On the Mises Institute

It’s been a long time since I posted here, but this is the best place for me to make statements of permanent public record, and I want to make it clear I don’t support the Mises Institute.

Decades ago, I gave it money pretty generously, based on what I could afford. Once I even got personal thanks from Margit von Mises. That puts it before 1993. It once did good work promoting Ludwig von Mises’ economics. The sad thing is it still sometimes does. But I became concerned when it started defending the Confederacy. The first time I figured it was pointing out, correctly, that not all the faults lay with the South. The northern states supported protectionist policies which helped their industries at the South’s expense.
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Living like a libertarian

Over time, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the best thing I can do as a libertarian is to live like one. That is, I need to live in a way that, as much as possible, doesn’t benefit from or support coercion. This is more important, and more satisfying, than political activity.

Governments offer carrots and sticks to bring people more closely under their influence. The purpose of the carrot is to get you to come within reach of the stick. Learning not to run after the carrots is the first step.
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Remembering some victories

It’s too easy (for me, anyway) to sink into doom and gloom about the political situation. There are plenty of reasons to be depressed right now, but focusing only on bad news just kills motivation. So here’s a quick list of areas where libertarians have made gains in the 21st century. In most cases, other groups did a lot (often most) of the work; there aren’t enough of us to win many battles without alliances. Often, though, libertarians were there first.

I’m not claiming this is a complete list or even covers all the most important cases; please mention others in the comments if you like.
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Why I won’t attend the NH Liberty Forum

I would have liked to register for the New Hampshire Liberty Forum this coming February. They always have interesting speakers, and I run into people I haven’t seen in a long time. Unfortunately, the Free State Project, which is organizing the event, has made it an unreasonable choice to take. They require all attendees to waive all claims of liability against FSP, even if its negligence kills people.
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Note on Foundation for Economic Education

The website for the Foundation for Economic Education recently got a complete update. The page on article submissions shows a different structure; there used to be separate categories for Freeman articles and shorter pieces for Anything that’s Peaceful, but that’s gone.

The biggest change, though, is that there’s no longer any mention of payment. FEE has bought many articles from me over the years and even named me to its Faculty Network, but I don’t know if it’s paying any more.
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On Rand Paul

Just for the record: I don’t support Rand Paul. Before his current round of anti-refugee demagoguery, I thought he’d be more acceptable than the other candidates, but he’s only harming libertarianism by associating himself with it. He’s just an opportunistic conservative.

New article in The Freeman

The Freeman has a new article of mine, under the title “Fantasy Bookstore Fights Fantasy Economics.” (I submitted it under the less showy title “Independent Businesses and the Minimum Wage.”) It discusses the recent history of Borderlands Books, which nearly succumbed to a minimum wage increase; I’m hoping that this close-to-home example helps fans to understand that people can’t be made better off by prohibiting them from working for what their work is worth to an employer, and that employers aren’t “evil” for not raising wages.

This sentence was an editorial addition: “Fans of bookstores realized, perhaps too late, that for the industry to survive as a whole, the bookstore must be profitable as a business venture, rather than a charity case.” This seems to suggest that Borderlands is a “charity case” for seeking sponsorships, which it isn’t at all, any more than my two crowdfunding campaigns to publish Files that Last and Tomorrow’s Songs Today were.

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SF, fantasy, and libertarianism

Libertarian themes are common in science fiction. Several of Heinlein’s works have clearly libertarian ideas, and several other authors, including F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith, and J. Neil Schulman (there must be a reason for the first initial-middle name pattern), have written hard-core libertarian SF. Ayn Rand’s Anthem is science fiction, and Atlas Shrugged has important SF elements.

Science fiction is about exploring alternative possibilities, and the analytic approach that’s common in SF appeals to many libertarians. There is, of course, also a lot of science fiction with clearly non-libertarian ideas, promoting socialism, scientist-kings, benevolent alien overlords, and supposedly good galactic elites that hold arbitrary powers of life and death. A genre that deals in speculation will go in all directions.

In fantasy literature, though, I can’t think of any important work that I’d call libertarian. There’s a difference between works that are specifically libertarian and ones which might be called libertarian-friendly. There’s no lack of fantasy works in which tyrants are overthrown or would-be tyrants are frustrated, but those villains are so evil that no one would support them. You don’t have to be against income taxes and for legalizing cocaine in order to hate Sauron, Lord Voldemort, or the White Witch.

Some of these works have sections with special libertarian appeal. Tolkien’s Shire has almost no government and gets along very well. Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods presents an authoritarian religious state as the villains, and even its god learns to grant people more freedom. They’re far from explicitly libertarian, though. Some people have tried to present J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World as libertarian, but the wizards have enslaved the house-elves and set up a literally soul-sucking prison.

Fantasy literature deals in magic, and it’s sympathetic to the idea that ideas can be solved literally by waving a wand. This has obvious appeal to progressives and socialists, who like to think that a sufficiently powerful government can make everyone well off in spite of the laws of economics. Libertarian ideas are built on the assumption that wealth has to be created and earned by thought and effort. Magical worlds are built on the idea that it can be created by inherent power, in effect by wishing. What you were born as often matters more than what you have made of yourself. Aragorn deserves to be king because of his ancestry. Muggles can’t levitate a peanut, no matter how much they study. Good and evil tend to be represented as cosmic forces rather than individual choices, and it’s necessary to follow the born leader in order to hold back the Forces of Darkness.

Obviously I haven’t read everything, and in fan fiction just about every possibility has been tried, so I’m sure there is libertarian fantasy out there. There are opportunities for trope-smashing stories or pushing the idea of the Promethean rebel. My filk song “De-liver Us from Evil” casts Zeus as a patent troll. Perhaps someone could do (or has done) a story of opening free trade between dwarves and elves?

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New Hampshire Liberty Forum

The New Hampshire Liberty Forum, February 20-23, is now accepting registrations. I’m a bit put off by the militaristic style of the page; it’s just whimsy, I think, but “redacting” the exact location of the conference really was going a bit too far. If you scroll down and read carefully, you’ll find out it’s at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua.

I’ll most likely be there. It looks as if there will be some good speakers, and probably some people I haven’t seen in quite a while.

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I learned about them from the NSA

If it weren’t for the NSA, I might never have learned about Liberty Maniacs. An article on Salon reports that the NSA issued a takedown notice to Zazzle against a Liberty Maniacs shirt which mocks the agency. It’s no longer available on Zazzle, but Liberty Maniacs has lots of amusing merchandise on Cafe Press. I’ve just ordered a couple of shirts, including the NSA one.
T-shirt image with mock NSA logo and 'The only part of the government that actually listens'
Don’t expect deep or fully consistent philosophy there. It’s simply a shop where, if you value liberty and free thought, you may find some clothes, stickers, and posters you like. I can’t say anything yet about the quality of the service or products, but I hope both will be good. Order while you still can.

Thanks for making them known to a wider audience, NSA.

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