Sunday, June 30, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Seven: Receiving Empathically

NVC helps us express our observations, feelings, needs, and requests, but also can help us hear them coming from someone else. I sometimes have difficulty understanding the distinction between empathy, sympathy, compassion, etc. "Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing." That's not much. "Empathy with others occurs only when we have successfully shed all preconceived ideas and judgements about them." That's impossible, if I take it literally. I'd like to transpose that to something like "Minimize your preconceptions, open yourself to new possibilities." Even then, it is not clear how to accomplish this, or to know you have done so.
Oddly, it is easier to know what not to do. "Instead of offering empathy, we tend instead to give advice or reassurance and to explain our own position or feeling." The means are confusing, but the goal is clear: "We give to others the time and space they need to express themselves fully and to feel understood." Rosenberg talks about being present. I hope I understand, but I don't think I can explain, which makes that questionable. Again, Rosenberg ignores his own advice and tells us what he doesn't want: "Believing we have to 'fix' situations and make others feel better prevents us from being present." I interpret this as, we can't understand properly if we start responding to new information before our understanding is complete. And it is specifically an emotional understanding we seek: "intellectual understanding of a problem blocks the kind of presence that empathy requires." "The key ingredient of empathy is presence: we are wholly present with the other party and what they are experiencing. This quality of presence distinguishes empathy from either mental understanding or sympathy." This is too metaphorical for me. The best I can do is interpret this as, don't be doing something else, concentrate on the emotional content of the message they transmit to you. Think about the message later, respond to it later, come up with solutions or ideas later, for now, just absorb it. Then turn it into observations, feelings, needs, and requests. "Listen to what people are needing rather than what they are thinking."
We're not present if we're trying to get something specific from someone or change their thinking of behavior, to convince them or trick them. It comes willingly or not at all. "By maintaining our attention on what's going on within others, we offer them a chance to fully explore and express their interior selves. We would stem this flow if we were to shift attention too quickly either to their request or to our own desire to express ourselves."
Sometimes, the NVC approach, especially if used in a formulaic or mechanical way, will spook people. It will not seem genuine, and may seem manipulative.
Use paraphrasing to confirm that we got the message accurately, and "give the speaker an opportunity to correct us." Asking for new information about emotions can put people off, but "people feel safer if we first reveal the feelings and needs within ourselves that are generating the question." It's good to use reflection to show that you've understood what they're saying, but this can also backfire because "when hearing themselves reflected back, people are likely to be sensitive to the slightest hint of criticism or sarcasm." We need to make it clear we are "asking whether we have understood." "All criticism, attack, insults, and judgments vanish when we focus attention on hearing the feelings and needs behind a message. The more we practice in this way, the more we realize a simple truth: behind all those messages we've allowed ourselves to be intimidated by are just individuals with unmet needs appealing to us to contribute to their well-being." Seen properly, we can turn accusations into opportunities.
Rosenberg is not too clear on when to stop empathizing. He mantions a "sense of relief" and a "corresponding release of tension in our own body" when this happens. I am tempted to make a joke. A "more obvious sign is that the person will stop talking."
Sometimes we may need to empathize with ourselves before we can empathize with others. Or we may be able to request empathy from a cooperative conversation partner.
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NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Six: Requesting That Which Would Enrich Life

