing if the Founders intended that “the fedgov is prohibited from stomping on these rights, but every other layer of government is free to do so”.

    Arguably, the 2A is even *more* obviously binding on the States. The 1A explicitly constrains the restrictions to “Congress”…the 2A has no such constraint, only a blanket protection of the RKBA.

  36. “…might make a real reduction in the suicide rate”

    Japan has triple our (US) suicide rate, yet almost total gun prohibition. Go figure.

    Evidence/arguments I have seen suggest that such prohibition does not influence total suicide…people simply find another way to kill themselves. There are plenty of effective alternatives.

  37. The Constitutional guarantees of free speech, or RKBA, really wouldn’t mean a damn thing if the Founders intended that “the fedgov is prohibited from stomping on these rights, but every other layer of government is free to do so”.

    Actually, the Constitution was largely about restricting federal power, and states had some powers that the federal government did not. As Jay Maynard pointed out, that changed with the 14th Amendment.

  38. > Now, how does that work out in the EU? Are we worse off than in the USA? And in what way are we worse off?

    Wikipedia suggests that Neo-nazi movements in *France* alone of all places are an order of magnitude worse than in the U.S. This is despite (if not because of) the direct targeting of speech restrictions against Neo-nazis, and despite the likelihood that evil people are more likely to be undercounted in places where they’re forced into hiding. So you’ve thrown away the Schnelling point of free speech, and it didn’t even gain you a thing.

    It should have been predictable too. Which meme do you think is more likely to gain traction: “Everybody knows in their hearts that we’re right, but they’re not allowed to say so, so be careful to whom else you whisper this” or “Everybody should know in their hearts that we’re right, but for some reason they all keep lambasting us mercilessly whenever we speak up”?

  39. >Isn’t the relevant quote here that those who trade freedom for security will lose both?

    Who are you and what have you done with Winter? If you were really him, you would issue several paragraphs of dense argument amounting to “Here in Europe we trade away freedom for security all the time, and we like it just fine.” Then you would dismiss political ideas about freedom and security as merely mirages that rationalize what people want to do anyway.

  40. @Foo:

    we think they have it exactly backwards, the proper question (to them) being: “Why do you feel the need to control people?”

    C’mon, the answer to that question is pretty bloody obvious, and if you ask the question that way, you might look like an idiot in their eyes, because the fact is that there definitely are some people out there who need to be controlled. This usually happens after the fact, for example when we lock them up for murder.

    Yes, there are evil people out there who want control, and yes, they can mislead lots of people into believing that such control makes us all safer. But if you are communicating with a regular citizen, the right question is not “why do you feel the need to control?” but rather “do you really think that this control will make us safer?.” And if the answer to that is in the affirmative, you can try “But will it make us enough safer to be worth the possible adverse consequences?” (Which possible consequences include, of course, insidious lurking dangers that had not yet been contemplated by said citizen.)

  41. >But reality is what it is; if you can’t tell the venomous snakes from the non-venomous ones, you have to treat all snakes as venomous. The fact that your inability isn’t the non-venomous snake’s fault is irrelevant.

    Not true at all. You kill snakes. You don’t kill gun control activists, even the totalitarian wannabes. You have to beat venomous humans at the polls, and you don’t do that by alienating possible allies.

    > I have routinely found that disagreeing with the so-called moderate position tends to brand oneself as an extremist, and no matter how rational and calm is one’s argument often it will be met with wild hostility

    It depends where you’re debating. If you go on a pro-gun-control website, yeah, that’s the reaction you’ll get. But an average group of people is not generally so hostile. (And if they are, then you’re screwed anyways)

  42. “Actually, the Constitution was largely about restricting federal power, and states had some powers that the federal government did not. “
    True, yet the 10A to the original document *also* highlights that the Founders intended for the entrance into the Union, under the Constitution, by the several States, would impose constraints upon those States. This was a hotly contested assertion of Federal strength since the days of the original Articles of Confederation.

    “As Jay Maynard pointed out, that changed with the 14th Amendment.”
    Jay is correct to highlight the 14A with respect to this debate….but I don’t think that the amendment actually *changed* anything, but rather reasserted and clarified its significance.

  43. > Japan has triple our (US) suicide rate, yet almost total gun prohibition. Go figure.

    Sure; they also have a fraction of our homicide rate, which (comparing to Japanese-Americans) seems to be similarly unrelated to gun restrictions. The presence or absence of guns seems to affect how many people with a sudden death wish have a chance to reconsider, but that factor is indeed overwhelmed by whatever factors lead one to develop such a wish.

    > Evidence/arguments I have seen suggest that such prohibition does not influence total suicide…people simply find another way to kill themselves. There are plenty of effective alternatives.

    Sure, a rational person committing suicide would simply avail themselves of the next most effective alternative. But the evidence I’ve seen is that large fractions of suicidal people aren’t thinking rationally – add more delay between when they decide on suicide and when they’re able to succeed, and more of them permanently retract that decision.

  44. … nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

    I have a hard time seeing “incorporation” in those words.

    Dan wrote:

    The Constitutional guarantees of free speech, or RKBA, really wouldn’t mean a damn thing if the Founders intended that “the fedgov is prohibited from stomping on these rights, but every other layer of government is free to do so”.

    Actually, the BoR was intended to clarify limits on the Federal government that many of the founders considered implicit in the rest of the Constitution. See, for example, the text that became the Ninth Amendment (https://github.com/jcsalomon/constitution/commit/e73067053#L0L343):

    The exceptions here or elsewhere in the Constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.

    The People in each State were responsible for setting limits on what the state government could do, with exceptions listed in Article I, Section 10. The initially-proposed version of the Bill of Rights did include this addition to Article I, Section 10:

    No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.

    But it was not included in the text sent to, and ratified by, the States. See also how late certain States had established Churches.

  45. >Not true at all. You kill snakes. You don’t kill gun control activists, even the totalitarian wannabes.

    Your logic is failing. I didn’t say we should treat people the way we treat snakes. (Though I will admit that if I could kill a genuine totalitarian wannabe without getting caught, I might do it and feel like that was my good deed for the week. Protecting the sheep entails many obligations; totalitarians are predators just as surely as wolves are.)

    My point is that successful strategic deception by radicals destroys the credibility of moderates using the same language, and only the moderates have any warrant to be surprised when this happens.

  46. > FWIW, the American approach to free speech and openness to debate is one of the > reasons I chose to live here. Without any government restrictions, I’m able to live in the > US or Canada – moving to the US was work for me, though.

    this is tangential to the point of the post, but since other commenters have talked about the “exceptionality” of us free speech laws, I would like to see some concrete example of that difference, which i suspect is more theoretical than practical.

    For instance, here in Italy, during the politically violent 70s, beside all the usual literature about urban guerrilla warfare, how to make a molotov and the like, extremist newspapers, both left and right, used to print explicit attacks against individual politicians, policemen, magistrates etc, including, for instance, pictures with a bullseye, menaces of “actions” against them and titles explicitly calling for their deaths. A newspaper could attack a single named policeman this way for months.

    Would that be possible in the US?

  47. Joel, I believe the incorporation argument goes that “due process of law” cannot, by its very nature, include violating the rights guaranteed to the citizens by the Bill of Rights. In any event, there’s a long, long string of Supreme Court decisions that uphold the Fourteenth Amendment as incorporating the Bill of Rights as binding every governmental body in the US, and it would be a breathtaking reversal of those to have incorporation be overturned as a legal doctrine. The Supreme Court doesn’t reverse itself that dramatically unless there’s clear error, and, if anything, the opposite is true: there’s no serious argument in legal circles (AFAIK, and IANAL) that incorporation is wrong.

  48. Well, there’s legal, and then there’s possible. Slander is against the law in the US, but the Streisand Effect makes it chancy to pursue, for example.

  49. Pingback: Destroying the middle ground | The Freedom Watch

  50. The most dangerous effect of the middle’s ignorance is that the most dangerous statists are more than willing to lie to accomplish their agenda, and with their ownership of the majority of media outlets, are able to convince the middle that dissenting patriots are the lunatic fringe.

    Thus they establish “consensus” where none actually exists, and they spread the use of pejoratives such as “climate deniers,” “birthers,” and “racists” to ridicule those who dare to challenge the party line.

    So it isn’t just rights that they are salami-slicing; it is the very perception of the middle as to what level of dissent constitutes extremism.

  51. Gun bans & gun confiscation.

    Given the Constitutional prohibition of ex post facto law, how can the government ‘ban’ my currently legal guns?

    Given the Constitutional assertion that any seizure of private property must undergo due process of law, how can the government confiscate our guns without demonstrating probable cause and compiling a case to prove it against each and every one of the 80-100 million gun owners, then giving us our individual day in court to face our accuser?

  52. > In any event, there’s a long, long string of Supreme Court decisions that uphold the Fourteenth Amendment as incorporating the Bill of Rights as binding every governmental body in the US, and it would be a breathtaking reversal of those to have incorporation be overturned as a legal doctrine.

    Not to mention that there is a binding Supreme Court affirmation of the incorporation of the 2nd amendment against the states in McDonald v. Chicago.

    Although I question the sanity of the court sometimes (e.g. the Affordable Care Act and failure to take up Kachalsky) I would be quite astonished to see a reversal of McDonald.

  53. >Given the Constitutional assertion that any seizure of private property must undergo due process of law, how can the government confiscate our guns without demonstrating probable cause and compiling a case to prove it against each and every one of the 80-100 million gun owners, then giving us our individual day in court to face our accuser?

    The duly elected legislature passing the confiscation law *is* due process.

  54. “The duly elected legislature passing the confiscation law *is* due process.”

    Nope. Not even close.

  55. @Federico:

    > Would that be possible in the US?

    Possibly not. Hard to say because it’s hard to isolate the saying of crazy shit from the doing of other crazy shit. But here is one person who was made an example of:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Bell

  56. There it is. Thank you, Eric.

    Joel C. Salomon wrote:

    … nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

    I have a hard time seeing “incorporation” in those words.

    Try reading the entire thing … actually, try reading just the parts of that sentence that you didn’t quote.

    No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States … nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    Jay Maynard wrote:

    In any event, there’s a long, long string of Supreme Court decisions that uphold the Fourteenth Amendment as incorporating the Bill of Rights as binding every governmental body in the US, and it would be a breathtaking reversal of those to have incorporation be overturned as a legal doctrine.

    And what’s more, the McDonald v. Chicago decision (SCOTUS, 2010) specifically incorporates the Second Amendment against the states. Unfortunately, several of the states — including the one I call home — apparently have either not noticed this fact or are studiously ignoring it.

  57. @Jay Maynard
    >Joel, you miss the Fourteenth Amendment’s incorporation of the Bill of Rights as applying to government at all levels, not just the federal government.

    That was largely an effort to address an earlier error. The First Amendment explicitly said “Congress”, but the Second through Eighth did not limit their application to national legislation/action: “shall not be abridged” BY ANYONE. This distinction was important, because several of the states had official churches, which the First Amendment forbade Congress to establish at the national level.

    So, having ruled that somehow the word “Congress” leaked from the First Amendment into those others, it became necessary to “incorporate” provisions of the BoR as restrictions against state powers. But “incorporation” isn’t explicitly spelled out in the 14th. It’s one of those things that SCOTUS had to find written in invisible ink. And that worries me, because once you accept that the Constitution means what SCOTUS says it means, then Anthony Kennedy becomes way too powerful for my taste.

  58. Not only that, but if McDonald hadn’t incorporated the Second Amendment against the states, that itself would have been a remarkable reversal all by itself.

  59. In 1986 ownership of automatic so-called “class 3? press equipment is banned except for federally-licensed individuals and corporations.

    You left out “newly manufactured”.

    Also, no mention of the Prohibition gang scares causing a Press Registry in 1934.

  60. @esr
    “Who are you and what have you done with Winter?”

    I simply do like this particular quote. And I thought it was appropriate for the lamentations aired by many here about their compatriots. But the quote describes not a USA specialty. You find the trend everywhere.

  61. >”For public consumption, however, they speak only of ‘common-sense regulation”-

    _The Late Demon Rum_, by Furnas, takes a good look at a previous abolition movement advancing behind a false front of temperance.

  62. FWIW, I’m very mixed on gun control.

    That said…it’s a false equality on every level. Personal ownership of guns is about whether the government has a monopoly on the use of force; banning them both makes people more dependent on government and makes it harder to deal with governmental excesses (in theory)–but the big issue is the relatively limited case of the latter; that it makes it harder to have recourse if government (and the people involved in same) go deeply wrong all at once.

    But speech isn’t just a final recourse — speech is medium of politics itself. Banning personal firearms -might- have dire consequences if lots of other things go wrong. But messing with freedom of speech is deeply dangerous–because any restriction on speech impedes the practice of politics in the first place.

  63. Also, are you sure the NWA and other free-speech advocates don’t systematically lie?

    To give this a more complete answer, no I have no way of being *absolutely* certain they don’t. But I don’t think they do, as I haven’t found any evidence of it. What is more telling is that their opponents haven’t found such evidence, either.

    It’s certainly not for lack of trying, and if such evidence existed it would be broadcast in the approved media 24/7. All the opponents wind up falling back on character assassination, slander, various nasty insinuations, and appeal to emotion.

  64. @Hacker: Corporations are not people. They are, in some regards, treated as people under the law because that allows some reasonable constraints to be placed on their behavior.

    When people pool their money into a corporation, they don’t lose their free-speech rights. The Supreme Court, when presented with a court case which asserted the opposite, ruled the obvious decision: that every person has free-speech rights, even if they agree to pool their money to promote certain opinions.

  65. @Jay Maynard:
    >In any event, there’s a long, long string of Supreme Court decisions that uphold the Fourteenth Amendment as incorporating the Bill of Rights as binding every governmental body in the US, and it would be a breathtaking reversal of those to have incorporation be overturned as a legal doctrine. The Supreme Court doesn’t reverse itself that dramatically unless there’s clear error, and, if anything, the opposite is true: there’s no serious argument in legal circles (AFAIK, and IANAL) that incorporation is wrong.

    There’s not much question that incorporation follows from the 14th Amendment, but I’m willing to bet that a rather unfortunately large number of people on this side of the Mason-Dixon line would question the validity of the 14th Amendment itself. Had I been raised a southerner, I would probably be advancing the following position fully believing it to be true, instead of as a devil’s advocate:

    The Fourteenth Amendment could not have passed without the support of 28 of the 37 states. Ten states only ratified the Fourteenth Amendment when placed under martial law and with their readmission to the Union made conditional upon their ratification of the Amendment. Thus these states only ratified the Fourteenth Amendment under duress and under the control of puppet governments, and their ratifications are thus invalid. As a result, only 27 states ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus it is not part of the Constitution. Thus the incorporation doctrine cannot be applied since it depends on the text of a failed amendment.

  66. Within 18 months dedicated free-speech activists led by an amateur scholar…

    Someone with no Ph.D. and no university job (he’s a grunt-level software developer). And yet he made a mark on history. (I’ve met him and shook his hand.)

  67. This is why I say thank G-d for the NRA.

    I am not a member, but this group goes along with none of this, not even the stuff that sounds “reasonable.”

    That do not give the inch that then gets taken a mile.

  68. See the thing is that back in the days when the constitution was written, printing presses had very limited scope. The damage they caused could only spread so far. With modern printing and distribution equipment, the damage that can be done is so much greater, because those tools are so much more powerful. You can’t apply 17th rules about 17th technology to the 21st century.

    As it happens, I entirely disagree with what I just said, but I thought it’d be fun to frame the common objections in your methodology.

    Also, FWIW, I demand the right to deny the holocaust if I damn well want to. One of the great things about freedom of speech is that you are free to make an ass of yourself in public, and be utterly humiliated for doing so. The right to say truly dumb ass things has the wonderful side effect of allowing people to say controversial but sensible things.

    I honestly have never heard of a case of some sort of speech I would like to see banned. Sometimes speech bleeds into other public order problems (like trespassing on private cemeteries or blocking public highways) but we should be prosecuted for the actual crime, not a proxy crime. Just as that zumba teacher shouldn’t be prosecuted for being a prostitute, though perhaps she should be charged with some other things.

    Charging with proxy crimes is a horrible abuse of power. It gives dreadful discretion to people we should all be very nervous about giving capricious powers to.

  69. @Russ Nelson: every person has free-speech rights, even if they agree to pool their money to promote certain opinions.

    This argument assumes that a corporation is in fact a bunch of people pooling their money and agreeing to use that money to promote certain opinions. In other words, it assumes that corporate governance works in practice the way it’s supposed to work in theory. That may be true, more or less, for an organization like Citizens United, but I submit that it is very, very far from being true for most corporations, or at least most corporations that make sizable political contributions.

  70. @Peter Donis: but that’s not a speech problem, that’s a corporate governance problem. Treating as a problem to be addressed by restriction of speech throws the baby out with the bathwater

  71. And everyone opposing Citizens United misses or ignores the fact that in oral argument before the Supreme Court, lawyers defending McCain-Feingold (the “campaign finance reform” law overturned by CU) admitted that the law would permit the government to censor political books before an election. So, four members of the Supreme Court believe that the government should have the right to censor books.

  72. >That said…it’s a false equality on every level.

    For the actual purpose of my essay the distinction you’re talking about is unimportant. Because it was only secondarily about gun control. Mainly it was about the effects of strategic deception on the credibility of moderates.

    That said, I don’t think your distinction really holds water anyway. I’m not going to explain why here and now; it would take the discussion thread in a direction other than I’d prefer it to go.

  73. @Federico:
    > this is tangential to the point of the post, but since other commenters
    > have talked about the “exceptionality” of us free speech laws, I would
    > like to see some concrete example of that difference, which i suspect
    > is more theoretical than practical.

    Some of my more “favorite” decisions:
    NY Times v. Sullivan
    You are ugly and your mother dresses you funny.

    NY Times v. United States
    Psst. The war in Vietnam isn’t going very well.

    Cohen v. California
    Fuck the draft!

    Virginia v. Black
    /me burns cross on your lawn

    Hustler Magazine v. Falwell
    ESR is a mean, mean man with no taste in fashion. And he sucks at sports and nobody will ever like him.

    ACLU v. Ashcroft
    Umm: go to a US library and ask to see porn?

    Smith v. Collin
    I love NAZIs! Jews should be exterminated!

    US v. Patillo
    A non-specified person at a non-specified time should cause a non-specified harm to a non-specified US President. (Note to Secret service personnel: I have no intention of committing any crime; interviews at my workplace are preferable and we have free coffee)

    Texas v. Johnson
    /me burns US flag.

    US v. Alvarez
    Did I mention that I don’t play Medal of Honor, but received the Medal of Honor (for my above-mentioned service in Vietnam).

    US v. Stevens
    I got nuth’n.

    And, because I can:
    Jews control the banks and the media. Them niggers are an inferior race. The KKK is an admirable organization which everybody should join. Except those slant-eyed asians and lazy Mexicans. Smashing chunks of >= 70% U-235 together will cause large explosions.

    And, because it is politically incorrect to say this in Canada:
    I think we should have private health care which is neither provided nor funded by the government.

    /me hopes that ESR doesn’t exercise his Freedom of Association and ban me from the blog.

  74. @Russ Nelson:

    > When people pool their money into a corporation, they don’t lose their free-speech rights.

    When people pool their money into a partnership, there is zero reason why they should lose their free-speech rights. But unlike a partnership, a corporation is not merely an aggregate of people. A corporation is a legal fiction that absolves the investors of any bad consequences from the actions of the corporation. So personally, I think there is a good case to be made that a corporation can be regulated, simply because the investors don’t have all the much skin in the game. The supremes, obviously, disagree to a certain extent.

  75. So then, Patrick, you are OK with the federal government censoring political books?

  76. @Jessica:
    >I honestly have never heard of a case of some sort of speech I would like to see banned.

    Oh, I have. At the same time, I am also well aware of people who would like to ban the sorts of things I’d like to say.

  77. @PapayaSF:

    Now there’s a false equivalence for you. Whether that particular law was written that way or not, it is not that difficult to imagine laws that effectively prohibit corporations from funding advocacy without preventing them from marketing books, just as it is not that difficult to imagine effective, useful computer crime laws.

    Corporations are people when it comes to speech, but not when it comes to paying taxes. Many of the biggest ones pay taxes, if at all, elsewhere. Biological people who do this are considered foreigners, and their participation in our political process is highly restricted. Whether you believe this latter is good policy or not, it certainly adds credence to the idea that corporations enjoy rights and privileges that mere mortals do not.

  78. There is lots of speech I would like to see banned, on the emotional level. On the rational level, I can not support any but the most mild regulation. If the world were run by my momentary whim, Fox News would be gone. As would BOTH the Brady Campaign AND the NRA (the reason I avoid taking a strong stance on gun control is that I do not believe I have ever seen a statistic that has not been corrupted by one side or the other).

    Fortunately, I am not run by my momentary whim.

  79. There’s no “written that way or not” about this case.

    “If it has one name, one use of the candidate’s name, it would be covered, correct?” Roberts asked.

    “That’s correct,” Stewart said.

    “If it’s a five-hundred-page book, and at the end it says, ‘And so vote for X,’ the government could ban that?” Roberts asked.

    “Well, if it says ‘vote for X,’ it would be express advocacy and it would be covered by the preëxisting Federal Election Campaign Act provisions,” Stewart continued, doubling down on his painfully awkward position.

    All sorts of unworkable and unconstitutional laws can be “imagined.”

  80. @Jessica Boxer:

    I honestly have never heard of a case of some sort of speech I would like to see banned.

    Are you limiting this to the discussion of political speech, or are you also including libel and slander? Personally, I don’t think I really have a problem with (my understanding of) the resultant regulatory regime after Citizen’s United decision, in that AFAIK it leaves disclosure requirements in place, and that seems to be a workable compromise. But it still seems like legislating from the bench.

    Charging with proxy crimes is a horrible abuse of power. It gives dreadful discretion to people we should all be very nervous about giving capricious powers to.

    And this is not merely hypothetical. It’s the sad reality of the current federal “justice” system.

  81. @Patrick Maupin
    > A corporation is a legal fiction that absolves the investors of any bad consequences from the actions of the corporation.

    A corporation is not a legal fiction, it is a legal fact. People do business with corporations fully understanding the consequences of the fact it is a corporation, and has the consequential liability protections.

    > So personally, I think there is a good case to be made that a corporation can be regulated,

    Why? Because governments have done such a good job regulating them up to now? And here is the essential question: what good has regulating speech ever done? Why are people so terribly sensitive that someone else’s opinion is so offensive? After all, you are perfectly well allowed to just ignore them.

    I find people who can’t bear to hear an opposing point of view rather sophomoric. Really? You’re own opinions are so insubstantial that you have to stick your fingers in your ears?

  82. @PapayaSF:

    > All sorts of unworkable and unconstitutional laws can be “imagined.”

    Obviously. That’s what congress specializes in. Too often, they rely on the courts to fix them up.

  83. >>> There is lots of speech I would like to see banned, on the emotional level. On the rational level, I can not support any but the most mild regulation. If the world were run by my momentary whim, Fox News would be gone. As would BOTH the Brady Campaign AND the NRA….

    Wow. Really? I am on the right myself, and I hate a lot of the stuff I hear on MSNBC, not to mention the liberal tilt of most of the media, the NY Times, The Washington Post, NPR, ABC, NBC, CBS, Time, Newsweek and about a million others….

    Here lately it has been striking how they have been carefully ignoring the Kermit Gosnell abortion story.

    But I would not wish to ban or censor any of these. It is profoundly unamerican….

    We do not need less speech, we need more.

  84. >Biological people who do this are considered foreigners, and their participation
    >in our political process is highly restricted.

    Going to have to ask for a citation on that. US citizens overseas are guaranteed the right to vote (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_rights_in_the_United_States#Overseas_and_nonresident_citizens) and depending on the foreign taxes paid in a given year, certain overseas citizens may not pay US taxes in a given tax year. Beyond that, I am aware of no prohibition on the amount of money foreign nationals may spend on private political messages (of the type in question in Citizens United) in the US, and certainly at the very least the activities of George Soros would indicate that any such restrictions are very limited.

  85. @Jessica Boxer:

    > A corporation is not a legal fiction, it is a legal fact.

    Why, yes, a legal fiction is a legal fact. That’s what “legal fiction” means — something totally made up by the law.

    > Why? Because governments have done such a good job regulating them up to now?

    The record is certainly mixed. But if we, the people, allow some of us immunity from some of our actions, don’t we have the right to bargain the terms of that immunity?

    > And here is the essential question: what good has regulating speech ever done? Why are people so terribly sensitive that someone else’s opinion is so offensive? After all, you are perfectly well allowed to just ignore them.

    Should one candidate and his cronies be allowed to buy up all the air time preceding an election? Where do you draw the line? Is there any line?

    > I find people who can’t bear to hear an opposing point of view rather sophomoric. Really?

    Again, are you just discussing politics, or do you not believe in libel and slander laws?

    > You’re own opinions are so insubstantial that you have to stick your fingers in your ears?

    In reality and in law, not all speech is equal. For example, some speech calls for, and will receive, immediate lethal action, which is its own form of regulation…

    @tpmoney:

    > US citizens overseas…

    Yes, yes, yes. I used to be one of those. The exclusion won’t support anybody rich, and the credit for taxes paid to the local government is basically just to avoid double-taxation. Compare and contrast with the tailor-made corporate tax shenanigans.

    > Beyond that, I am aware of no prohibition on the amount of money foreign nationals may spend on private political messages (of the type in question in Citizens United)…

    Are you discussing the actual movie CU was attempting to air, or the ruling, which went far beyond that? FWIW, I think that the FCC’s position in Citizen’s United was completely wrong, but the Supreme Court could have decided it much more narrowly. As it stands, the ruling is already being used, apparently successfully so far, to allow more foreign influence in politics.

  86. Should one candidate and his cronies be allowed to buy up all the air time preceding an election? Where do you draw the line? Is there any line?

    Since this is a practical impossibility for several reasons, and would be self-defeating even if it were possible, what is the point of having a law against it?

  87. @PapayaSF:

    > Since this is a practical impossibility for several reasons

    Possibly when considering all the stations. Certainly not when considering a single station (which might be the favorite of a majority of the populace).

    > and would be self-defeating even if it were possible

    Assumes facts not in evidence, starting with a lack of subtlety.

  88. What “single station”? What electoral unit in the United States is served only by one (broadcast TV station, I assume you mean)? Given cable and satellite TV and radio, plus newspapers, magazines, direct mail, and that thing called the Internet, why should we bother worrying about someone even trying to “buy up all the air time”?

    The self-defeating nature of attempting such an attempt should be obvious: the sellers of the airtime would not want to look bad by being exclusive, the opposition would be outraged, news of the controversy would reach the voters that the Air Time Monopolist was trying to persuade, and make him look bad.

    You are assuming that advertising can buy elections reliably enough that we should worry about it. There are many counterexamples.

  89. @Jessica
    “Because governments have done such a good job regulating [corporations] up to now?”

    Governments [plural] have done different jobs in different countries. Some of them worked out better than others.

    I am not aware that the approach used in the USA, eg, giving corporations full personal rights, worked out to be the best solution ever seen in the world. On the contrary.

  90. @JEssica
    “Also, FWIW, I demand the right to deny the holocaust if I damn well want to.”

    Maybe a small bit of background. In 1945, Germany was filled with millions of people who were convinced they needed to exterminate Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, Americans, and many others. The German government (and allied forces) had two options:
    1 Incarcerate all these Nazis indefinitely or even murder them all
    2 Forbid to advocate Nazi ideology

    Luckily, they chose option 2, and that worked. It might have become overkill by now. But that is what happens with convictions, they tend to outlive their usefulness.

    You should also note that holocaust deniers tend to be people that want to finish the job they claim never happened. Just ask some deeper questions.

  91. @Patrick Maupin
    > Why, yes, a legal fiction is a legal fact. That’s what “legal fiction” means —
    > something totally made up by the law.

    Is a contract also a legal fiction? How about a trademark? What about the right to keep and bear arms?

    > But if we, the people, allow some of us immunity from some of our actions, don’t we have the right to bargain the terms of that immunity?

    Indeed. It is called the free market. If you don’t like the idea of buying from people who are protected from liability, then don’t. Buy from a partnership instead, or an individual, or someone who chooses not to incorporate.

    Alternatively realize that limited liability enables easier capital formation, and so you trade your right to sue down to the underwear, in exchange for a corporation with sufficient capital to build the things you want an need.

    > Should one candidate and his cronies be allowed to buy up all the air time preceding an election? Where do you draw the line? Is there any line?

