The Ministry of Truth

According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal,

What was determinative is that the two political parties view the American people very differently. The Republican Party has become the party of individualism, believing that free enterprise, market economies, and individual choices give people the best chance of a good life; that if ordinary Americans are left alone to make their own decisions, they will generally be good decisions, so they — not the government — should have the power to make them.

See Wally Conger’s take on this nonsense.

See also Scott Bieser’s comment on Conger’s blog.

My own opinion is all but spelled out here. The one thing I’ll add is that the GOP likes to use libertarian rhetoric to advance anti-libertarian goals. Anyone who thinks the Republican Party stands for individualism, liberty, or principle, needs to either have his head examined or have it removed from his arse.

I do, however, agree with the editorial writer’s take on the loyal opposition:

Conversely, the Democratic Party is the party of centralization, believing that a wise and benevolent, best-and-brightest, urban blue-county government can make better choices than those of rural, red-county Americans. This is not a new belief; it is the legacy of the 1930s (the New Deal) and the ’60s (the Great Society). It was fully reflected in John Kerry’s campaign: Taxes must rise and government must grow; trade must be regulated and limited; the 1935 Social Security system is perfect and nothing about it may be changed.

He may be right about perception — perhaps people vote Republican because they see it as the alternative to an ever-growing government — but the problem is that the perception is false. George Dubya has spent more than any president since Johnson. At this point, he’s probably spent more than anyone since FDR. His so-called tax cuts aren’t real tax cuts: they’re tax deferments. Unless you actually cut spending, apparent tax cuts are just smoke and mirrors. (And I’m not even mentioning the most insidious, hidden tax of all: monetary inflation.) Dubya loves central regulation. Look what he’s done to airports. Look what he wants to do to the power grid.

We’re supposed to sit still for talk of “trusting people” with the USA PATRIOT Act still on the books?!

The GOP government doesn’t trust its citizens at all — and yet asks us to trust them with practically everything. No thank you.

The neoconservatives are not for small government! They’re just for corporate welfare and foreign warfare rather than social programs and class warfare — and actually, they seem to like their own set of social programs, too!

As I wrote in a letter last year,

You say that the sorry state of the world is from lack of education, and I agree, but it’s economic education that I believe is most fundamentally lacking. People misunderstand the basic rules of cause and effect, and politicians promote that misunderstanding, either out of their own ignorance, or out of self-interest. Rail at the Republicans for trying to direct tax dollars into the accounts of large corporations, and I won’t disagree with you. If “capitalism” is government intervention for the benefit of capitalists, then I am as anti-capitalist as any socialist is. But the socialists will take us all to hell. It’s their programs that caused the problems in the first place — and if you don’t understand why I say so, then I beg you to learn some more economics. We’re on a steep decline and the Democrats and Republicans are arguing about whether to steer left or right. Neither seems to want to actually put on the brakes, and what we need is full reverse.

turkey postmortem

Nat’s Franco-Scottish Oatmeal Stuffing

  • olive oil
  • onions
  • garlic
  • sausage
  • ground pork
  • salt, pepper, herbs
  • oatmeal (raw)
  • chicken broth
  • walnuts
  • apples? cranberries?
  • a shot of Scotch
  1. Melt onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. Remove from pan.
  2. Brown the walnuts in the pan and then set them aside.
  3. Brown sausage and ground pork, mixing them and breaking clumps.
  4. Add the onions and garlic and walnuts.
  5. Add two cups of raw oats (to start).
  6. Add enough broth to almost cover the mixture.
  7. Add apple pieces if you want to have apples in the stuffing.
  8. Season with salt, pepper, herbs, and scotch.
  9. Cook mixture adding oats (if it’s too wet) or broth (if it’s too dry) if necessary, stirring occasionally.

Apple-Brined Turkey

I’d never cooked a turkey before, so I was in the apprentice role. The turkey comes already emptied out, leaving an upper and a lower cavity. Its neck is stuffed into one cavity and a bag of “giblets” — gizzard, liver, heart — stuffed into the other.

(Note to the fellow who left a comment earlier saying meat is murder: I didn’t pull the trigger; I only took delivery of the corpse.)

Neck and giblets will be used for gravy. The rest of the turkey spends 12 hours in a 5-gallon bucket filled with 2 gallons of apple brine:

  • 1 gallon of apple cider
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 2 cups of kosher salt

Our 14-pound turkey did not taste salty. It tasted moist and delicious. After stuffing it with Nat’s Franco-Scot concoction, we put it in an oven bag (pre-powdered with flour) on top of strips of celery and carrot. It cooked in just over 2 hours at 350�F. It was unbelievably delicious.

Sides

We had spiced carrots, cranberry compote with ginger and molasses and garlic mashed potatoes.

We boiled the neck and giblets with a diced red onion and olive oil. Strain the broth and mix with flour to make incredible gravy. (And we’re using the gravy now to start soups.)

My mother brought candied yams — she mixes the yams with undiluted orange juice concentrate (!) and brown sugar. She also brought pumpkin pie for dessert.

We are, of course, experimenting greatly with leftovers.

follow-ups

Lysander Spooner StampYesterday, I wrote about the libertarian lessons of the earliest Pilgrims. The day before, I wrote about buying gold. And earlier still, I’ve made reference to Lysander Spooner.

Since last blogging, I’ve read this recent Mises.org article on the Pilgrims, this recent LRC article on buying gold, and this LRC article on Lysander Spooner’s opinion of the Lincoln administration.

I’m starting to feel like maybe my blog is redundant.

Thanksgiving & Private Property



On Thanksgiving, libertarians like to tell the lesser-known story of the early Pilgrims, their initial communism, their early famine, and their physical salvation through the institution of private property. It’s not the version we were taught in elementary school (government- or private school), nor on television, nor in children’s books, but you can read about it here, here, and here.

A year or so ago, a left-leaning anarchist lady — a lawyer if I recall properly — came across BlackCrayon.com and wrote to disagree with my philosophical individualism. My reply became one of the essays at BlackCrayon. I quote only this excerpt:

I look to the American Indians, who couldn’t understand the idea of “ownership” of the land.

I think you need to do more research on Indians and property. I think all us 30-somethings grew up hearing this claim, but I don’t think it turns out to be true. I’m crossing over briefly into economics here, but before doing the research, I would guess that the Indians treated land that was relatively abundant as unowned (as we still treat most of the ocean) and that they would treat any resources they perceived with more relative scarcity — including certain types of land — as private property (the way we treat much of the beach). Having made that prediction, I then did some very quick, very rudimentary research, and found indications that that prediction is correct. Different tribes had different amounts of private property, very much connected with their relative perceptions of abundance and scarcity of various resources. I’m not denying that many Indian tribes were collectivist. I simply don’t know. But I am denying that they couldn’t understand the idea of “ownership” of land.

(By the way, the first European settlers did not have private property. Their farms were communal and they almost starved to death. When the governor declared (or perhaps recognized) the settlers’ rights to private property, and the product of their labor, the famines vanished. I don’t know how this compares with the experience of the Indians nearby and on similar land, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that individuals claimed the right to the product of their labor.)

But I’ve drifted over into economics, and I want to focus on ethics. From an ethical/philosophical perspective I would judge the Indians the same way I judge anyone: who was acknowledged to have rights? To what extent was aggression tolerated or condoned? Were peaceful individuals left in peace?

Individualist libertarianism is that very position: that peaceful individuals should be left in peace.

Philosophical collectivism is the basis for claims that peaceful individuals might have obligations that they never agreed to, obligations that legitimize the initiation of force against those individuals. Collectivism is the claim that the rights of those peaceful individuals are secondary to the “rights” of “society”.

You can read the rest of the exchange here.

unsolicited advice

I’ve been on the road. I’m back. Now I have to learn how to make Thanksgiving Dinner.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that you never asked or even hinted that you were curious or open to it, I’ve decided to offer you some unsolicited advice:

  1. It’s $5 cheaper to travel I-95 from Philly to DC than it is to travel I-95 from DC to Philly. One of the three tolls only charges northbound traffic. Not only is it cheaper to head southbound, but it’s consistently less dangerous and less traffic-jammed. I have no idea why, but as bad as it is southbound, it’s regularly twice as bad northbound. To take the indirect, slightly more scenic route (up I-81 and over on I-76) takes 6 hours between Charlottesville and Swarthmore. In theory, the more direct route should take less than 5 hours. Mapquest.com says 4.5. But last night it took me 6 hours coming the supposedly faster way. I watched a couple accidents, sat absolutely still three or four times, twice because of rubber-necking in the northbound lanes to watch some accident in the southbound lanes. Taking the longer route would have been safer and less stressful. So my unsolicited advice is to avoid I-95 northbound even if you believe it will be quicker. You’re probably wrong, and even if you’re right, it’s just too damn dangerous.
  2. $449/ounceAs I write this, gold is at $449 an ounce. I wish I’d paid attention to gold before I did. I didn’t start taking notice until it was about $330. Didn’t start buying until it was at $350. Didn’t really invest until it was about $375. I told all my friends and family to buy gold before it reached $400. Few did so. When it got to about $425, it fell drastically, even dipping down to my purchase price before climbing again. I was glad not to have to defend my advice to any loved ones who were nervous investors. Is the price of gold just a random walk? Does it undergo ups and downs based on people’s whims? My faith in gold is based on my distrust of Federal Reserve Notes. Anyone contemplating a hedge against “inflation” (so-called) should buy before gold goes above $450. (Of course, the higher the price of gold, the weaker my recommendation to buy. On the other hand, I just don’t see the Fed behaving itself — or better yet, going away — any time soon.)
  3. Do you ever see gadgets that look like they might be really useful and great — or they could just be a complete waste of your money? Well, I finally bought myself a EuroSealer — as seen on TV! — after a couple of years of wondering. It’s great great great. Takes 2 AA batteries, sticks to the fridge by magnet. Cuts bags open; heat-seals them back closed. Definitely worth the $10 you can get it for.

Wish me luck with the bird.

George F. Smith

(Not to be confused with George H. Smith.)

George F. Smith is a libertarian writer I discovered through the Strike The Root website. His STR archive is here and his own website is LibertyAsylum.com.

His articles include these 3 brief summaries of the Federal Reserve and the crime of inflation:

Smith first wrote me when he read my Gilligan’s Island piece at Mises.org.

He recently wrote me again and I have his permission to share here his very complimentary and supportive email:

From: gfs…

To: bkmarcus…

Subject: Thurston Howell III

Date: November 18, 2004 1:24:12 PM EST

B.K.,

While catching up on my reading I noticed a footnote in your article about the spectrum that said your Howell III piece was the most popular ever on Mises.org. When I think of everyone who’s written for Mises, that is a stunning accomplishment, but in recalling the article it is no less well-deserved. Congratulations!

George F. Smith

P.S. Your spectrum article was also outstanding.

Libertarianism — especially lowercase-L libertarianism, for those of us who eschew electoral politics — can be extremely lonely. Maybe I’d find it worse in the heartland “red states” but my impression is that the isolation is worse in the blue territories, especially university towns.

One of the great blessings of the Internet is that geographically scattered and otherwise isolated libertarians can find each other and form the kind of vibrant intellectual community we see at Mises.org or Strike The Root. (& LRC, TLE, ASC, etc.)

But emotional support is also important. I’ve gotten some very spirit-lifting feedback lately, which I won’t share here.

This Thursday, after I’m done panicking over my first time ever making a Turkey Dinner, I’m going to give thanks for the web, email, MP3, iPod, Amazon, Netflix … those mass market phenomena of the Information Age that have made my life more rewarding and pleasant.

I’ll also give thanks for a bunch of people I won’t name here, several of them people I’ve never met offline.

Will the real fascists please stand up?

MussoliniHitlerI had a terrible disagreement with someone once over the importance of semantics and the twistability of terminology.

She said she objected to slumlords.

I told her I couldn’t take a position on slumlords until she defined the term — but I knew that by the time she was done defining it, she’d either (a) have taken out all the connotative sting and reduced it to an economic transaction that I could defend both ethically and economically, (b) reduced it to something illegal in the coercive sense, in which case we weren’t talking about slumlords, but about coercion, or (c) refused to reduce it to anything other than more connotative tautology … something like “exploitative landlords” … and then we’d have to define exploitation, etc. This process can lead to some really important deep issues if the other person is willing to sit through it, but very few are.

Instead, she just accused me of being equally guilty of emotionally manipulative language by talking about government intervention as “the threat of proactive violence”.

I stand by that definition. I don’t consider it emotionally manipulative, except in the sense that uncovering manipulative euphemism is itself intended to have an emotional effect.

If the CIA talks about “termination with extreme prejudice,” and I say, “Oh, you mean assassination — killing a person in pursuit of a political goal,” then which one of us is manipulating the language?

If a Pro-Lifer is talking to me about “murdering innocent babies,” and I question the legitimacy of all three words, saying instead “killing a fetus,” then who’s being manipulative? The Pro-Choicers tend to dislike my use of the language, too, because it leaves room for an emotional response to the word ‘killing’ but we clearly talk about killing germs and killing plants without shedding tears. You can even buy spermicide at the corner pharmacy.

It seems to me that definitions such as “threat of proactive violence,” “killing a person in pursuit of a political goal,” and “killing a fetus” leave us with exactly the relevant core issues — or at least closer to the core than the familiar euphemisms do.

This is my long preamble to what Matthew Barganier at the AntiWar.com/blog calls, “The N-Word & the F-Word” — ‘Nazi’ and ‘fascist’.

And let me immediately interrupt myself to clarify a capitalization distinction I try to maintain:

A capital-L Libertarian is a member of the Libertarian party. Same with capital-D Democrats, capital-R Republicans. There’s enough confusion caused already from these unfortunate party names, where libertarians, democrats, and republicans all existed before the political parties that took their labels. Nazis and Fascists, on the other hand, started as political parties. Nazi was a shorthand — like GOP — for the National Socialist German Workers Party. (‘Nazi’ coming from the German for National Socialist.)

fascesThe term, ‘fascism’ you can look up here, in my BlackCrayon dictionary. See both my definition of lowercase-F fascism and Wikipedia‘s definition of the uppercase-F variety. See also this passage in the furyblog. (The furious blogger — Doctor furious! — is currently writing a book on Italian Fascism and the cultural movements around it.)

It’s more complicated with Communism, but no less important. Lowercase-C communism is like democracy, republicanism, and libertarianism, in that it was a word already in use to describe certain communities, or to describe a certain ideology about property and cooperation. The term is older than Marx or Marxism.

Before capital-C Communism, those who would eventually take its name just called themselves socialists. There was already the divide between anarchist socialists and the better-known statist variety, which Lenin called the left- and right-wings of socialism, respectively, making himself a right-wing socialist at the time.

But then other statist philosophies started calling themselves socialist, first the Fabians and later the Nazis. (Actually, there were Fabian-type socialists in France before both Marxism and Fabianism. We have 19th-century France to thank for both the best of classical liberalism and the worst of classical socialism.) Within Russia itself, socialism was divided between the Marxist Bolsheviks (the minority, by the way) and the more Fabian Menscheviks, so the need for a distinguishing term was immediate.

Lenin changed the name of his brand of socialism to Communism — an appeal to (a) the egalitarian and communitarian core of Marxism, and (b) the lowercase-C communism that is supposed to mark the final stage of Marxian dialectical history. In 1919, Lenin founded the Comintern — the Communist International — and invited (instructed?) all the Marxist/Leninist parties throughout the world to change their names to capital-C Communist. For most of the 20th century, almost anyone anywhere talking about Communism was talking about governments and parties that came out of the Comintern.

Of course, this still leads to confusion, as when someone correctly calls Noam Chomsky a communist and people incorrectly infer that he was a Communist.

With the exception of the socialist anarchists, who saw little critical difference between these competing forms of statism, the unifying theme for all these varieties of socialism was the role of the State in (supposedly) managing the economy. We anti-socialists would see another theme in socialism’s elimination (either immediate or through erosion) of “personal” freedoms — the so-called civil liberties. But while that was an inevitable result, it was not essential to the original ideologies of the various socialisms. (Seeing this distinction as semantically valid, but politically impossible, Hayek wrote The Road To Serfdom to show how economic central planning leads inevitably to authoritarianism.)

So with all these terms and confusions flying around, isn’t it throwing gas on the fire to talk of lowercase-F fascism after World War II?

This is a tough one for me. I think quick reference and facile usage will only add to the noise. I’m not a big fan of political language in general, but least of all when it diverges from ideological language — by which I mean ideologically descriptive language, not the rhetoric of the ideologies.

fasces-greatsealBut, as both Barganier and furious note, at their respective blogs, there really is something useful to getting past the name-calling and comparing the historical policies of Italian Fascists and the National Socialist German Workers Party with the policies of their contemporaries (Roosevelt, Churchill) and the policy positions and proposals of our contemporaries (Democrats, Republicans).

If you just use the F-word to attack anti-leftists, you’re being infantile. Stop it.

If you borrow the emotional power of the term to talk about racism or nationalism or the statist implementations of these -isms, then you should probably just talk about racism and nationalism and stop confusing the issue.

The actual denotative, semantic, and intellectual power behind the word ‘fascism’ lies in its synthesis of the welfare and warfare states, in the partnership of Big Government and Big Business, in its appeal to both collectivist inclusivity and collectivist exclusivity, and in its twistability to adapt to almost any local issue of “the people” and warp it into the mandate of central authority.

There are differences between leftist collectivism and right-wing collectivism, between for instance gender feminism and the conservatives’ “social norms” — but both are to be implemented with the power of the State (“the threat of proactive violence”), and when you centralize authority (especially in a majoritarian democracy), you get a hybrid identity politics that is neither left nor right.

Fascism, in both the upper- and lowercase forms, is really neither left nor right, but an incoherent amalgam of both agendas appropriated for the glory of the State.

There is, of course, a very different option that is also neither left nor right.

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