The fourth component of NVC concerns making requests. Sometimes we just want to empathize, other times we have an objective. We must negotiate a win-win solution, and to do that we must be able to express our desires clearly.
"Positive action language" that says specifically what we want is less likely to confuse others and inspire resistance. So ask for what you want, don't dwell on what you don't want or give vague hints. Be concrete. Vague requests not only confuse the other person, they may mask our own thoughts from us. A request that sounds sort of reasonable in abstract terms, may reveal itself as unreasonable when we force ourselves to say what we really want, e.g. "Show responsibility" = "Do what I say."
"Depression is the reward we get for being good." At first this sounds odd, but Rosenberg does not clarify. Rosenberg adds that we don't know how to get what we want, instead we do what we "should", we act as good little boys and girls. I think this needs a lot of unpacking and explanation, which he does not really supply. I resist Rosenberg's formulation, because it seems to imply that if you're not depressed, you must've given up the idea of goodness, implying that you must embrace badness, or at least neutrality, in order to gain satisfaction. The best I can do right now is to wave my hands in this fashion: Manipulative people often use morality to gain compliance from others. In this case, at least, because the manipulator gets to define what is good, being good will lead to disappointment. Ironically, this is all so abstract that it's hard to get a good grip on it. Rosenberg is violating his own advice, by keeping his advice vague. Also, our culture disregards selfishness, I think that idea helps prevent the "good children" from asking for what they want, and hence they feel frustrated. When our thoughts get distracted into the good/bad framework, what we want and what we feel get obscured. Rosenberg thinks we will gain from having a better conscious understanding of what we feel and what we want.
By communicating out feelings and motives along with the request, we give better context for negotiation.
For Rosenberg, every communication involves some form of request, if only for acknowledgement.
More often, we want information or some sort of action as a response.
Rosenberg notes that business meetings can be much more useful if those attending the meeting know what sort of choice they are making, what sort of responses will do.
Rosenberg advises against turning requests into demands. A demand is a request that has a punishment, criticism or judgement attached to refusal. If we empathize when someone refuses a request, it is not a demand. Just because a particular request is refused, that does not mean the negotiation must end, there may still be space for clarifying goals and changing strategies.
This is one of the strongest implicit moral claims of NVC, that persons are entitled to refuse requests.
It's important to get feedback, to make sure everyone is on the same page. One way to do this is to request and offer reflections.

Friday, June 28, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Five: Taking Responsibility for our Feelings

 "What others say and do may be the stimulus, but never the cause, of our feelings... Our feelings result from how we choose to receive what others say and do, as well as from our particular needs and expectations in that moment." Some people use guilt as a technique to manipulate others, by trying to make the others feel responsible for the feelings of the manipulators. Acting to avoid guilt can motivate people, but it comes at a cost, it tends to poison the relationship. The person receiving the guilt-trip may be tempted to spend effort in defensiveness or counter attacking.
"Judgements, criticisms, diagnoses and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our needs" and these are typically heard as criticism, and inspire hostility. "The more directly we can connect our feelings to our own needs, the easier it is for others to respond to us compassionately."
When we hear a negative message we can accept it, or react against the person who gave it, or we can reflect on our own feelings or on the feelings and needs of the speaker. We can try to translate into OFNR, from jackal to giraffe.
If we accept responsibility for the feelings of others, we become emotional slaves, we must "constantly strive to keep others happy." Emotional slavery is the lowest stage. The next stage is obnoxiousness, where we reject responsibility for others' feelings but still feel "fear and guilt around having our own needs." "At the third stage, emotional liberation, we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear, guilt, or shame.[...] We accept full responsibility for our own intentions and actions, but not for the feelings of others. [...] we are aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others."
Does Rosenberg mean that last literally, that if we try to meet our own needs at the expense of others, we will fail? That would seem to be a strong claim, with plenty of counterevidence. Or is he expressing a moral imperative in an exaggerated way, expressing "should" without saying it? Is he describing only persons at the third stage? Or something else? Can he somehow get around the counter-evidence for the literal sense?
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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Provide voluntary alternatives to coercion

I was encouraged by this blog post by Stephan Livera.

Plurality Voting vs. the Market, Will the Real Democracy Please Stand Up?

Plurality voting gives the majority their preference, in that they prefer the winner to the loser. Those who determine what choices appear on the ballot or how they appear can exert influence on the outcome. The minority lose, most of (all?) the effort they expended toward promoting their view is wasted, and they must put up with the result.
The market allows each to choose what they prefer, and to switch at any time. If what I prefer is not available, I can start a business and try to provide it myself. Possibilities are limited by technological knowledge and what will sell, not by the disapproval of others.
Which is more democratic, a majority dictating to a minority, or each person choosing for herself?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Moralizing and Persuading

Stefan Molyneux often quotes Nietzsche, who said something like, "Give a man a why and he can bear almost any how." Molyneux prefers arguments that appeal to basic morality, as opposed to consequentialist, cost/benefit oriented, arguments of effect. He claims that no one really cares whether a policy will increase GDP, or reduce crime, or increase average lifespan. If you can persuade someone it is evil, that person will oppose it, and conversely, persons will support that which they evaluate as good. So, persuade someone that the policy or philosophy that they support is evil, and they will abandon it. Persuade me that your philosophy is good, and I will join you.

