Friday, March 29, 2013

Need Viral Strategy for Social Change

A good fad can have more impact than a bad law. So far, libertarians have not been trendsetters.

I want to find a way of life that

* generates income, or at least food, shelter, and clothing
* attracts imitators, and the more there are, the stronger it gets. Network effects.
* keeps me safe from manipulators, gurus, cops, cranks, scam artists, any sort of slave driver
* helps me connect with others, win-win
* strengthens my strengths and guards my weaknesses (biases, tribalism, collectivism, groupthink), or turns them into strengths.
* be the change you want to see
* helps me learn and grow
* fun! Like a game
* includes social activism that makes a difference, that leaves behind a new shed or some planted seeds or at least some full bellies. Not political activism, which rarely makes a mark.

Gypsy Goth Quaker Mafia
Apache, baochan daohu, mountain tribes

Actually help someone who needs it
Actually build something worth building, or plant seeds
Have a party while making a difference
Mass produce nonconformism

activist projects and organizations

I have too much to read and not enough to do.

The internet is full of interesting web sites and podcasts about ideas about liberty. But not so many projects to pursue. What are you doing now that you're excited about these ideas?

Spread the Word:
The Advocates for Self-Government is one of my favorite organizations, but they seem to lack momentum these days. I never hear about them unless I go looking for them.

Vote with your Feet:
Free State Project wants liberty-oriented people to move to New Hampshire. Over 1000 already have, about 14,000 have signed up to move once there are 20,000 signers. My problem is, what do I do before and after moving?

Avatar of the Goddess Liberty:
Do self-work to free your mind.

Cultivate Liberty:
Peaceful parenting

Confront the Criminals:
Civil disobedience is divisive. It can be good "in-reach", inspiring those who agree with the disobedient and sometimes garnering good publicity. Bad publicity and long jail sentences are also a risk.

The State Rendered Redundant:
Spreading the word is not the only sort of education we value. Demonstration projects show skeptics what works (and help us figure it out) better than arguing. Every "service" offered by government bureaucrats should have a competitor from civil society, unless it is immoral or illegal. In some cases, we might even consider bending the law to provide competitive services.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tactics for Social Change

Previous cultural changes forced political change (civil rights, women's lib, etc.). But the liberty movement may face an unusual difficulty, because where previous cultural changes gave government an excuse to grow, a successful liberty movement will push for reducing the scale, scope, budget, and employment of the government. True bureaucrats will not say "Me too!" to liberty.

So, what is to be done? Perhaps you were hoping I would give an innovative answer, but I have none.

In the past, I had high hopes for the Advocates for Self-Government. I still like this organization, but I am a bit disappointed that they have not improved their approach much over the past decade or so, while web 2.0 detonated. Maybe I haven't been paying sufficient attention and they accomplished a lot outside my notice.

The Free State Project grabbed my attention recently. I support them, but they do not answer the question I have about what form activism should take once people move to New Hampshire, much less what anyone else can do to push forward.

Maybe I have left out some brilliant group or web site with a winning strategy. Or maybe you have a great plan. If so, please mention or link to it in the comments!

Truth and/or Propoganda?

Someone should offer an X prize for the best liberty documentary, TV series, movie, etc. There's not enough good liberty propoganda.

Dirty politics guarantees that any effective vehicle for a political message will have someone on the Internet straw-manning it.

Need a better description than liberty-oriented, non-aggressive, voluntaryist, and non-coercive.

Questions about the Political Process, Collective Choice and Collective Action

Do we have reason to believe that the political process in the US responds appropriately to new information? Is any specific choice made by that process more likely to be correct or good than some other process? What alternative processes are feasible? Is there any aspect of the political process as practiced in DC that filters out bad ideas? What does "correct" mean in this context? Can government learn from its mistakes? Will it? What will it learn?
The ant colony learns and adapts to its environment. But it can't learn French, and it ignores issues of ethics. How much influence can people within the system have on the system? How much do the beliefs of the component persons affect the outcomes of the system?
Are policies that are based on accurate factual claims and predictions more likely to be popular?
The system is in place and voting perturbs or corrects it now and then.
Is politics about theories or values? Are political answers correct or incorrect, good or bad, both, or niether?
With regard to a policy, will it have the desired effect, what side-effects will it create, and do we really want the primary effect or not? Is it better than the next best alternative? What is the next best alternative? Can the political process become a source of experimentation and discovery?