    This is a complex question. The answer is absolutely yes. We live in a world with abundant channels of communication. The problem though is that the government has its nose in the regulation of airwaves which distort and twist the market.
    However, there is another argument, namely that to raise the money to buy all the airwaves means you need to convince a lot of people you are right enough to part with their money. So buying lots or airtime is a proxy for successfully convincing people.
    However there is another argument that the effect of advertising on politics is greatly exagerated.
    However, there is another argument that buying votes by advertising is messing around in a totally bizarre market anyway. The market in votes is deeply distorted and messed up because of interference and laws and custom and really the whole meaning of the thing. For example, my vote is worth close to zero to me, and I trade it for someone who would be willing to spend between $10 and $100 for it. But he can’t tangible promise me anything for my vote. That is one heck of a messed up market.

    > Again, are you just discussing politics, or do you not believe in libel and slander laws?

    No I am not in favor of libel and slander criminal law, though if actual damage can be shown in a civil suit they seem appropriate.

    > In reality and in law, not all speech is equal. For example, some speech calls for, and will receive, immediate lethal action,

    If I tell you I am going to kill you you most certainly do not have the right to use immediate lethal action. If I point a gun at you and say the same they you can and should. But the speech in isolation is never adequate. This is a classic case of arguing for regulating speech by commingling it with another action that is a real crime.

  92. @Winter
    >The German government (and allied forces) had two options:
    > 1 Incarcerate all these Nazis indefinitely or even murder them all
    > 2 Forbid to advocate Nazi ideology

    The middle east is filled with millions of people who advocate a religion that favors the mass killing of the American Satan, who advocate killing any non muslim on sight. Should the middle eastern countries ban advocating Islam, or some forms of Islam that teaches such a doctrine? If the Dutch find a growing population of radicalized Islamists who advocate such actions (without necessarily carrying them out) should the traditionally tolerant dutch toss five hundred years of tradition and ban Islam too?

    > You should also note that holocaust deniers tend to be people that want to finish the job they claim never happened. Just ask some deeper questions.

    But that is the point I made above. The problem is that people conflate criminal actions with speech. Advocating killing Jews is entirely different than actually killing Jews. Prosecute people for the actual crime not the proxy of the crime.

  93. @Winter
    >I am not aware that the approach used in the USA, eg, giving corporations full personal rights, worked out to be the best solution ever seen in the world. On the contrary.

    You might be right.

  94. @ Jessica Boxer

    What about incitement? Should there be a law against inciting others to kill Jews?

    If charismatic EvilNazi 1 gives a rousing speech encouraging his brethren to kill Jews, and then some number of EvilNazis do so (and maybe do so in the manner endorsed by EvilNazi 1), who should bear responsibility for the crimes?

  95. I have a hunch. Can anyone confirm it? Namely, that the reason such articles get written and the reason I get a bit surprised by them is that in the US every activity is how to put it, more high-energy, more dedicated, more blast it from both barrels than in most of Europe. There will be more fervent defenders of freedom but also more dedicated statists, quasi-totalitarians. There will be more dedicated feminists and there will be more misogynist pick-up artists. Both side of any controversy will push it harder, there will be less of an orientation for some kind of middle ground. Above all, there is more energy put into pursuing what people want or believe in. The reason I am asking it, that looking at things from Vienna, everything being peaceful and soft, or on the negative side, enervated, passive, and in a way universally depressed, that it is sort of hard to imagine people in 2013 either to really try hard to push some kind of totalitarianism, or fight hard against it. If I look around in this office now, all I see is people too lazy and laidback and life-enjoying for both. Neither wolves nor sheepdogs, just sheep. Screw politics, let’s talk about the summer holiday, this sort of approach. This is of course worrisome, because such situations tend to lead to wolves coming from somewhere else but even this seems to have little to no signs of happening yet. Some dude graffittied “peace to the huts, war to the a palaces” to some wall, and some other dude with a different colored spray can crossed out “war” and corrected it to “and” so now it says “peace to the huts, and to the palaces”. This is typical Vienna, both charming and boring at the same time. If I would pop over to say LA, would I see BOTH sides of any controversy pushing much harder, more willpower, more dedication, more excitement and more stress? Would it be louder complaining gays and louder gay-haters, would it be more dedicated religion and more dedicated atheist activism, would it be a more openly iron-fisted approach to the state and more energized movement to stop that?

  96. @JEssica
    “The middle east is filled with millions of people who advocate a religion that favors the mass killing of the American Satan, who advocate killing any non muslim on sight. ”

    The Germans have proven beyond any doubt that they are very good at mass killing. And they started the WWII as “revenge” for WWI. In the 40/50’s, the prospect of the Germans trying a third time was not as ludicrous as it might seem in hindsight.

    The people in the middle east have yet to prove that they can do more than random killing sprees beyond their own kin.

  97. “If charismatic EvilNazi 1 gives a rousing speech encouraging his brethren to kill Jews, and then some number of EvilNazis do so (and maybe do so in the manner endorsed by EvilNazi 1), who should bear responsibility for the crimes?”

    More directly, rich EvilPerson starts campaign to kill Jessica.

    Posting movies online showing Jessica injecting small children with her HIV infected blood. Showing Jessica doing late abortions and eating the fetuses. Posting pictures of Jessica desecrating the Koran. Plastering her neighborhood with posters saying WANTED: DEAD with her picture, telephone number, home and work address.

    Could we protect Jessica’s life?

  98. If we lived in a world with such restrictions we would adapt (at a lower significantly productivity level) and perhaps not be aware of what we were missing

    Or we’d work around it. Lets be honest here, most typed reports are a net loss in information anyway. And it’s not implausible that the majority of things we do could be replaced with a more drawing focus mixed with voice commands (Speakwrite anyone?). Bootstrap time feels like it should increase (keyboards seem simpler to put together than voice recognition or pen tablets) but that’s a view from the inside. The switch to GUI based PCs would probably have occured comparatively sooner.

  99. Is a contract also a legal fiction? How about a trademark? What about the right to keep and bear arms?

    Not at all. A legal fiction is something that is in reality untrue but the law treats it as true for a certain reason.

    A corporation is not actually a person. I would think this should not really get too much of an argument. However US Law treats corporations as a person for certain purposes. Interestingly it’s unfortunate that this doesn’t extend to all things as it seems to me that “corporate schizophrenia” is more the rule than the exception.

    Another legal fiction involves patent law and software. According to the federal circuit, when you load some code into memory you have physically transformed your computer into a completely new machine. This is pretty obvious tripe, but is the fundamental basis for all software patents.

  100. @Ian Argent: that’s not a speech problem, that’s a corporate governance problem. Treating as a problem to be addressed by restriction of speech throws the baby out with the bathwater

    I agree that it’s a corporate governance problem, but the obvious remedy for the corporate governance problem is to restrict what corporations can do with their shareholders’ money. That will effectively limit the kinds of speech (where “speech” includes political contributions) that corporations can engage in.

    Personally, I would go even farther, and say that only actual voters can make political contributions, as I did here:

    http://blog.peterdonis.com/opinions/proposal-for-campaign-finance-reform.html

  101. > Nope. Not even close.

    To them it absolutely is. The Justice Department has long considered that property used in the alleged commission of a crime may be seized, without court action, even when the owner is not implicated in the crime. Further, property owners must furnish a bond of up to $5000 within 3 weeks to *start* the procedure to protest a forfeiture, and then have the burden of proving that the illegal use of their property was not due to their act or omission.

    If that sounds like due process to you, we must have very different definitions.

    Soure: BJA publication NCJ-137994 – CIVIL FORFEITURE FOR THE NON-LAWYER

  102. @Peter Donis

    Corporations can be squeezed politically in many ways. They have no real way to respond if they cannot contribute to campaigns or take out political ads. The squeezing is indirect, so the response must also be.

  103. 14th Amendment incorporation is certainly a settled court doctrine at this point, but it’s still a court doctrine, not actually part of the text. Nowhere in the text is there a list of the “privileges and immunities” protected, and to this day there are rights covered in the Bill of Rights that are not incorporated—the Supreme Court has been adding them in one at a time for the past ~140 years. And nothing at all in it addresses authorities at levels lower than the states.

  104. So actual voters can’t band together to get more effectiveness from their collective money than each individual would alone? Because that was the fact pattern at hand in Citizens United.
    This would have the effect of making individual wealth much more important in political speech than it already is.

  105. @Shenpen: I don’t know about LA, they’re stereotypically the closest thing I’m America to that Vienna attitude you’re describing. San Francisco or New York, though? Absolutely.

  106. > Unfortunately, several of the states — including the one I call home — apparently have either not noticed this fact or are studiously ignoring it.

    It’s much worse than this. Not only are the states intentionally ignoring it, but courts of first opinion are universally backing them up, blindly throwing away SCOTUS guidance in the process. Almost every appeals court as well, with perhaps the only exception being Moore v. Madigan (Woollard’s appeal through Legg doesn’t count – it was also reversed). In spite of this, and the express call in some of those opinions for further guidance, SCOTUS has failed to take up any of the cases that could provide it. Kachalsky was a devastating blow – this was perhaps the last hope for relief this session, and perhas our best hope of any case in the pipeline. Woollard will likely be denied as well after the inevitable denial of their enbanc. I really don’t know where we go from here… we seem to be running out of boxes.

  107. @Shenpen

    > If I look around in this office now, all I see is people too lazy and laidback and life-enjoying for both. Neither wolves nor sheepdogs, just sheep.

    For a concrete example, look at public data for Pennsylvania. If the information I’ve found is accurate, there are over 780,000 concealed weapons permits in Pennsylvania. With a population of 12.7 million, this means that 1 in every 17 people in the state has specifically affirmed their willingness and intent to use force to protect themselves or others. That’s a heck of a lot of sheepdogs.

  108. @Ian Argent: So actual voters can’t band together to get more effectiveness from their collective money than each individual would alone?

    If they form a corporation for that particular purpose, like Citizens United was, then the corporate governance issue isn’t quite the same as if people form a corporation to manufacture widgets. In the latter case, they aren’t forming the corporation for the purpose of making their speech more effective; they aren’t forming it for political speech at all. Yet the corporate officers can use company money for political speech that a majority of shareholders may not even agree with.

    (In fact, probably the majority of shareholders don’t even know that they’re shareholders, since they hold the shares through mutual funds. And the mutual funds don’t care about corporate governance; they’re only interested in rate of return.)

    @BobW: Corporations can be squeezed politically in many ways. They have no real way to respond if they cannot contribute to campaigns or take out political ads.

    Sure they do. Does “regulatory capture” mean anything to you?

  109. @Peter: so you are differentiating by purpose. Who determines what the purpose of a corporation is?
    A quick touchstone I like in this situation: should unions be under the same regulations concerning political speech as other corporations?

  110. Regulatory capture does nothing about the politicians.

    Regulatory capture describes the process by which industry coopts the regulator executive agency. The industry has most of the expertise and winds up supplying most of the regulatory personnel. The top level people tend to cycle in and out of industry positions.

  111. @Ian Argent: Who determines what the purpose of a corporation is?

    For ordinary corporations, it’s the corporation’s charter. Which basically means the law of the State that granted the charter. Which is part of the reason corporate governance is broken, since most States allow corporations to adopt a charter that is basically a catch-all, something like “the corporation can engage in whatever business activities its directors decide to engage in”.

    For organizations like Citizens United, Federal law governing nonprofits determines what their purpose is, since they have to be more specific about that in order to qualify for Federal nonprofit status (even if technically they are also corporations charterted under State law). Which is also part of the problem, since a nonprofit like CU is considered to be no different from a corporation that has no restrictions other than its charter under the catch-all State law described above.

    A quick touchstone I like in this situation: should unions be under the same regulations concerning political speech as other corporations?

    Interesting question. Unions are nonprofits, right? Although they seem to be weird beasts organizationally.

    Here’s another interesting question: should unions be nonprofits? I’ve always thought that if unions really think that workers are that badly treated, they should put their own management where their mouth is, and become full-fledged corporations that sell the labor of their members. Want to staff your auto plant? Negotiate a contract with the union, and the union takes full responsibility for meeting the contract deliverables, like having workers show up on time, meeting productivity targets, etc. Then we would find out whether they really understand better how to efficiently manage labor in an industrial environment, or whether they are just blowing smoke.

  112. Regulatory capture does nothing about the politicians.

    Regulatory capture describes the process by which industry coopts the regulator executive agency. The industry has most of the expertise and winds up supplying most of the regulatory personnel. The top level people tend to cycle in and out of industry positions.

    Regulatory capture is also incredibly bad. It cannot be stressed highly enough how bad, and how dangerous, regulatory capture is.

    It’s almost enough to trigger a sanity test, debating with someone who seems to think it’s fine to restrict the free speech of corporations, because “they can just engage in regulatory capture instead”. Wait, what?

    What kind of thinking is that? It’s OK to pass dubious laws because you can just get around them by making it a matter of policy to break other laws (and corrupt enforcement agencies in the process) ? The level of corruption embodied in that type of thinking is simply mind-boggling.

  113. @BobW: Regulatory capture does nothing about the politicians.

    This is true, in the sense that if you could somehow shut down regulatory capture, that would only stop that particular method of buying politicians: it wouldn’t change the fact that the politicians have something valuable to sell. Of course, restricting corporations’ ability to contribute to political campaigns or publish ads doesn’t change that either. See below.

    @Greg: It’s almost enough to trigger a sanity test, debating with someone who seems to think it’s fine to restrict the free speech of corporations, because “they can just engage in regulatory capture instead”.

    I don’t know if this was referring to me, but this is not the position I am taking. I am merely pointing out that the idea that “corporations are just a bunch of people who get together to make their speech more effective” is not a very accurate picture of how corporations in general actually work in practice. If we’re going to talk about how the free speech rights of corporations should compare to the free speech rights of individuals, or indeed of any other entities, we should do so based on how corporations actually work in practice, not how they are supposed to work in theory.

    As for regulatory capture, I agree that it’s bad; but it’s still a symptom, not the disease. The disease is, as I said above, that politicians have something valuable to sell. The only way to really cure it is to take away what they have to sell, i.e., to limit the things the government can regulate. Government regulation is like the old joke about regular expressions: some people, when they see a problem, think: I know! We’ll get the government to regulate that! Now they have two problems.

  114. As for regulatory capture, I agree that it’s bad; but it’s still a symptom, not the disease. The disease is, as I said above, that politicians have something valuable to sell. The only way to really cure it is to take away what they have to sell, i.e., to limit the things the government can regulate. Government regulation is like the old joke about regular expressions: some people, when they see a problem, think: I know! We’ll get the government to regulate that! Now they have two problems.

    Thanks. I was concerned there for a bit. :) This I can very much agree with.

  115. @Winter
    > Could we protect Jessica’s life?

    Two words: “Glock 19”.

    But more seriously, if someone wants to kill me that badly they will be successful. It really isn’t all that hard to kill someone. The DC Snipers were pikers and look at what they did. Evil Guy really don’t need to start a campaign against me, that seems a lot of effort. If they are vilifying one group rather than just me then an entirely different set of defensive mechanisms are in order. And for sure, a heavily regulated society makes that much more difficult, unless you happen to be favored by the government. The Jews in the 40s didn’t have a voice.

    Thankfully, I’m not all that interesting.

  116. @JonCB
    > A corporation is not actually a person.

    Well if that is your point I agree. But corporations aren’t legal fictions, even if one particular legal doctrine about them is (putative personhood.) But there is a libertarian movement in opposition to the very idea of limited liability corporations. I totally disagree with that point of view. Perhaps I errantly ascribed it to you.

  117. @TomM
    > What about incitement? Should there be a law against inciting others to kill Jews?

    No, but there should be a law against actually killing Jews.

    Unless EvilNazi guy is actually using his mind control ray gun to turn his audience into his mindless zombie automatons, mwaaahahaha.

    (Eric, you are the expert on evil laughs, did I get that right?)

  118. @Jessica Boxer:

    > Well if that is your point I agree.

    Yes that was the point. Badly worded, but in the context of “free speech for corporations” I thought it was obvious that the legal fiction was that which enables corporations to have free speech — namely their personhood.

    > No, but there should be a law against actually killing Jews.

    But if money is fungible with speech (which, after all, is really what these rulings are all about), then what did bin Laden do that legitimized us killing him?

    If the answer is that people were actually killed (though not by bin Laden’s hand), then how is that different than when abortion doctors are killed by someone who has been incited to do so via “religious” hate speech?

  119. @Jessica Boxer:

    Do you think that a purveyor of foodstuffs should have the right to deliberately mislabel the contents?

  120. @Greg:

    Government regulation is like the old joke about regular expressions: some people, when they see a problem, think: I know! We’ll get the government to regulate that!

    I actually believe that government _should_ regulate a few things, like labelling of foodstuffs, for example. Yet current practice simultaneously goes too far (FDA treating walnuts as drugs because of factual statements about what some scientists have found) and not far enough (allows sugar to be placed in milk without labelling).

    IMO, government should require and regulate factual content disclosure, and treat any statements about efficacy as protected opinion. That they don’t do this is obviously due to regulatory capture.

    So, how do you design a government that is small enough it can do no harm?

  121. @Patrick Maupin
    > But if money is fungible with speech (which, after all, is really what these rulings are all about),

    Money is not fungible with speech, nonetheless the legal doctrine that controlling how people spend their money can often mean control of speech is one I agree with. Of course I also think it is nobody’s damn business how I spend my money on any thing, but that is another story.

    > then what did bin Laden do that legitimized us killing him?

    I don’t know, not being party to the intelligence. However, if he planned, organized and facilitated mass murder then he is culpable. It is those actions not the “we hate Americans and should kill them” that is a problem. Like I said before “I’m going to kill you” is different than “I’m going to kill you with this gun I am pointing at you.”

    > abortion doctors are killed by someone who has been incited to do so via “religious” hate speech?

    Killing doctors should be illegal. Saying doctors are monsters should not be.

  122. bin Laden oversaw the financing, organization, recruitment, training and logistics of those who brought down the World Trade Center. Killing him is like targeting the opposing army’s command post, if the artillery can reach it.

    I suggest that what politicians do is often more like extortion than prostitution.

    High marginal tax rates and onerous regulation increase the incentive to buy lunches for congressional staff, and do special favors for special friends of special legislators.

    Absolutely not quid-pro-quo.

  123. @Patrick Maupin
    > Do you think that a purveyor of foodstuffs should have the right to deliberately mislabel the contents?

    That is fraud. They can say what they want, however, they should have civil liability for the consequences of their fraud. This should be an extremely strict standard, which is to say it would be necessary to prove actual harm resulted from the fraudulent deception.

    Of course when it comes to food you should rather believe a third party’s determination of food safety whether the FDA, or better a private organization with a reputation at risk.

  124. The second amendment works just fine and the 1st amendment lets anyone who needs to know learn how. Nothing is more scary for a politician with a fascist bent than a bunch of totally pissed off constituents (who he KNOWS are well armed) yelling back at his local dog and pony show-meeting up close and personal. You can only push so far in flyover country, at least. Armed insurrection is always loitering around someplace in the weeds looking just real ugly.

    Americans have much more tendency to tar and feather either in concept or in actuality than euro types because we are the all the pissed off people who left. Apparently all that remains in euroland are the sheep and the occasional “mental defective”. Too bad.

    By the way, tpmoney, check out this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Agents_Registration_Act

  125. @Patrick Maupin: The paraphrased regex joke was actually me, not Greg, though he agreed with it. Credit where credit is due… :-)

    IMO, government should require and regulate factual content disclosure, and treat any statements about efficacy as protected opinion.

    Which then raises the question, how do you draw the line between “factual content disclosure” and “statements about efficacy”? Suppose I have a boatload of studies that (purportedly) establish facts about the efficacy of my wonderful product. Is telling people about the study “factual content disclosure” or “statements about efficacy”? Or both?

    I should emphasize that I don’t have a better answer to the root problem up my sleeve; I’m just trying to point out that *any* answer will have flaws.

    So, how do you design a government that is small enough it can do no harm?

    esr probably would say you can’t, and I would have to agree. Any government that has power can do harm, and a government that doesn’t have power can’t govern.

    (esr probably would also say this is why anarchy is the only sensible solution; but I’m not sure I can agree with that. People who can’t handle our current system will probably handle anarchy much worse. But that may be too much of a thread derail.)

  126. @Dan

    Given the Constitutional assertion that any seizure of private property must undergo due process of law, how can the government confiscate our guns without demonstrating probable cause and compiling a case to prove it against each and every one of the 80-100 million gun owners, then giving us our individual day in court to face our accuser?

    @see executive order 6012

    That said I have no issues with stronger background checks or requirements for firearms safety training or for cutting down firearms trafficking.

    I also have no issues with well regulated (aka trained) militias being allowed to have military weapons with the caveat that what I consider to be well trained militias are state and local level entities (although historically this is a very poor assumption to make). Most states already have some form of non-federal defense force although many of these are first responder or medical unit types. But if a county or city wanted to have their own non-federal militia with a M1 tank…eh…it’s the local folks wasting their own tax dollars. As long as they don’t use it to feud with the neighboring county I’m cool with that.

    I’m firmly in the middle ground and I think both extremes are nuts. That goes for abortions as well.

  127. Which then raises the question, how do you draw the line between “factual content disclosure” and “statements about efficacy”?

    To the FDA, you can (and usually must) say “this contains substance X.” What you can’t (usually) say is “substance X lowers your risk of cancer” unless you have FDA-approved studies that prove it. Unfortunately, that level of study can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, so nobody wants to pay for a study of a substance that they can’t patent.

  128. @jessica

    Of course when it comes to food you should rather believe a third party’s determination of food safety whether the FDA, or better a private organization with a reputation at risk.

    I’d rather buy milk in the US dairies under FDA regulation and oversight than from any Chinese company with however stellar a reputation. So would every Chinese that could afford to do the same (hence the run on western baby formula).

    It’s because of rule of law and the fact that, as messed up folks around here think our government is, our system works better than the alternatives. It’s not an east vs west thing either. Do you think Russian oligarchs use local russian produced baby formula or has it shipped in from the EU? The food in asian countries that follows religiously follows legalism is safe (aka South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and a few others). The food in asian countries that don’t, not so much.

  129. @Jessica Boxer:

    I don’t know, not being party to the intelligence. However, if he planned, organized and facilitated mass murder then he is culpable. It is those actions not the “we hate Americans and should kill them” that is a problem. Like I said before “I’m going to kill you” is different than “I’m going to kill you with this gun I am pointing at you.”

    I don’t see a bright line here. Seriously, it’s a continuum all the way from what bin Laden did to “I’m going to kill you.”

    Killing doctors should be illegal. Saying doctors are monsters should not be.

    What about a religious school where you teach the students every day that abortion doctors are monsters who should be killed at the earliest opportunity?

    [Misstating contents of a box] is fraud.

    OK, so you do believe in _some_ regulation on speech.

    They can say what they want, however, they should have civil liability for the consequences of their fraud. This should be an extremely strict standard, which is to say it would be necessary to prove actual harm resulted from the fraudulent deception.

    “Actual harm” — yet another slippery slope. Does someone have to die? How do you prove that someone’s life was shortened? Or are you simply thinking along the lines that someone who paid for bluefin tuna and got something cheaper should get his money back?

    Of course when it comes to food you should rather believe a third party’s determination of food safety whether the FDA, or better a private organization with a reputation at risk.

    Right, but in general, things work better when companies are punished if they lie on the package. That, believe it or not, is regulation of speech. So there is a line, and we’ve found some speech that even Jessica believes is on the other side of it. Not sure exactly where she thinks it should be drawn yet, though.

    @Peter Donis:

    Which then raises the question, how do you draw the line between “factual content disclosure” and “statements about efficacy”?

    In general, there should be very few close questions here:

    If the manufacturer says “Contents: walnuts” that’s a testable factual statement. If the manufacturer says “Study X say walnuts promote heart health”, that’s also a testable factual statement. If the manufacturer says “Walnuts promote heart health” that’s a statement of opinion.

  130. @PapayaSF:

    > To the FDA, you can (and usually must) say “this contains substance X.”

    Except when companies have exercised their regulatory capture to get out of this responsibility (cf. sugar in milk).

    > What you can’t (usually) say is “substance X lowers your risk of cancer”

    Right, and I believe you should be able to truthfully say “studies have shown” or even “we believe” that this is true. Again, the FDA goes too far and not far enough. That is because the public demands some regulatory oversight on our food (for good historical reasons), and as Nigel points out, the FDA does a stellar job compared to some other regimes, but…

    That leaves it with, as several have pointed out, a valuable commodity — namely the ability to define speech on food packaging. My point is that this should really be a pretty simple task if we make two small assumptions: facts are non-negotiable and facts about the contents must be included, and opinions are off-limits for regulation.

  131. No, but there should be a law against actually killing Jews.

    Why? Wouldn’t it make more sense to having a law against killing anyone? Why should the Jews get a special mention.

  132. @Patrick:

    >But if money is fungible with speech (which, after all, is really what these rulings are all about), then what did bin Laden do that legitimized us killing him?

    He gave orders to people who considered themselves to be under his authority.

    >If the answer is that people were actually killed (though not by bin Laden’s hand), then how is that different than when abortion doctors are killed by someone who has been incited to do so via “religious” hate speech?

    There’s a difference between giving orders to people who consider themselves to be your subordinates or in your employ (such as a CEO giving orders to subordinates or a mob boss hiring a hitman) and just spouting off (in public or not) about how someone should die.

    I’ve never heard it claimed that the 9/11 hijackers simply came up with the plot on their own after listening to bin Laden rant about how America is the Great Satan and all Americans should die, but should that be the case, then we were not justified in killing him.

    >What about a religious school where you teach the students every day that abortion doctors are monsters who should be killed at the earliest opportunity?

    If this is, verbatim, what the school is teaching, it’s something that would be illegal in an *ideal* world (at least if you ignore that nobody would say that in an ideal world), but which is dangerous to make illegal in the *real* world, because people with similar but more moderate positions might be represented as holding this opinion by their opponents.

    What would you say about a school where students were taught that:
    1)Abortionists are human beings.
    2)Abortion is murder, so by virtue of performing abortions, abortionists are guilty of murder.
    3)Therefore, If after due process a court finds someone to have performed an abortion, that person should thus be convicted of murder and given whatever sentence the laws of the relevant jurisdiction prescribe for murder.
    4)Murder should be a capital crime.
    ?

  133. @Nigel
    > I’d rather buy milk in the US dairies under FDA regulation

    Fabulous my friend. So you agree that we should privatize the FDA? I’m so glad we are on the same page!!

  134. @Patrick Maupin: If the manufacturer says “Contents: walnuts” that’s a testable factual statement.

    Ok so far.

    If the manufacturer says “Walnuts promote heart health” that’s a statement of opinion.

    Ok here too.

    If the manufacturer says “Study X say walnuts promote heart health”, that’s also a testable factual statement.

    Here’s where it gets murky. How do you factually test that Study X actually “says” that walnuts promote heart health? What counts as an objective measure of “heart health”? What counts as “promoting” heart health? What counts as a sufficient showing that walnuts actually promote heart health? Who decides what study protocols count? Who decides how big a sample size you need? Who decides the level of statistical significance that’s necessary?

    Again, I’m not saying that there aren’t possible answers to these questions. I’m saying that having to have answers at all, which you have to in order to define what a “testable factual statement” is for anything more complicated than “Contents: walnuts”, provides a target-rich environment for regulatory capture.

  135. @Patrick Maupin
    > So there is a line, and we’ve found some speech that even Jessica believes is on the other side of it.

    Hold on there cowboy, you are projecting. I said I think people should be able to print whatever they want on their packages. I also believe that people should own a gun if they want to. But I also believe if you are slinging your gun around and shoot somebody either from carelessness or mendacity you should pay the consequences for your action. If you put rat poison in your hot dogs and say you put in rose petals, then you should similarly pay the consequences for your fraud should someone be harmed from your carelessness or mendacity.

  136. @JonCB
    > Why? Wouldn’t it make more sense to having a law against killing anyone? Why should the Jews get a special mention.

    It was a rhetorical device.

  137. @Jon Brase:

    > He gave orders to people who considered themselves to be under his authority.

    So if I kill somebody, I can implicate someone else by claiming to be under their authority?

    There’s a difference between giving orders to people who consider themselves to be your subordinates or in your employ (such as a CEO giving orders to subordinates or a mob boss hiring a hitman) and just spouting off (in public or not) about how someone should die.

    Agreed. But it’s a continuum. Yes, you can easily get agreement that one should be protected speech (well, from most people) and that the other is a crime, but I’m more interested in the middle bits (or at least agreement that there might be middle bits).

    > What would you say about a school where students were taught that:

    I think that would be fine. It doesn’t incite to individual action, except at the voting booth and/or jury box.

  138. @Jessica Boxer:

    I said I think people should be able to print whatever they want on their packages. I also believe that people should own a gun if they want to. But I also believe if you are slinging your gun around and shoot somebody either from carelessness or mendacity you should pay the consequences for your action. If you put rat poison in your hot dogs and say you put in rose petals, then you should similarly pay the consequences for your fraud should someone be harmed from your carelessness or mendacity.

    You can’t seriously say “people should be able to print whatever they want on their packages” and then follow it up with “but they should be in trouble if they lie and people get hurt.” Those two statements are in direct contradiction.