Marshall Rosenberg advises against moralizing, and excludes it from his vision of "nonviolent communication." Dale Carnegie, in "How to Win Friends and Influence People," says " never tell someone 'you are wrong'."

These two approaches seem opposed, contradictory. Can it be that both are correct? I say yes.

At this point, I must immediately admit I've intentionally framed these in a way to make them look more contradictory than I think they are, in order to emphasize my point. They are not really discussing the same thing.

In my interpretation, Molyneux applies to motivation rather than persuasion. A surprising amount of human activity aims not at selfish gain or even collective gain, but instead at displaying pure motives. Haidt claims that morality evolved as a means for persons to persuade their neighbors of their righteousness.

Rosenberg's approach seeks human connection in order to resolve conflict. Moralizing and evaluating oppose connection. Carnegie seeks to persuade, and persuasion also requires connection. Try to persuade persons to believe that they have been fooled into supporting evil, and they will experience cognitive dissonance. Unless your previous connection to them is unusually strong, they will usually reject your argument. Even if you are strongly connected to them, you will persuade better by avoiding moralistic confrontation.

What about after you persuade someone, will moralizing help motivate them? Human psychology tends toward thinking in terms of "us" and "them". This challenges us to avoid getting trapped by this sort of thinking where it would harm us. Can we also use it to our advantage, honestly, when it may help us? Certainly we feel motivated when we know we are pursuing the good, will it also help motivate us if we think of those who disagree with us and oppose us as enemies, as evil? I answer "no". I can think of three reasons, though not clenchers. First, our opponents are also to some degree potential recruits. They also seek a vision of the good, though a mistaken one, so perhaps we can persuade them to join us. Second, enemy imagery increases conflict, so that if compromise or a creative win-win solution might be conceivable, we are less likely to find it if we demonize our opponents. Third, us/them thinking is very powerful human psychology, to which we are all somewhat vulnerable, and which has been responsible for escalating conflict beyond what is reasonable many times throughout history. So this is a dangerous tool, more attractive to tyrants and demagogues than to someone trying to pursue truth and virtue.

So. I conclude that in "outreach", moralizing will not deliver. Even when trying to motivate those who agree with us ("inreach"), we should limit the role of moralizing to evaluating our beliefs, not demonizing those who may mistakenly oppose us. So to obey Molyneux and Rosenberg at the same time, we must persuade others to adopt our moral outlook while not moralizing at them. Difficult!

I consider this a rough draft, please make suggestions in the comments to help me improve it.

Complete liberty 185 NVC and Moral Relativism

In Complete Liberty podcast 185, Heiko discussed descriptive ethics and how to reframe NVC as not entailing moral relativism. It is a bit long, the discussion gets interesting about minute 50. Unfortunately I must admit I can't summarize the idea that has me so excited, just describe it. So while I found the discussion very interesting, I did not find it clear, even on the second time through. But hey, I was walking the dogs while listening, maybe I need to sit down and concentrate.
NVC labels moralistic judgements as a form of communication that blocks compassion. Because we need to give ourselves empathy, this seems to entail a moral relativism, where judging in terms of morality is just off the table. But this itself is contradictory,  at least by one reasonable interpretation, because NVC can be seen as implying ethical rules of behavior itself, and making moralistic judgements against certain forms of communication and thought. 
I think the resolution of the contradiction lies in distinguishing between what thoughts, feelings, needs, and requests a communication expresses, and whether it does so in a way that provokes the listener or not. One way of expressing a truth ( e.g. "You are an asshole")  may provoke the listener while a different expression of the same idea ("Please don't call me at 2am unless it is a dire emergency") has better chances of success. By this interpretation, Rosenberg is not embracing relativism, but pointing out that moralistic judgements tend to make people defensive, and even if they succeed in getting the other person to change their behavior, there will be a bill to be paid in the coin of resentment.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Four, Identifying and Expressing Feelings