Big Problems and Important Problems

I can think of a long list of big problems that the liberty movement cannot fix right now: mass incarceration and the drug war, the police state, income taxes, monetary policy, government debt, war, regulation, transparency and accountability, effective limits on government scope, debt, budget deficits, data security, and IP reform. They all share a strong political component. We must change public opinion before we can do anything about these issues. How do we do that? We can only begin where we are and take a step at a time.
Less obvious but more important problems exist that we can influence right away: peaceful parenting, self-knowledge, DIY skills, mutual aid, etc. (please suggest more in comments.)
We have an immediate effect.
We learn to organize and experiment with different approaches.
We show others what we're about.
We increase the resiliency (antifragility?) of society and show an alternative to government coercion.
When others see us having fun and making a difference, maybe they'll be tempted to join in, first as allies, maybe later as full-on liberty activists.

Freedom Shock

When government cancels programs without first gaining popular support, beneficiaries and sympathizers will create a backlash. This is freedom shock. 
The idea of the state lives in the heads of the general populace. Destroy the bureaucracy without destroying that hologram, and the bureaucracy will be back in business a week later, now with extra repression. Destroy the idea and the bureaucracy will crumble. 

Anarchist Morality Null Hypothesis

An important strategy of anarchist argument is to question the morality of government coercion. The conventional countermove attempts to defend a version of the social contract or night watchman state that deflects the force of the moral attack.

But another option offers itself. What if human beings are incapable of acting morally with respect to politics? What if our chimp-with-a-bad-attitude nature views non-coercion as an intelligent house cat would regard vegetarianism - perhaps admirable and desirable, but impossible? So, not the moral perfectibility of the state, but it's inevitability, must the anarchists disprove.

The nation state has only existed in its modern form for a few hundred years, so this null hypothesis needs to tie the state to technological advancement. Make up some evolutionary story about scaling up hunter-gatherer instincts from small groups to large. Perhaps that game admits multiple equilibria, but we observe a fairly narrow range of variation.

How ironic, if true! Opponents attack and supporters defend the legitimacy of the state. But its illegitimacy gives it its strength.

Political Epistemology

Some political systems exist, others used to exist, some have not yet existed. Can we declare any of them impossible, even the most absurd? All that exist failed in some way.

Before the Wright brothers went to Kitty Hawk, many people argued that heavier than air human flight was not possible. I suspect this was a waste of breath. How can we know when we waste our breath, before we witness the idea we oppose in flight?

Purely political ideas are nebulous, vague, abstract, theoretical. How can we test them fairly?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Where Can You Go to be Free?

Find someplace not claimed by a government, or claimed by a government that is not able to enforce their claim, but yet has society. Find a place where society limits government. Find a place that is more free than most, and push for more. No wilderness, please.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Social Contract Realpolitik Strawman Justification of State Action

Why is the following a strawman?
Taxation is rent, and anything the government can get away with is worth doing.
Forget about abstract concepts for a while, and just concentrate on the claims implied in what the government does.
Property taxes are rent, if you don't pay they will evict you. While you are within their "jurisdiction", they claim to be entitled to restrict your behavior, just as if it were their property and by remaining you have consented to their authority. What forces actually restrict the government's discretion? It doesn't matter what the constitution says, if you have 5 supreme court justices on your side. Popular opinion sometimes can restrict government action. Even dictatorships prefer popularity, because popular policies encourage compliance among the populace.
We could quibble about how government acquired their ownership claims, but does it matter? Who will sue them or prosecute them for theft?
So land taxes are rents, and zoning laws are their version of a lease. How kind of them to give you a vote, you certainly can use it to lower your rent and demand improved service!
The US federal government also taxes income, as do many states. It is unusual for two entities to own the same thing, but I can adjust. Note that they do not claim to own our labor - I can work all day in my back yard, but if I don't get paid they let me slide. Income is an odd thing to own, very abstract and conceptual. But they are able to deal with complications. Even expatriot citizens must pay US income tax, putting the US in an unusual category. Sales taxes or VAT imply partial ownership of the products sold.
What is the state? The state is more than a bunch of elected or appointed officials, bureaucrats, and an army. It is more than judges, prosecutors, and cops. It contains all those, but also includes the ordinary people who, by conscious choice, delusion, or ideology, reinforce the illusion of legitimacy that perpetuates the magic show. The state does not seek an external, eternal standard of justice, it claims to embody its own standard. If they can get away with it, it is legitimate. If they can't, it's not, at least until they try again. What is, ought to be. What is, must be. Constitutions, morals, principles, and rights form the fig leaf that hides the truth.
So, is this realpolitik social contract a strawman? None dare speak to defend this idea, but the actions of many proclaim it. In this case, actions speak louder than words.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Social change with and without politics

Does politics cause social change or adapt to it more frequently? On important issues?