    And your analogy is terrible. A better analogy would be the gun is a printing press; shooting is the same as printing; what you shoot defines whether you are in trouble or not.

  139. I may be an imperfect libertarian, but I am willing to compromise and go along with accurate labeling regulations.

  140. (The particular quote I have in mind from there is “Roeder’s former roommate of two years, Eddie Ebecher, who had met Roeder through the Freemen movement in the 1990s, told a reporter after Tiller’s murder that he and Roeder had considered themselves members of the Army of God.”)

  141. @Peter Donis:

    Again, I’m not saying that there aren’t possible answers to these questions. I’m saying that having to have answers at all, which you have to in order to define what a “testable factual statement” is for anything more complicated than “Contents: walnuts”, provides a target-rich environment for regulatory capture.

    I honestly don’t think there should be that many edge cases. If the author of the study says “yes that’s right” when asked if walnuts promote heart health, then the manufacturer is OK, unless, of course he paid for the study…

    And if the study author says “no the walnut manufacture is completely misconstruing my results” then the walnut manufacturer probably has some ‘splainin to do.

    In any case, I would certainly have regulators err on the hard-line side on content facts, and on the other side on purported benefits. Anybody can look up walnuts and see whether they believe they promote heart health.

  142. > You can’t seriously say “people should be able to print whatever they want on their packages” and then follow it up with “but they should be in trouble if they lie and people get hurt.” Those two statements are in direct contradiction.

    No, they are not contradictory. They are very different. One is prior restraint, one is not.

  143. @Patrick Maupin: I honestly don’t think there should be that many edge cases.

    Really? When it is very much in the interest of the parties being regulated to have as many edge cases as possible?

    If the author of the study says “yes that’s right” when asked if walnuts promote heart health, then the manufacturer is OK, unless, of course he paid for the study…

    Even if we leave out that qualifier at the end, the author of the study could just as well say that about a bogus study; he doesn’t care whether it’s right, only whether it’s published. You said the regulators are supposed to be regulating factual content, but the consumer doesn’t care whether the statement “the author of study X agrees with manufacturer Y about what study X says” is factual; he cares whether the statement “study X shows that walnuts promote heart health” is factual.

    If the former statement is the only one the regulators can regulate, the regulators might as well not be there; it’s just as easy for the consumer to look up the study results and what the author said about them as it is for the regulators to do so. The reason we *have* regulators at all is that they’re supposed to be better able than we are to judge the latter type of statement.

  144. >I may be an imperfect libertarian, but I am willing to compromise and go along with accurate labeling regulations.

    So am I. As long as they’re enforced the way Kashruth labels are – by private certification authorities who lend their reputation to producers who submit to regular inspections and production checks.

    There’s no reason for government to be in this business. Food safety certification isn’t an externality, it’s a service that customers and producers are willing to pay for.

  145. I like the Underwriters Laboratories. They’re expensive to deal with, but the incentives are right.

  146. Aaron Davies on Tuesday, April 16 2013 at 10:50 am said:
    And nothing at all in [14th Amendment incorporation] addresses authorities at levels lower than the states.

    All local and municipal authorities (county, township, city/town/village) derive their power from the state and are bound by any limitations on the state. (Those in Federal jurisdictions such as DC and Guam derive their power from Congress, and so are bound too.)

  147. Jessica Boxer on Tuesday, April 16 2013 at 4:44 pm said:
    “Unless EvilNazi guy is actually using his mind control ray gun to turn his audience into his mindless zombie automatons, mwaaahahaha.”

    You know the meaning of the word propaganda, right?

    esr:
    “Food safety certification isn’t an externality, it’s a service that customers and producers are willing to pay for.”

    Obviously, food safety should be regulated by non-private organisations (ie government, even though the word seems to be so evil to you). Non-profit-seeking people. I will fight to oppose any private company to invade my personal life. I don’t want Coca-Cola in my schools. I don’t want my kids to eat pizza at every lunch.

    I don’t want this side of America. I prefer many other sides. But then again, I had a delicious dinner with two “liberal” sluts, as you would probably call them. How relieving!

  148. @esr:

    As long as they’re enforced the way Kashruth labels are – by private certification authorities who lend their reputation to producers who submit to regular inspections and production checks.

    In theory, this should work, just like in theory it should work when the government does it. But I’m suspicious that the religious component might be integral to what makes it really work well.

    There’s no reason for government to be in this business. Food safety certification isn’t an externality, it’s a service that customers and producers are willing to pay for.

    Yes but unless the consumer is paying directly, you can easily wind up with the private enterprise version of regulatory capture, and/or a proliferation of shitty labs with great-sounding names. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a huge fan of the FDA, but you have to be careful how you go about replacing that sort of infrastructure.

    @Bob:

    I like the Underwriters Laboratories. They’re expensive to deal with, but the incentives are right.

    It’s still effectively a monopoly, and (btw) is recognized by and regulated by the government as an official testing laboratory. The UL was born of the same mindset that gave us old Ma Bell, which is both good and bad. In a way, it’s similar to the mindset that gives us things like Elsevier and JSTOR, and in fact, the FDA itself. Reputation is a powerful thing.

  149. @Patrick:
    >So if I kill somebody, I can implicate someone else by claiming to be under their authority?

    You can implicate them all you want. It does not absolve you of your own culpability for the act, or guarantee that the law will find them guilty. The police then have to ascertain whether there is any evidence other than your claim that the other person gave any orders to you or hired you. If there is, then the other person should be charged with conspiracy to commit murder and tried.

    >Agreed. But it’s a continuum. Yes, you can easily get agreement that one should be protected speech (well, from most people) and that the other is a crime, but I’m more interested in the middle bits (or at least agreement that there might be middle bits).

    In general, my opinion is that the middle bits should be protected speech. In fact, spouting off about how someone should die should be protected speech not because its morally good but because it’s part of the middle bits between advocating that certain acts should be criminalized and those who commit those acts executed after due process (whether that be executing abortionists for performing abortions or executing American politicians and military leaders for war crimes as many in the Middle East would like to see), and conspiring to execute vigilante justice upon those who commit those acts or those associated with them (whether that be shooting George Tiller or performing the 9/11 hijackings).

    Part of the reason freedom of speech is a good thing is the same reason presumption of innocence is a good thing: You make your laws loose enough that they miss some guilty people in order to ensure that the law can’t be used as a weapon against the innocent.

    >Are there others we should prosecute for the murder of George Tiller?

    >http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_George_Tiller#Anti-abortion_militancy

    >The particular quote I have in mind from there is “Roeder’s former roommate of two years, Eddie Ebecher, who had met Roeder through the Freemen movement in the 1990s, told a reporter after Tiller’s murder that he and Roeder had considered themselves members of the Army of God.”

    Not without evidence that someone else actually ordered (or otherwise conspired with) Roeder to commit that particular crime.

  150. shpxnvz on Monday, April 15 2013 at 3:52 pm said:The duly elected legislature passing the confiscation law *is* due process.

    Yup. For a concrete example, see the various state laws abolishing slavery which preceded the 13th Amendment.

    Or laws making possession of various things illegal, and thereby authorizing confiscation of said goods. (State alcohol prohibition acts, drug prohibition acts, bans on ownership of certain species and breeds of animal. Also bans on certain categories of firearms, such as sawed-off shotguns, and other weapons such as nunchucks and switchblades.)

  151. @Don Calvus
    > You know the meaning of the word propaganda, right?

    Yes I do. Are you familiar with personal responsibility? It is a curious thing — I have listened to some of Hitler’s speeches and I don’t feel any desire at all to go out and kill any Jews. Perhaps it is that mind control ray thingie that is missing.

    > Obviously, food safety should be regulated by non-private organisations (ie government, even though the word seems to be so evil to you). Non-profit-seeking people.

    Why do you think that governments are non profit seeking? You do know that they take vast amounts of money from all tax payers, right? You do know they seek profit of a non pecuniary nature too?

    > I will fight to oppose any private company to invade my personal life. I don’t want Coca-Cola in my schools. I don’t want my kids to eat pizza at every lunch.

    That is totally crazy. Private companies made the computer you typed that on, they made the network you sent it over, they made the clothes on your back, the table your computer sits on, and the electricity that powered it. Private companies are involved in all parts of your life.

    However, there is a big difference: if you don’t like your Dell, you can buy an HP and if their customer service sucks you can switch to Acer. If you paid for your own schools you could tell them not to put pizza or coke in there, and if they ignored you, you could go to a different school. If the government decides to put pizza and coke in your school you are pretty much SOL.

    There is a saying — he who pays the piper picks the tune. Better to pay the piper yourself, that give your money and consequently your choices to someone else, regardless of the imprimatur of self righteous, putatively your-best-interests-at-heart prancing popinjays in Washington.

  152. @Jon Brase:

    > In general, my opinion is that the middle bits should be protected speech.

    The middle bits up until what? I’m sorry, but I really have a hard time seeing things in black and white (one of the reasons I’d hate to be a judge). It can’t be completely fine up until you’re an accessory to mass murder.

  153. As the parent of a child with severe food allergies (anaphylaxis) I rely daily on the accuracy of food labelling to ensure that the foods I purchase do not cause my child to experience anaphylaxis which could result in death.

    This is a serious business.

    The food labelling laws where I live (Australia) require manufacturers of a food to disclose the presence of allergens which are ingredients in that food and to distinguish those ingredients from the potential risk of contamination by other substances – generally covered off with words like: “produced in a facility which processes nuts” or “may contain …”.

    Without mandatory food labelling requirements that require these disclosures, the rational manufacturer could easily take the view that she is better to simply disclose the possibility that the product contains every known allergen. The result of this over-disclosure would be that I could no longer use the information to reliably distinguish between available products.

    Food labelling laws are a Good Thing.

  154. About as subtle as a war axe mate.

    Once an acquaintance noted that if you look at something and see grey what you have is a failure of resolution. This is the problem with “moderation” or “moderates”. They are almost always moderate about something they don’t give a rats hind quarters about, and very, very often know very little about the subject under discussion. In fact often *partisans* know very little about the subject under discussion, but *do* feel rather adamant about it.

    Or to quote the philosopher J. Gullato:
    > Sure, nine out of ten people would want a Harley if you asked them,
    > but then again, nine of ten people don’t know shit about bikes.
    (alt.sysadmin.recovery, sometime in the 1990s)

    Abortion? Either it’s a baby or it’s just a mass of cells. It’s one or the other at any given point in time. If it’s a mass of cells, it’s no business of mine. If it’s a baby, then it’s a human and it’s got rights. Thing is you *can’t* work backwards from “I wanna abort this thing” to what it is.

    Gun control? Yeah, there’s “common sense” regulation but most if it’s about as useless as tits on bull elk. We’ve tried it, it doesn’t work.

    Just about every issue is like this. Gay Marriage? What would be the “moderate” position on this? (There is one, it’s called “Civil Partnerships” like they had in California when Shithead in SF ordered his marriage license folks to violate the law.)

    Nah mate, “Moderate” just means don’t wanna offend anyone, or it means I don’t know anything ’bout this and wanna regurgitate the last reasonable soundbite I heard.

    @Alsadius
    “Seriously, American free speech law is deeply weird by international standards.”

    There’s a lot of things in America that are deeply weird by international standards, and we were fighting to keep it that way. Now, fuck it. Time to raise the black flag and go for it.

    @jsk
    > Sadly, I have routinely found that disagreeing with the so-called moderate position
    > tends to brand oneself as an extremist, and no matter how rational and calm is

    “Extremism in defense of Liberty is no Vice”.
    @ESR:
    > But reality is what it is; if you can’t tell the venomous snakes from the
    > non-venomous ones, you have to treat all snakes as venomous. The fact that
    > your inability isn’t the non-venomous snake’s fault is irrelevant.

    It’s not the position you hold, it’s the spittle, the raving and the eyes.

    Keep calm, return fire, don’t miss.

    @Jacek Kopecky
    > Also, are you sure the NWA and other free-speech advocates don’t systematically lie?

    They do. But they tend to lie by exaggeration and by picking the optimal (for them) end of the margin of error in a study.

    We can be fairly certain of this because the anti-speech side (Northern Wealth Anarchist Distribution, etc.) have captured the legal press and get their soap box whenever they want. If the NWA were to lie on something of substance it would be obvious. In fact they HAVE accused the NWA of lying because they picked the high end of a study, and the NWA as liars is now seen as fact by “moderates” and anti-speech types.

    @Winter
    “I am not very well versed in the USA first amendment legal interpretation and its consequences. However, as a contrast, in the EU (where I live), there is no absolute interpretation of Free Speech. Most countries have these “moderate restrictions” you talk about.”

    I don’t know continental politics well enough to judge, but let’s just take one issue. In the 80s and 90s when the public was polled both the US and European countries (not specified) had about the same approval rates for the Death Penalty (high 70s to low 80 percents). In both the US and Europe media elites had about the same approval rates (almost uniformly against).

    In the US there is still a debate about the issue, and we still take the garbage out in a black bag from time to time. In Europe there is no debate.

    This is a problem for notional democracies. When the government and the press can collude to control /what/ is discussed you’re fucked.

    @Rich Rostrom
    > he’s a grunt-level software developer

    Not much anymore–he’s mostly a history teacher now. Although I bet if someone wanted him to code remotely he’d probably be willing to take the work (Clayton Cramer is the gent being discussed)

    @ Garrett
    > FWIW, the American approach to free speech and openness to
    > debate is one of the reasons I chose to live here. Without any government
    > restrictions, I’m able to live in the US or Canada – moving to the US was
    > work for me, though.

    Welcome aboard mate. If you’re not willing to man the guns, grab a cutlass and prepare for boarders.

    @DysgraphicProgrammer
    > Because I think that school shootings could be prevented by banning the
    > widespread reporting of school shootings. (I do not support actually doing this,
    > I just think it might work). The reason being: I think that school shootings have a
    > large ‘copy-cat’ component to them.

    The shootings are too spread out in frequency for that to be the case.

    > That people who are hurt and angry and broken and want to hurt others go
    > to schools instead of, say, shopping malls because they have seen other
    > school shootings in the news.

    Adults generally go to their place of work, a shopping mall or a court house. Children or young adults go back to their school.

    The Aurora shooter picked a theater. High target density (and he picked one with a no-guns-allowed sign). GIffords et. al. were shot in a “town hall” meeting.

    These people are *insane*. Don’t try to guess what is going on in their mind, just shoot them to the ground and get back to your life.

    @Alsadius
    > Not true at all. You kill snakes. You don’t kill gun control activists, even the
    > totalitarian wannabes.

    Yet. You don’t kill them YET.

    @ Patrick Maupin
    > When people pool their money into a partnership, there is zero reason
    > why they should lose their free-speech rights. But unlike a partnership, a
    > corporation is not merely an aggregate of people. A corporation is a legal
    > fiction that absolves the investors of any bad consequences from the
    > actions of the corporation. So personally, I think there is a good case to be made
    > that a corporation can be regulated, simply because the investors don’t have all
    > the much skin in the game. The supremes, obviously, disagree to a certain extent.

    That is because the Supremes know what a 501c3 and a 503c3s are.

    These are, in general counterfire for the “big evil corps” and billionaire oligarchs like Nanny Bloomers. They let tens to millions of small fish gang up on the big sharks.

    One wing of the NWA is a 501c3 and it’s other wing (the lobbying side) is a 501c4. These are corporations.

    @Winter
    > I am not aware that the approach used in the USA, eg, giving corporations
    > full personal rights, worked out to be the best solution ever seen in the world.
    > On the contrary.

    Corporations do not have “full personal rights” here in the US. “Normal” corporations cannot (independently) vote, they cannot hold political office etc. Laws relative to corporate behavior are different than laws relating to human behavior.

    @Jessica Boxer
    > Two words: “Glock 19?.

    Awesome.

    @Jessica Boxer on Tuesday, April 16 2013 at 4:44 pm said:
    > No, but there should be a law against actually killing Jews.
    > Unless EvilNazi guy is actually using his mind control ray gun to
    > turn his audience into his mindless zombie automatons, mwaaahahaha.

    I think an argument can be made that in narrow circumstances a “leader” could and should be held accountable for the actions of his underlings. Not some nutcase ranting into a microphone that leads to some pathetic loser(s) acting in socially inappropriate ways, but more of a “Come here Joe. Joe, you know how I feel about Dem fucken Arabs, right? And there’s that Gawd Awful Mosque over there. Why don’t you and Jim get a couple cans o gas and when dem fuckers is in der praying ta Satan, burn it down”.

    Yes, Joe and Jim should be hooked up to the mains and a few dead dinosaurs worth of electricity given a path to ground through them, but the “leader” that ordered something like that should also be held accountable.

    This *is* different from the case of the g00fb@ll ranting in the public square though.

    @Patrick Maupin
    > “Actual harm” — yet another slippery slope. Does someone have to die?
    > How do you prove that someone’s life was shortened? Or are you simply
    > thinking along the lines that someone who paid for bluefin tuna and got
    > something cheaper should get his money back?

    See, this is the problem with engineers and the law. They want bright lines and clear rules.

    Life ain’t like that.

    We really only need *one* law. “Do The Right Thing”. All the other laws are an attempt to fix the problem that people are tribal assholes and will even fuck over memebers of their own tribe for power or sex. If you can sort those two out.

    If Nancy Pelosi’s friend’s tuna packing company lies about it’s contents then that is what we call a “class action suit”, and everyone with a receipt (or other proof) is eligible for a refund plus hassle. Except they’d buy the judge off (because it’s cheaper) and then there would have to be a law SPECIFICALLY for this and lawyers would argue about the meaning of “is”.

    @Jessica Boxer
    > Fabulous my friend. So you agree that we should privatize the FDA?
    > I’m so glad we are on the same page!!

    Who’s got a better record, the FDA, or the U/L?

    Can the UL model work for certifying molecules?

  155. It’s still effectively a monopoly, and (btw) is recognized by and regulated by the government as an official testing laboratory. The UL was born of the same mindset that gave us old Ma Bell, which is both good and bad. In a way, it’s similar to the mindset that gives us things like Elsevier and JSTOR, and in fact, the FDA itself. Reputation is a powerful thing

    Correction: UL was started by insurance companies in an effort to reduce claims for electrical fires. Later they may have.found it was cheaper (for them) to get government involved. There’s less possibility of regulatory capture with the UL model; UL works for the insurance companies.

  156. @TomM
    > Food labelling laws are a Good Thing.

    No, accurate food labeling is a good thing. How that happens is important for your culture. Yours is an increasingly top down legalistic culture. I (to a certain degree “we”) don’t want that here.

  157. @William O. B’Livion:

    > That is because the Supremes know what a 501c3 and a 503c3s are.

    Those designations (a) don’t require that the organization be a corporation, and (b) AFAIK those organizations are still prohibited from most forms of lobbying. They certainly can’t endorse a candidate, or they lose their “you can deduct what you give me from your taxes” status. I don’t think that Supreme decision touched this, so it’s not a great argument that those are counterweights to corporations now being allowed to churn out propaganda that says “vote for Joe.”

    @Bob:

    > Correction: UL was started by insurance companies in an effort to reduce claims for electrical fires.

    That’s an interesting correction, in that I never said how it was started, merely the mindset that allowed it to grow. “Regulated benevolent monopoly” used to be a thing. Also, AFAIK, it was started by a savvy engineer/businessman who saw an opportunity to sell services to insurance companies, rather than by a group of insurance companies.

  158. @Patrick:
    >The middle bits up until what?

    Up until somewhere around William’s “Joe and Jim” scenario. I’d say even if the leader (let’s call him Steve) had that conversation with Joe, and then Joe had a similar conversation with Jim, and then Jim acted alone, both Steve and Joe would be culpable.

  159. BTW, the UL seems to be busy transitioning from a non-profit to a for-profit. The camel got its nose under the tent in 2007 IIRC. This should be instructive.

  160. Increase the percentage of the population dependent on government handouts to greater than 50% then win all the elections from 2012 forward. Blow off some legs in Boston to set the excuse to put the global capital controls in full motion.

    Fiction. Yeah. Sure. Yup.

    What middle?

  161. I don’t need to Google that because I used to work for a non-profit 501c3 non-profit corporation. That’s a standard term. They really are “corporations.” Your link doesn’t work for me, but here’s one of many.

  162. Search for “non-profit corporation” on irs.gov and you’ll find that they use that term, including in “suggested language” for articles of incorporation, etc.

  163. “Link doesn’t work”

    Works for me on multiple devices.

    Yes, can be a corporation (as i said initially). No, doesn’t have to be. If you cannot figure out how to navigate the IRS site, try wikipedia. And, no I don’t buy your argument from authority.

  164. If you have Irs links, why do you link to the free dictionary?

  165. @William O’Blivion
    “In Europe there is no debate. [on the death penalty]”

    There is a debate. But most of those “in favor” seem to be only in favor in specific newsworthy cases. When these cases are out of the news, they seem to lose interest. There really is no concerted effort to change the law.

    Anyhow, almost all democracies have laws that can only be changed by super majorities. I see no problem with that, especially when it is in cases that cannot be corrected after the fact: Dead is dead.

    And we do lock up people who are a (proven) danger to society. So the absence of the death penalty has no practical consequences.

    @Jessica
    “Evil Guy really don’t need to start a campaign against me, that seems a lot of effort. ”

    Is there ever too much effort for getting someone murdered with impunity? Or destroy their lives in other ways (job, marriage, family). You forget that the witch hunts and lynch mobs were driven by popular demand.

  166. @William O. B’Livion
    > accurate food labelling is a good thing

    We agree about this. Part of my comment (the bit you didn’t quote) was pointing out that the regulation leads to a positive result (more information and clearer disclosure) than the “accurate” but low-information general disclaimers that would be adopted (rationally) in the absence of a mandatory requirement to do more.

  167. @TomM:

    Providing labels that the customers actually want is part of why Kashruth works so well. Of course it helps if the same authorities overseeing the label making can authoritatively tell the customers what is in their best interests…

  168. @Patrick
    “it helps if the same authorities overseeing the label making can authoritatively tell the customers what is in their best interests…”

    I do not see that link between a law that says that a consumer has the right to know what she is buying, and “authoritatively tell the customers what is in their best interests”.

    Is honesty in trade the same as prescribing what is in the best interest of the consumer? Are we just inches away from Stalinist terror?

    This sounds a lot like these ridiculous “slippery slope” arguments where they tell me that my country is on the verge of implementing death camps.

    No, the one does not lead to the other.

  169. Note that what happened to OBL was not a matter of law, but a matter of war or anti-brigandage, depending on your view of the Taliban and his relationship with it. He was not provided anything approaching due process, much less a chance to defend his actions; but attacked as a command-and-control node of a hostile governmental/rogue power with whom the US was in a condition of armed combat.

  170. > Is honesty in trade the same as prescribing what is in the best interest of the consumer? Are we just inches away from Stalinist terror?

    Making it illegal to say your food is not genetically modified because lobbyists don’t want you implying that genetically modified food is undesirable goes a little beyond honesty in trade.

  171. @Random832
    “Making it illegal to say your food is not genetically modified because lobbyists don’t want you implying that genetically modified food is undesirable goes a little beyond honesty in trade.”

    Yes, but that is a case where the law on food labeling fell short.

    This example seems to call for a better labeling law, not abolishing the law. It is not that I think the food labeling laws in my country, or the EU, are particularly good, on the contrary (they are below average even in the EU, maybe even worse than in the USA).

  172. @Winter:

    Our host mentioned Kashruth as an example of a form of non-governmental food regulation that works well. I was merely attempting to explain that it may be that part of the reason for the efficacy is that a religious authority defines both the label and the expectations for the label.

    The difficulties in applying this model to the wider secular society should be obvious.

    Please do not read into my words anything which I did not explicitly say.

  173. @TomM

    > Food labelling laws are a Good Thing.

    Of course they are from your point of view – as you have just pointed out you get substantially more benefit from them than the typical person who is forced to pay for them.

    Laws tend to benefit one class of people at the expense of another… and the class being benefited will logically conclude the law is a Good Thing.

  174. @Patrick Maupin

    Underwriters Laboratories was started by a consortium of insurance companies. It was explicitly an arm of an insurance company trade organization. What do you think the “National Board of Fire Underwriters” was?

    UL is now an independent company, but its principal customer is still the insurance industry.

  175. @BobW:

    > What do you think the “National Board of Fire Underwriters” was?

    The UL wasn’t their idea or invention, if that’s your question. UL was basically started by an _individual_ — an electrical engineer who had experience in the insurance industry and recognized a pressing need. It was most explicitly not started by a group of underwriters getting together and saying “hey, we need a common laboratory.” In fact, the founder suggested to the insurers in Boston they needed such a lab and was rejected. But the insurers in Chicago, with the upcoming World’s Fair, were more receptive to his pitch. His initial success was overwhelming given the funding ($350) of his lab, and insurance companies being smart enough to do the math, he got plenty of funding after that.

  176. @Patrick Maupin:
    > Those designations (a) don’t require that the organization be a corporation, and (b) AFAIK

    O. RLY?

    > those organizations are still prohibited from most forms of lobbying. They certainly
    > can’t endorse a candidate, or they lose their “you can deduct what you give me
    > from your taxes”

    Dude. Seriously. Stop digging.

    To break out of the analogy the NRA has 2 sides. The NRA itself is, as noted above, a 501c3. It does not do lobbying, it does education and support for the shooting sports.

    The NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) is a 501c4.

    The FSF is a 501c3.

  177. @Winter
    >especially when it is in cases that cannot be corrected after the fact: Dead is dead.

    Sure, but locked up for 20 years is also locked up for 20 years. How do you plan to give back those 20 years? Injustice sucks. Dead monsters do not.

    > And we do lock up people who are a (proven) danger to society. So the absence of the death penalty has no practical consequences.

    Of course it does. It costs a fortune to keep these monsters alive. It is often torment for the victims to know the monster is still out there, and it removes the deterrent effect. So it most certainly has practical consequences.

    > Is there ever too much effort for getting someone murdered with impunity?

    No, not really, but there are much easier ways to kill me than to start a massive ethnic cleaning campaign against blonde women of Scandinavian origin. Even criminal monsters have a utilitarian, economics based calculus.

  178. @William O. B’Livion:

    > Dude. Seriously. Stop digging.

    What part of my assertion are you claiming is wrong?

    a) 501c3 organizations do not have to be corporations.
    b) 501c3 orgainzations are prohibited from most forms of lobbying.

    The FSF doesn’t lobby. The NRA doesn’t lobby. The NRA-ILA is not an organization of the kind you originally mentioned.

  179. I got carried away on the lobbying thing. That’s difficult for 501c3 organizations (lots of red tape), but they can do it under certain circumstances, and in fact the FSF does.

    I was trying to compare and contrast with Citizen’s United. What a 501c3 cannot do (and the FSF and NRA do not do, but NRA-ILA does do) is to advocate for or against candidates.

  180. William O. B’Livion on Wednesday, April 17 2013 at 12:07 am said:
    @Rich Rostrom
    > he’s a grunt-level software developer

    Not much anymore–he’s mostly a history teacher now.

    He has a full time job with the state of Idaho; the teaching gig is part-time.

  181. William O. B’Livion on Wednesday, April 17 2013 at 12:07 am said:
    Who’s got a better record, the FDA, or the U/L?

    The UL. But its job is enormously easier. All it has to do is test whether the product fails catastrophically through electrical shorts.

    The FDA has to verify that the product works, and that its side effects are known to be less important than its benefits. This is with regard to products that operate in an extremely complex environment, on systems where the same naturally occurring element may be harmful or beneficial, and where both benefits and harms can take months or years to appear, may appear in some cases and not others for no apparent reason, and may take the form of marginal changes of rate of occurrence. And where the intended target of the product cannot be used in any test which poses an added risk to the subject.

  182. ESR,

    > Food safety certification isn’t an externality, it’s a service that customers and producers are willing to pay for.

    I think I agree with this but I have a reservation. There are plenty of people willing to pay for a FairTrade label which means nothing else but a fairly weak and difficult to enforce promise that some farmer far away got paid reasonably well. So yes, a reasonable person should not find it that that hard to do it. WeightWatchers labels etc.

    My reservation is the whole logic of the media-depicted world. If there are 100 idiots who don’t and get sick or something the media will show each and every case as a huge scandal and “something someone should do something about”. Is there any way to effectively counteract that? I mean there should be some sort of a theory of politics, politial science, that is not based on real world facts but how the hyperreal simulation presented by the media influences voters, because this is what actually counts.