The second component of NVC is "to express how we are feeling." Before we express our feelings, we must be aware of them. It can be very tempting to ignore our feelings and just let our feelings fuel our actions without reflection.
NVC can help us become aware of our feelings and strengthen our feelings vocabulary. This will produce benefits in both intimate and professional settings. "Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts."
Everyday language often treats things that are not feelings as if they were. For example, "I feel it is useless." This sentence actually expresses the speaker's opinion, what she thinks, rather than what she feels. Usually when this is the case, the word "feel" can be replaced by the word "think" without changing the meaning of the sentence. Or "feel" may express our interpretation of the actions or opinions of others, as in "I feel ignored." Expressing such "non-feeling" feelings does not fulfill the second component. It does not express the vulnerability or offer the connection, and may sometimes be seen as an accusation, as in "I feel you have neglected me" or "I feel neglected." 
Rosenberg gives a long list of feeling words. Not sure why.
Language is funny. "I am sad." NVC is okay with that, but maybe general semantics and cognitive behavioural therapy would criticize it as too static, as if sadness was a permanent part of my identity. "I feel sad" gets a thumbs up from those two, but Rosenberg is less happy with it, though I suppose he will let it slide. English needs a better verb for expressing the idea that "I am experiencing sadness." Spanish has 2 versions of the verb "to be", as I recall the major difference between them is that one is used to describe permanent things ("I am a human being") and the other for temporary states ("I am at home"). And Orwell recommends that we do away with the passive voice in our writing. Now I am babbling. "Feel" is a nice active verb, but has the flaw that you can feel things that are not really feelings.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Three, Observing Without Evaluating

If we combine an evaluation with an observation, the other person is likely to hear that as judgement. Evaluations, if necessary, refer to specific time and context, and are kept separate from observations. Static language can't match our dynamic world. Exaggerations and universals like "always" and "never" "often provoke defensiveness rather than compassion."
This is a short chapter, easy to summarize, difficult to internalize.
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NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Two, Communication that Blocks Compassion

Chapter two describes some popular ways of communicating that interfere with empathy and connection. In other words, here's some stuff you might want to stop doing.

Moralistic Judgements

In our culture, we all seem to enjoy telling others where they went wrong. I guess the excuse would be, if I don't tell you about your mistakes, you might not notice you're making any, and so I am helping you correct yourself. But mostly it just makes people self-conscious and defensive, and it makes me seem hostile. "Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing," etc., not on hearing and connecting. If this tactic succeeds in changing someone's behavior, it does so at a cost. "We all pay dearly when people respond to our values and needs not out of a desire to give from the heart, but out of fear, guilt, or shame." 
Rosenberg draws the distinction between value judgements and moralistic judgements. "Value judgements reflect our beliefs of how life can best be served. We make moralistic judgements of people and behaviors that fail to support our value judgements." We are more likely to get what we want when we "articulate our needs and values directly, rather than to insinuate wrongness when they have not been met."
On first sight, this seems relativistic, like Rosenberg is advising us to toss morality out the window, anything goes. But he is advising us to express the same truth in a different way, emphasizing observations, feelings, and needs in a way that enables communication and empathy and minimizes defensiveness. Instead of condemning violence as evil, reveal the fear that violence cultivates, and express the value positively, as in "I value the resolution of human conflicts through other means." This issue is a bit difficult for me to know just how to interpret. I recently heard a podcast featuring a discussion aimed at showing that this attitude toward moralistic judgements is not relativistic. It starts a bit slow, skip ahead a bit if you are not interested in what Ayn Rand said about ethics. Or check out Heiko's youtube presentation on NVC and descriptive ethics.


Comparisons can also make someone feel defensive or depressed, and interferes with compassion. Even positive comparisons cast the person making the comparison in the role of judge. Rosenberg gives the example of comparing yourself to a model from a magazine ad, pointing out that nearly anyone can make themselves miserable by dwelling on how they do not live up to our cultural standard of perfection.

Denial of Responsibility

"We are each responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions." People often use language in a way that denies this responsibility, as in Rosenberg's example "You make me feel guilty." In between any stimulus and our response is our choice.


