el blanco

So in addition to reading Calvin y Hobbes with the assistance of babelfish, I’m also starting to watch DVDs with Spanish subtitles — just to see what I can pick up.

This sentence caught my eye:

�Podr�amos ser el blanco de una broma memorable!

The line in English was something like, “We could be the butt of a profound joke!”

What got my attention, of course, was that “butt of the joke” is translated as blanco de una broma.

Blancomy old nickname back in the otherwise all-Puerto Rican Troop 520 in Boy Scouts.

I thought they were calling me “white guy” … but were they actually calling me “butt”? Was I the butt of a joke told only in Spanish? Twenty years later, and I’m only learning this now. Maybe the shoe fit.

(According to babelfish, el blanco means “the target” … which isn’t much better.)

hatred is my muse

If you don’t want to read Murray Rothbard‘s excellent essay,

“Do You Hate the State?”

… then at least read Wally Conger’s excellent summary,

“Reclaiming our radicalism”


The Rube Goldberg State

Jeffrey Tucker, over at blog.Mises.org, informs us that Rube Goldberg understood his government:


[Thursday 28 April 2005]

Tucker has apparently expanded his blog post into a full article at LRC:

The Genius of Rube Goldberg

assertions & assumptions, arguments & fallacies

None of us should have to take fallacious arguments seriously — and yet they don’t go away. Even people I’d otherwise consider intelligent, when they’re dealing with questions of legislative legitimacy or statutory authority (in other words, when their political reflexes are confronted from unprecedented angles) will resort to the most inane and asinine knee-jerk arguments. So it’s worth anticipating even the worst of them.

A few bloggers have referred to what I called The Samsara Fallacy on this blog. (I called it that because I didn’t know the real name for what is a common and illogical argument for bad policy. I guess I still don’t know.)

Lysander SpoonerBut when I was recently talking with a certain Texas anarchist (no, not the uncertain Texas lawyer — a different anarchist) about the Natural Law anarchism of Lysander Spooner and Murray Rothbard, he told me that he doesn’t want to appeal to anything they’ve already named a fallacy after:

The Natural Law Fallacy

To which I replied that anyone can name a so-called fallacy after anything they want to.

(I’ll address the confusion around the term “Natural Law” some other time. The short version: “natural” means necessary and “law” means universal; “natural law” therefore means only necessary universals. Evolved cultural connotations around the term “natural” and the whole description/prescription tangle around “law” I’ll leave for another time.)

So speaking of fallacies, iceberg wrote me for some help identifying certain fallacious arguments. But rather than giving him a concise answer to the question he asked, I instead spent a long time answering a question he didn’t ask:

(blue is mine and yellow is his)

Well, the first thing to point out is that they are assertions, not arguments. Best to make sure anyone you’re “arguing” with knows the difference.

If you insist that good laws are laws in accordance with your favorite book, and I say No, good laws are laws in accordance with my intuition, then we have made opposing assertions, but neither of us has offered anything like an argument. Arguments have to proceed from statements that we already agree are true or statements it would be self-contradictory to deny (or a statement you’re willing to concede temporarily, “for the sake of argument”). Fallacies apply only to arguments.

1. It’s wrong because it’s illegal; i.e. – “It’s wrong to use fireworks because it’s illegal”, “it’s wrong to drive without insurance, because it’s illegal”, etc.

The first statement is called legal positivism. The best way to challenge the assertion of legal positivism is to test the limits of the legal positivist’s legal positivism: was it wrong to drink alcohol during prohibition? Was it wrong to let blacks and whites sit together during Jim Crow? Was it wrong to help refugees flee the Nazis? Was slavery wrong? Or was it the underground railroad that was wrong for breaking the slave laws?

This almost always turns into a discussion about majoritarian democracy, which is good, because at least you don’t waste your time arguing legal positivism with someone who actually needs to have their majoritarianism confronted instead. Then the standard questions are again, the majority rule of Jim Crow, the democratic process in inter-war Germany, etc. If your “opponent” is patient enough to make it this far, they’ll probably fall back on a claim about constitutionality, which is either an attempt to slip legal positivism in again through the back door, or it’s a not-fully formed claim to fundamental rights, which is of course antithetical to legal positivism.

One of the main problems with legal positivism is that it offers no guide to making good law. Confronted with the question of whether “we” should ban flag-burning, the legal positivists can’t say anything. All they can do as legal positivists is tell us that it will be wrong after the ban is passed.

Another huge problem with legal positivism in an American context is that it assumes the laws don’t contradict each other. If New York State’s constitution guarantees gun rights, and New York City bans guns, which law will the positivist support? If the constitution says that the Federal government has no powers other than those specified in the constitution, then what’s the status of the vast majority of our current legislation, according to the legal positivist?

Finally, legal positivism assumes the legal legitimacy of the law-makers, that they themselves are obeying the law, which shows that the question has been postponed or pushed back, rather than answered. The question is which laws are legitimate. Legal positivists can’t say “all laws” because laws contradict each other. Different people disagree on what the law is. Either the legal positivists have to come up with a non-positivist starting point, or they have to fall back on the claim of Thrasymachus: might makes right.

2. Implied sanction; i.e. – “because you live/work in this country, you agree to its laws”, “because you know the laws and bought a gun, you knew and agreed to register it with the authorities”, etc.

The implied-sanction “argument” is again, either an assertion posing as an argument, or is somehow supposed to follow from legal positivism. I think the best way to confront it is to trace it back in history. OK, I chose to live here (or chose not to leave) when the laws were already in place, but what if my father owned a gun before they passed the laws? What about the land owners (homesteaders) who were suddenly informed in 1787 that they were “under” a new government and that their old property was suddenly subject to a new authority?

Or again, you can test the limits of the claim: did Soviet citizens violate their implied sanction by participating on a black market, smuggling in blue jeans or smuggling out dissident writing? Did the American founders imply sanction to the Stamp Act, the taxes on tea and molasses, the quartering of British troops? And this will also often turn into a majoritarianism argument instead.

The type of people who offer these assertions are almost never thinking of counterfactuals — but without counterfactuals, you have no right or wrong; you have only what is. In general, the best way to test someone’s principles is to confront them with alternative scenarios rather than the scenarios they already have in mind. For a principle to be a principle, it must transcend the circumstances.

I appreciate it greatly if you can be of any assistance in pointing out which category they best fall into.

I may not have answered what you were asking for, though.

You want to be careful about so-called fallacies. Technically a fallacy is a wrong move in logic. Making as assertion can’t really be a fallacy. The fallacy, if it’s there, will be in the “because” …

laissez faire,

what you mean "free" paleface?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.Sigh. File under too-good-to-be-true.

Kevin Carson makes much use of his concept of the “vulgar libertarian” — of which I may or may not be one … I’m just not sure yet.

What I know I am is a lazy libertarian. I don’t have the patience or energy to dig deeper into anything I’m not specifically reading or writing about for a project.

Case in point: while I expressed my reservations about RFK2‘s free-market environmentalism (while cautiously praising him for it), I never looked for the worm in the apple.

Carson dug deeper. What he found is what I suppose we all should have expected.

the random and the lazy

For those times when I’m too lazy to blog, I recommend clicking on the random blog entry link to the right side of this page.

(By the way, this image of cuddly sorority sisters appeared in Google’s image search on the term “random” before the fractal image I used above.)

((And when you combine the search terms “random” and “lazy” this is one of the images you get.))

(((So next time you happen to catch me checking out semi-pornographic images, know that it’s somehow a combination of randomness, laziness, and Google.)))

�izquierdo o derecho?

If right-wing only means anti-Left (anti-Communist, anti-socialist, anti-egalitarian, anti-majoritarianism ((a.k.a. “democracy”)), anti- anti-property), then I guess I’m now as right-wing as they come. I am unreservedly against the Left.

If right-wing means nationalist or militarist or conservative — well, then I guess I’m as left-wing as they come. Almost.

I’m also ardently anti-centrist. To quote myself, “A political moderate is someone without principles.”

new career for old SF writer?

(Click for More)

autological grandiloquence

Define the adjectives “autological” and “heterological” as follows:

  1. A word is autological if and only if it describes itself. For example “short” is autological, since the word “short” is short. “Sophisticated” and “polysyllabic” are also autological.
  2. A word is heterological if and only if it does not describe itself. Hence “long” is a heterological word, as is “monosyllabic”.

Since autological and heterological are opposites, all words are members of either the set of “autological” words, or the set of “heterological” words.

The paradox is this: is the word “heterological” heterological? There is no consistent answer: if it is, then it isn’t; if it isn’t, then it is.

I’m quoting Wikipedia, but I first learned the heterological paradox in my “Advanced Topics in the Logic of Language” seminar 15 years ago. On the other hand, ‘grandiloquence‘ is a word I only just learned from reading’s Ralph Raico’s German liberalism article on Mises.org.

German Liberalism

Interesting timing:

Authentic German Liberalism of the 19th Century

by Ralph Raico

[Posted April 20, 2005: See Professor Raico’s full audio course on the history of liberalism: CD and cassette]

In this essay, liberalism will be understood to mean the doctrine which holds that society — that is, the social order minus the state — more or less runs itself, within the bounds of assured individual rights. In the classical statement, these are the rights to life, liberty, and property.[1]

This is closer to the French meaning of lib�ralisme, rather than the meaning that liberalism has acquired in the United States, Britain, Canada, even in Germany and other countries. In this respect, the French have remained true to the original and historical conception of liberalism. It is not by accident that the French term laissez-faire is used throughout the world as a synonym for the freely-functioning economy.


Finally, there is an enhanced consciousness that liberal ideas have never been limited to English-speaking nations. That used to be the prevailing view in Britain and the United States. To take one example: for a long while, virtually the only French liberal thinker of the nineteenth century who was discussed was Alexis de Tocqueville. Even major surveys of modern political thought — for instance, the two-volume work by John Plamenatz of Oxford[4] — did not even mention Benjamin Constant, and it is only recently that a few of Constant’s more important political writings have been made available in English.[5]

And if that is the case with Benjamin Constant, it is easy to imagine how little justice has been done to the Censeur Europ�en group, to Fr�d�ric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, or to the myriad of other contributors to the Journal des �conomistes, which was produced in Paris for a century by successive generations of writers — right up to June, 1940 — and which was the greatest liberal journal ever published anywhere.

Read the rest: http://mises.org/story/1787