    I cannot propose su

  183. (sorry)… such a theory in a comment, but it would begin largely like this. Politics is to be understood as a market for votes. Votes are bought by effective or not, real or just posturing, “addressing” of felt needs. The problem is that our evolutionary apparatus is very bad at dealing with actual social problems. 800K people massacred in Rwanda is a number, one relatable person dying with a name or face, especially if similar to mine, is touching and upsetting. We are evolved to think in terms of the close monkeysphere, individuals, not numbers, and all that jazz. Therefore, the whole logic of the media upsets the proper evaluaton of social problems, because the media will provide relatable sob stories with names and faces no matter how widespread a problem is. Not even necessary political motivation: one rare, isolated but relatable person problem simply makes a better story, than a large statistic of a lot of people getting it real bad. Therefore, anything that can be… iconized with relatable names and faces get more votes than real problems affecting a lot of people. This all largely happens because in the political vote market people do not shop for themselves but for “society”. Even in a voluntary kind of social market this would happen. This DOES happen – charities with relatable stories raise more money that those addressing widespread but boring, statistical sounding problems. Even a very libertarian society would not remove this problem, it would just limit the inefficiency of it. The root problem is evolved irrationality, evolved overly personal feelings of empathy as opposed to statistical ones, magnified by the media a thousand fold. What do?

  184. Along a similar line of reasoning to ESR’s original post, see this clip where Robert Natelson asks, “What if CO Democrats treated sex the way they treat gun ownership?”.

    TL;DW: The Supreme Court (Lawrence v. Texas) has held non-marital sex to be a Constitutionally-protected act. The societal cost, in deaths and medical expenses, of STDs (spread primarily through non-marital sex) is similar to that of guns. Proposal—make the eager couple pay for background checks before engaging in this Constitutionally-privileged activity, or limit the exercise of this right to (say) “15 rounds”.

  185. @ Patrick Maupin

    > What part of my assertion are you claiming is wrong?

    While the actual *name* of the 501c may not be “inc” or “Corp”, they are, in structure and in practice corporations. I guess somewhere technically they don’t *have* to be, but almost all of them are.

    Also:
    > those organizations are still prohibited from most forms of lobbying. They certainly
    > can’t endorse a candidate, or they lose their “you can deduct what you give me
    > from your taxes”

    Most 501c3s are, as instutitued not allowed to *lobby*, but that’s not the whole of political involvement. They *can* support other issue oriented organizations through loans and grants, and they *can* engage in issue oriented advocacy.

    This wasn’t about any specific form of “Corporation”, but rather this:
    > actions of the corporation. So personally, I think there is a good case to be made
    > that a corporation can be regulated, simply because the investors don’t have all
    > the much skin in the game. The supremes, obviously, disagree to a certain extent.

    To which I responded “Because the Supremes know what 501c3 and 501c4s are”. They are entities, usually corporate, and if not very “corporate like”, that exist basically to engage in speech.

    And the NRA-ILA is EXACTLY the kind of organization I had in mind when I wrote that. The NRA filed a brief in Citizens United, and they did it BECAUSE of the ILA.

    And yes, the NRA does not lobby on gun rights issues (they may on other gun issues), but they engage in political speech in the public sphere. Unless I’m getting my wires crossed the FSF used to. I could probably waste most of my afternoon finding various organizations that are corporations organized under the 501c something or other heading that are corporations and were created specifically for issue advocacy.

  186. esr:
    > “common-sense regulation” – conveniently never quite achieved, and always requiring more restrictions designed to increase the costs and legal risks for individuals owning speech instruments.

    Compare and contrast with the attitude of the left to reasonable regulation of abortion. They don’t want regulations that would have stopped Kermit Gosnell written or, if written, enforced, because they realize that reasonable regulation always winds up as an unreasonable burden and inordinate cost – at least they realize that when regulating abortions, but not, however, when regulating land use, energy, guns, employment, and so on and so forth.

  187. Ruggero on Monday, April 15 2013 at 6:26 am said:
    > Ummm, It’s interesting, but i think we can all agree on the opinion that killing is easier than writing something good enough to fuel violence, isn’t it? You have a blog, you write a lot, and are good at it. Can you move a mob to violence

    “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.” Joseph Stalin

    Consider the obvious connection between the racial hatred taught in our schools, and mob attacks on whites, for example the destruction of Detroit. Ideas have caused large parts of American cities to resemble Berlin after the blitz.

  188. @William:

    While the actual *name* of the 501c may not be “inc” or “Corp”, they are, in structure and in practice corporations.

    No, not all of them are.

    I guess somewhere technically they don’t *have* to be, but almost all of them are.

    For some smallish value of almost all. Looking at data from the IRS website, I’d say (excluding church associations, which also aren’t corporations, and excluding schools and private foundations as best I can) around 25% of the 501c3 organizations aren’t corporations. Also note that I never said that most of them weren’t. My assertion was just that they don’t have to be, and for some reason people seem to think this is some sort of actionable heresy.

    To which I responded “Because the Supremes know what 501c3 and 501c4s are”.

    I responded to what you wrote, not what you thought you wrote. Instead of telling me how my response is wrong, or trying to revise history, why don’t you man up and admit you didn’t write what you meant to? Your initial message said nothing about 501c4s.

    And the NRA-ILA is EXACTLY the kind of organization I had in mind when I wrote that. The NRA filed a brief in Citizens United, and they did it BECAUSE of the ILA.

    And the NRA-ILA is EXACTLY the type of organization your initial message was silent on.

  189. Winter on Monday, April 15 2013 at 7:19 am said:
    > Now, how does that work out in the EU? Are we worse off than in the USA? And in what way are we worse off?

    On politically sensitive issues, I know more about what is happening in Britain than most britons, more about what is happening in Sweden than most swedes. You are living in a bubble of unreality. You are worse off by being massively lied to and are severely deluded about things vital to your well being – see for example our previous conversation on Cypriot interest rates.

  190. Don Calvus on Monday, April 15 2013 at 10:03 am said:
    > The fact is we are not living in the fantasy world described above. Neither in Germany…

    Actually you are living in a fantasy world. Europeans are blissfully unaware of shit going down in Europe, because no one is allowed to tell them, while Americans are painfully aware of the shit going down in America. Hence Americans tend to write that civil war II is possible in the next couple of decades or so, and, oh yes, a European war is likely, not that we care.

  191. @jessica Obviously I do not agree because commercial companies are in business to optimize profits. The fact is that you would not pay these companies to do the requisite testing. Food manufacturers pay these companies. You aren’t the customer.

    Yes, governments collect lots of money. But in our government we still are the customer. We are the customers of the FDA. As bent out of shape that relationship sometimes appears it’s still largely true. The difference between a company hiring the UL to provide a mark and the government hiring the UL as a contractor to do safety testing is a large one because who the customer actually is is very important.

    Collectively WE pay them to meet our desire to have SAFE food.

    So privatizing the FDA as you said would be pretty much put us back into unregulated food territory.

    Because in your scenario FOOD MANUFACTURERS pay them to meet their desire to SELL food. A passing rating is simply another mechanism for marketing.

    You guys like the concept of free market but seem to fail to actually follow the money and it’s a huge amount of money we’re talking about here. Our current system is gamed to death but I believe it’s still the best bet that the average folks have in leveling the playing field.

    I found this to be interesting:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    There’s a lot of science behind a snack food product…all geared toward selling product and not making it better for us. That makes sense…companies are not rewarded by us for healthier food but tastier food and the bottom line is what matters in a free market. That’s not evil or bad. It just is.

    Food laboratories would know the same thing. A reputation hit is bad but survivable. Pissing off Coke and General Mills is not because they pay the bill and are the real customers. That’s not evil or bad. It just is.

    But it’s also not the outcome I’m looking for: Safe food and drugs for my family.

  192. FWIW, when most people think of non-profits, they don’t think of 501c4 organizations. Here is data about 501c4s:

    http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/nonprofit-overview-segment.php?t=c4

    The largest ones are typically health organizations or utility cooperatives, things like that:

    http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/showOrgsByCategory.php?group=subsection&code=04

    Their assets and receipts are completely dwarfed by 501c3 public charities (which admittedly include things like universities):

    http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/nonprofit-overview-segment.php?t=pc

    And 501c4 financials are even puny in comparison to 501c3 private foundations:

    http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/PubApps/nonprofit-overview-segment.php?t=pf

  193. @William:

    And now that I’ve re-read your initial message, I will admit that you said 501c4, but not in the initial part I was reading, where you mistyped it as 503c3 (whatever that is).

    In any case, to not lose sight of the point:
    1) corporations, by design, shield their owners from responsibility for their actions.
    2) as a society, we should be able to decide whether or not we want to absolve people from responsibility for their speech. Corporations are not really people, despite what the Supreme court says, and I think their decision in Citizens United overreached a bit.
    3) our laws allow non-profits to not be corporations, so it is disingenuous to claim that incorporation is required in order for people to band together to accomplish their collective aims.

  194. Nigel on Wednesday, April 17 2013 at 6:57 pm said:
    > Collectively WE pay them to meet our desire to have SAFE food.

    Imagine this world. There is no food regulation. Companies still have to make relatively safe food because customers dying and suing you is not a good business strategy. However, some unscrupulous manufacturers slide through.

    Consternation. Major problem. Big concern for everyone. Think about the children. Something should be done, we hear them all cry.

    Which is another way of saying “business opportunity.”

    So I start a supermarket called “Tasty and Safe”. We demand that all the products we sell have been adequately tested for safety. “Come to *Tasty and Safe*, you can be sure that anything you buy here will be delicious and will not do you any harm.”

    Tasty and safe is a dollar more per grocery bill than the ironically named Safeway.

    Where are you going to shop? My whole business depends on producing safe food, so I am very motivated to make sure it is safe. I’ll have special aisles to make sure BobW’s allergy troubled kids are getting what they need too.

    That seems like both a very likely outcome, and a very good one. Roll the dice at Safeway if you want to, or pay a tiny premium for, well premium. Isn’t it nice to have choices?

  195. @Jessica Boxer:

    That might work. Today.

    It certainly didn’t work in the late 1800s/early 1900s. What? You think the FDA came into existence because some liberals didn’t like the fact that everything was working perfectly?

    The difference between now and then? We have better testing capabilities today.

    Of course, if you admit that the incentives are still there for cheating (cf. melamine in milk to fool protein tests, vs. tried-and-true whitewash in New York in the 1800s), you might still ask, not why the FDA is what it is today (regulatory capture is certainly ugly), but why it came to be born in the first place.

  196. @Jessica Boxer:

    > Isn’t it nice to have choices?

    Umm, not when one of the choices is “food” that isn’t fit for human consumption, no thanks.

  197. Companies still have to make relatively safe food because customers dying and suing you is not a good business strategy.

    Thats ok, As part of your stores term’s of service, you can require people to use binding arbitration, problem solved.

    As always my biggest problem with this solution is that I trust Companies vastly less than i trust the government.

  198. Patrick Maupin on Wednesday, April 17 2013 at 7:32 pm said:
    > It certainly didn’t work in the late 1800s/early 1900s. What? You think the FDA came into existence because some liberals didn’t like the fact that everything was working perfectly?

    Nothing works perfectly. Liberals, knowing themselves to be perfect, infallibly conclude that they can do a better job.

  199. Nigel on Wednesday, April 17 2013 at 6:57 pm said:
    > Collectively WE pay them to meet our desire to have SAFE food.

    And collectively we pay them to meet our desire to have safe banking. How is that working out?

    Whosoever wants something regulated, should reflect it will probably be regulated by the likes of Jon Corzine.

  200. > You think the FDA came into existence because some liberals didn’t like the fact that everything was working perfectly?

    Near as I can tell, FDA seems to have come into existence mainly because the socialist novelist Sinclair Lewis retailed a set of spectacular lies about the meat-packing industry in The Jungle – myths so persuasive that they have been embedded in popular folklore as fact.

  201. @Patrick Maupin
    >It certainly didn’t work in the late 1800s/early 1900s. What? You think the FDA came into existence because some liberals didn’t like the fact that everything was working perfectly?

    No, I think the FDA came into existence because a socialist wrote a dishonest book about Chicago meat packing plants that inflamed the public into a moral panic. I think the FDA also grew massively in power because their inefficiency and bureaucratic bumblings serendipitously saved a few hundred kids from the horrors of thalidamide. Deformed kids are excellent propaganda for governments sucking power to themselves.

    > The difference between now and then? We have better testing capabilities today.

    What difference does that make? We have whatever technology we have at any point in history. Doesn’t matter if it is the government or a private company. Is it your view that the Federal government is especially innovative and creative? On the contrary, they are a big sluggish monster. Private entities, absent the impossible stranglehold of government on a market, are always much more innovative. Who knows where we would be today were that market allowed to grow organically.

    > Umm, not when one of the choices is “food” that isn’t fit for human consumption, no thanks.

    Hold on, that is a matter of opinion. Some people think beef isn’t fit for human consumption. Jews think that pork is unclean. Some people think food grown with artificial fertilizers is poison. Some people thing GM food is a communist plot. Others think that aspartame makes their sons grow breasts and their daughters turn away from Jesus.

    Why do we all have to accept the standard that some pointy headed bureaucrat adopts? Choice is a wonderful thing.

    The plain fact is that “safe” is always a matter of opinion. Some people jump out of planes for fun. Some people eat fugu chiri. For example, the excessively conservative regulation of drugs in the United States is PLAINLY responsible for the unnecessary deaths of millions of people. Yet one fat couch potato takes a couple of Celebrex, has a heart attack and millions loose their arthritis drug.

  202. Sorry. I’ve been out of town for a few days and obviously missed a whopper of a post. Bravo, Eric. This is yet another epic and courageous parable.

    The forces of the Left have been using memetics and indoctrination for decades now in order to accomplish a soft transition into tyranny; for the simple reason that an attempted violent overthrow (a la Stalin & Mao) is very risky in a land of well armed individualists.

  203. @esr:

    > Near as I can tell, FDA seems to have come into existence mainly because [of Upton Sinclair]

    Not sure it’s that cut and dried:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1646146/pdf/amjph00277-0020.pdf

    @jonCB:

    Thats ok, As part of your stores term’s of service, you can require people to use binding arbitration, problem solved.

    For a consumer, the only thing worse than the current justice system is usually that alternative one known as binding arbitration, where the repeat (true) customers are always the businesses.

  204. Patrick, as it happens, I know a good deal about non-profit corporations. So:

    “3) our laws allow non-profits to not be corporations”

    Cite, please. In particular, your comment about 25% of them not being corporations needs citations, with specifics.

  205. @Jessica
    “There is no food regulation. Companies still have to make relatively safe food because customers dying and suing you is not a good business strategy. However, some unscrupulous manufacturers slide through.”

    See China melamine scandal. Result, mothers started to give more breast feeding.

    Moreover, the bad company will go bankrupt and some fall-guys will get punished. The money will have been withdrawn by then and used to set up another company to start over. The same scheme is used by mining companies over the world to avoid cleaning up poisonous wastes.

    @Jessica
    “Consternation. Major problem. Big concern for everyone. Think about the children. Something should be done, we hear them all cry.”

    These cases lead to a lot of harm.
    From Wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal

    By November 2008, China reported an estimated 300,000 victims, with six infants dying from kidney stones and other kidney damage, and an estimated 54,000 babies being hospitalised.

    And I heard they are still messing with the formula (see NYT link below).

    Last June [2012], China’s biggest milk producer, the Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, was compelled to recall six months’ worth of production.

    @Jessica
    “Which is another way of saying “business opportunity.””

    Actually, Chinese started to buy up formula in the Netherlands. Supermarkets here had to ration formula as they would run out of it. The same happened elsewhere:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/world/asia/infant-formula-shortage-in-australia-tied-to-chinese-hoarding.html?ref=melamine&_r=0

    But the problem with your Laissez-faire solution is that in a country like China with no functioning FDA, it is impossible to sell clean formula. Even if you succeed, some other company will simply start to sell a dangerous fake that is indistinguishable and your customers will not be able to tell the difference.

  206. @Jessica
    “Sure, but locked up for 20 years is also locked up for 20 years. How do you plan to give back those 20 years? Injustice sucks. Dead monsters do not.”

    The victim might have some years left. Most people in jail prefer to live rather than die. And the convicted tend to be really bad people, but they are mostly still human.

    @Jessica
    “It costs a fortune to keep these monsters alive.”

    Your death sentences are quite costly too.

    @Jessica
    “It is often torment for the victims to know the monster is still out there, and it removes the deterrent effect. So it most certainly has practical consequences.”

    No revenge is ever enough. They used to boil people alive in oil, to smash them to pulp and let them die for days, skin people alive. The Persian had a horrible execution involving two boats and a lot of food. It was never enough. On the other hand, if the state shows murdering people is justified, it tends to attract followers.

    The people involved, your monsters, are generally of a constitution that no deterrent works on them anyway. Most of the executed in the USA have either a very limited mental horizon, a serious mental illness, or are psychopaths who do not react to deterrents at all.

    The whole point is that those who would react to a deterrent, educated people with something to lose, are executed only rarely.

  207. Winter on Thursday, April 18 2013 at 2:56 am said:
    > But the problem with your Laissez-faire solution is that in a country like China with no functioning FDA, it is impossible to sell clean formula. Even if you succeed, some other company will simply start to sell a dangerous fake that is indistinguishable and your customers will not be able to tell the difference

    Hmm: Is China socialist communist proving that socialism works, or is China anarcho capitalist, proving that capitalism does not work. It seems equally popular for proving both points.

    China does have an FDA “”The Administration of Quality Inspection”

    Government inspectors, which is to say the chinese equivalent of the FDA, “The Administration of Quality Inspection”, mandated that infant formula had a certain high minimum amounts of protein. Several companies added melamine, so that their products would falsely pass the inspection. This caused kidney stones in a dozen or so babies, which in turn led to a quite disproportionate panic.

    Various people in “the Administration of Quality Inspection” were fired, imprisoned, or executed.

    In contrast, in the FDA, no one ever loses their job no matter how badly they fuck up.

    The FDA has killed vastly more people than the Administration of Quality Inspection, but because no one ever gets punished, it is politically incorrect to notice this. Similarly, British Health.

  208. Pingback: Daily Linkage – April 18, 2013 | The Second Estate

  209. @jessica As pointed out in multiple posts above your scenario plays out every day in China and it works terribly. Due to corruption there is no functional FDA in China and Chinese consumers don’t trust any Chinese formula brands if they have the economic means to buy formula from a western source with functioning food regulation.

    But hey, lets not let reality or history interfere with ideology. After all, Communism has never failed, only the execution of Communism has been flawed. Likewise, I’m sure that unregulated free markets, if only done correctly, wouldn’t devolve like the Chinese scenario into a complete mess.

    Oh noes, I must be one of those evil statists that doesn’t understand the purity of the free market ideology. No, I just read enough history to understand that a happy medium between regulation and free is far better than going too far in either direction. What pisses me off is you guys talk about the blindness of liberals, etc while espousing the same idiotic sureness of communists regarding the rightness of their position. If only truly free markets were implemented correctly somewhere we would see how awesome it is! Market forces will self-correct…because look! New business opportunities!

    Soft-headed idealism isn’t exclusively a liberal trait.

  210. @Nigel: +7! Hear! Hear!

    delete *.ism # None of them work

    What we have has all sorts of problems, but Churchill was right. Everything else is WORSE.

  211. I was late to this party, and only just recently grasped the original point that Eric was trying to make about the muddling of the moderate middle. I wouldn’t use the word “credibility” in regard to the generalized political beliefs of this group. Group-think is a form of hysteria, and serves a different purpose than enlightenment. A stampede can save the herd from a pack of predators, or it can lead them off a cliff.

  212. @Jay:

    The law says that a 501c3 organization is:

    Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific… purposes, [and some other things]

    The IRS further clarifies that “the organization must be a corporation (or unincorporated association), community chest, fund, or foundation.” (I call this a clarification because — what the heck is a foundation? Really, the purpose of the law about organizations, if you go back and look, is to keep individuals from naming themselves as charities.)

    The IRS also maintains a master file of all exempt organizations. This master file was obviously developed over years and has data of various quality (and I found that the urban institute has more up-to-date descriptions of the file data than the IRS, and maybe more up-to-date data, too, but I didn’t look at that. In any case, I downloaded the IRS data and performed a very simplistic analysis that filtered on deductibility of contributions. I got the following percentages:

    72.2 corporation
    24.0 association
    3.4 trust
    0.3 unknown
    0.1 coop

    I believe from what I have read (but do not know for a fact) that some states may have further limitations on the organization charitable organizations. If so, this might account for some of the confusion, in that it might be true for some people that if they were to form a non-profit, it would have to be a corporation. Of course, if this is the case, it means that the “natural” form of a non-profit (absent such state regulation) would probably skew further away from the corporate form and more towards “Hey, let’s get together and start doing good things.”

  213. @Jessica:

    “Which is another way of saying “business opportunity.””

    @Winter:

    Actually, Chinese started to buy up formula in the Netherlands. Supermarkets here had to ration formula as they would run out of it.

    Ahh yes, arbitrage. A good thing in small doses; completely sucks for the little guy when the markets are that out of whack. The two most obvious ways to fix: more regulation in China, or less everywhere else :-)

  214. @Nigel
    ” I just read enough history to understand that a happy medium between regulation and free is far better than going too far in either direction.”

    The Libertarian program would be one of the largest social engineering efforts of all times: The abolition of the state. I have very bad feelings about how that will end if it ever is put into practice.

    Karl Popper wrote whole books warning against social engineering (The Poverty of Historicism and The Open Society and Its Enemies). People from both ends of the spectrum have tried time and again to refute him. No one has yet succeeded.

  215. I’m not sure the FDA thinks the general public are its customers.

    First, the relationship is not voluntary. We individually have no way to withdraw our support.
    Second, when the FDA screws up they get more funding, not less. This is a common feature of government programs.
    Third, regulatory capture..

    The advantage of the UL model is that their first customer is the insurance industry, not the manufacturers. The bookies are trying to reduce their losses at their customers’ expense, by encouraging them to buy safer products.

    One problem in China is that local authorities are responsible to the central government, not the local people. If we centralize too much in the USA we risk the same pathologies.

  216. I knew I should have responded to ESR’s Google+ posted version! I’m just thankful the comments haven’t closed. My cup runneth over with responses to the prior responses that Eric’s, Mr. Raymond’s(?) use of this traditional conceit has elicited. By “conceit” I mean the literary term for the construct he used here; I won’t define it, that’s pretentious! I felt obliged to clarify that I meant no disrespect, due to the dual meaning. Anyway, for the nay say’ers, it’s perfectly reasonable to present an argument in this manner, even if “flawed” in some aspects. So that means that I disagree with @Daniel Speyer, and have no bone to pick with @Jacek Kopecky.

    Since no one else mentioned it, I smiled with delight at “Jews for the Preservation of Computer Ownership”.

    For @Linn Stanton (I wonder if I know you from StackOverflow EL&U?), who says:
    “…as long as there is a public library system, there is no problem with banning private ownership or printing of books. It is only education that maters and that is within the sphere of government.”
    Ah, but remember, the Gates Foundation, the hedge fund-controlled board of the Robin Hood Foundation (primarily D.E. Shaw) and Walmart are doing their VERY best to privatize the public schools with social bonds, “social venture capital funds”, 501(c)(4)’s and the new B-corp or “Benefit Corp”. These are the folks pushing for gay marriage, immigration reform and gun control. Libertarians shouldn’t be afraid of big government per se. A far worse specter is the deceitful shift from (nominally) elected big government to “government controlled by the preferences of a few moneyed interests”, who aren’t happy being wealthy, but want to tell everyone else what to do and how to live and how to teach children.

    This is far too lengthy. My apologies to Mr. Raymond. On topic, there WAS precedent for government censorship in the U.S.A., recently. I refer to the McCarthy, “Red scare” era during the 1950’s. Many were afraid, and written up on lists as “agitators” etc. That situation existed for nearly a decade, without any modification to perceived rights regarding free speech.

    For @Joel Solomon, the right to censor child pornography was granted by the Supreme Court, and only after very extensive deliberation and hesitation, due to its impact on Constitutional Rights. The Supreme Court justices are not rash. They don’t lightly, nor often, allow Congress new powers. @Joel, as an aside, I really like how your blue Fedora hat looks as a gravatar. So sharp and textured!

    Finally, I should clarify my own stance:
    ~ I am a childless Jewish widow (though still of child-bearing age!), thus there is no anti-Semitism intended by applauding Mr. Raymond’s pithy little “Jews for Preservation of Computer Ownership Rights”. Nor is any directed to my fellow Jews who are hedge fund managers and in favor of #edreform or #eddeform (they don’t like me; I don’t like most of them, but it isn’t because they are Jewish… most disavow religion anyway)
    ~ I was an enthusiastic rifle marksmanship hobbyist and member of the National Rifle Association in my younger days, while working as a storage products engineer at IBM. I consider those years to be among my most positive life experiences. NRA folks were vigilant about gun safety, good teachers, compassionate, and encouraged me to be more confident and poised as a young woman working in a not-very-female populous field. So I confess, I am predisposed, okay, “biased”, toward Mr. Raymond’s advocacy of Second Amendment Rights.

    * Is there any HTML allowed here? How about smileys? Learning by doing :)

  217. @Patrick Maupin

    FWIW, when most people think of non-profits, they don’t think of 501c4 organizations. Here is data about 501c4s:

    “We” are not “most people”, and the SCOTUS is *certainly* not “most people”.

    And now that I’ve re-read your initial message, I will admit that you said 501c4, but not in the initial part I was reading, where you mistyped it as 503c3 (whatever that is).

    The 503c was a “thinko” on my part. A 503c is an odd sort of non-profit corporation that looks a lot like a 501c3 but is “public” rather than a charity etc. Since I’ve been involved in various political activism where folks were looking to organize that came up and some mental connections got crossed.

    Regards, 501c3s engage in certain types of political advocacy and and 501c4s are often explicitly arraigned for that purpose. This is what I was getting at when I mentioned the SCOTUS in the first post.

    In any case, to not lose sight of the point:
    1) corporations, by design, shield their owners from responsibility for their actions.

    If you are going to make that statement and intend to make it with integrity and honesty it needs to be phrased “Corporations, by design, are structured to to protect the investors, stock holders and/or founders from responsibility for the actions of corporate officers.

    The only thing a corporation legitimately shields the individual from is it allows them to section off “personal” from “corporate” assets and if the corporation fails, or is held financially liable the personal assets can in most cases be shielded.

    2) as a society, we should be able to decide whether or not we want to absolve people from responsibility for their speech.

    Yes. Read up on “Yelling fire in a crowded movie theater”.

    Corporations are not really people, despite what the Supreme court says, and I think their decision in Citizens United overreached a bit.

    Corporations, foundations, trusts, funds, clubs, churches or any other sort of groups are people. They are not *a* person. But when you have a corporation (fund, trust, etc.) that is founded expressly to voice a certain political position (like Citizens United was, like the NRA-ILA is) then to limit their “speech” is to limit the speech of the people who funded and worked within that corporation.

    3) our laws allow non-profits to not be corporations, so it is disingenuous to claim that incorporation is required in order for people to band together to accomplish their collective aims.

    They have to create some structure that is basically “A bunch of people organized for a particular purpose”. Whether you call it a “Corporation”, A “trust” or a “Fund” the organization is going to look *really* similar. It doesn’t really matter what the label is.

  218. @Winter
    > See China melamine scandal. Result, mothers started to give more breast feeding.

    I am utterly baffled by this comment. China is, if not communist, a heavily centrally controlled economy, where occasionally the central government deigns to give its citizens the right to start a business, highly regulated and highly taxed.

    I don’t understand why you think it would be a good example of what happens in a free market economy.

    > The victim might have some years left. Most people in jail prefer to live rather than die.

    Well yes, but it still sucks, like I say, injustice sucks, and the number of people who actually get out of jail after being convicted is in the statistical noise. Of course if you are the one getting out, it rocks. However, the criminal justice system is always a tuning between wrongly convicted and not convicted. “Let ten guilty men go free lest one innocent be punished” is the legal maxim. But what about 100 guilty men, or 1,000 or 1,000,000? The only way to guarantee no innocent person be convicted is by turning off the criminal justice system entirely, and that, on net, is a bad idea.

    Sometimes when you roll the dice, you get snake eyes.

    > Your death sentences are quite costly too.

    Because the criminal justice system is run by the government and is consequently a lumbering, error prone, idiotic troll. And really, lethal injection, who thought of that dumb idea?

    > No revenge is ever enough.

    The criminal justice system serves several purposes, revenge is only one of them. One of the advantages it offers is moderated revenge, so that is a good thing. I think our constitution got it right, no cruel and unusual punishments. Shame the lawyers twisted the meaning of that out of all recognition.

    > The people involved, your monsters, are generally of a constitution that no deterrent works on them anyway.

    That is a pretty broad statement. I don’t think it is true either. But I don’t have much data on the subject.

  219. esr on Tuesday, April 16 2013 at 9:25 pm said:
    >I may be an imperfect libertarian, but I am willing to compromise and go along with accurate labeling regulations.

    So am I. As long as they’re enforced the way Kashruth labels are – by private certification authorities who lend their reputation to producers who submit to regular inspections and production checks.

    That’s a good comparison, but not as good as you think.