A demand is a request combined with a threat of punishment or blame for refusing. Demands undermine empathy and connection. Promised rewards also put the person offering the reward in a superior position over the person receiving the reward. 
Of course, reality may reward or punish us for various actions we take, but our adaptation to reality is somehow different from our subservience to another person. We are not trying to empathize with reality, or get empathy from it, or connect with it emotionally. In a way, reality inevitably dominates us!  Are we ever justified in treating other persons like that? If we don't reward the grocer for our food, how can she continue to operate? Even before mass production, people benefitted from dealing with strangers in the marketplace on an impersonal basis. If they had tried to deal with everyone the way they deal with family members or close friends, the system would break down. I want to think about that some more. I hope people may comment on this.

  • "We learn early to cut ourselves off from what's going on within ourselves."
  • "Life-alienating communication both stems from and supports hierarchical or domination societies, where large populations are controlled by a small number of individuals to those individuals' own benefit."
  • "When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings."
  • "It is our nature to enjoy giving and receiving compassionately."

Does this mean that punishment never accomplishes any worthy goal? If we became convinced of this, how could our society make the transition from a justice system based on punishment to one based on empathy? How can we know what that would look like?

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NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter One, Giving from the Heart

These are notes I made for myself as I read "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg. All quotes are from that book unless noted. My notes include some summarizing and some questions and observations of my own. It's not really intended as a replacement for the book, which has nice examples and details I must skip. I intend to provide general notes for refreshing my memory.

NVC aims to helps us break old habits and replace automatic reactions with more reflective and constructive thoughts, allowing our communication to honestly, clearly pursue win-win outcomes. All this "while simultaneously paying others a respectful and empathic attention." It's a bit touchy-feely, but hey, if it works, great.

NVC contains an implicit social criticism, claiming that our cultural conditioning has left us poorly prepared to get what we want. Conventional giving and receiving are entangled in "fear, guilt, shame, or desire for gain." NVC seeks to help us to fix that.

The hypothesis we want to test is this, "If we stay with the principles of NVC, stay motivated solely to give and receive compassionately, and do everything we can to let others know this is our only motive, they will join us in this process."

The NVC process consists of communicating our observations, feelings, needs, and requests (much more on this in later chapters). We  share these four components, "verbally or by other means" and perhaps "without uttering a single word." 

NVC is about meeting needs. Is "needs" the right word? Here are some related words: wants, goals, objectives, motives, urges, impulses, drives, desires. They can be conscious, unconscious, semiconscious? Baggage and issues can hide them from us.

When connecting with someone, it helps to know their feelings and needs. To truly know yourself, you must know what you are feeling, why you feel that way, and what you really want.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reply to M.C.

M.C.: Progress toward voluntarism will be "piecemeal over decades".
Is that bad? It may never happen, but if we don't try we're certain to fail. I think even moderate success at a slow pace in some places would be better than nothing. Due to the internet, the pace of change seems to be increasing. And history is hard to predict, we could always luck out and get a positive black swan or singularity. Or yeah, maybe we'll fail.
M.C.: "Most people don't want it."
Most people, quite reasonably, do not want to give up the familiar to leap into a massive unproven experiment. Most people didn't want the Internet, until they did. Most people didn't want to travel via airplane before the Wright brothers got one to actually fly. If real, existing voluntary institutions work better than coercive ones, people will want them. We need to give them a choice, not just an idea.
M.C.: "Philosophical arguments are a waste of time."
There are certainly limits to what they can accomplish. I am more interested in demonstration projects, in coming up with new alternatives. That is, I want to support existing projects, like bitcoin, and develop additional ones, that provide voluntary alternatives to coercive institutions. At the very least, we need to have practices in place that could expand into popular voluntary alternatives, given the opportunity.
M.C.: Skeptical about "national defense".
This one is difficult. Various people have waved their hands at it, but I don't find them particularly persuasive. The problem is that invaders are not necessarily rational, so being able to make them regret their invasion is not the same as being able to prevent it. OTOH, if Switzerland's defenses are plausible, I think voluntaryists could mount some sort of plausible defense. Note that this gloms together a number of different permutations of the problem. At different stages of the transition, people will have different opportunities and face different risks. The real question is, what makes people feel safe? Current US foreign policy seems to succeed in making many people feel safer while actually increasing their risk. I'm not suggesting we need to trick people, I'm just pointing out how complicated this is.
M.C.: Maybe "private police won't work."
Compared to what? Does the police monopoly actually deliver the goods the public think they're paying for?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Techno Transgressions