Change enough people's attitudes and policy will follow. Change policies without changing hearts, and observe the awkward, temporary result.

I don't want the state to collapse, I want to transform it. I want to transform attitudes, perceptions and opportunities.

Repeal all the coercive laws and what will take their place? How would the average person respond? Freedom shock: if their hearts and minds remain the same, they would rebuild the old coercive structure.

Give many people a reason to believe that coercive laws lack necessity, and a discussion begins.

Give people concrete alternatives to coercive systems, and they will adopt them.

Examples of social change without politics:
Bitcoin, pot, the Internet. The Apache.

Viral, decentralized, spontaneous, unorganized, leaderless, non-ideological, apolitical. A game, a club, a fad.

Social changes where politics followed social movements:
abolitionism, women's sufferage, European socialism, progressivism, abstinence, civil rights, women's lib, gay liberation.

Coercive action and voluntary collective action

Many conflate these. They tie the benefits of collective goals to the mechanism of coercive taxation. In reality, they do not necessarily connect.

Dave's YQ test: They Never Taught Me this in School

I want to make a web page that quizzes web surfers about useful stuff I learned outside of school. After you answer, it provides links to info supporting various answers. Ideally, visitors to the site could contribute questions, answers, and "research material" of their own, and rate the most interesting threads.

Socialists and Capitalists

I feel some sympathy for the socialists because of their concern for workers, people living in poverty, the weak, and misfits in general, and their resentment of bosses, bigwigs, and bankers.
Of course, many regimes that called themselves socialist quickly stamped out all sorts of non-conformism. The violence of their revolution and of their rule seems like a contradiction of the admirable part of their program. What makes socialists like Che seem like romantic figures to some people? Is it just the violence? The concern for workers? Impatience with the impossibly slow pace of social change? Contrarianism?
Marx's passion for centralized factory-style organization seems thoroughly outdated in the age of the internet. Marxism was a weak critique of capitalism, lacking a real alternative. The proletariat no longer exists, they've been replaced with robots. Now factory workers tend the robots instead of acting as cogs in the vast machine. Questions about ownership of the means of production lack meaning in an age where you can buy, rent, or subcontract nearly any sort of production, and 3d printers promise to democratize production even further.
Even the social democrats who gained power peacefully, lost regard for the non-conformists. High taxes and "social services" don't impress me much.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

monetary policy, gold buggery, and old fudyyduddyism

The US has a long history full of monetary cranks. When I was young, I ignored the subject as simply uncool. Later, I studied economics and hung out with libertarians, so I inevitably heard some Ron Paul-style anti-fed rabble rousing, but I found Milton Friedman's monetarist take on things more appealing than Murray Rothbard's gold backed money pleas. I've gotten more friendly with the idea that the Fed might exert an unfortunate influence on government borrowing, but hey, there were government bonds long before there was a federal reserve, and I'd bet a lot of money that there will be government bonds as long as there are governments. I always found political influence over monetary policy suspicious, but I don't like bad arguments against fractional reserve banking much better. I like the "free banking" ideas of George Selgin and Larry White, based on some work by Friedrich Hayek with an eye toward various systems used before 1900 in various places, but those are a dead letter so far as the government goes. Now bitcoin is interesting.
When I began writing this post, I had the feeling that my ideas about money had finally gelled, and that I would need to both eat some crow and try to figure out whether I had just become old and uncool enough to get mad about monetary policy. But the moment has already passed. We could end the Fed, and if that's all we did, nothing would change. If the US adopted a gold standard, well, they had one before, that didn't stop them from de-ing the currency or abandoning it again if they feel like it. Take monetary policy out from under political control and they will still borrow and spend. Our monetary setup is stupid, and could (technically speaking) be improved easily, but there is little political possibility of that happening.
Government debt is another issue where I am an old fuddyduddy, but I have no credibility there. I thought we were on the brink of disaster in the '80s, but I was just wrong. Is there a limit to how much they can borrow? What happens when they hit that limit? I don't know.