    First, what is the record of Kosher certification in protecting against fraud (accidental or intentional). Pretty good, you would say? How do you know? Failures of kosher certification aren’t headlines. They’re barely news at all, except to the small number of observant Jews.

    Second, what are the consequences of such a failure? Substantively, nothing. Even for an observant Jew, it’s only an annoyance. The Law does not condemn anyone for unknowingly consuming trayf.

    But the consequence of a failure of food safety inspection can be catastrophic. People die.

    To say that the same mechanism would suffice in both areas is like arguing that since a sheet-metal cashbox is sufficient to protect a day’s coffee-stand receipts against snatch-thieves, it’s sufficient to protect a million-$ cash shipment against armed robbers.

  220. As near as I can recall, the Arthur D. Little company started out as a food-certification firm, doing analyses on samples of spices to see if they had been adulterated. Later, they branched out into all kinds of research, and hired General Gavin (one of my favorite sojers who ever lived) to be their president. Gavin got to do Marlene Dietrich and Martha Gellhorn, but ended up marrying a good chaste Southern gal.

    On Underwriters Lab: My Dad, the furniture store manager, knew how to tie one knot, the UL knot in the wires when wiring a lamp. UL did good work.

  221. >First, what is the record of Kosher certification in protecting against fraud (accidental or intentional). Pretty good, you would say? How do you know?

    How do I know what the FDA’s record is?

    All the arguments against private food-safety certification apply with equal or greater force to the FDA. Regulatory capture is regulatory capture whether the people being suborned are on a government payroll or not.

    Your argument seems to reduce to “abolishing the FDA wouldn’t be an improvement because the integrity of private certification authorities can’t be guaranteed”. Well, surprise – the integrity of public ones can’t be guaranteed either!

    There is a fallacy here that’s very common: it consists of evaluating state action as though it were in an ideal perfected form executed by angels against the worst case of private-sector failure the speaker can imagine. Intelligent people should reason better than this.

  222. @Jessica
    “I don’t understand why you think [China] would be a good example of what happens in a free market economy.”

    Because for all practical purposes, the Chinese food industry works like a completely unregulated market. Companies can and do compete head with no government oversight to speak of and only for profit.

    Maybe you still believe China is a communist state. I think you will be hard pressed to find a Chinese that believes it.

  223. @Jessica
    “I think our constitution got it right, no cruel and unusual punishments.”

    I obviously disagree with how to qualify both the US prison system and the death penalty in this light.

    @Jessica
    “> The people involved, your monsters, are generally of a constitution that no deterrent works on them anyway.

    That is a pretty broad statement. I don’t think it is true either. But I don’t have much data on the subject.”

    Must be easy to get a list of all those executed. Just look at their bio’s.

  224. @jessica

    I am utterly baffled by this comment. China is, if not communist, a heavily centrally controlled economy, where occasionally the central government deigns to give its citizens the right to start a business, highly regulated and highly taxed.

    I don’t understand why you think it would be a good example of what happens in a free market economy.

    Because it is as close to an unregulated free market as you’re going to get. If you have money and the requisite connections you can do anything there.

    The only real danger is if your patron at the top of the food chain takes one in the shorts in the infighting and you get made an example of. Until then you can reasonably expect to get away with murder…even of British nationals (oops). You can dump 16000 pigs into a river and that’s just normal business.

    Want to know why there are tens of thousands of dead pigs in a river? Because diseased pigs were supposed to be properly disposed of but were instead sold to black marketers who processed them and put them into the Chinese food supply. Official crackdowns closed down the black market operations and suddenly farmers had to dispose of dead pigs. Dumping them into the river is a low-cost way of getting rid of them.

    Pig farming is big $$$ and some of that ends up in the pockets of the local cadre who feeds it up the line. The peasant fisherman on the river? Not so much. In a free market system watch where the money flows.

    Local officials are not responsible to the central government as much as power blocs within the party.

  225. @Winter
    > Because for all practical purposes, the Chinese food industry works like a completely unregulated market.

    Jeepers, that is so totally wrong. Here is what wikipedia says:

    “By 1984, when about 99% of farm production teams had adopted the Family Production Responsibility System, the government began further economic reforms, aimed primarily at liberalizing agricultural pricing and marketing. In 1984, the government replaced mandatory procurement with voluntary contracts between farmers and the government. Later, in 1993, the government abolished the 40-year-old grain rationing system, leading to more than 90 percent of all annual agricultural produce to be sold at market-determined prices.”

    Whoop. The government have laid off grain rationing, they are bringing in some further economic reforms. But the fact that they can and have regulated it tells us exactly about the free state of the Chinese food production system. The above paragraph does not speak of a free market economy at all. On the contrary, it speaks of exactly the technocratic, centralized controlled state that is modern China.

    Can you get around it with money and connections? Of course, China like any centrally controlled state leaks at the edges and there is a black market. But would you also claim that the US market in cocaine is a free market economy? I suppose in one sense it is, but I am not surprised there are no “Bubba’s coke is da shit, but Doogies is a’ fucked up” quality assurance businesses to help you find a “Tasty and Safe” coke buzz.

  226. @jessica

    That is not an accurate representation of what occurs on the ground.

    It’s not “can you get around it with money and connection” because anyone doing business has money and is connected. So everyone gets around all of that at any level above mom and pop operations.

    China has fully embraced capitalism. The line between state owned enterprises and “open-market” is simply that much of the remaining state owned enterprises that were not privatized are owned by PLA generals rather than those connected to party officials and their extended families.

    /shrug

    I suggest you talk to some Chinese folks or read more than just wikipedia.

  227. >So everyone gets around all of that at any level above mom and pop operations.

    And this differs from the U.S. in what way?

    Big state leads to big corruption as automatically as sunrise; government regulators are a one-stop shop for the politically connected and wealthy. The U.S. probably is not quite the corrupter’s paradise that China is, yet, but it’s clearly heading in that direction at exactly the rate that the intrusiveness of government regulation rises.

  228. @esr:

    There is a fallacy here that’s very common: it consists of evaluating state action as though it were in an ideal perfected form executed by angels against the worst case of private-sector failure the speaker can imagine.

    The converse fallacy is also common. A stock libertarian argument is that, on purely economic grounds, no producer in his right mind would want to harm one of his consumers, but a commodity producer may have no direct connection with any of his customers, and the death of a few customers isn’t going to affect the whole market very much, so practically the same sort of milk scandal that played out in New York in the 1840s/1850s played out in China just this past decade.

  229. >The converse fallacy is also common.

    Indeed it is, and I am embarassed when other libertarians do it. This is why my arguments generally focus on comparing worst cases to worst cases (e.g. the Bhopal disaster vs. the Holocaust), and I emphasize thinking of libertarian ethics as loss-limiting rules rather than some sort of highway to utopia.

    Ever since I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich when I was twelve or so, the animating goal of my political thinking has been the same: how do we prevent the death trains from rolling again?

  230. @esr:

    > how do we prevent the death trains from rolling again?

    Unfortunately, I get the feeling from what is said and how it is said, that a lot of people, both on the left and the right, are more of the mindset “when the death trains roll again, how do I make sure I’m not on them?”

    Obviously, once you replace “when” with “if”, it’s a pertinent question, but it should be secondary to the other question.

  231. @William O. B’Livion:

    corporations, by design, shield their owners from responsibility for their actions.

    If you are going to make that statement and intend to make it with integrity and honesty it needs to be phrased “Corporations, by design, are structured to to protect the investors, stock holders and/or founders from responsibility for the actions of corporate officers.

    No, that’s adding a bunch of weasel words that are patently untrue in some important corner cases. Although sometimes plaintiffs succeed in piercing the corporate veil, many a corporation with a single individual who is the sole shareholder, president, chief cook and bottle washer has been successfully sued without the owner’s private assets being attached.

    The only thing a corporation legitimately shields the individual from is it allows them to section off “personal” from “corporate” assets and if the corporation fails, or is held financially liable the personal assets can in most cases be shielded.

    You say that like it’s a small thing. Consider the McDonald’s lawsuit Jessica brought up. If you owned a McDonald’s franchise, wouldn’t it be nice to know that something dumb you did inside your business wouldn’t affect your other assets?

    Corporations, foundations, trusts, funds, clubs, churches or any other sort of groups are people.

    Right. But not all those groups isolate the people involved from the things done in their names.

    They are not *a* person. But when you have a corporation (fund, trust, etc.) that is founded expressly to voice a certain political position (like Citizens United was, like the NRA-ILA is) then to limit their “speech” is to limit the speech of the people who funded and worked within that corporation.

    Not at all. They are still free to talk. They are even free to band together and talk. But the corporate structure takes it one step further and absolves them of the liability for the speech being committed in their name. And I think even Jessica will tell you that, in some cases, you should have to pay for what you say.

    They have to create some structure that is basically “A bunch of people organized for a particular purpose”. Whether you call it a “Corporation”, A “trust” or a “Fund” the organization is going to look *really* similar. It doesn’t really matter what the label is.

    That is completely, utterly, untrue. In the one case where it matters.

  232. ESR -“how do we prevent the death trains from rolling again?”

    Tyrannies’ generally kill out of necessity in order to consolidate and maintain their power. But modern tyrants are often content with encompassing dominance and social control. You can’t idly standby and watch for the death trains, or it may become too late.

  233. @Nigel
    >It’s not “can you get around it with money and connection” because anyone doing business has money and is connected. So everyone gets around all of that at any level above mom and pop operations.

    But you are totally missing my point Nigel. Illegal markets do not operate the same way as legal markets because there is little by way of recourse. If there are no contracts, no liability suits, no police protection, markets don’t work, or don’t work as well as they should. In an AC market such services might well develop, but I assure you the Chinese government will not allow the development of private police forces, courts or enforcement mechanisms.

    To be honest, I find this so utterly obvious, I can hardly believe it needs to be said.

    > China has fully embraced capitalism.

    That is entirely untrue. China has taken the chains off a little, especially in some special cities like Shanghai or Shenzen. But it is still a very heavy handed, technocratic state. Watching the news in China is a very interesting experience indeed. If you spend any time in rural China you will feel like you have been transported back five hundred years.

    > I suggest you talk to some Chinese folks or read more than just wikipedia.

    That is such a cheap rhetorical tactic. As a matter of fact I spent two weeks doing business in China last year, and work with Chinese people all the time. I am fully appraised of the situation there.

  234. Not at all. They are still free to talk. They are even free to band together and talk. But the corporate structure takes it one step further and absolves them of the liability for the speech being committed in their name. And I think even Jessica will tell you that, in some cases, you should have to pay for what you say.

    Pay for it afterwards, sure. Be restrained prior, not so much.

  235. Winter on Thursday, April 18 2013 at 3:02 pm said:
    > Because for all practical purposes, the Chinese food industry works like a completely unregulated market. Companies can and do compete head with no government oversight to speak of and only for profit.

    When the FDA fucks up, they get more funding and higher salaries. When the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (Chinese equivalent of FDA) fucks up, as in the melamine scandal, they get firings, and, sometimes, executions.

    So if government made things better, China should be a shining example.

    Your reasoning is circular: Private enterprise is evil, therefore when evil things happen, it must be private enterprise.

    In fact, the use of melamine was a direct result of regulation. Chinese government commanded that private firms make their numbers, they found a cheap way of making their numbers. Melamine was added to meet regulatory requirements. Of course, did not meet regulatory *intent*, but we see the same gap between regulatory intent, and actual regulation in the USA.

    They did not put melamine in the formula because they were bribing the chinese equivalent of the FDA, but because the chinese equivalent of the FDA could not be bribed.

    If US firms did not put melamine in infant formula, it is probably because our FDA can be bribed.

  236. @jessica

    Except that there are private security forces in china. Everything from personal body guards to “small” private security forces. Officially “unarmed” but they exist and aren’t exactly “unarmed”.

    I will grant that there are no private courts or “enforcement mechanisms” except the traditional one of taking you out back and beating the crap out of you with said private security force.

    If you spent any time in rural China you would note that many of the young people are missing because they have become migrant factory workers although this is regional as to how severe.

    The folks in power in China have embraced capitalism and are getting rich to the detriment of much of the population. Which is pretty much what the rich and powerful in the US did until we pushed toward regulation and oversight to protect public health and public commons.

    If you were fully appraised of the situation there you’d know not to trust anything you buy there because consumer protection is essentially non-existant. Fortunately for most things it’s cheap enough for us not to care much. But as a 2 week visitor being fully appraised is likely difficult. A 2 year visitor is very difficult. If you asked Gary Locke if he were “fully appraised” of the situation in China he’d tell you no…

    And if it was a cheap rhetorical tactic it’s warranted for someone that quotes wikipedia as a primary source without understanding it doesn’t match reality. The fact that you spent time in China…I dunno if that makes it better or worse that you don’t seem to understand the huge advantage we enjoy with a (sorta) functional FDA and EPA.

    It’s called the luxury of not worrying that my kid is drinking tainted formula because someone deliberately made the decision to taint the formula to make a tiny bit more money as a matter of course. As someone pointed out above the same thing happened in the NY in late 1800s with the attendant increase in infant mortality until regulation, mandatory pasteurization and inspection became the norm.

    We’re not talking a black market economy nor illegal one. There IS recourse for the people that “matter”, there ARE contracts, and there certainly exists police protection but your free market doesn’t have recourse for most people because the police services are private (and not owned by you) and the courts are private (and not owned by you), etc. The folks you might wish to use these services on are the owners and that’s not going to happen.

    Whatever security or law you could afford they can afford an order of magnitude more because they have money and you don’t. Not enough to matter.

  237. esr on Thursday, April 18 2013 at 2:21 pm said:

    How do I know what the FDA’s record is?

    In some trendy areas, re-usable cloth grocery bags have substantially replaced plastic and paper bags. This results in contamination of food as the cloth bags get dirty and aren’t washed.
    In these areas, there has been a detectable spike in food poisoning cases. Detectable, because the background is extremely low, by historic standards.

    Maybe the FDA has nothing to do with this, but it looks to me like they’re doing that job OK. BTW fresh food safety is mainly the job of the Department of Agriculture, not the FDA. They also seem to be doing their job.

    Intelligent people should reason better than this.

    Intelligent people should avoid making strawman arguments. I didn’t say the FDA was perfect, or shouldn’t be abolished, and never mentioned regulatory capture.

    What I questioned was your unspoken assumption about the effectiveness of private kashruth inspection, and the explicit claim that the private-certification model would be sufficient for the much more substantive end of food safety.

    As to regulatory capture – it happens a lot. It’s a way for businesses and professions to stifle competition and inflate prices, especially in obscure fields and in ways the public can’t follow. It’s not a way for businesses to gain immunity for obvious threats and injuries to public health – the political costs are too high.

  238. Winter on Thursday, April 18 2013 at 10:20 am said:
    > The Libertarian program would be one of the largest social engineering efforts of all times: The abolition of the state. I have very bad feelings about how that will end if it ever is put into practice.

    Before 1830 or so, the state in the English speaking world did nothing except executions and wars (puritan colonies excepted)

    It is today’s extraordinary megastate, interfering in everything, that is the anomaly.

  239. @Ian Argent:

    > Pay for it afterwards, sure. Be restrained prior, not so much.

    And the whole point of using a corporation (as opposed to an association or partnership) is to make sure that you don’t have to pay for it afterwards. I suppose case law may develop that allows piercing the corporate veil on the strength of harmful speech, but most, if not all, current case law (and academic discussion and reasoning) on piercing the corporate veil starts with the assumption that the entire point of the corporation is profit.

    FWIW, there seems to be a debate within libertarian circles (how serious it is, and how well thought out the reasoning on the various sides, I do not know) about whether there should even be a corporate veil, or whether the concept of “you own it; you’re responsible for its actions” should apply.

    Then there are the conservatives who think that corporate veils should be inviolate:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm/000802554.pdf?abstractid=236967&mirid=1

  240. Nigel on Thursday, April 18 2013 at 10:35 pm said:
    > The folks in power in China have embraced capitalism and are getting rich to the detriment of much of the population.

    You just enraged because Chinese are becoming middle class while the west quietly sinks into genteel poverty comforted by statistics that show that everything is getting better and better.

    When seventy million Chinese were starved to death in a terror famine, I never heard any one in the west complaining – because if anyone had complained, he would have been in big trouble.

    But now that many Chinese are getting stinking rich, and the ordinary wage for unskilled labor is now reaching levels where the unskilled laborer can hope to buy a car and support a wife, now everyone is outraged about Chinese corruption and injustice.

    Theoretically, living standards in the US are so much higher than in China,- yet somehow, strangely, an American male is going to find it mighty difficult to have a wife and normal lifestyle if he earns less than sixty thousand a year, which makes an American on sixty thousand per year pretty much equivalent to the the median Chinese employee whose income is supposedly equivalent to ten thousand per year. There are more people with driver’s licenses in China than in the USA. Of course that is a substantially smaller proportion of the Chinese population, but it is far more than a tiny proportion of the Chinese population, and is strikingly discrepant with US figures for US growth and living standards.

    You guys loved it when everyone in China walked barefoot in the mud and sleet.

    US figures are getting more and more unrealistic, because inflation is understated, thus growth is overstated, thus living standards, relative to china, are overstated. A better measure is cars per head, electricity per head, and the big mac index, which indicates a Chinese living standard of about a quarter or a third of the US standard.

    Which is why now you guys hate China.

  241. Here’s an interesting essay on limited liability:

    http://www.seangabb.co.uk/?q=node/269

    I admit that I have not applied (and may not, in fact, be capable of applying) enough accurate and rigorous thinking on this particular topic, but I think Sean fairly accurately captures my own gut feelings about limited liability.

    And if he is correct about this, I think that his proposed solution is the correct one, and that, from this perspective, the Citizen’s United decision is a step in the wrong direction.

  242. @Patrick Maupin on Thursday, April 18 2013 at 7:30 pm said:
    PM: corporations, by design, shield their owners from responsibility for their actions.
    WOB:
    > If you are going to make that statement and intend to make it with integrity and
    > honesty it needs to be phrased “Corporations, by design, are structured to to
    > protect the investors, stock holders and/or founders from responsibility for the
    > actions of corporate officers.
    PM:
    > No, that’s adding a bunch of weasel words that are patently untrue in some
    > important corner cases. Although sometimes plaintiffs succeed in piercing the
    > corporate veil, many a corporation with a single individual who is the sole shareholder,
    > president, chief cook and bottle washer has been successfully sued without the owner’s
    > private assets being attached.

    It has the advantage of being more or less the historical reason for the creation of the “joint stock corporation”, which is why I wrote it the way I did.

    Generally the cases that pierce the corporate veil are when something distinctly criminal has happened. Not m

    WOB:
    > The only thing a corporation legitimately shields the individual from is it allows them
    > to section off “personal” from “corporate” assets and if the corporation fails, or is
    > held financially liable the personal assets can in most cases be shielded.

    PM:
    > You say that like it’s a small thing. Consider the McDonald’s lawsuit Jessica brought up.

    I don’t remember this, unless it’s the coffee thing.

    And it is a small thing. Generally it does NOT protect them from criminal liability, and it does not protect them from civil liability under certain conditions.

    > If you owned a McDonald’s franchise, wouldn’t it be nice to know that something dumb
    > you did inside your business wouldn’t affect your other assets?

    Yes, it would be nice. It’s even nicer knowing that if my *partner* or my *manager* does something dumb only the assets of the corporation are liable. Which gets back to the original purpose and structure of corporations.

    In today’s litigious society there is NO WAY IN HELL that any person smart enough to run a small business would start one if his entire life was exposed.

    That we use generally use the same structures for charities and other non-profit organizations is entirely reasonable.

    WOB:
    > Corporations, foundations, trusts, funds, clubs, churches or any other sort of groups
    > are people.

    PM:
    > Right. But not all those groups isolate the people involved from the things done
    > in their names.

    Yes, they do. Maybe not the entirety legal isolation, but they *certainly* hide the names of donors, backers and etc.

    WOB:
    > They are not *a* person. But when you have a corporation (fund, trust, etc.) that is
    > founded expressly to voice a certain political position (like Citizens United was, like
    > the NRA-ILA is) then to limit their “speech” is to limit the speech of the people who
    > funded and worked within that corporation.

    PM:
    > Not at all. They are still free to talk. They are even free to band together and talk.
    > But the corporate structure takes it one step further and absolves them of the liability
    > for the speech being committed in their name.

    If they are engaging in “illegal speech” then the corporation will not protect those who commit the crime. It is a long standing principle (at least according to my former lawyer) that you if you create a corporation to *specifically* shield you from a crime you intend to commit then it’s not going to work.

    WOB:
    > They have to create some structure that is basically “A bunch of people organized
    > for a particular purpose”. Whether you call it a “Corporation”, A “trust” or a “Fund”
    > the organization is going to look *really* similar. It doesn’t really matter what the label is.

    PM:
    > That is completely, utterly, untrue. In the one case where it matters.

    I suspect that most of those legal structures will have *some* shield, either in law or in common law to protect ordinary members or donators from the actions of the board or the organization as a whole. I know that there are structures like the LLP that provide certain shields. I really doubt that one could go after the a Deacon just because the Priest buggered an altar boy.

    Generally speaking you can’t hide behind a corporation if you commit a crime. Yes, there’s counter-examples to this, but Monsanto, General Motors and Organizing for [Action | America] have a degree of legal clout that is exponentially higher than what Citizens United, or MySmallCorp can bring to the table.

    And lets also remember that Citizens United wasn’t hammered for the content of their speech (at least not technically, we all know that if they’d been going after a Republican a completely different test case would have been used) but rather for speaking *at all*.

    If you want to argue that corporate leaders ought to be held more accountable under criminal law I don’t think many here would argue that.

    The problem is that *any* other restriction winds up favoring the Nanny Bloomberg’s and Koch Brothers of the world at the expense of the peasants.

  243. @Patrick Maupin

    I suppose case law may develop that allows piercing the corporate veil on the strength of harmful speech, but most, if not all, current case law (and academic discussion and

    You’re back to “harmful speech” here. What speech is inherently harmful?

    FWIW, there seems to be a debate within libertarian circles (how serious it is, and how well thought out the reasoning on the various sides, I do not know) about whether there should even be a corporate veil, or whether the concept of “you own it; you’re responsible for its actions” should apply.

    There’s a lot of stupid shit Libertarians argue about when the could be doing something useful, like studying up on the subject.

  244. @JAD
    “But now that many Chinese are getting stinking rich, and the ordinary wage for unskilled labor is now reaching levels where the unskilled laborer can hope to buy a car and support a wife, now everyone is outraged about Chinese corruption and injustice.”

    Your connection to reality is at the level of Grimm’s fairy tales. But for this quote we can actually see real facts.

    There is outrage about Chinese corruption and injustice. A lot of outrage. But this outrage lives in China. You obviously have no idea how deeply distrusted, even hated, the Chinese government is by its own citizens.

    But you cannot see such things as they do not fit in your delusions.

    For anyone who might want to know how the Chinese feel, read:
    This generation from Han Han
    http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/oct/01/han-han-why-arent-you-grateful/

    Beyond the NYT review’s criticism of lack of commitment, you will find a good view of the cynicism that pervades Chinese society when it involves the Chinese Communist Party and government.

  245. Winter on Friday, April 19 2013 at 2:11 am said:
    > There is outrage about Chinese corruption and injustice.

    But when corruption was one hundred thousand times worse than it is today, when they confiscated the peasant’s harvest and left the peasants to die, no outrage.

    So it sure looks to me as if the outrage is about the lack of corruption and those damned peasants being allowed to get too uppity.

    And in fact, Chinese governance is pretty clean compared to US governance. In the US, if you want to do anything you hire a “consultant” to prepare your application for a permit to do whatever – the “consultants”, of course, being people who have the inside track with the bureaucracy that you don’t have, in other words, bagmen. Some of that goes on in China also, but the difference is that in China the bureaucrat is apt to get fired, and the bagman shot, so, quite a lot of the time, you don’t need a bagman consultant. Obviously in China connections matter, matter quite a lot, but connections are not sold off at ten thousand dollars per “consultation”.

    To get quite a lot of permits in the US, I have paid quite a lot of money, but somehow in all of the US, no bureaucrat has ever been fired, nor any of his bagmen shot. Jon Corzine built his career on open and flagrant influence peddling. If he was in China, they would have shot him.

  246. @JAD
    “But when corruption was one hundred thousand times worse than it is today, when they confiscated the peasant’s harvest and left the peasants to die, no outrage.”

    You mean 60 years ago? You now want to tell me I should be feel guilty about something done before I was born?

    @JAD
    “To get quite a lot of permits in the US, I have paid quite a lot of money, but somehow in all of the US, no bureaucrat has ever been fired, nor any of his bagmen shot. ”

    Sorry, but you will have to clean up your own house.

    We all know how corrupt the USA is, but only its own citizens can do anything about that. Anyhow, the USA is 19th, China 80th on the corruption list. So I think the Chinese have a lot more right to complain that you.

    http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/

  247. Pingback: Daily Linkage – April 19, 2013 | The Second Estate

  248. @JAD
    > > “But when corruption was one hundred thousand times worse than it is today, when they confiscated the peasant’s harvest and left the peasants to die, no outrage.”

    Winter on Friday, April 19 2013 at 4:43 am said:
    > You mean 60 years ago?

    Fifty four years ago, to be precise, but the left has not changed, nor repented.

    Its brutal indifference to human life, displayed time after time, for example Ethiopia and Cambodia, makes its pious concern about dubious and minor offenses absurd.

  249. Winter on Friday, April 19 2013 at 4:43 am said:
    > Anyhow, the USA is 19th, China 80th on the corruption list.

    That list is drawn up by the anglosphere ruling elite, pretty much drawn up Harvard. I am surprised that they do not rate the US as absolutely pure, and themselves as angels of God.

  250. @JAD
    “Fifty four years ago, to be precise, but the left has not changed, nor repented.”

    Still, too long ago for me to feel any guilt. However, I do feel strongly for the plight of the modern Chinese, and hope they get wealthy and happy.

    @JAD
    “That list is drawn up by the anglosphere ruling elite, pretty much drawn up Harvard.”

    Reality exists only in the mind of JAD, we know that.

  251. @William

    >In today’s litigious society there is NO WAY IN HELL that any person smart enough to run a small business would start one if his entire life was exposed.

    You first-worlders can be so cute sometimes, taking playing by the rules as the default option… I mean every businessman I know in Eastern Europe is on paper a pauper, all his wealth is on paper owned by his son, dad, nephew, wife, whoever else, so that the tax office has nothing on him. Neither does litigation. One level higher there are the Cayman Island bank accounts, the bonds stuffed in a noname, password-only safe in Switzerland… the car is not owned, just leased on long-time rented. (This would even make sense in normal, honest situations: why is ownership the standard model of using a quickly depreciating asset? Rental would be more logical.) The house, even if when owned by him and not by a nephew, greatly undervalued by a bribed appreciation agent. Very often, it is a shitty old house bought cheaper, and still the contract mentioned only half of the buying price (the seller does not like to pay much taxes either) and renovated into luxury without any sort of a permit, often keeping the facade the same to trick the council controller, when it doesn’t work they can be bribed or threatened. End result is living in a fine house with hardly any wealth owned on paper.

    Living now in Vienna, where stuff like this doesn’t really happen, I sometimes miss this kind of bold, impertinent cleverness…

  252. @JAD

    You just enraged because Chinese are becoming middle class while the west quietly sinks into genteel poverty comforted by statistics that show that everything is getting better and better.

    When seventy million Chinese were starved to death in a terror famine, I never heard any one in the west complaining – because if anyone had complained, he would have been in big trouble.

    You’re a fucking idiot. I am a Chinese-American and that’s parts of my family (the extended bits anyway) that you’re talking about. The “terror” famine was a result of ideological purity driving economic policy, not because Mao wanted to kill a bunch of people (he was more than capable of that regardless). Which is why I’m no fan of ideologues, Communist, Libertarian, whatever.

    They confiscated food from peasants and didn’t open storehouses to a starving population not in a terror campaign but because they desperately wanted to make quota and show the success of their ideologically pure maoist economic policy. Peasants were Mao’s power base and ideological core. The horrid results of the Great Leap Forward cost Mao hugely politically and which is why he opportunistically highjacked/help engineer the Cultural Revolution to claw back power, send the folks that demoted him to re-education camps and coincidentally kill a bunch of people.

    That the Chinese are doing well is great…but right now it’s a superficial well. If the CCP can engineer an economic soft landing from their current housing bubble (where much of the middle class has stashed their new wealth) as well as address the growing disparity in wealth then great. If not, then it could become real bad. Then 1.5M PAP and 2.2M PLA may or may not be able to keep order or the party in power. My fear is during the unrest some General attempts to take the country full bore Maoist again using the PLA and the very poor rural population as his popular base.

    Social unrest in China and not Chinese prosperity, is the real risk to America. As the third most populous country with vast resources we’re not sinking into “genteel poverty” anytime soon. Unlike former European powers our strength is not based on a vast colonial empire and in a connected economy having trading partners that are doing well is good everyone even given the increased competition.