Whit Diffie dreams up the idea of public key crypto, the NSA and the department of state do not approve. The idea goes public anyhow. After reading Diffie's paper written with Martin Hellman, Rivest, Shamir, and Adelman create a practical implementation.
Richard Stallman gives us the Free Software Foundation, gcc, GNU public license, copyleft, more. 
The FBI raids a game publisher, Steve Jackson Games, while investigating an employee for hacking. EFF is created in part to defend them.
Linus Torvalds writes a unix kernel and releases it online licensed as GPL.  Despite FUD campaign, with help from GNU tools, Linux caches on.
Phil Zimmerman writes PGP and someone put it on the internet. The state dept. is displeased, but public key crypto goes international.
Napster shares files, and is sued into bankruptcy. Imule cannot be sued.
Bram Cohen invents BitTorrent, the movie industry faints. There is no single server to unplug, no company to sue. The Pirate Bay gets prosecuted, but stays online.
Satoshi Nakamoto invents bitcoin, many disapprove. Bitcoin may not be anonymous, but so far no silk road prosecutions that depend on block chain evidence. Help from TOR.
These have all changed the game. Have I left any out? (Please comment.) How about invention of the Internet and world wide web protocol, not transgressive enough? 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bad Quaker's vision of activism

Ben Stone has released 2 episodes of his "Bad Quaker" podcast on the topic "Beyond Civil Disobedience." There will be more, but I'm already very interested. He brings up some stuff I've wanted to talk about, but also takes some wrong turns, IMHO.

The State is a Meme, Erase it and We Win.

Stone realizes that our enemy is an idea, not a group of people. I like this important insight. Yet his position on violence is confusing. You don't need violence to fight an idea, and using violence may defeat the whole purpose. Better to destroy the religion of the state, without harming any people. Harming the innocent makes us look bad. Harming the guilty, even it you think you can justify it morally, gives them a good excuse to round us up, or spread lies about us, with limited benefit. At this point in history, a movement that is large enough to succeed in violent revolution is large enough to succeed with nonviolence. I suspect that violent tactics, if successful in changing things at all, will likely result in a new boss same as the old boss, rather than changing people's ideas about what is possible and what is tolerable. Stone justifies retribution for specific crimes (as opposed to collective guilt, where cop x pays for the crime of cop y). It's not clear whether he thinks it is practical or not. Stone focuses on taxation and aggression as crimes worth worrying about, excluding tax consumers from moral culpability for cashing in on the government goodies. He might even be interpreted as encouraging everyone to cash in.

Insignificance of Civil Disobedience

Stone undermines the idea of civil disobedience as a tactic. For him, the true meaning of an act of civil disobedience translates as a criticism of a specific policy, never an attack on the basic legitimacy of the system. Clearly there are at least two sorts of law-breaking, the ordinary stealthy selfish lawbreaking of the common crook, and the brazen law-breaking of Gandhi with his crowd of followers and cameras rolling. But maybe there could be a third kind? How about Baochan Daohu, the method farmers surreptitiously used to end collective farming in China? How about the release of PGP, TOR, BitTorrent, Imule, bitcoin, and 3d-printed guns? These technologies all enable speech or action that the US government wants to forbid, while (mostly) leaving the identities of the participants obscure. Sometimes disobedience means rolling the cameras and defying punishment, and sometimes it means you roll your eyes and just get on with your life. The results of civil disobedience depend on your goal. Those who pursue policy change while respecting government legitimacy are limited by the goal they chose. Those who disobey because they want to walk their own path may stumble upon a naked emperor. Who knows what we may accomplish after that? 

No Such thing as Shared/Common Property

On his way to prove that government property is unowned, Stone attempts to prove that all shared or common property, such as a married couple's joint ownership of a house, lacks legitimacy. This is beside the point, but I couldn't resist stopping to scratch my head about that. Certainly such property raises more potential problems than the simple case does. But difficult is not the same as impossible. Am I missing something?

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Government

According to Stone, the US government currently uses control of the money supply, manipulation of the media, the complacency of the populace, and eternal war to legitimate and perpetuate themselves. Stone thinks that the movement should make money from government failure, educate people regarding the moral and practical shortcomings of government, and maybe do some discreet, indirect monkeywrenchinging. Won't it look bad for us to actively contribute to the government ineptitude and failure we criticize? 
And Stone speaks favorably of getting parts of the government to fight each other. If he means turf battles or legal battles, sure. But did he mean literal battles? I suspect we all face danger if government bureaucrats start shooting each other.

Overt and Covert Action Separated

Stone wants to learn from the historical example of the split between the IRA and Sinn Féin. One overt, peaceful branch to do PR and gather funds, the other covert branch to secretly loot and sabotage the government. This approach looks dangerous to me - it invites false flag ops, agents provocateurs, bad PR, unaccountable action, and hypocrisy. Perhaps he will give some details in future episodes, I do not see the big payoff yet. Stone twice mis-spoke in this regard, referring to the need for "deniable plausibility." I think this slip is a bit Freudian, in that, yeah, the plausibility is a bit deniable! (Maybe the covert branch should call themselves "anonymous.") Where is the payoff? Do we really need to encourage the loose cannon? Just the opposite. Once the movement gains a certain degree of popularity and the government starts to notice we exist, how do we prevent the FBI from setting up some green liberty recruits as the modern day Sacco and Vanzetti? We totally lack legitimacy in the eyes of the public, and I suspect the FBI could demonize us easily, unless we stick to a strict program of transparency, nonviolence, and accountability.

Minarchists vs. An-Caps

In a previous post I suggested a truce and alliance between minarchists and an-caps, that piecemeal liberty activism on specific issues provides benefits for both. Experience moving toward liberty gives us experience with what works and how to protect rights. Maybe I was wrong, and those who favor an ultraminimal state must oppose Stone's anarchist strategy? He seems to oppose anything that might reduce the stupidity or corruption of the government. He seems to theorize that government legitimacy falls as corruption rises, so anyone that actually reduces corruption delays the day of reckoning. Does this mean that anarchists should not support reform of any kind? This appeals to my natural laziness, but I don't think it can inspire a successful movement. Stone seems to say we should stand on the sidelines and do nothing except a) point out how stupid it all is to other observers and b) toss a monkeywrench into the works now and then when no one is looking. We should neither support reforming the stupidity nor prepare a replacement. I hope I'm wrong.

Transition: How?

I get the impression that Stone expects the transition from the status quo to liberty will follow a monetary hyperinflation and an attempt to form a world government. But even if government corruption has convinced a large number of people that the state lacks legitimacy, what will they do in a moment of panic? How will we manage a soft landing, with no preparations made other than education and sabotage?
I see a need to supplement education with actual alternatives to government services. If we have replacements ready, maybe we can manage a more gradual, smooth transition. 
There are two kinds of education: yakfest and hands-on. There is a limit on the power of the yakfest. If having a nice friendly rational talk with someone succeeded in convincing them, we'd be there already. But where words lose traction, a demonstration can still grab on. I can sympathize with people who doubted the possibility of airplane flight before the Wright brothers took off. After that, not so much. We need some demonstration projects, some businesses, clubs, charities, etc. that can jump into the gap as the state collapses (or preferably, as the state slowly evaporates). Let's provide alternatives now to:
  • Cops: Shield Mutual provides not-quite defense services. Mall cops. Home security. Mutual aid. The camera is the new gun, maybe the first DRO can have camera-toters instead of gun-toters.
  • Courts: arbitration services.
  • Public school: Unschooling, scholarships, Lancaster method, online autodidacticism.
  • Regulation and licensing: online reputation tracking.
  • Emergency aid: mutual aid
  • Welfare: charity, jobs, training
The concentration of liberty activists is too thin in most places for this to work. Maybe the FSP can concentrate enough of them in New Hampshire to make these ideas practical.

I like Stone's podcasts and I'm encouraged by some of the things he says. I hope that future podcasts will clear up some of my confusion about these points.