    And in fact, Chinese governance is pretty clean compared to US governance.

    Lol. That’s funny but that ideologues are divorced from reality is why they get an assload of people killed.

  253. >My fear is during the unrest some General attempts to take the country full bore Maoist again using the PLA and the very poor rural population as his popular base.

    I think the more likely outcome is a prolonged period of warlordism, with China fissuring along regional and ethnolinguistic lines. This is how it has generally gone in the past; the last such episode is still (just barely) within living memory. There are hundreds of millions of Tibetans, Uighurs, Hakka, Lao and others who are not happy under Han domination; add to this the tensions between the wealthy urbanized coastal east and the poorer rural west and you have a recipe for serious trouble once the Party can no longer keep the lid on.

  254. @esr
    “with China fissuring along regional and ethnolinguistic lines.”

    The classical fissures are North-East (Xian-Beijing-Manchuria), The South-East (Nanjing-Shanghai-Guangzhou), and the West (Chongqing-Chengdu-Tibet). Maybe Guangzhou will separate. The three big prices are Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing.

    Ethnic minorities are so small, (percents) that they are just a side show. But, indeed, probably the far West will separate too.

    When it happens, the disaster will be global.

  255. >When it happens, the disaster will be global.

    Why do you think so? Chinese overseas trade actually increased during the last era of warlordism. However the cookie crumbles, the pieces are still going to need things they can only get from abroad – oil. for example.

  256. @esr
    “Why do you think so?”

    Civil war in China.

    Russia, India, Japan, and Korea will be involved for a piece of the cake, or to prevent others from getting a piece. Iran and Pakistan will be thrown into the mix. Turkey has allies all the way to Mongolia. This means war over the whole of South and East Asia.

    There are realistic accounts that the British Empire could only form due to the temporal weakening of the Chinese empire.

  257. >This means war over the whole of South and East Asia.

    It didn’t last time.

    Demographically-collapsing Russia can barely hold Siberia, let alone risk nuclear confrontation. Japan’s constitution and postwar culture include a taboo against military adventurism. South Korea is too terrified of the cost of absorbing millions of starving North Koreans to want to screw with the Chinese. Iran and Pakistan don’t have any geopolitical interests east of the Pamirs that are serious enough to fight a war over.

    The only plausible candidate to be “drawn in” is India, and the last three Indo-Chinese wars were more farces than global disasters.

  258. @esr
    “It didn’t last time.”

    Last time, that was WWII. Japan occupied the whole east and Manchuria, with the Chinese government in Chongqing. Japan used it as a stepping stone to run over the rest of South-East Asia and attacking India.

    Not a good example.

  259. > Japan’s constitution and postwar culture include a taboo against military adventurism.

    Japan has no shortage of nationalistic politicians and every year makes more noises about abandoning the “self defense only” clause.

  260. >Last time, that was WWII.

    No. Bad logic. You need to look for the last war that was started by Chinese domestic warlordism, not merely the last global war that happened to involve China as a relatively minor sideshow.

  261. @esr,
    “not merely the last global war that happened to involve China as a relatively minor sideshow.”

    There is a lot of “What if” history possible about if the Chinese had seen something like the Meiji restoration in Japan. A strong China would have stabilized the region. But, “what if” is just what never happened.

    My real point is that the Chinese have a strong position in the whole of Asia. Money and trade wise. When that would fall with a civil war, a large strive for power in the region will start.

    Plus the real possibility that the three Chinese parts might lash out at their neighbors in search for resources.

  262. @esr
    ” You need to look for the last war that was started by Chinese domestic warlordism,”

    But that route tells us that the cold war was a continuation of WWII, which was a continuation of WWI, which was a continuation of the Prussian-French war etc…

    The point remains that the Japanese could profit from the civil war to run over Manchuria, Korea, and the East coast.

  263. >Japan has no shortage of nationalistic politicians and every year makes more noises about abandoning the “self defense only” clause.

    Agreed, but that’s just the first hurdle. There are many long steps from that to the kind of adventurism that would take the Japanese back into China. The U.S. would certainly not look kindly on such a development, and it’s going to be generations before the Japanese forget how badly things ended the last time.

  264. Regarding any possible Chinese collapse…the potential scenarios are endless and require more knowledge that any of us here have.

    That said, before any collapse happened the party would likely seek or manufacture an external threat in an effort to maintain power and divert attention.

    That would be a major problem for the US, India and the ASEAN countries.

  265. >Plus the real possibility that the three Chinese parts might lash out at their neighbors in search for resources.

    What militates against both your scenarios is the same reason the Chinese were able to ignore most of the world for centuries at a time. Simple geography.

    Large portions of the Chinese border are such as to make large military movements in either direction nearly impossible. You ain’t going to run an invasion over the Himalayas; there’s barely a single road over those mountains and the people who use it flirt with oxygen starvation. The west is closed off by the Pamirs, the northwest by the Taklamakan desert. Straight north is nothing but Siberia, which is so cold it’s only marginably habitable by humans (who would rapidly starve without imported food).

    The China Sea may not seem like a barrier until you realize that the last time troops from the mainland tried to seize the inner island chain was in 1280 – and they failed. Unified China doesn’t have enough naval and sealift capacity to operate over it against resistance; rump militaries attached to regional fragments won’t do better.

    Where are China’s armies going to go? Who is going to go in after them? The Middle Kingdom reached its geostrategic limit a long time ago.

  266. And regardless of cultural conditioning, the Japanese don’t have a military designed to conquer anyone, or the population excess to do so either. They could conceivably build the gear, but not the manpower, in anything like soon. South Korea has to go through NoKo to get to China, and have even less force projection capability than does Japan. India is on the other side of the Himalayas, and SW Asia on the other side of the Pamirs (as noted), and mostly has to go through one or another of the ‘stans (including Afghanistan, which has never been a logistically good idea). Siberia would be theoretically possible to “conquer,” assuming any of the invaders want to risk the Russians getting frisky with nukes and then coming out of the Urals the other way; but the logistical nightmare of occupying the area would make it pointless.
    Heading East – well, the Japanses don’t have an army for Empire, but they have a quite modern Self-Defense Force, including ABM-capable equipment, and can have nukes any time they like (if they don’t already have everything but the assembled physics package waiting for some fissionables to be carted out of a research reactor. they’re not going to sit idly by while the PLAN goes around them

  267. I wonder if it would be possible to implement an anonymous background check system along similar lines to bitcoin?

    We’re awarded a single ‘guncoin’ when we pass a traditional background check. When we want to buy a gun, two transactions occur: from buyer to seller, then from seller back to buyer. Double-spend problem avoided. Upon legal disqualification from firearm ownership, your ‘guncoin’ is transferred to a national account and not returned…you cannot then use the ‘guncoin’ without triggering a double-spend. Provided that your ‘guncoin’ can be used for the two-way transactions, you’re good to go.

  268. Nigel on Friday, April 19 2013 at 7:00 am said:
    > They confiscated food from peasants and didn’t open storehouses to a starving population not in a terror campaign but because they desperately wanted to make quota and show the success of their ideologically pure maoist economic policy. Peasants were Mao’s power base and ideological core.

    Intellectuals were Mao’s power base and ideological core. Peasants were mascots. The communists did not personally know any peasants or care about any peasants. Communist Chinese were no more peasant class than communist Russians were working class. When peasants failed to show appropriate gratitude for being mascots, the communists viciously lashed out at them for their shocking ingratitude.

  269. West: 1962 Sino-Indian War
    South: 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War

    Straight north is nothing but Siberia, which is so cold it’s only marginably habitable by humans (who would rapidly starve without imported food).

    North: Siberia has a lot of coal (400B tons), good amount of oil (millions of bbd production) and an asston of oil shale called the Bazhenov.

    In the Sakhalin and Kuril areas is about 14 bln bbl potential. East Siberia another potential 7 bln bbl. West Siberia has 81 bln bbl production.

    The China Sea may not seem like a barrier until you realize that the last time troops from the mainland tried to seize the inner island chain was in 1280 – and they failed. Unified China doesn’t have enough naval and sealift capacity to operate over it against resistance; rump militaries attached to regional fragments won’t do better.

    Currently it seems that the PLA and PLAN have 2 mechanized amphibious divisions and three brigades (1 armor, 2 marines) and around one division+ worth of lift capacity (haven’t kept track). Lift capability has been modernized but not greatly expanded from what I’ve read. The Type 071 LPDs are new (2007) with 989 commissioned last year.

    In other words, suitable for claiming the Spratleys or Sakhalins any any small islands but not for invading Taiwan proper but they are steadily improving their lift capacity. The last decade was modernization with new ships replacing old. I think at this point every new ship is additional capability. Each one is about a batallion’s worth of combat lift. Type 081 LHDs have been planned for years but I dunno where they are with it.

  270. When you talk about war in East Asia, it’s worth remembering that Japan is in the midst of a demographic collapse at least as bad as Russia’s.

    China may not have many friends, but for the forseeable future she is blessed with not having any viable enemies. Any Chinese governmental noises otherwise are for domestic consumption, to help (as Eric says) keep the lid on. The only threat in the region is China itself.

  271. Nigel on Friday, April 19 2013 at 7:00 am said:
    > If the CCP can engineer an economic soft landing from their current housing bubble (where much of the middle class has stashed their new wealth) as well as address the growing disparity in wealth then great. If not, then it could become real bad

    Chinese middle class is stashing wealth by building empty houses and paying them off. Western middle class in government paper. Which will end worse?

    As for “The growing disparity in wealth”, that is what pinkos call rapid economic growth.

    There is a little known and horribly politically incorrect economic theorem that, short of enslaving everyone and implementing a command economy, you cannot redistribute wealth from capitalist rich to poor, that any redistribution of wealth obtained by capitalist means will always make everyone poorer, including the poor, that redistribution, like price control, will always fail, that the efficient level of taxes on interest and profits is zero. (Hence the west’s current economic decline.) The economic argument is difficult to express in plain words, in part because if expressed in plain words, it is horribly politically incorrect, being pretty much the Randian argument that in a developed economy, modern living standards are a gift from investors and entrepreneurs to employees.

  272. >West: 1962 Sino-Indian War South: 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War

    I knew of these, of course. They reinforce my original point; both were essentially demonstrations rather than serious force projection, and in both cases the Chinese withdrew once the limit of their logistical tail had been (very rapidly, within about three weeks) exceeded.

    It is rightly said that (military) amateurs talk strategy, but professionals talk logistics. It’s not enough to be able to deploy troops as an expeditionary force, you have to be able to supply them to sustain operations. When there are no roads, there are serious geographic barriers, and you have negligible airlift capability, that gets to be a problem very quickly. It’s a problem both China and its neighbors have in spades.

  273. The theorem I refer to is The Chamley-Judd Redistribution Impossibility Theorem. http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2013/03/redistributing.html

    Redistribution from capitalists to workers is impossible, and trying to do so merely buggers the economy. Economists will not explain why except in horribly obscure language, because the plain language version boils down to “Ayn Rand was right”

    Hence whenever we see the masses enjoy prosperity, we see synthetic outrage from the privileged about rising inequality – meaning outrage that people outside of government are getting rich.

  274. Arguably, the logistics of extracontinental force projection has only been practiced successfully in industrial and post-industrial age by Britain and the US. (I don’t know how much logistical failures contributed to the French failures in Indochina and North Africa, and you could make an argument that the USSR was able to manage it to a certain extent in Afghanistan). Today, probably only the Americans can do it (though the Argentinians thought the British couldn’t do it 30 years ago and were proven wrong).

  275. @Dan

    Before trying to design a way to make it work cryptographically, imagine how this would work if this were a physical token. It needs to prove that the bearer passed a background check. To do so, it has to A) prove or be generally accepted as representing a passed background check and B) prove that the bearer is the person whose background was checked. Point B is fundamentally incompatible with anonymity (I suppose that’s not technically true, depending on how you define anonymity – it could solely encode biometrics and omit any reference to a name or ID number). You would also need to be able to either produce it, prove you lost it, or prove you were never issued one, if you become legally disqualified from firearm ownership.

  276. Before you think that the purchaser’s token is too far out ther – Sen Coburn proposed a very similar arrangement whereby a buyer could perform a BG check on themselves and provide a separately validatable reciept to the seller, who would be expected to cross-check it.

  277. @Ian Argent – In this arrangement, how does this prevent someone from doing a background check and then handing their receipt to someone else (a disqualified ex-convict) who will then use it to purchase a gun? I suspect it does so by not being anonymous.

  278. Actually professionals talk DOTMLPF because the military has an affinity for acronyms. :)

    The Chinese has built infrastructure into the Kashmir including IIRC rail lines and road structure. Logistically the belief is that the PRC has the advantage over India.

    In Vietnam the PLA simply couldn’t fight through the VN frontier forces as quickly as expected nor lure into contact regular PVA units. Frankly, the PLA got mauled as opposed to out run their logistics train. They never got very deep into Vietnam at all…no more than 30-40km.

  279. I don’t think it’s anonymous to the seller – and really, how could it be? the main point is to be a background check that doesn’t require recording the particulars of a firearms sale. There’s not much point to anonymity in a face to face transaction.
    As a service to allow sellers access to the NICS system without providing personally identifiable info to the seller, it’s not bad.

  280. esr> In this alternate America, there are many and bitter arguments about the extent of free-speech rights.

    How does this describe an alternate America? This America does have many and bitter arguments about the extent of free-speech rights, as juxtaposed to anti-discrimination rights in the workplace, freedom from harassment from the likes of Westboro Baptist Church, and so forth. As a result, this America’s federal government imposes substantial limits on permissible speech as a consequence. For details, see David Bernstein’s excellent book You Can’t Say That!, published by Cato. And that’s just the legal side, not counting the social speech taboos that various pressure groups keep trying to erect.

    And as a result, America is — okay. Granted, i’s not a free-speech libertopia, but it’s as good as any other real-world place. Correspondingly, I’m sure the same will hold true with Second-Amendment rights if Congress enacts the Senate’s gun-safety bill or something similar.

    esr> The ground of dispute is to what extent the instruments of political and cultural speech (printing presses, radios, telephones, copying machines, computers) should be regulated by government so that use of these instruments does not promote violence, assist criminal enterprises, and disrupt public order.

    Here you introduce a red herring into your analogy. Guns are “arms”, not “instruments of arms”. Accordingly, regulations of arms to the ends you describe are analogous to regulations of speech to the same ends. The rest of your story depends derives most of its rhetorical power from this red herring. Once you use the correct analogy, you are left with no scandal.

  281. > Guns are “arms”, not “instruments of arms”.

    They’re instruments of [among other things] violent crimes (the behavior the regulation purports to aim to prevent) in the same sense that typewriters/printing presses/etc are instruments of [again, among other things] harmful speech (the behavior the regulation in the analogy purports to aim to prevent). Metaphor holds up fine.

  282. The red herring is the one you’re tryign to slip in. The undesirable events that we try and regulate are the MISUSE of arms, just as we try and regulate the misuse of instruments of speech. We have quite strict laws against misusing arms, in many ways stricter than misusing speech. The analogy you’re trying to draw is a false one. It is as though you wished to regulate quite strictly the purchase and possession of cameras, particularly digital camera or those on smartphones, because of child pornographers and upskirt shots. Which is ridiculous.

  283. >The analogy you’re trying to draw is a false one. It is as though you wished to regulate quite strictly the purchase and possession of cameras, particularly digital camera or those on smartphones, because of child pornographers and upskirt shots. Which is ridiculous.

    I agree it’s ridiculous, but it’s exactly how laws against the civilian possession of firearms work.

    Pay attention, Thomas Blankenhorn, because you’ve made this same error. My fable was not about laws against gun crimes, which (laws) I have no objection to. It was about laws against possessing the instruments of violence.

  284. @esr:

    > Pay attention, Thomas Blankenhorn, because you’ve made this same error.

    I don’t think Ian made the error — he merely pointed it out before you did…

  285. @William O. B’Livion:

    It has the advantage of being more or less the historical reason for the creation of the “joint stock corporation”, which is why I wrote it the way I did.

    I don’t mind your wording, but I do mind that describing how it is used in practice in some cases was apparently regarded by you as being dishonest.

    Generally the cases that pierce the corporate veil are when something distinctly criminal has happened.

    It can also be pierced for civil torts, but usually the owners did something really stupid when that happens, and most of the case law on that has to do with undercapitalization. Not something that probably would be applied to a charity.

    You say that like it’s a small thing. Consider the McDonald’s lawsuit Jessica brought up.

    I don’t remember this, unless it’s the coffee thing.

    No, it was upstream in comments on this post. About fraudulent speech about ingredients.

    And it is a small thing. Generally it does NOT protect them from criminal liability, and it does not protect them from civil liability under certain conditions.

    But to an innocent bystander, it is usually the civil liability that is troubling.

    Yes, it would be nice. It’s even nicer knowing that if my *partner* or my *manager* does something dumb only the assets of the corporation are liable. Which gets back to the original purpose and structure of corporations.

    Of course it’s nice! But nice for the owner, not for whomever gets hurt by the entity.

    In today’s litigious society there is NO WAY IN HELL that any person smart enough to run a small business would start one if his entire life was exposed.

    Over 75% of all businesses are non-LLC/non-LLP sole proprietorships or partnerships. (source) Granted, a lot of those are hobbies, but still they account for around 10% of all business receipts in the country.

    That we use generally use the same structures for charities and other non-profit organizations is entirely reasonable.

    If over 75% of businesses have no corporate structure protecting them, why is the ratio flipped the other way for charities? Are they inherently more dangerous for some reason?

    Yes, they do. Maybe not the entirety legal isolation, but they *certainly* hide the names of donors, backers and etc.

    That’s not at all what I’m talking about. Those can be found out in discovery, but the corporate structure can make it a lot harder for a wronged party to be made whole, especially if the entity (as with most charities) is not designed to contain much money at a time.

    If they are engaging in “illegal speech” then the corporation will not protect those who commit the crime. It is a long standing principle (at least according to my former lawyer) that you if you create a corporation to *specifically* shield you from a crime you intend to commit then it’s not going to work.

    As you know, there is a difference between a crime and a tort. In all my discussions on this, I have been focusing on civil wrongs.

    I suspect that most of those legal structures will have *some* shield, either in law or in common law to protect ordinary members or donators from the actions of the board or the organization as a whole. I know that there are structures like the LLP that provide certain shields. I really doubt that one could go after the a Deacon just because the Priest buggered an altar boy.

    It’s hard to know, because in general where these things happen, the church has the deeper pockets and either the plaintiffs don’t go after the individuals, or the church just covers them.

    And lets also remember that Citizens United wasn’t hammered for the content of their speech (at least not technically, we all know that if they’d been going after a Republican a completely different test case would have been used) but rather for speaking *at all*.

    That’s patently untrue. Lots of corporations speak every day. Just not about politics right before an election. At least historically — obviously that will change now.

    The problem is that *any* other restriction winds up favoring the Nanny Bloomberg’s and Koch Brothers of the world at the expense of the peasants.

    I don’t know that eviscerating corporations would have that effect.

    You’re back to “harmful speech” here. What speech is inherently harmful?

    In general, in the US, to be considered harmful, speech must be demonstrably false and have caused issues for someone. But this is very seldom a criminal matter — usually just a tort.

    FWIW, there seems to be a debate within libertarian circles (how serious it is, and how well thought out the reasoning on the various sides, I do not know) about whether there should even be a corporate veil, or whether the concept of “you own it; you’re responsible for its actions” should apply.

    There’s a lot of stupid shit Libertarians argue about when the could be doing something useful, like studying up on the subject.

    Did you read the blog post I pointed to? It was quite interesting. To expand on its basic concept of “if you own a dog and it bites someone, you’re responsible, so if you own x% of a corporation that commits a tort, why shouldn’t you also be x% responsible?” I will add that most people are adequately protected against the actions of their dog by relatively inexpensive insurance, and I would think insurance for shares would wind up being pretty cheap if the market were allowed to develop properly. This would probably be a two tier process — most companies already buy liability insurance, so the insurance on the shares would be based on the fact that there is usually already some underlying insurance. You would let your insurance company know (probably automatically done by your broker) when you buy and sell shares, and the insurance companies would monitor the companies you have shares in for potential liability problems. If your insurance company charges an exorbitant amount for insuring a particular company, that would be a useful market signal.

  286. Pingback: Daily Linkage – April 20, 2013 | The Second Estate

  287. @esr nigel
    I hope we will never see who was right about the effects of a collape and civil war in China. Much of WWI&II was seeing how old truths had become falsehoods.

  288. >I hope we will never see who was right about the effects of a collape and civil war in China. Much of WWI&II was seeing how old truths had become falsehoods.

    From a larger perspective, China’s oncoming convulsions are inevitable and merely part of the worldwide collapse of the Bismarckian big state (what Walter Russell Mead, writing from an Americanocentric POV, calls the “blue model”). The Soviets got there first in the late 1980s, but the same fate awaits every government that has tied its legitimacy to coercive redistribution of wealth – interest-group scramble followed by a debt spiral.

  289. @esr
    Is China Bismarckian state redistributing wealth?

    The move money from poor to rich. But from rich to poor? That is new to me.

  290. @nigel:

    The folks in power in China have embraced capitalism and are getting rich to the detriment of much of the population. Which is pretty much what the rich and powerful in the US did until we pushed toward regulation and oversight to protect public health and public commons.

    My definition of capitalism would not include restricting the middle class from investing their money abroad (thus funneling into a condo bubble and unoccupied cities), capital controls that prevent market FX rates, suppressing interest rates below the inflation rate with the centralized control over credit which causes the consumer share of the economy to continuously fall relative to the fixed capital investment share.

    Peaking western statism is not capitalism either, with the coming global economic collapse to reverse much of your claimed benefits. Besides most of the benefits are due to technological advance (regulation along for the ride), which China did not participate in until just recently.

    @JAD:

    redistribution, like price control, will always fail, that the efficient level of taxes on interest and profits is zero

    If there was a technology to make taxation impossible (a better Bitcoin?), then the political arguments would be irrelevant. A government with no funding can’t enforce its laws.

    If the workers are producing knowledge, then the capital is held in their brains and passive capitalists would be much less relevant:

    http://www.coolpage.com/commentary/economic/shelby/Demise%20of%20Finance,%20Rise%20of%20Knowledge.html#FinanceabilityofKnowledge

    Society is at a juncture of maximum statism and collectivism, juxtaposed against the computer revolution which is poised to make government and non-knowledge capital more irrelevant.

    The dying mode of society has three possible paths forward:

    1. Kill off each other via external war.
    2. Kill off each other via internal police state war and/or rationed health care.
    3. Adjust, learn to program, and prosper.

    Esr makes strong points that China’s likely path is not #1. The USA is moving its forces back to SE Asia to protect and affirmed that it will protect Japan and the Philippines. Recent survey says 70+% of the filipinos will accept USA military bases again (after kicking them out under President Erap). China has criticized this as destabilizing ASEAN region.

    I’ve been told by a southern Chinese that the PLA has absolute control and will take over in any economic crisis and will not allow the fracturing. I assume there can’t be another ideological trickery to sucker the masses into a national internal suicide. So what gives? As China slides into economic decline (as their export markets do), would they turn to a military build up to keep the population from rioting?

    I don’t see how there can be a smooth transition for China to disintegrate from a central command economy into a fractured economy. The economy is dependent on centrally driven fixed investment model, not on a free market. The transition to a free market would initially severely contract the economy, thus crashing the rest of Asia that exports to China.

    Esr does your model for the outcome factor the economic realities? Would the PLA to go to any extreme to avoid the chaotic implosion? Why can’t they build the naval capacity over a decade? The recently acquired a nuclear aircraft carrier and I thought I read they’ve been accelerating their naval capacity. The way to get an ideological population to sacrifice is to create an external threat. Japan and Senkaku Islands? The nationalism is so strong that the Chinese kill those who drive a Japanese car.

    If the 78 year cycle is correct, then the 26 downturn from 1929 coincides with 2007, thus the periodic widespread war would occur circa 2020ish.

    I read in the local paper that the USA has been conducting massive military exercises with South Korea thus inducing North Korea to lash out.

    Who really controls the USA military? What are their objectives?

  291. @ESR: I’m a fool who owns firearms in NJ. I am quite well aware of the inherent fallacy of treating firearms as the crime rather than the misuse. I was trying to educate Mr. Blankenhorn.
    This is the point I make when I say “more laws won’t help, because criminals disobey laws.” Not that laws are pointless and we shouldn’t have any, but that technical restrictions on law-abiding persons keeping and bearing arms won’t stop people who break laws about misuse of violence. Just as we don’t set technical restrictions on people keeping and bearing instruments of pornography, slander, libel, or incitement to riot.

  292. I was told by an old man in Davao, that the Japanese had already pre-positioned many of their soldiers in the Philippines disguised as agricultural workers. They had hidden their guns. The point is the Asians are sneaky.

    China’s military budget may be effectively 20 – 25% of the USA, with a much more focused priority on localized projection of force:

    http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-12/inside-chinas-secret-arsenal

    Just 10 years ago, the budget for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was roughly $20 billion. Today, that number is more like $100 billion. (Some analysts think it’s closer to $160 billion.)

    China appears to be developing capabilities to deny the USA the ability to use aircraft carrier battle groups in the China sea, and have perhaps stolen USA technology:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16588557

    The pace of naval shipbuilding is accelerating:

    http://thediplomat.com/2012/11/01/u-s-navy-take-notice-china-is-becoming-a-world-class-military-shipbuilder/2/

    They have also been able to fabricate the Type 071 hulls faster, with a time gap of nearly four years between the first and second vessels, but only 10 months between vessels two and three, and four months between vessels three and four.

  293. Type 071s are ambhibs which are important but have far more limited needs than combat vessels.

    That the Chinese are building a blue water navy could still be defensive in nature.

    The natural counter to the DF21 is to interdict oil imports from outside their sensor and c2 range. To stop a blockade out in the various straits (malacca, etc) that their oil tankers go through requires an effective blue water navy capable of sea lane protection/control.

    Sea denial capability is what they have now and while that looks good on paper what is reality is questionable. The USN may not have fought a real war against a real opponent since WWII but our training is solid and we are where the Royal Navy used to be. Dominant.

    The probability that Japan has hidden soldiers in the RP is zero.

  294. @nigel:

    interdict oil imports from outside their sensor and c2 range

    Wouldn’t that increase the value of going after 5.4 bbls of oil within the range in the Spratlys inside the RP exclusive economic zone?

    The probability that Japan has hidden soldiers in the RP is zero

    My point is the Asians have demonstrated numerous times that they don’t fight fire with fire (e.g. add Vietnam guerrilla tactics or even the tactics being used by the filipino Tausugs against Malaysia in Sabah now), and devise some asymmetric logistical strategy. Some 1000 MNLF are claimed to have eluded the naval blockade and arrived in Sabah to fight a guerrilla war in support of the Sultan of Sulu’s claim of ownership of Sabah.

    Filipinos usually don’t kidnap or rob you until they’ve have sufficient time to study your patterns as if they are hunting wild game, and they make sure they maximize their probability of success. Perhaps this shrewd trait is shared by Asians.

    Sucking the USA into guerrilla warfare on the seas within disruption range, or even in the jungles of helpless proxies such as the Philippines, might be expose weaknesses of the USA military. If China can disrupt within the zone, perhaps it can maintain supply chain within the zone. I think RP falls within that zone.

    Dominance can lead to overconfidence. Smart bombs may not be effective in guerrilla environs.

  295. @Jon Brase:

    2)Abortion is murder, so by virtue of performing abortions, abortionists are guilty of murder.

    Imagine a fantasy world where the government could not enforce taxation, then it could not finance police and courts without the voluntary contribution of individuals. The private sector would have to be motivated to go after murderers, else they would not be punished. The cost of abortions might increase considerably, because of the need to hire private security guards and hardened facilities. Females would have an economic incentive to prevent pregnancy rather than abort it after-the-fact– which is the only way the ethical issue is truly resolved with no harm to any form of human life.

    I do not agree that I should be forced to opt in to subsidize the inability to use contraception (or accept life created) via the protection of the law and the police which I am forced to pay for.

    I find it easier to resolve ethical issues by converting them into economic issues– which is fundamentally what all issues are any way.

    Bottom line is the correct ethical choice is always to not create forced subsidization, because human incentives (opportunity cost and thus capital) are misallocated by binding the degrees-of-freedom in the free market.

    Defying economics is the same as defying evolution– failure is guaranteed by Coase’s theorem.

  296. >Sea denial capability is what they have now and while that looks good on paper what is reality is questionable. The USN may not have fought a real war against a real opponent since WWII but our training is solid and we are where the Royal Navy used to be. Dominant.

    All undoubtedly true, if shipkiller cruise missiles don’t turn out to be China’s ace in the hole. I think this is unlikely, but the possibility can’t be dismissed out of hand.

  297. @JustSaying:

    The cost of abortions might increase considerably, because of the need to hire private security guards and hardened facilities.

    First thing you say is that people (never mind the fetuses) will get hurt, or if they are don’t, it will be because of superior firepower/facilities.

    Females would have an economic incentive to prevent pregnancy rather than abort it after-the-fact…

    Even with subsidies, this is true in the main today.

    which is the only way the ethical issue is truly resolved with no harm to any form of human life.

    And here we come full circle. So the only way to avoid the loss of human life is to insure that private citizens at least credibly threaten to kill each other. Awesome. This doesn’t “resolve” the debate any more than genocide resolves debates.

    I do not agree that I should be forced to opt in to subsidize the inability to use contraception (or accept life created) via the protection of the law and the police which I am forced to pay for.

    And many with that same viewpoint would outlaw and oppress the use of contraceptives as well, if given half a chance. I don’t know that you fall into that category, but legions do.

  298. @Patrick Maupin:

    So the only way to avoid the loss of human life is to insure that private citizens at least credibly threaten to kill each other.

    You’ve attributed a logic to me that I did not assert. I only asserted that allowing me to opt out of the forced subsidization of the moral question would allow me to ignore the moral debate and those who want it, need to be willing to fund it and not spend my money (because it has no correct answer, nature is diverse).

    Loss of life is never entirely avoided. Perhaps you believe you can legislate away evolution. Government is about legislating what can be accomplished, this is why it always fails.

    I believe economics is in control always, and governments are just deluding themselves.

    And many with that same viewpoint would outlaw and oppress the use of contraceptives as well

    It is a failure of logic to tie my opting out of subsidizing an activity, to its antithesis of funding the subsidy to enforce the laws of the collective.

    I believe in competition, because I believe in evolution and maximizing fitness.

    I also agree with esr’s logic in a prior blog that the local gradient should do the least harm, unless a clear global optimization can be proven. Since the moral question of abortion has no clear correct answer, the least harm is don’t bind me economically into an argument which is dubious, thus distorting the economic opportunity cost.

    I don’t care about debates about when the fetus is alive or not. I don’t know what is correct, perhaps only the mother can decide that, so at least lets not distort the opportunity cost with failure (collectivism).

  299. You’ve attributed a logic to me that I did not assert.

    You may not have asserted it, but you postulated that it would get a lot more expensive. The only reason for that would be if there were credible threats.

    I only asserted that allowing me to opt out of the forced subsidization of the moral question would allow me to ignore the moral debate

    Ignore them now if you want. In the grand scheme of things, the cost of police protection for abortion clinics is a drop in the bucket. It’s very hard to take someone seriously when they claim that as a primary motivation for a policy change while simultaneously claiming they don’t care about the debate.

    and those who want it, need to be willing to fund it and not spend my money (because it has no correct answer, nature is diverse).

    Yeah, there are lots of things lots of us would like to opt out of, no doubt. But why the focus on abortion clinics?

    Loss of life is never entirely avoided. Perhaps you believe you can legislate away evolution.

    Umm, yeah. Everything I write indicates I believe that.

    I don’t care about debates about when the fetus is alive or not.

    But obviously you do, because you think that the debates result in a standoff that is currently very costly to you personally.

    I don’t know what is correct, perhaps only the mother can decide that, so at least lets not distort the opportunity cost with failure (collectivism).

    If you want to remove all police protection, just say so. If you want to remove police protection just for abortion providers, just say so. But it’s disingenuous to say “perhaps only the mother can decide that” while simultaneously drawing attention to this as something oversubsidized by the government because of police protection. I think we spend at least as much on people doing stupid stunts and having to be rescued.

  300. My point is the Asians have demonstrated numerous times that they don’t fight fire with fire

    My point is that a PRC naval buildup is not necessarily the Chinese being nefarious but simply looking after their own interests.

    And your point is frankly racist. There’s nothing particularly sneaky about Asians. Some cultural norms are different but thus far this has been to the great advantage of western nations (as in we’ve been dominant and they haven’t).

    The desire to not fight fire with fire isn’t due to some racial trait but due to the disparity in military strength.

    Dominance can lead to overconfidence. Smart bombs may not be effective in guerrilla environs.

    Yes, and this is something the military knows as well. However, given we’re been doing COIN for a decade our military has shown that we can do this better than anyone else as well.

    Likewise we are pretty good at anti-submarine warfare (but perhaps not as good as before) which is naval equivalent of guerrilla warfare. Anti-mine warfare probably only so-so but better than anyone else.

  301. >The desire to not fight fire with fire isn’t due to some racial trait but due to the disparity in military strength.

    Not entirely. There are cultural factors at play, too. Chinese military theory has long emphasized deception, indirection, and breaking the enemy without overt combat significantly more than the modern West’s cultural antecedents did. The pattern goes back to Sun Tzu.

  302. @Jessica Boxer, re your comment <>

    There actually is such a quality assurance businesses. It’s the harm-reduction organization known as DanceSafe.org, as embodied in the DanceSafe Testing Kits. One can in fact check and verify that Doogies coke is, in fact, fucked up. DS and the illegal drug trade cutter/distributors are in an arms race between discovering and detecting adulterants. DanceSafe testing is, in fact, causing economic and distribution backpressure in the illegal drug trade, where distributors are having to return unsold product upstream and/or discount it to the point they are selling at a loss, because more and more users are testing their drugs, and refusing to use or buy bad shit.

    Economics ALWAYS wins.

  303. @Patrick Maupin:

    You may not have asserted it, but you postulated that it would get a lot more expensive. The only reason for that would be if there were credible threats.

    I was thinking more along the lines of the mother wanting secrecy (a free market choice of economic priorities) and also to provide a physical perimeter against extremists. Cheaper providers might go without. And this is the real economic cost, so why should I subsidize to remove this cost from the mothers along with losing the moderate middle via politically correctness required to eliminate all threats via the social homogeneous groupthink insanity that esr is blogging about here.

    The true cost is really hidden and it is not “a drop in the bucket” as you assert. It is a slippery slope of statism that I expect in about 4 years is going to bankrupt most of the global middle class and send the world into chaos.

    Besides why should I takes sides in the debate by subsidizing one side when there is no clearly correct ethical answer– thus the only correct ethical answer is to leave it as a private economic choice. The correct economic opportunity cost makes it a personal decision of the mother within her economic strategy, which is free market and maximizes degrees-of-freedom.

    Who needs a rich man or a strong family, when the government will pay for everything those backstops formerly would. The implication is that subsidies probably reduce the need for strong relationships.

    Nothing I have written is against the independence and success of women. The less subsidies they receive, the more successful they will be, because government can’t make a human more competitive– only competing can.

    Yeah, there are lots of things lots of us would like to opt out of, no doubt. But why the focus on abortion clinics?

    I want the option to opt out of everything. Abortion is a good example of a slippery slope issue that binds us in statism for no benefit at all. Perhaps someone (Winter?) will rattle off some statistics about how free contraceptives or abortion has advanced society, and my response is refer to the demographic and statism collapse underway.

    The primary problem in Africa is not the lack of free contraceptives, rather it is the lack of education and development. If I had Gates’ billions, I would be putting up free learning centers with computerized self-learning (hopefully gaining a profit on the resultant open source synergies). Once educated, the people can make decisions based on their own culture and personal views, and they will have the funds to do so.

    If you want to remove all police protection, just say so.

    If all services provided by the government have been privatized, then private security would provide the role of the police. For example, you enter a private toll road, then you abide by their security terms, else choose an alternative toll road. Paying the true opportunity cost of roads, might accelerate the development of flying cars.

    Some fear the natural monopolization of utilities. If the monopoly is extracting a higher rent than the possible R&D can eliminate via technological innovation, then the monopoly will be disrupted. The real danger from monopolies is where they capture the statism (regulatory capture then political capture), and then stifle technological innovation.

    As a reasonable person, I realize there will probably always be some mix between public and private economy. I suppose I prioritize the abortion issue precisely because liberals will attack me for not wanting to spend “a drop in the bucket” to rescue the helpless womens– liberals hate strong, wealthy, independent women and want to convert them to helpless government tit suckers, while attacking me as being cruel and unwilling to advance women. Lies and doublespeak.

  304. @JustSaying
    Somehow, your proposals about an economic solution of the abortion problem gives the impression that you see murder as a valid tool to achieve political goals.

    Personally, I prefer a system that tries to make sure that murder does not help in achieving political goals. I suspect most people tend to lean to my side of this debate which makes your plans very difficult to implement.

  305. @nigel:

    And your point is frankly racist.

    I think my point is cultural due to probably geographic and other historical environs. Whether this is now embedded in genetics is another debate. JAD has a blog that points out limited research that asserted that Chinese babies do not fight having their airway passages temporarily blocked, whereas other races do. I vividly remember fighting the bar to correct my bow legs as an infant. I can remember being on my stomach and fighting it. JAD’s blog caused me to verify genetically that my few percent of Cherokee ancestry probably migrated (in the first wave) from Europe not East Asia. I also read that Chinese babies are very attentive and smart.

    I am not proactively discriminating based on race or culture. In the programming world, I probably never even need to know the race of the person I am interacting with to form an opinion of their abilities. However, I do expect certain outcomes to be more likely if I know the culture and/or race of a person. For example, I can expect the filipinos to prioritize never being alone or silent. Of course there are always exceptions.

    My best friends in high school included Henry Moon (Korean), Kevin Kawasaki (Japanese), Steven Hernandez (Hispanic), Blaine Holman (Anglo-Saxon) and dozens of others. At university in California, the blacks in my neighborhood were my friends (and almost a girlfriend) and ranged the spectrum from poverty to college students. I attended an elementary school in Baton Rouge, where my (now deceased) sister and I were the only non-black students. Our hair was often oily because the kids had never touched fine hair before.

    I am a alarmed by China’s current culture and trajectory. Chinese in RP dominate the economy via the same system of corruption through “who you know”, coupled with their hard work culture. I am hoping that China could instead choose to trade freely with the world, not funneled through 200 well connected families who hide profits offshore in Singapore.

    Where ever there is massive level of corruption and theft from the population, then expect war on the horizon. Can anyone think of a counter example? The extent of the war is only limited by the capabilities.

    There’s nothing particularly sneaky about Asians.

    It is well known that Westerners boisterously express their opinions, and Asians prefer to observe and act. Asians perceive life as a balancing act, while Westerners view it as advancement. Westerners perceive this lack of warning communication as sneaky, although it is apparently just natural for the Asian.

    Some cultural norms are different but thus far this has been to the great advantage of western nations (as in we’ve been dominant and they haven’t).

    I postulate this is because the Asian model of life priorities the group harmony over individualized ingenuity and non-conformance. We need those outliers on the IQ curve to create the winning technologies at crucial junctures.

    However, given we’re been doing COIN for a decade our military has shown that we can do this better than anyone else as well.

    However there might exist realities of mass (inertia) that Western ingenuity may not be able to solve. I have never played military strategy games, but common sense tells me an aircraft carrier is a slow large target for a sufficiently fast barrage of incoming cruise missiles, torpedoes, etc.. With only 11 carriers, perhaps China could dedicate 1000 simultaneous incoming missiles to each to overload defense systems. China has the world’s manufacturing capacity now, the population to mass produce things, and the economic incentive as the global export economy implodes to transition their extreme dependence on fixed capital investment to a similar vocation that can keep the 32 million males who can never find a Chinese wife preoccupied.

    As a wild conjecture, if they could transport some of those 32 million males as soldiers into a helpless proxy such as the Philippines, where they could perhaps sustain themselves with food and sex by enslaving (and starving) the local population as the Japanese apparently did, then the USA would not have the troop strength to match them (other developing nations might not be sympathetic if the USA was blocking Chinese oil and food imports from outside SE Asia). Koreans would be preoccupied on the peninsula, Japan doesn’t have the youth. What do you need in the jungle with that many soldiers other than automatic rifles and machine guns and sufficient ammo? Do you really need a lot of fuel, when you’ve got soldiers roaming a few kilometer area on foot?

    The other problem the USA military may face is withdrawal of support by the citizens of the USA and within the ranks too, if the confiscation of the $20 trillion in retirement plans comes true. Something like Bitcoin might even play a role in withdrawal of financial support, or if Wikileaks were to expose some egregious fraud within the USA military, such as unequivocal evidence of being behind terror attacks.

    The developing nations may deplete USA military resources. Conflicts may break out over the world as the global economic crisis goes into full collapse in a few years.

    Likewise we are pretty good at anti-submarine warfare (but perhaps not as good as before)

    I assume you read in one of the links I provided that the Chinese have been showing up undetected near to US warships. There are 7107 islands in the RP (when the tide is low, haha), the deepest trench, and I believe the longest coastline in the world if measured as fractal, so imagine all the hiding places under the water.

    Has the USA every won in a jungle in Asia (and now the jungle below the water surface to contend with too)?

    P.S. the joke is that in the RP, the police are first to the crime scene ;)

  306. @Winter:
    I don’t see how you arrive at the logic that I have advocated murder?

    There is a debate about when the life of the fetus begins and when the life and rights of freedom of the mother are paramount.

    There is not a clear ethical answer to that debate. Those who wish to advocate a position, can pay for the cost of their advocacy. My position is to leave it as a private decision of the mother, thus unless you force me to accept your position using statism, I will be obligated to pay nothing and able to ignore the unresolvable debate. I have not made any decision about what is murder in this case, because it is debatable. Even if liberals eliminate the moderate middle and get social groupthink on resolving the debate, it is still not resolved, because statism is never sustainable and resets every 78 years or so. The debate will reignite anew.

    There may be scientific evidence that says this or that about the definition of life. It causes me no ethical dilemma to give women control over their own bodies and anything that is inside their body, as long as I am not paying for what they choose to do with their bodies. I have thus made no decision on the matter and do not need to.

    The liberal will tell me that I must be obligated to make decisions on every issue in the world, and that is because they don’t understand that economics ALWAYS wins and the 80/20 rule is a fact of nature.

  307. @JustSaying
    “There is a debate about when the life of the fetus begins and when the life and rights of freedom of the mother are paramount.”

    Might be a misunderstanding. I was talking about people who murder doctors and nurses for performing abortions. I am totally okay with a woman’s near absolute right to decide about her own body.

    If abortion is legally or morally considered murder, then it is still not the right of random citizens to murder those involved.

    Your proposals seem to be based on the assumption that threatening to kill people (with assurance it will be followed through) to achieve a political goal is somehow “acceptable”, as in, we should accept it and not fight it.

  308. @Winter:
    I expect technology will eventually resolve this issue. Woman could conceivably download software so their general purpose home robot can be reconfigured to perform the procedure at home.

    If we all carry firearms, then if there anything more than roughly 5% disagreement on an issue, there is a truce, otherwise there will be megadeath outbreak. If we don’t make the assumption that most people are sane, then it means humans need be managed with totalitarianism. It is similar to the truce of a law, except that truce settles on the non-violent outcome, whereas law can arrive at the violent outcome. This is the fundamental reason that an armed society is superior to a legislated majority.

    If the abortionists are only defending against the less than 2% who are sociopaths willing to risk their lives in an armed society, then I am thinking armed society, secrecy, private security police, and security perimeter is sufficient to make is unreasonably costly for these rogues.

    Yeah I guess I do think woman and doctors should be exposed to the true social opportunity cost, because it is there regardless of temporal statism obfuscation. And without that armed society truce, the two sides will fight each other by proxy using the state in periodic megadeath statism devolution scenarios.

    Personally I would prefer that woman use contraception rather than abortion. But I am not going to fund their contraception either, because I don’t want to mess with nature’s diversity and need to replenish society. I have more valuable targets for my capital that have definable payoffs for society, which is dubious for “forced” contraception.

  309. I don’t want to fund conception advocacy, because it may also involve indoctrinating females away from positive feelings about motherhood. I see a lot of smiles and happiness among filipinas starting from age 2 and carrying their baby siblings.

    I know that education in general (not indoctrination) will naturally cause females to delay childbirth, so that seems to me to be a more harm-free pathway to prosperity.

    I don’t agree with mind control in any form, whether it be religion or state-sponsored indoctrination of value systems. A groupthink society is not resilient.

  310. So the only way to avoid the loss of human life is to insure that private citizens at least credibly threaten to kill each other.

    Slow down Patrick. I’ve been avoiding most of that interchange, because it strikes me as largely nonsense, but this quote is a lot less of a zinger than you seem to think. Because you just described self-defense.

  311. @JustSaying
    “If we don’t make the assumption that most people are sane, then it means humans need be managed with totalitarianism.”

    Depends on your definition of “sane”.

    Sane does not equate with “exclusively rational” or “homo economicus”.

    Furthermore, if most people are not sane according to some definition you espouse, it does not follow that humans need to be managed with totalitarianism. Especially not as those who lead in totalitarianism tend to be among the less sane of the population.

    @JustSaying
    “Personally I would prefer that woman use contraception rather than abortion.”

    Indeed, contraception is better in every meaning of the word.

    Extensive experience shows that funding contraceptives for girls and women is wildly beneficial for any population where it has been used. So opposing subsidies on contraceptives would therefore be irrational and self-defeating in an economically sense.

  312. @Winter:
    The long-tail distribution is relevant in statistics. The final chapter on the story of demographic implosion is not yet written for Europe. Also the outcomes of indoctrinating hate of motherhood have not fully played out yet. I offered the proposition that education without emphasis on contraceptions will give the same benefits without the coming drawbacks.

    I am not smart enough to conclude the future before it happens, and then claim I am rational.

    I assume sane people don’t choose to live in a society where they shoot each other over each issue they disagree won. I assume sane people will congregate and formed armed societies. I think the sane people are looking for a way to congregate now outside the interference of the insane people. They formerly did this by escaping Europe to America. Now I am hoping they will find refuge in the technology frontier.

    My abortion proposal was only a hypothetical for a hypothetical sane society. I realize it can’t be implemented in the current nation-states. I do expect the devolution of the USA, and I hold only a faint hope that my expectations are wrong.

  313. @Greg:

    Sometimes I write sloppily, but I do not think this was one of those times.

    There is a huge difference between threatening and possessing the known ability to threaten. The latter is fine; the former is a crime in most places bcause it generally leads to all sorts of unpleasantness, especially when the threat is credible.

  314. There is a huge difference between threatening and possessing the known ability to threaten. The latter is fine; the former is a crime in most places bcause it generally leads to all sorts of unpleasantness, especially when the threat is credible.

    I prefer to think of it as the difference between deterrence and extortion, because there are too many people out there who have oddly flexible definitions of the term ‘threaten’.

    I have trouble understanding him, but I believe what he was getting at, was that in the absence of a gov’t and police, anyone with an unpopular viewpoint would likely have a practical need to back up their position with armed deterrence to avoid being, um, ‘shouted down’. Kind of an indirect way of observing that being armed is a way to enforce politeness.

    I think (I often have trouble following him, as he tends to lapse into jargon that only has internal meaning to him, inside his own thoughts) that what he’s trying to get at is that it would be interesting to not have to be forced to pay for a gov’t that protects all speech/opinion (be it good or bad) equally, as then you’re going to be forced to subsidize some nasty shit. Instead, the expense of protecting yourself from hollowpoint criticism would fall on the speaker themselves, so the more unpopular/radical/extreme your viewpoints, the more it would cost you to have a safe pulpit from which to broadcast those views. And that such a system would be likely to, if not exactly ‘solve’ many problems, would encourage people to find ways to preclude them.

  315. To clarify, I didn’t see him talking about making threats or using extortion being good. I merely saw him assuming that the use of threats and extortion *exists*, by someone out there, and always will, and that such will always have to be defended against. The question then becomes who provides security, who *pays* for it, and what are the effects of changing who provides and pays.

  316. I personally think his alternate system is a bad idea, because while there is something to the saying that an armed society is a polite society, what he’s suggesting would really just be a reversion to tribal anarchy. Which is still the norm in certain parts of the world, like the Philippines, but that doesn’t make it a *good* thing.

  317. @JustSaying
    “The final chapter on the story of demographic implosion is not yet written for Europe.”

    The demographic “implosion” is the invariable result of (relative) wealth, low child mortality, and improved education of women. You even see a drop in fertility in Arab societies in North Africa and the Middle east and in all Sub Saharan Africa societies.

    The only proven way to increase fertility without introducing poverty, child mortality, or ignorance is to supply very extensive child care (like in the DDR). But immigration helps a lot, like you see in the USA.

    @JustSaying
    “I assume sane people will congregate and formed armed societies.”

    They do. They are called “states”.

  318. I have a friend who mocks the manic fad of germ avoidance via the routine use of hand sanitizers. He believes that this is anti-evolutionary because the immune system is a bit like a muscle, and needs to be exercised occasionally in order to be fit when really needed.

    Affluent societies similarly tend to lack the low-grade hardships that slowly build common sense via incremental learning. This void is currently being filled by memetic programming, which in turn is undermining robustness. Popular crises will come and go, but systemic malady is a real problem.

  319. One of the reasons that duelling has been more or less suppressed is because it gives one heck of a heckler’s veto – implicitly requiring anyone who wants to speak on a controversial topic to be a skilled duellist

  320. Not entirely. There are cultural factors at play, too. Chinese military theory has long emphasized deception, indirection, and breaking the enemy without overt combat significantly more than the modern West’s cultural antecedents did. The pattern goes back to Sun Tzu.

    I would point at the statue of Francois Grimaldi in front of the Palace of Monaco in rebuttal. :)

    The Art of War is often read in conjunction with The Prince as well as On War. The latter two are modern but still. I don’t believe many Roman military texts survived but I dunno that anyone would describe Caesar as lacking guile.

  321. @justsaying

    I am a alarmed by China’s current culture and trajectory. Chinese in RP dominate the economy via the same system of corruption through “who you know”, coupled with their hard work culture. I am hoping that China could instead choose to trade freely with the world, not funneled through 200 well connected families who hide profits offshore in Singapore.

    It was that way under Marcos before the PRC had any presence in the RP.

    Where ever there is massive level of corruption and theft from the population, then expect war on the horizon. Can anyone think of a counter example? The extent of the war is only limited by the capabilities.

    Tammany Hall

    However there might exist realities of mass (inertia) that Western ingenuity may not be able to solve. I have never played military strategy games, but common sense tells me an aircraft carrier is a slow large target for a sufficiently fast barrage of incoming cruise missiles, torpedoes, etc.. With only 11 carriers, perhaps China could dedicate 1000 simultaneous incoming missiles to each to overload defense systems.

    The real world isn’t a strategy game. Is it possible that carriers today are as obsolete as battleships were in WWII?

    Yes, it is possible. But they serve as 4 and a half acres of sovereign US territory that we can park off the coast of most countries in the world.

    Is it possible to launch 1000 ASBMs to destroy the carrier force?

    Yes, it is possible. On the other hand a launch of 1000 ballistic missiles toward major US population centers and naval bases is problematic. There’s a reason that the US does not deploy any conventional ballistic missiles.

    I assume you read in one of the links I provided that the Chinese have been showing up undetected near to US warships.

    Yes. This is par for the course for peacetime. No one is under any illusion that Chinese subs aren’t a threat or that in wartime we will lose ships to subs. But in war we operate differently and life is harder for them.

  322. @Greg:
    I’m have no time to read carefully nor reply, yet a quick glance seems you understood my point. Philippines is a great place to live because of that freedom. Took some adjust to the chaotic driving disobeying all rules, but as I have given up my expectations of control and conformance, I have become progressively happier.

  323. @Winter:

    The demographic “implosion” is the invariable result of (relative) wealth, low child mortality, and improved education of women.

    As I wrote before, if this is true, then there is no need to indoctrinate the youth with sex education to induce greater use of contraception and abstinence. Thus, career education and access to technology would suffice, as I proposed (note I didn’t say this must be provided by the state). You claim implied statistical “truths” (e.g. highly educated society requires state-sponsored contraception) sans a verified model, or for what benefit are you justifying erasing diverse attitudes (and thus future knowledge creation since creativity is spawned from perspective and creativity is what separates the static knowledge of computerized A.I. from a human– the Singularity is propaganda) with state indoctrination to eliminate every youth pregnancy? Either your quote above it not entirely true, and youth contraception indoctrination is also required, or it is true and youth contraception indoctrination is not required, or you don’t tolerate some level of incidental youth pregnancy for some other reason.

    The real world is usually complex (even where it seems simple by some perspective) with velocity, acceleration, and nth order causality (c.f. link below on meritocracy), so I am not only skeptical of your various claims of statistical superiority for statism (e.g. that state-sponsored health care has a good final outcome), I think I know the model which refutes your claims (c.f. …).

    I notice that humans are competitive, and when some proceed to get an education and others get pregnant at an early age, then (absent state welfare that rewards and induces baby factories), then poverty of the latter causes others to adopt the more successful path. The free market works. Whereas, not allowing people to learn from their own diverse perspectives, produces a mindless society of followers who look to the state to manage their lives. So many Europeans have told me that most of the compatriots could not possibly reform their statism nor live in the Philippines, because they feel lost without all the laws and regulations. I know several personally that tried to live in the Philippines and they rant to me about how the laws aren’t followed. I laugh, and say “go home and be herded”.

    My guess is that you wouldn’t tolerate the free market method, because it lacks perfection (some end up uneducated and in poverty). The statist believes the state can achieve higher levels of perfection than the free market can. But the statist ignores economic truth and economics ALWAYS wins, i.e. statism can never be a meritocracy and thus it ALWAYS results in failure.

    Nature does not want everyone to have the same IQ, the same career, the same life purpose. Some might even fear that the lower IQ people will have the most babies sans a state-sponsored eugenics (ahem contraception). Yet 160+ average IQ would probably not sustain the reproduction of human race. And there are myriad of other scenarios that resiliency and robustness (e.g. see TomA’s comment) can not be so simply understood as higher IQ is worth sacrificing diversity.

    Recently when we discussed Bitcoin in another blog, I thought you and I were agreeing that statism is natural because the people demand it. Now (and in the past) you claim that statism is superior, even if people didn’t demand it.

    If I am not mistaken, your stance is that wars and pestilence come and go, yet statism remains and grows more pervasive. I agree, but I think we differ in that statism is the cause. It is incredulous that statists claim to care about suffering and produce a better and safer society, yet they shrug their shoulders when one points out that their preferred economic system causes reoccurring wars and pestilence because it substitutes competition with failure (not a meritocracy) and includes the vested interests that capture statism which Eric explained in Some Iron Laws of Political Economics.

    If you are not over claiming and simply agreeing that statism exists where the lowest producers can game the system, then the goal is to find technology that empowers the individual at the expenses of the controllers (reducing the parasites who cause failure). For example, when the technology is sufficiently advanced that women can achieve a safe abortion in their homes anonymously (e.g. the anonymously re-programmed general purpose robot), then the need for statism to protect “abortion rights” is eliminated.

    The PC revolution was all about reducing the centralized control over computing from the mainframe era.

    Although an armed society is less dangerous because it doesn’t degenerate to the wars and pestilence of statism (e.g. Homelove purchasing 1.6 billion hollow point bullets), an even better solution is where technology renders our lives safer, more private, and more social without the need for force, e.g. the internet and its social networks.

    @Greg:
    I need to reread your comments again. The Philippines has many drawbacks, e.g. don’t drink the tap water, lack of infrastructure, etc.. But I want to clarify that filipinos don’t break the natural laws, e.g. do not murder nor rape. Most people are not insane, although sometimes I think statism makes them nearly so, e.g. this blog topic elucidates one of the mechanisms of pervasive insanity under statism.

    The trait that turns me off from most westerners, is their desire to make every last detail correct, even when there is no clear economic payoff. I don’t need my suburban roads paved with perfect sidewalks (although my programming profession justifies any comfort expense that makes me more productive, no matter how slight) and I even miss the crushed seashell walkways and lack of road shoulders in suburban New Orleans from my youth, yet I absolutely need my internet connection to function reliably. Eric has written that he feels comfortable with the sound of the trains and the clicking of his mechanical clocks. I suppose I miss the train too, and the Filipinos miss the sound of the chickens.

    The statism of the west pervades the attitudes. When they come over here, they want to fix everything. Luckily they usually get their economic heads handed to them. I laugh every time a foreigner invests a lot of money here, and then walks away at near total losses. They don’t understand perfect sidewalks are not economic in the Philippines (nor in the west since most don’t have the skills to compete in the computer age, but that reality is coming after 2017).

  324. @Winter:

    Sane does not equate with “exclusively rational” or “homo economicus”.

    Furthermore, if most people are not sane according to some definition you espouse, it does not follow that humans need to be managed with totalitarianism. Especially not as those who lead in totalitarianism tend to be among the less sane of the population.

    I addressed this in my prior reply. We agree that the masses want to game the system. We apparently disagree that statism is a failure system. And statism always leads to outbreaks of totalitarianism, because the vested interests capture and consolidate power. You will reply that statism continues and prosperity improves over time– yes due to technologies that subvert statism. Without technology subversion, statism would kill everyone. Thus, I consider the distinction between our perspectives to be critical to the survival of the human race. If you could convince everyone to give up and accept statism, we go extinct.

  325. @JustSaying
    “And statism always leads to outbreaks of totalitarianism, because the vested interests capture and consolidate power.”

    People always fall ill and recover. So can states. Some have known periods of totalitarianism, some do not.

    My country exists as a political unit with an army since ~1580. In this period, there have been 0 (zero) periods where the state fell into totalitarianism. We have been conquered 2 (two) times which lead to 1 (one) totalitarian regime and 1 (one) dictatorship.

    The USA exists for 200 years and has never had a totalitarian period and has never been conquered.

    Switzerland has existed as a nation for 800 years and has never seen a totalitarian regime nor has it ever been conquered.

  326. @JustSaying
    “You claim implied statistical “truths” (e.g. highly educated society requires state-sponsored contraception) sans a verified model, or for what benefit are you justifying erasing diverse attitudes”

    You might want to read up on the history of family planning. In the Western hemisphere, family planning and the distribution of contraceptives mostly started as private initiative. Yes, private citizens pooled money to distribute contraceptives to families. Even when the law forbade disseminating information about contraception.

    You seem to be unable to make a distinction between “teaching” and “zealous propaganda”.

    Teaching children to swim is not somehow erasing diverse attitudes about swimming (yes, I consider your remark idiotic). Likewise, teaching children how to use contraceptives gives them choices. The fact that people want to control the number of their children does not mean they will be able to do so in satisfactory ways.

    @JustSaying
    “But the statist ignores economic truth and economics ALWAYS wins, i.e. statism can never be a meritocracy and thus it ALWAYS results in failure. ”

    How long until the ALWAYS?

    Lifetime as a nation (army and leveling taxes):
    USA: 200
    Netherlands: 400
    France/UK: 700
    Switzerland: 800
    Western Roman Empire: 1000
    Eastern Roman Empire: 1500
    Iran: 2000?
    China: 2200
    Egypt: 4000?

  327. @me:

    If you could convince everyone to give up and accept statism, we go extinct.

    So that is why I cringe when I come into contact with westerners who want to spread statism. And it is why I will fight with technology. Otherwise my (and my compatriot non-statist humans) genetics are doomed. This is why I think statists are evil and deserve what they have coming to them that the are inflicting on themselves (although I am happy if they adopt technology that subverts statism parasites and saves themselves). You state that if I don’t conform, I could end up being a “real fugitive”. Those who are unwilling to spill their blood to fight for liberty (and against the extinction), may not have descendants in evolution. And I would bet that most statists could careless if their genetics are sustained– they’ve been indoctrinated to hate offspring.

    <prvt_lang>They hate them so much, that they want them to all be perfect– which is the opposite of alive. An equal distribution can accomplish only one thing, i.e. it is dead.</prvt_lang>

    @Patrick Maupin:

    “if you own a dog and it bites someone, you’re responsible, so if you own x% of a corporation that commits a tort, why shouldn’t you also be x% responsible?”

    1. Because one can’t control what they don’t own the majority voting power of.
    2. The maximum division-of-labor requires the fungibility of investing and money.

    @Greg:

    anyone with an unpopular viewpoint would likely have a practical need to back up their position with armed deterrence to avoid being, um, ‘shouted down’.

    Not quite what I meant.

    My intended assertion is that everyone can speak what ever they want in an armed society, because sane people are not going to tolerate those who shoot others based not liking their speech. Because such flippant shooting can escalate into revenge killing sprees that spin out-of-control (in tribal societies). Sane people want to go about their lives without violence. So sane armed societies will kill those who a flippant shooters, since they have memories of revenge escalation (c.f. TomA’s comment about needing to replenish the tree of experience for robustness, not so different than the famous quote of needing to replenish the tree of liberty by sacrificing lives fighting the controllers).

    The percentages I stated are that those few % nutcases that are willing to go shooting up abortion clinics, are going to be dealt with much more efficiently by an armed society.

    Any significant percent of disagreement ends up in a truce, because society doesn’t want to be constantly at war, because it can’t produce daily needs if so.

    I find that is exactly what happens in the Philippines. You say what ever you want on politics (just don’t insult someone personally) and you can do pretty much anything you want. You cross the line when you start violence, rape, or insult persons who are not politicians, then you can expect to get beaten severely if not hacked to death with a bolo.

    One of the key traits that enables filipinos to have this system, is they don’t fear death quite the same way we do, thus they don’t bind themselves in statism to overcome an illogical fear of everything. They risk it all every time they ride 8 people (and chickens, sacks of rice, even logs, etc) on motorcycle at fast speeds through winding mountain roads with lose stones and gravel and 16 wheelers rambling downhill overloaded with produce on double-lane roads only 1.25 lanes wide. Whereas, westerners are afraid of everything, even bin Laden’s ghosts, Mexican drivers, etc.. Westerners need everything structured and “certain”. And thus they get certain failure with statism. It is poignant and ironic that society can shift the failure to the future with the insurance of statism, but it can not legislate away the random chance required by evolution (nature). Westerners prefer to pay later with way and pestilence, tribes prefer an often correcting system that avoids pushing failure to horrendous extremes.

    Above I documented this anthropological perspective in addition to making my points.

    what he’s suggesting would really just be a reversion to tribal anarchy. Which is still the norm in certain parts of the world, like the Philippines, but that doesn’t make it a *good* thing.

    Are you implying the early wild-west USA was a tribal society, given it was an armed society?

    Tribal society was perhaps bad when we needed for example to build railroads and interstates to communicate, and tribes could not agree with each other or to land titles. But we have the internet now. I bet those who are most successful at navigating the coming global implosion, will use tribal anarchy strategies. See the Starfish and the Spider.

    @nigel:

    It was that way under Marcos before the PRC had any presence in the RP.

    Ah yes, the Spanish system. Spain has also been an economic basket case every since they were no longer able to steal enough gold to fund their corruption.

    Tammany Hall

    I don’t think that affected the entire society of a nation with massive theft resulting in economic implosion?

    On the other hand a launch of 1000 ballistic missiles toward major US population centers and naval bases is problematic.

    I wasn’t proposing they would need to. Draw the carriers and limited army into the local undersea and land jungles (by asserting control over China’s claims) and bury them there.

    But in war we operate differently and life is harder for them.

    Differently like Pearl Harbor. Who controls the US military? What are their objectives?

    We can’t entirely do outcomes analysis, if we don’t even know who is control and what their objectives are.

  328. @Winter:
    The record of statism amplifying what would be smaller corrective action with free markets, to massive war and pestilence is irrefutable. A few small outliers of insignificance exist because they had certain funding. The Swiss from supporting the subversion of statism with secret banking. As I asserted, all prosperity comes from subverting statism, for the economic reason that only a meritocracy can create real progress. The USA is young and is still in the process of converting over to pervasive statism. Europe is already there, and there is another round of massive war and pestilence just around the corner. I can understand you like statism, because it hasn’t failed yet for you. You seem to ignore how it has failed most of the time, and failed horrifically worse than free market economies corrected.

    You seem to be unable to make a distinction between “teaching” and “zealous propaganda”.

    Hint: forced education (designed to accomplished one goal of a central controller) and diverse education by choice.

    Teaching children to swim is not somehow erasing diverse attitudes about swimming (yes, I consider your remark idiotic).

    Hint: there is a difference between parents and kids choosing to enroll in a swimming class (not everyone does, they might prefer badminton or chess class) and state-mandated indoctrination.

  329. @Winter:

    China: 2200
    Egypt: 4000?

    And these cases of statism underwent periods of massive war, pestilence, and megadeath.

    All progress has come from those who subverted the statism.

  330. @JustSaying
    “So that is why I cringe when I come into contact with westerners who want to spread statism. ”

    So how do you think statism could be spread more than it is? There might be two or three small areas in the world where people do not live in a state, e.g., Somalia. So the opportunities of spreading statism seem very limited to me.

  331. @JustSaying
    “forced education (designed to accomplished one goal of a central controller) and diverse education by choice.”

    Children are always forced by adults to undergo education. So what is your point?

    It does not seem to advance the future prospects of a child when it is withheld education in reading, writing, and some math. In my country, not being able to swim is positively harmful to a child. Why make an exception to medical and social hygiene and family planning?

    I get the impression that you are one of those people who ascribe to the idea that knowledge is harmful to children, and must therefore be administered only in small doses under tight control. In other words, heavy censorship for children.

  332. @JustSaying
    “And these cases of statism underwent periods of massive war, pestilence, and megadeath.”

    So did populations not part of states. Ok, there were more people to die in the first place. But these people would not have lived without the state anyway.

  333. @Winter:
    I have already told you several times that there is a difference between each parent and child making education choices, and the state mandated it for all parents and children (even forcing those who didn’t want to take and pay for it).

    How you equate that with being against education simply boggles the mind.

  334. @Winter:
    Why can’t you understand that I am for education to the fullest, as long as each person chooses what they want, not forced on them by the majority (actually by the minority who are the vested interests which capture the statism).

    The former is knowledge creation, and your statism version is death and stagnation because knowledge is not created by force.

  335. @JustSaying
    “Why can’t you understand that I am for education to the fullest, as long as each person chooses what they want, not forced on them by the majority (actually by the minority who are the vested interests which capture the statism).”

    Since when are children in a position to chose their education?

    And your ignorant rantings about “state-forced education” are largely irrelevant in many “states”. For instance, we have a system where any group (mostly religious, but also other “philosophies”) can found a school and select teachers. They can organize their teaching the way they want. State funded and all.

    The only requirements (beyond safety) are that there are enough parents that send in their children, and the children are taught to certain qualifications and subject proficiency. If you now start to complain that we should not force children to learn things like reading and math, I assume the child protection agency should get involved.

  336. @Winter:

    So how do you think statism could be spread more than it is?

    The level of statism is very low still for example in the developing countries, which have small government share of GDP.

  337. @JustSaying
    “The level of statism is very low still for example in the developing countries, which have small government share of GDP.”

    What does GDP and who gets its have to do with statism?

    Most of the GDP in those countries ends up in the hands of one group of people. However, after the state strengthens and GDP rises, most of the GDP end up in the hands of one group of people.

  338. @Winter:

    Since when are children in a position to chose their education?

    Could you not see where I wrote more than once “parents and children”.

    And your ignorant rantings about “state-forced education” are largely irrelevant in many “states”.

    You have proven no ignorance with your rebuttals.

    In many cases of states, statism mandates the education that is most accessible and affordable. It is that way in USA, Philippines, China, etc..

    we have a system where any group (mostly religious, but also other “philosophies”) can found a school and select teachers. They can organize their teaching the way they want.

    So do we in USA, but it is not accessible to most. Most get the mandatory indoctrination. I know for a fact they are teaching Global Warming in middle school in WA state.

    State funded and all.

    Awesome. No meritocracy here.

    If you now start to complain that we should not force children to learn things like reading and math

    Readers are quite clear that I have never proposed such nonsense. Liberals attack with lies when they are trounced in the debate, because they have no logical foundation ;)

  339. @Winter:

    What does GDP and who gets its have to do with statism?

    Government share of the GDP is a rough proxy for how much the economy is run through the government instead of the private sector. Thus is a rough proxy for the pervasiveness of the statism. I would not be surprised if Europeans are ignorant of this statistic and its importance.

  340. @JustSaying
    “So do we in USA, but it is not accessible to most. ”

    In the Netherlands it is accessible to all. Actually, such “special” schools are more accessible to many than state (actually county) run schools.

    I do not see why the inability of the USA to organize their schooling in an acceptable manner should be considered some fundamental truth of the human condition. It is just a failure of USA citizens to get their act straight.

  341. @JustSaying
    ” I would not be surprised if Europeans are ignorant of this statistic and its importance.”

    You mean we fail to see the link between tax money spend on roads, bridges, public transport, or health care and the quality of our roads, bridges, public transport, or health care?

    No way, that we would ever see such a link!

    Kidding aside, statism is a philosophy, believe, or political movement (pick one or more). None of these correlate with GDP or income distributions in straightforward manners.

  342. @Winter:

    In the Netherlands it is accessible to all. Actually, such “special” schools are more accessible to many than state (actually county) run schools.

    That may be true and I have heard similar comments from my Belgium friend about various trade vocations that can be undertaken in lieu of standard school.

    I do assume that most kids attended the standard schools for elementary and possibly middle school. If not true, you can correct me.

    In any case, I already wrote that NL is a small country and not representative of statism education in the most populous nations. You have not refuted that.

    You mean we fail to see the link between tax money spend on roads, bridges, public transport, or health care and the quality of our roads, bridges, public transport, or health care?

    Go back and reread my link on meritocracy. The model must have flown over your head. Quality has nothing to do with economic need, and performance of an economy.

    You won’t get it. Just give up.

  343. @Winter:

    Sorry I missed your “non-kidding point”:

    Kidding aside, statism is a philosophy, believe, or political movement (pick one or more). None of these correlate with GDP or income distributions in straightforward manners.

    Sure they correlate. The more the government spends, the more the belief is in action. Fundamentally statism is about taxation and spending. The more share of the GDP the government occupies, the more taxation, government borrowing, and spending as a share.

    I didn’t invent this. It is concept well understood by economists.

  344. @JustSaying
    “In any case, I already wrote that NL is a small country and not representative of statism education in the most populous nations. You have not refuted that.”

    Then take Germany.

  345. @JsutSaying
    “The more the government spends, the more the belief is in action. Fundamentally statism is about taxation and spending.”

    No, it is about level of organization. Compare German, Swedish, Italian, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, Belgian, Swiss, and French believes. Try to find a correlation with percentage of GDP run through the government.

  346. @Winter:
    It may be true (I haven’t checked all the data for your country) that NL is able to avoid the Olson scramble that esr wrote about in Some Iron Laws of Political Economics. Perhaps your citizens are special in some way, but this is not the norm. And I do doubt that your citizens and vested interests are sufficiently altruistic to avoid the problem. Your country is insignificant and I see clear examples of the problem in the very populous USA, China, Japan, Germany, PIIGS, etc…, and all the aforementioned and more will be going through wars and pestilence soon as a result.

  347. @Winter:
    You will find that share of GDP is a reasonable proxy in many cases. Indeed we could also measure by # of laws, regulations, or other metrics of centralized control, but these are not an absolute proxy either, because for example not all laws have the same statist effect.

  348. @JustSaying
    Obviously you are utterly ignorant aboit modern Germany. If all Libertarians remain stuck in the 1940s, they have no future.

  349. @Winter:
    I know that Germany owns much of the debt of the PIIGS. I also understand that instead of breaking away from the Euro statism and allowing defaults, they will instead choose to enslave Europe with confiscation. This the Germans being the enforcers again, and we know how that has worked out in history. C.f. the comment in a recent blog about the world being great if the French are the cooks and the Brits are the police, not when the Germans are the enforcers.

    Germany and France are now proposing to go after wealth of Europeans every where in the world, by demanding through the G20 that all nations unify their bank reporting to tax authorities. The statism is going to obliterate the middle class globally. Then we will see what comes next.

    We will soon see…

  350. @JustSaying
    “I know that Germany owns much of the debt of the PIIGS.”

    You wanted an example of appropriate education policy in a big nation. Now you divert the attention to debt services.

  351. @Winter:

    @JustSaying
    “I know that Germany owns much of the debt of the PIIGS.”

    You wanted an example of appropriate education policy in a big nation. Now you divert the attention to debt services.

    Precisely. Statism conflates the two.

    I have referred you more than once to the model of non-meritocracy in statism, which I linked up thread.

  352. @Jeff Read:
    Man-made global warming is an example of “research” that is a fraud. Government funded “research” can devolve into “prove what the funders want”. I have no idea if NRA is blocking anything and I don’t care, because I don’t believe any lasting solutions to anything will come from politics in any form (including irrational debates in blogs).

    As I understand the point of this blog was to shock the moderates into sensing their responsibility to push back against the way to extremists shift the groupthink of society. The statists always win the politics (and yes for me the right and the left are the same, because I am only interested in meritocracy vs. not) because for example they teach man-made global warming as truthful science now in the state schools in the USA.

    My message to esr and other moderates is, “you are wasting your time and you instead need to look for technological solutions which can’t be subverted”. Never in history has statism been defeated through reason. It is always about finding the technological means to survive statism, and then come out the other side after the statists have killed themselves and the rest are weary. Then our technologies usher in a new round of prosperity.

    It is of no utility whatsoever to talk reason to statists.

  353. @Winter:
    Regarding Germany, remember my claim is those nations which have undergone wars, pestilence, and even megadeath due to statism, including China and Eqypt which you listed as existing for 2000+ years. I claim that with a meritocracy for social organization (c.f. my linked model), we can get more frequent corrections of misallocation and avoid these horrific outcomes. I also claim that a meritocracy will only exist where technology makes it is impossible to subvert, e.g. the personal computer is a meritocracy inducing device because the state can’t control very well every computer in every home (although they keep floating trial balloons to make it so, such as hardware IDs, requiring IDs for each connection to the internet, etc).

    This is why I was against esr’s stance that Google’s strict ID policy was good, and against his stance on version control against anonymity. I think this is in large part be due to the difference in social attitudes between boomers and X-gens. We are not only untrusting of authority– we don’t depend on it and don’t need it.

  354. >If the pro-gun crowd is in the right, why are they trying to suppress the science?

    Because of a belief, which is both correct and justified, that the so-called “science” funded by government on this topic is largely a tissue of lies and hackwork. It’s actually worse than AGW, which is mostly error cascade with a relatively small group of frauds manipulating lots of honest workers. The pro-gun-control “scientific” literature is much more pervasively rotten with intentional fraud.

    I’m on the road and it’s awkward for me to embed a link, but find my post “A brief history of firearms policy fraud” for discussion and links.

  355. Our host mentioned Kashruth as an example of a form of non-governmental food regulation that works well. I was merely attempting to explain that it may be that part of the reason for the efficacy is that a religious authority defines both the label and the expectations for the label.

    Except that they don’t, mostly. Producers have a choice between many labels, and consumers have a choice between products bearing many labels, and a label that loses the public’s trust will eventually lose clients. It can either tighten its standards and try to regain the public trust, or it can carve itself out a niche by charging lower fees and catering only to those consumers who are OK with its looser standards, and to producers for whom the lower fees are an acceptable tradeoff for losing some consumers.

  356. But the problem with your Laissez-faire solution is that in a country like China with no functioning FDA, it is impossible to sell clean formula. Even if you succeed, some other company will simply start to sell a dangerous fake that is indistinguishable and your customers will not be able to tell the difference.

    That’s not the FDA’s function, that’s the function of courts to 1) enforce trademarks and 2) punish fraud. Without trademark enforcement kashrut-style labeling won’t work either.

  357. @Milhouse:

    Without trademark enforcement kashrut-style labeling won’t work either.

    Digital signature technology can solve that without the statism of trademark enforcement.

    We don’t need statism any more. We have personal computers.

  358. First, what is the record of Kosher certification in protecting against fraud (accidental or intentional). Pretty good, you would say? How do you know? Failures of kosher certification aren’t headlines. They’re barely news at all, except to the small number of observant Jews.

    They are headline news in Jewish publications, and nowadays on web sites. There was a major incident just a month ago that generated a lot of news. Search for “Doheney meats“. For an older failure that was a major scandal in the small world of kashrut, search for “Shevach” and “Monsey”. But for the most part it works very well. How do I know? Mostly because the inspection procedures, by their nature, make most fraud difficult and expensive to get away with. Just knowing that the kashrut inspector is going to go through the invoices means that if you want to do something you need to fake the paperwork well enough to fool him (or her), and make sure nobody at the plant will blab; and the expected profits from your fraud have to be high enough to justify it. You have to be determined to do something wrong, because the payoff is high, which is why the failure points are usually places like butcher shops.

    Second, what are the consequences of such a failure? Substantively, nothing. Even for an observant Jew, it’s only an annoyance. The Law does not condemn anyone for unknowingly consuming trayf.

    But people who believe in Judaism believe that eating treif, knowingly or inadvertently, has a deleterious effect on a person, so finding out that one has done so causes, if nothing else, great emotional distress. It may also involve the expense of re-koshering ones entire kitchen and throwing out things that can’t be koshered, e.g. ceramics.

  359. This is why my arguments generally focus on comparing worst cases to worst cases (e.g. the Bhopal disaster vs. the Holocaust),

    Though Bhopal was the result of the government forcing Union Carbide to have Indians in control of the plant’s everyday operations, and free from their interference wasn’t it?

  360. If abortion is legally or morally considered murder, then it is still not the right of random citizens to murder those involved

    Really?! How on earth can you say that? The right to use force to defend oneself or others is fundamental. Do you really believe that if an armed person had been able to stop Adam Lanza by killing him, she would not have had the right (and indeed duty) to do so?! Or, for that matter, that it would have been wrong to kill Ted Bundy or Kermit Gosnell, if that were the only way to stop them?! If abortion is murder then there is no difference between these mass-killers and an abortionist.

  361. Always enjoy these structural polemics that cause cognitive dissonance when the reasonable common sense regulation turns into nonsensical insanity when applied to other aspects of our society.

    This is my attempt http://wp.me/p301lC-wO

    Sadly I lack time to read all of the comments to this post, but something that caught my eye

    “The statists always win the politics” and “Never in history has statism been defeated through reason” Perhaps these victories were won without reason, but I think a case exists that these events happened in opposition to the will of the ‘statists’. I refer to the Carry Handgun Permits. During the last few decades we have reversed course against the notion that state actors are the only ones competent to justly use force. We have reversed the monopolization of force by state actors to the point that 49 states have some kind of handgun carry law, and 40 have ‘shall issue’ laws. ‘Shall Issue’ laws basically remove any requirement to ‘justify’ needing a permit to a state official. 13 of those states went from criminalizing defensive carry to ‘shall issue’.
    Again, in every case these HCL laws were passed in the face of stiff opposition from state actors and NGO’s
    I’m just saying=)

  362. @murph:
    Your linked blog is in my opinion quintessential statist illogic. For example, only in a statist world is “deadbeat dads” a crime. In my world, the state has no role to play in how males and females structure their relationships, financial or otherwise. Even the marriage certificate is the state sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. Of course, weak women want to demand that the state is their husband and can force the man to be her dog. I refuse. I prefer the real natural world, where both the woman and man have to accept the risks, and this motivates them both to choose and act accordingly. In the statist world, the woman no longer needs the man, so the society collapses in many facets. Even the man doesn’t need his family, since the state is the financial backstop.

    Human trafficking similar to rape is best left to the realm of an armed citizenry and the people learning to protect themselves and/or women valuing a male protector. In my non-statist world, bootlegging is a legitimate arbitrage activity and not a crime, and taxes don’t exist.

    Then you make the erroneous assumption that security hardware is only useful to criminals. Statists love to bind orthogonal things together, making it impossible to do anything.

    I am not knowledgeable about handgun laws, but I do see that Obama signed an executive order to increase federal capability to disrupt, avoiding even the oversight of the legislature.

  363. Pingback: Destroying the middle ground, redux • bring back unix

  364. Sorry about that, I guess I should clearly indicate my push to overturn 4th amendment protection is meant as satire and / or a parable attempting to demonstrate the logic used by those who attempt to ban guns is just as stupid when used to ban ‘security’ devices
    As to the rest, I’m a Rational Anarchist from way back, (I would love to live in Dr. Vinge’s “The Ungoverned”, or J Neal Shulman’s “Alongside Night”, or even L Neil Smiths “Probability Broach”). who is currently experimenting with political activism from the view point of a citizen run government / society, even at the cost of working with state actors.
    It’s all fine and well to talk about life in your anarchic world, it would be even more impressive if you could actually live in it.
    That’s my main objection to ‘anarchy’ as a viable system, that it so far can’t out compete with other types of governments, capitalism to fascism and everything in between or we would hav.
    Your example of a dead beat dad illustrates the point here. If a mother of your child is not being supported by you, then she can apply for state sponsored support and name you as the father, which means the state gives her money on your behalf and then bills you plus penalties. Now you owe the ‘State’. Unless you can come to some kind of arrangement with your baby momma that allows you to give her money on a monthly basis, the state will keep paying her and add those payments to your ‘debt’. You will also be required to pay off your ‘debt’ that accrued while the state was making payments for you.
    You may be thinking, screw that, I’m going to live an anarchist lifestyle, let them try and get money from someone not in their system.
    This is all well and good until you try to get a state i.d., or lease an apt, buy a car, start a bank account, deposit money in an already opened account, pay your taxes, work a job that requires a valid Social Security number, build a credit history, stay out of jail. That last is the real kicker, if you don’t make some arrangement with the D.P.S.and keep them, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest, which means any interaction with law enforcement can end up with you in a county jail. Guess what happens while your incarcerated, that’s right, she is still getting checks from the state which adds to the debt the statists now think you owe them. Kind of hard to live your ‘real natural world’ behind bars.
    If your going to live ‘outside’ the ‘system’, you need some heavy hitting counter economic allies, and resign yourself to being a wanted man by state actors.
    I don’t approve of this system, I do not think it’s just, but I don’t see anyway around it for someone the state actor can label as a dead beat dad.
    My original point still stands, ‘Shall Issue’ carry has been passed despite the best efforts of state actors and the massively bankrolled astro-turf organizations sponsored by oligarchic overlords.<snark.
    Considering where we were when the first pro-2nd Amendment activism began, I think we have made huge strides, if not in actually restoring the Constitution, then at least setting the stage and gathering the tools necessarily to fulfill that goal.

  365. There are pronouncements in the German press that European savers will have to bailout the banks.

    @murph:

    It’s all fine and well to talk about life in your anarchic world, it would be even more impressive if you could actually live in it.

    In some respects I am by living in the Philippines, although for as long as I am a US citizen, I am under threat. And this anarchic rat hole is drifting towards statist. After this coming global crisis, the remaining anarchic nations will give up much sovereignty in exchange for protection and financial support from the powers that be (US military, IMF, etc).

    The only path I see going forward is technological. The computer programmers who live a simple life and avoid fathering children and marriage, should be able to live outside the system to a great extent. And since I think most economic value will come from the programmers as this computer revolution displaces many other vocations with automation (e.g. driverless cars, automated customer support, doctorless diagnosis from IBM’s Watson, etc), then I think we will be significantly in an anarchic world. However, most people will feel this as a desperate, bankrupt statism that is killing them. It is sad, but that is what statists do to themselves.

    I could very well be swallowed by it, if I am not lucky. Good luck. We are all going to need it.

  366. @Jessica Boxer:

    I have listened to some of Hitler’s speeches and I don’t feel any desire at all to go out and kill any Jews. Perhaps it is that mind control ray thingie that is missing.

    You and your countrymen aren’t (yet!) suffering severe widepread financial deprivation either– that mind control thingie.

    I’ve lived for a year or so without enough money to eat properly. After sufficient time, the desire to not eat rice and bananas every day is much stronger than rationality.

  367. @esr

    “Chinese military theory has long emphasized deception, indirection, …”
    Not alone in that. c.f. ?????????? (Maskirovka) , ????????????? (disinformatzia)
    Basically, deception/masks, and false information. The Russians (and soviets before) are past masters at this. I suspect it’s related to the USSR’s success at HUMINT. I have no reason to believe that the Russian Federation has forgotten any skills from that period.

  368. @winter

    ‘Switzerland has existed as a nation for 800 years and has never seen a
    totalitarian regime nor has it ever been conquered.’

    “In 1798 Switzerland was completely overrun by the French and became the Helvetic
    Republic. The Helvetic Republic encountered severe economic and political
    problems. In 1798 the country became a battlefield of the Revolutionary Wars,
    culminating in the Battles of Zürich in 1799. In 1803 Napoleon’s Act of
    Mediation reestablished a Swiss Confederation that partially restored the
    sovereignty of the cantons, and the former tributary and allied territories of
    Aargau, Thurgau, Graubünden, St. Gallen, Vaud and Ticino became cantons with
    equal rights.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland_in_the_Napoleonic_era

  369. @Winter
    “The rise of Switzerland as a federal state began on September 12, 1848, with the creation of a federal constitution, which was created in response to a 27-day civil war in Switzerland, the Sonderbundskrieg. The constitution, which was heavily influenced by the US Constitution and the ideas of the French Revolution, was modified several times during the following decades and wholly replaced in 1999. The constitution represents the first time that the Swiss were governed by a strong central government instead of being simply a collection of independent cantons bound by treaties.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland_as_a_federal_state

  370. One sidetracking note off of this regarding corporations – until the late 1880s, they could only be formed for a limited purpose and a limited time and had few benefits. Delaware found it to be an economic boon to their state coffers to broaden what they could do, and limit their liabilities. From that we get the evolution of the modern world, both good and bad, to today – where I recommend everybody incorporate themselves as soon as legally able, as being a corporation is so much better, legally, and financially – if not necessarily morally – than being a person.

    A lot of folk see governments as the problem and give corps a pass. I tend to regard any org of more than dunbar limit size (150+ people) as a potential problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *