Short Subjects and The Shipping News

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“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

Obviously, my plan to catch up to my bi-weekly production goal for columns foundered on the rocks of gang awry.  Now I am even farther behind schedule.  It’s the summer schedule or lack thereof.  When I have teaching duties at the Community College, and when I am involved in my Lifelong Learning courses, I often have several hours at the library or in the computer lab which can be filled with constructive work.  In the summer, however, I often find myself working outdoors on the farm during daylight hours, sometimes up until nearly 10 pm.

But now the autumnal equinox is near, and I am getting back into a regular schedule.  I’m going to give the serialization effort a more fair trial under these conditions.

Logic Fallacies — Short Subjects

Just a few days ago, I began to meet with a shared interest group (SIG) on Logic and Reason.  Our facilitator, a retired math professor from Transylvania University, gave each of us in attendance a set of 5 informal fallacies to explore and present to the group next week.

Veteran readers will know that I have frequently included discussions of  logic fallacies in previous columns, and I often have an idiosyncratic view of them.  So it is with enthusiasm that I will do capsules here, in hopes of expanding them in future writing.

  • Argument to the stone:  The story behind this one was that Dr. Ben Jonson insisted that Dr. George Berkeley‘s philosophy on immaterialism was disproven by the existence of a stone, which Jonson kicked, thus believing he had proven materialism.  Unfortunately for Dr. Jonson, he himself could just as easily have imagined the stone and the kick.  Both doctors insisted on their own versions of reality to reject the other.  A modern version would be to counter an assertion with “you can’t be serious!”
  • Argument from ignorance:  My lovely bride and I have been married now for 50 years, but I pulled a stunt during our first year that leaves me amazed that we are still a team.  She told me about a huge oceanic whirlpool in the North Atlantic.  I was sure that there was no such thing.  “That can’t be true!  Else I would know about it!”  It turns out that I just had not consulted the proper sources.  This was before the Internet was available to groundlings.  If you go to the Bay of Fundy, in the Canadian Maritime Provinces, by boat, you had better be prepared for the “Old Sow Whirlpool” or you may sleep with the fishes.
  • Argument from (personal) incredulity:  Often we may react to an instance of our own ignorance by insisting that it cannot be so.  “That just doesn’t make sense to me!”  “If that were true, why wouldn’t I know about it?”
  • Argument from repetition:  The propaganda chiefs of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany called it the Big Lie technique, wherein if something were repeated often enough, the hearers would eventually accept it as true.  Other examples are: “We have always stood for the playing of the national anthem!”  Or more generally, “That’s the way we have always done it!”  Or more elegantly, “How many times must a philosopher insist that you cannot prove a negative?”
  • Argument from silence:  This logic problem involves the odd presumption that if a significant account omits a significant topic, then either the account or the topic is suspect.  An example would be to insist that since Marco Polo did not mention the Great Wall, he cannot actually have visited China, or perhaps even more extreme to say that the Great Wall must not have existed at the time of his travels.

Voluntaryist View — The Shipping News

It has been 25 years between my readings, but The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx, has gained considerably, surviving a good but inadequate movie, and becoming a How-To manual on pushing through the obstacles toward a voluntary life.  The protagonist, Quoyle, moves from a trailer park life in a desolate part of NY State, back to his ancestral home (that he has never before seen) in a remote part of Newfoundland in the environs of a fishing town named Killick-Claw.  In Killick-Claw, Quoyle lands a job as a newspaper man, with the local paper called The Gammy Bird, writing the column called “The Shipping News.”

But enough about the surface detail.  This book is layered, entwined, densely textured from any view. To me, however, the thematic substance is clear.  Throughout the book, Proulx makes casual reference to knots, nets, moorings, connections, tethers, and webs.  Quoyle escapes one web, wherein he is a wrecked man-child with very few prospects, then over a complete cycle of Newfoundland’s annual weather cycle, he becomes a man who learns that all of his choices are voluntary, and given time, are mostly to good effect.

There is a subplot in which Newfoundland is going through a similar mid life crisis.  There is a strong anti-big government and anti-crony capitalism vein here.  Proulx wears her heart on her sleeve.  See the following passage spoken by one of her characters, Jack Buggit:

This business about allocating fish quotas as if they was rows of potatoes you could dig. If there’s no fish you can’t allocate them and you can’t catch them; if you don’t catch them, you can’t process them or ship them, you don’t have a living for nobody. Nobody understands their crazy rules no more. Stumble along. They say ‘too many local fishermen for not enough fish.’ Well, where has the fish gone? To the Russians, the French, the Japs, West Germany, East Germany, Poland, Portugal, the UK, Spain, Romania, Bulgaria—or whatever they call them countries nowadays. … And even after the limit was set, the inshore was no good. How can the fish come inshore if the trawlers and draggers gets ‘em all fifty, a hundred mile out? And the long-liners gets the rest twenty mile out? What’s left for the inshore fishermen?”

If you’re like me, you just wonder how can anyone in Ottawa, Ontario know anything about fishing in the North Atlantic?  The answer, regulate the inshore fishermen some more.  Persecute those you can reach.  Pretend as though the outlaws are not there beyond your puny state.  Instigate programs that will have nothing to do with positive outcomes, but will perpetuate the bureaucracy.  And, by the way, when I use “outlaws” above, I do not refer to criminals, only to those being outside the regulatory fictions.
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Kids for Kash, Dictator Fallacy, Combinatorics

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“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

I will be publishing my columns for awhile, until we see how it goes, in serial form, following in the footsteps  of Charles Dickens.  Let’s hope that my prose is at least halfway Dickensian.

To conceal anything from those to whom I am attached, is not in my nature. I can never close my lips where I have opened my heart. — Charles Dickens

In Dickens’ classic, Oliver Twist, he insisted that we become aware of the exploitation of youth, and in the same spirit I share with you my outrage that modern American statism does not draw a line at the corruption of the treatment of the young.

Kids for Kash

A few years back, I saw a story about a judge who was being investigated for taking bribes from prison-for-profit corporations.  Then it was just by chance that I caught a fleeting follow-up this past week on some media channel about judges finally going to jail for this scam.

My first thought is, what took so long?!  But this new info was hard on the heels of the story about how the FBI was dropping the investigation on a certain candidate for POTUS.  I must admit that I received both of these reports with a minimum of surprise.  Our country is dying of political corruption, and this has been the case for over two centuries — so it is a chronic illness.  The very thing that makes our country great is also the thing that is taking us down.  It is our adventurous spirit for which we are coming to account.

America has always been in a hurry.  When we declared our independence from the British Empire, we were so arrogant with our newfound hubris that we decided to run ourselves on the British model. We were a sort of Leviathan Lite.  Let’s rub their limey faces in it.  We started with towns, counties, provinces, and their attendant civic functionaries based on the model of the tyrant we hoped to escape.  What could go wrong?  Just because England was a bureaucratic nightmare of aristocratic monarchists, we thought we could dip in the same slop while keeping dry and clean.

It’s as Willy Stark opined in All the King’s Men, we do not rise far above our birth.  We embraced a corrupt system cooked up in the witches cauldrons of the European world of the 17th Century.  Any student of history knows that the train had long before jumped the rails of civilization.  Europe, and by extension, England had clawed and cheated, stolen and murdered its way to dominating the world through colonies.  You couldn’t find honorable individualism with a torch.

The stench of the sewer that was monarchism spread everywhere.  Many flocked to newer places like America to escape the rot.  Nowadays, we console ourselves with the fictional idea that we all sprung from religious pilgrims seeking relief from the oppression of the old order.  Bunk!  Most of the rabble that scrambled ashore were in it for the fortune.  Most of the Americas had been purloined by the southern Europeans, so there were pretty slim pickings in the cooler climes of North America.  Many of the original English attempts at colonization failed.  Whereas, explorers had found exploitable labor forces in the equatorial regions, the native North Americans did not easily bend to the whip. Our northern European forebears just found it more easy to kill them off — their numbers were to sparse for industry.

Even the convicts from the slums of London did not shape up when given a plow.  Therefore, we have had from day one an underclass ripe for exploitation.  This country was founded on the idea that there are inferior people whose sole purpose is to produce wealth for the aristocrats.

And what would be the most aristocratic profession?  Politicians and the upper orders of rule became the new aristocracy in what would become the USA.  Our old judges and manipulators even wore powdered wigs and gowns, an affectation stemming from the affectations of the elite in the old world.

This arrangement began to come to grief early in the game.  The paucity of natives forced the importation of the exploited classes, indentured servants, convicts, slaves, inferior nationalities, and worst of all, children.

How would it be even possible to expect a 21st Century scheme that rose above such venality.

Logic Fallacy #50 — The Dictator Fallacy I

The Dictator Fallacy is a favorite of control freaks.  It is a specialized form of Begging the Question.  Both the leader (dictator) and the follower assume the premise that the leader has 100% control of 100% of the outcomes from any 1 action, as well as all impinging actions.  We frequently see this fallacy wielded by an addictive personality type.  They promise every day that they will make the coming day a grand triumphal emergence from the grips of their addiction.  But reality always intervenes.  For a substance abuse addict, this vicious circle where vast intentions meet half-vast implementations, this can be a hellish life.  But the people who are addicted to the authoritarian ambrosia seem to have no recognition of the distinction between success and failure.

The Dictator Syndrome was described, probably first, by two-time, libertarian candidate for POTUS, Harry Browne.  Jim Babka of DownsizeDC, a colleague of the late Mr. Browne, defines the fallacy as follows:  “The Dictator Fallacy is the belief that any law or program will be implemented in just the way you intended — as if you were the king.”

Down at the Anderson County Courthouse, kibitzers, whittlers, and spitters might call this “Biting off more than you can chew.”  But fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  Politicians such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and the Roosevelt Boys, being delusional, played this game, albeit honestly in all likelihood, to the last out.  I suppose that they received some bad advice somewhere along the line — that they could ride this bucking Brahma bull.  I will pretend for the sake of discussion that they were honest but naive.

This is where the addiction part comes in.  An addict pretends, or justifies, that he or she can do something that is against the natural laws, but get away with it.  Everything’s under control.  One can pursue a 15 year career in the boxing ring with no cauliflower features and no gray matter penalty.  One can pursue a lifelong political resume with no deterioration of moral fiber.

Actually, a political calling reminds me of the great assembly line skits of Lucille Ball — the behinder you are the behinder you get.  The more behind, the more dependent on others for rescue.

First of all,  I don’t believe the job of POTUS can be done honestly, and in today’s cynical age, I don’t think anybody even tries anymore.  As I have written before, the scorecard, it seems to me, stands at 44 presidents, 44 failures.  But at least  when they gave up good intentions sometime in the 20th Century, they still believed in campaign promises, and they still addressed real issues and believed they could handle them.  But now it’s all a joke.  The television comedians and late show hosts are having a field day.  Yesterday, I read on Facebook something to the effect that Trump was going to stop Zika Virus by building a giant net, AND he was going to make the mosquitoes pay for it.  Used to be that campaign promises were disingenuous, and thus insincere.  Now they are impossible, and thus lies.


The word combinatorics is a fancy way of recognizing that we do not live in a single-cell universe.  We live among an infinitely large number of things.  And who is to say where between one thing and another the association stops?  Can you say that you are unconnected with a fortuneteller in Mongolia, or a cloud on Venus, or a rock in the Alpha Centauri System.

I was reading exchanges among NVC (nonviolent communication) students this week, where I ran across some interesting ideas.

The first was that when there are 3 nodes in the communication sphere, all agreements take the form of 2-to-1 or 3-to-0.  There is no opportunity for disagreement (absence of agreement), unless 1 of the 3 exits the structure.  I have frequently written here that the only manageable associations are 1-to-1, between 2 members of an association.  But I can reconcile that with the combination of 3.  The proponent of the threesome idea drew a diagram similar to this:


There are 6 ways in which an agreement can reach a majority between two,  A can sway B or B can sway A.  A can sway C or C can sway A. C can sway B or B can sway C.  But if any of these combinations occur, the third node can opt out or in, 1 agreement or 2.  But the one agreement, or the two separate agreements, are all 1-to-1.  In a voluntary arrangement, A cannot dictate what form the agreement between B and C takes — in other words A cannot control the interaction between B and C, cannot intervene in any practical sense.  The 3-way arrangement can only survive, as voluntary, if each participant refrains from intervening between the 2nd party and the 3rd.  In my opinion, it is very hard for humans to do this.  Rather humans will almost always gang up 2-against-1.

This brings us to the second idea — nonviolent communication (NVC) is composed of

  • Observation free from evaluation,
  • Feelings free from judgment,
  • Needs free from strategy, and
  • Requests free from demand.

Viktor Frankl wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  A friend insisted that we have our filters in place before we get to that space, but it seems unlikely that we do not also have the choice of which filters or no filter or the need to build a new filter in that space.  To the extent that we can keep an open mind, delaying evaluation, that is the extent to which we can optimize non-violent communication and keep our filters in good health.

Feelings and judgment also have a space.  Feelings don’t just demand judgment, they demand analysis.  What is causing our feelings?  What, objectively, will resolve the emotional tension?

The same can be said of needs.  We often confuse needs with wants, and thus with emotions.  We often spend huge amounts of time with strategies which are attempts to escape the emotions surrounding true needs and false needs (wants).  Our tendency is to be content, to know where our next meal is coming from — maybe our next meal does not need to come from our enemy’s table, maybe there is no need to consider another as an enemy because they appear to have a full table.


My little experiment with serialization didn’t get me where I wanted to go.  I am the same distance behind, maybe a bit more, as I was when I dreamed up this scheme.  We all have the same amount of time as a resource, but if we look carefully at Dr. Frankl’s observation above we can see that some time is more valuable than other time, the space between stimulus and response.  That is the time we should use most wisely.  If we do, we will better not only the time spent communicating with others, but also with ourselves.

Stay thirsty for knowledge, my friends.

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Division of Labor, Evolution, Tom Woods

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“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

With today’s column, I am still four columns behind on the year. I am always unprepared for the long days of Summer, when I often work outside with my beautiful bride. We are often slaloming our zero turn mowers over the hayfields until the sun is just an orange glow in the west, sometimes up until 10pm. Then we usually eat together. I am no longer doing adjunct teaching in Lexington, also a Summer happening. But the hiatus may be permanent this time, as our new governor has put the community college system on short rations. When I have more or less regular duties, I can carve out time to sit to write for EVC.

No excuses, though, I’m mostly saying that I will make every effort to catch up, now that I have analyzed the problem. It is my objective to author 26 columns a year.

I will begin my comeback with a rambling re-enactment of a conversation recently engaged in on Facebook. Then more rambling, as I consider some of the implications of evolution. And speaking of evolution, we have a highly evolved, modern Socrates amongst us — Tom Woods is his name and knowledge is his game. Be sure to check Topic #3 below.

Division of Labor

A picture of a bustling pre-1913 Washington, DC, looking along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, shows a prosperous and vital cityscape. Overburned on the scene are the words, “Did you know? … Prior to 1913 Americans kept 100% of their paycheck.” This picture is courtesy of It also has a sub-caption, “There were still roads, schools, colleges, fire departments.” I shared this meme on Facebook, initiating this fascinating discussion:

NG: Growing your own food also back then. Something I’m still doing.

VV: My grandparents lived in that time. On one side, they lived in Boston — the 2nd largest US city then. They lived by division of labor. On the other side, my ancestors lived in Liberty KY — a town of 1,000 then. They lived by division of labor. Something I’m trying to do still.

NG: Given modern technology, its a great era to do both, grow great quality food at home, and do division of labor. But I worry that some anarchists see homegrown as some kind of a threat to division of labor. I am into division of labor. But I also love the high quality of my own home produced food, and all the wonderful exercise, the beauty of greenery, the joy for my family picking fresh food, the joy of nature on my own property. It’s incomparable and cannot be bought. I have no quarrel with folks who get their food in the market, I get some of mine there too. 🙂

NG: I don’t use public parks. I prefer paradise on my property in all cases.

VV: Public parks may be the sole contribution of the British Empire to civilization, the sole expression of their gardener soul, usually overridden by their imperialistic zeal. That being said, we have lived in our own private paradise for a dozen years, now.

VV: The government also thrives through division of labor, yours and mine. As their slice of the pie grows, so does parasitism grow in advance of it. The parasites are not just thieves and slackers, but bankers, war profiteers, and drug dealers.

NG: Technology is going to squeltch that slowly causing the state to wither, by way of home and self-education and unschooling on the net, useful news sources and social media, and also non-state market online options. IMHO 🙂

VV: I share your hope, Girl. If we wait by the river long enough, the bodies of our enemies will float by. (from Sun Tzu)

NG: <3 Their statist thoughts will be the embodiment of their carcasses.

VV: Yes, Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. Statism thrives on short term ideas, and avoidance of the longer term.

NG: Why do some anarchists seem to be threatened by people who grow some of their own food? I don’t get it.

VV: I haven’t a clue, unless they miscalculate that you should be tilting at windmills rather than tending a garden. The voluntaryist focuses on what she or he can do, not on what others should do. Division of labor makes for more choice. Both sets of grands tended gardens. If it were not for that, who knows when I may have tasted asparagus or green beans. But it was also because of division of labor that I had catfish and Ernie Kovacs and violin music and lobster and unhomogenized milk.

NG: Division of labor is crucial, but not at the expense of my private property rights. Private property rights trump all, otherwise you’re just a communist.

VV: Division of labor, in my understanding, is the antithesis of communism, or any form of collectivism. True division of labor never happens without voluntary exchange, never can occur without property.

Note — I am listening to Human Action, so maybe I’m vulnerable to being pedantic. Sorry. Mises and Rothbard drained every accidental tendency toward collectivism from me so thoroughly that I tend to forget the ambiguity of language and that there are many sides to a story.

NG: To me, you can’t even have division of labor that isn’t some kind of or degree of slavery, if you don’t have private property rights first and always foremost.

VV: If you have voluntary division of labor, you must have, not only property rights but, property, in yourself, in the product of your labor, in the time and space you occupy, in your life and your voluntary associations. Otherwise you have nothing to exchange.

NG: I’d rather nothing to exchange, if we don’t start with private property right. Work up to division of labor, which with complete private property rights, actually would be voluntary then.

VV: But if there is no voluntary will to exchange, property is a doorstop. By natural law, we have both property (our own person, space, time, and labor) and the will to divide, multiply, and exchange property. This is at the beginning of each life. Only wrongful others can steal or seize control against your will.

I have some further observations on the above, about the dao of the division of labor to include gardening, about the dao of Hazlitt’s Lesson with respect to the division of labor and the floaters who were enemies, about public parks, firefighters, libraries, societies.

The dao of the division of labor to include gardening — We are born through division of labor. Contributions of labor are required of two separate and distinct biological entities, if not more, such as doctors, ambulance drivers, nurses, domestic partners. If we do not pass through some version of this biological gate, the question of property is moot. There is no attempt to guess when life starts. Life starts, period. Plants grow, dividing their biological labors with those of their environment, including gardeners who share in that environment.

The dao of Hazlitt’s Lesson with respect to the division of labor and the floaters who were enemies — Both Henry Hazlitt, who wrote that the one lesson of economics is that we must wait to see how all events affect all affected parties both in the short and the long run, and Sun Tzu saw the virtue of patience. Divide your labor of waiting across the time that you have to spend. “Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside,” wrote Alexander Pope. A clear understanding of the fullness of time is essential. You own your time too, so spend it wisely.

Public parks, firefighters, libraries, societies — These are things that always start with voluntaryism. Johnny-come-lately statists are usurpers who steal the the thing made by self-organizing phenomena, to try to squeeze some personal power from its expropriation/exploitation. Include roads, freedom, garden spots, and love with these as well.


Beats there a heart so hopeless as to never have wished that its species would not evolve to a higher plane, preferably before its time is done. I have heard many friends express a sentiment somewhat alike to this — surely, mankind is put here, with its reason, thought, symbolism. and communication, to achieve something greater.

In a very broad sense this is true. The evolution of things natural seems to have a general direction, rising forward. Of course that could be an illusion from a short sample. Or it could be confirmation bias.

But hold on. Evolution must work for accrual, and it must work for cooperation. This is a mechanical tautology. As evolution works for a single thing, each single change will generate randomly. That change will then enter a network where the change will either cooperate with the network or it will not. This is genetic change, happening without any connection to the future. Other genetic change will be nipped in the bud so quickly that its absence will be seen as a change, and we often refer to this as memetic change, because it looks as though factors of the environment brought about the change. A third way is true memetic change, where something within the learning process causes a biological change. So, when I say that evolution works for accrual, there is something in the change that is found positive by the species. When I say that evolution works for cooperation, there is something within the change that helps the species to survive conflict with external forces. Both accrual and cooperation are found among genetic, false memetic, and true memetic change.

In the millions of changes which occur in most moments, there is hardly any opportunity for rational input, so I’m saying that evolution will not make species which can stand on the shoulders of giants, except by random happenstance.

The Tom Woods Show

A good while back, I shared what I thought were some excellent libertarian and voluntaryist podcasts. This time I will go further, writing about how The Tom Woods Show, and its web pages are a resource, of resources, for the ages.

Let’s take a web tour —

Go to — There you will find the motto, “YOUR DAILY SERVING OF LIBERTY EDUCATION” and that is the very least you will get!


You may need to click through an ad here, or view the product in another window or tab, if you like.
Click on an episode. I’m clicking on “Ep. 694 After Brexit, American Secession?” Directly on the caption.

On this page you see important information about the guest and the episode and links related to Tom’s enterprises, and most critically, links to Internet information that are relevant to the content of the show.

The Case for American Secession,” by Michael Malice

Guest’s Book, Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il

Guest’s Website,

Guest’s Twitter, @MichaelMalice

Related Episodes
Ep. 326 What I Told the Washington Post About Secession
Ep. 196 Secession, the South, and the Modern State (Donald Livingston)

Previous Appearances
Ep. 679 Voting: Yes or No?
Ep. 659 Afraid of President Trump? How About Presidents in General
Ep. 570 How to Respond to North Korea’s Nuclear Bluster
Ep. 552 The Post-Debate Analysis: Tom and Michael Malice Discuss the Hamilton Debate, and What They Might Debate Next
Ep. 551 Michael Malice and Tom Debate Hamilton in NYC
Ep. 432 Debate: Tom Woods and Michael Malice on Alexander Hamilton
Ep. 400 Ayn Rand: The Good and the Bad
Ep. 393 How to Persuade People: Tom and Michael Malice Discuss
Ep. 324 The Real North Korea Interview
Ep. 306 The Cops: Is It a Case of Bad Apples?
Ep. 281 Guest Says Libertarians Should Favor a Hillary Presidency
Ep. 236 The Totalitarian Mind

Listener Website Mentioned

Other Podcast
Enjoy the Tom Woods Show? You’ll love my once-a-week podcast with Bob Murphy, Contra Krugman!

Free Resources! (I have no commercial interest in these endeavors.)

1) Free eBook on how to start your blog or website. Click here to get it. Plus, check out my step-by-step video taking you from no blog to a blog in about five minutes!

2) Free publicity for your blog. As a special thanks if you get your hosting through one of my affiliate links (this one for Bluehost, or this one for WP Engine), I’ll boost your blog. Click here for details.

3) Free History Course: The U.S. Presidents — Politically Incorrect Edition. Get access to this 22-lesson course: 22 videos, 22 mp3 files for listening on the go, and a bibliography of reliable books on the presidents. Click here!.

4) $160 in Free Bonuses. Free signed copy of my New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, plus a free 10-lesson bonus course on the foundations of liberty, plus a free year’s subscription to, when you subscribe to the Ron Paul Curriculum site through

Wow! Just wow! Not only is Tom Woods a prolific writer, a gifted teacher, and a prodigious podcaster, he is a treasure trove of connected resources for the new (and veteran) seeker of information about Libertarianism (big L), libertarianism (small l), voluntaryism, free market capitalism, and classical liberalism. Enjoy. There will soon be more than 700 episodes (we are at #694 as of yesterday) with similar breadth and depth for the lifelong learner.

NOTE: Your mileage may vary because of your device of choice. Please look for the target, if you don’t see the launch sign. You might end up in the wrong public restroom, otherwise.

Well, one reason it took so long to roll out this edition of FTC is because of the ambition of the segments. I hope you will receive them in the spirit that they are offered — let me know! You have seen that the pace of change has taken on incredible speed and acceleration. We have Hillary and Donald and Gary (given names that seem rather odd for the Oval Office — but we have had a Millard and an Ulysses). We have had Orlando and Philando, mixed too closely with Baton Rouge and Dallas, Don’t forget BREXIT and Juno.

I will begin working on the next edition immediately, so I can do one column weekly, from time to time to get up to speed. Stay tuned.

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Short vs Long, Opportunism, Just This Once

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“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

Because many humans cannot control their raging hormones (and I’m not talking about reproductive instincts), there are far too many who will not look before leaping.  Too many do not comprehend that everything has both a short term and a long term.  Too many learn nothing from the past, squander the present, and fail to recognize how poorly they see the future but regard it’s mirage constantly with fear.

Short Term vs Long Term

I learned a great lesson, while I was away from home at college, in the 60s, from my father.  Perhaps it was the best lesson during my college years.

Dad was a Division Director in the state Highway Department.  In those days, if not still, the political party occupying the governor’s mansion would subsidize the continuing campaigns du jour by requiring division directors to sell fish fry tickets to 100% of the employees in the division. Dad refused. He went so far as to say that he would fire any employee who asked him to sell a ticket to them. They could go elsewhere to buy a ticket.

For that act, Dad had the division taken away from him, and his desk was moved into the elevator lobby. He went to work, with no assignment, at the expense of the tax payer, so the hierarchy could pretend they had put his head on a pike.

I am gratified to report that he held his head high for three years in that situation. When a new regime came in, he ascended to a higher station.

My dad was one of the most accomplished civil engineers in the world, a pioneer in the field of mapping via aerial photography, among many other things.  There is a direct connection between him and the amazing satellite images and GPS we can see and use today.

I have written here before about Dad, upon his passing two years ago, so I won’t get into another biography now.  My point in the story above, however, is to illustrate the importance of standing on principle.  Even though I worked for government (two different states, ten different functions/agencies), I never gave a dime to any politician.  I never went to a fish fry.  I made my work serve principle, never convenience, never charlatans.  I always made sure I was worth more than I was paid.

I’m sure my Dad was doing that even while he sat at a desk in that elevator lobby for three years.  He spoke truth to power.

There was a confluence, a happy confluence of my formulating this story with the theme of our latest Lifelong Philosophy meeting, the Pursuit of Happiness.  I have never pursued happiness, I have always been predisposed to happiness.  Like my Dad.  He stood on principle so he could be happy with his life in the long term, not in the very short political term.

Rothbard Quote #19 — Opportunism

The major problem with the opportunists is that by confining themselves strictly to gradual and “practical” programs, programs that stand a good chance of immediate adoption, they are in grave danger of completely losing sight of the ultimate objective, the libertarian goal. He who confines himself to calling for a two percent reduction in taxes helps to bury the ultimate goal of abolition of taxation altogether. By concentrating on the immediate means, he helps liquidate the ultimate goal, and therefore the point of being a libertarian in the first place. If libertarians refuse to hold aloft the banner of the pure principle, of the ultimate goal, who will? The answer is no one, hence another major source of defection from the ranks in recent years has been the erroneous path of opportunism.

 — Murray Rothbard, For A New Liberty

Libertarianism, and, in a purer sense, voluntaryism is built on long term principle.  Do not be an opportunist.  An example of an opportunist is a candidate for the LP nomination for POTUS, a candidate who rejects the NAP (non-aggression principle).  Eight years ago, the LP nominated an oddball, washed up republican, and ticketed him with a gambling kingpin (How do you get to be a gambling kingpin?  Cronyism.)  Why would the LP use the same flawed political process to select a standard bearer as do the RNC and the DNC?  You are astute, historically informed.  You know the disasters that have been instituted, through opportunism, in the POTUS-picking game.

The political game is one for opportunists.  Stay instead with principles.  As a voluntaryist, make sure that all of your relationships are voluntary.  The only way that you can make sure is to enter each, one at a time.  There are no collectives in which you can be sure that you have an accord with the other. Sure, join collectives voluntarily.  There are very good groups such as those that are parenting-centric, those that are recovery-centric, those that are hobby-centric.  But the moment when opportunists begin to try to take the upper hand, remember that one of the principles a voluntaryist must have is to stand against authoritarianism.

Logic Fallacy #48 — Just This Once

Last time, I recommended Kevin Gutzman‘s wonderful exposé, from a freedom-lover’s point of view, on the destruction of the US Constitution.  Almost every sword cut to the corpus of that once hopeful document was inflicted by political opportunism, by a choice to go with the times rather than long term principle.

Entire civilizations have fallen by accepting this fallacy.  Disaster is at hand!  We must do something — even if it is wrong.  This cataclysmic choice is often made most simply, most deceptively, due to lack of patience.  Every group, even down to two, is composed of those who are more patient and those who are less patient.  Even individuals are comparatively more or less patient at different points in time.  As a rule of thumb, don’t be ruled by the less patient.

Politics is all about playing upon the emotions of the less patient, usually by invoking things of which to be afraid.  In the early teens of the last century, our grandparents were sold, through fear, on the ideas of federal income tax and war.  Just this once, Woodrow Wilson said, we will pay for the “War to end All Wars.”  Most of you will not even be taxed, just the rich folks, just this once.  That was our introduction to what has become a crippling and ever growing tax burden.

How many degradations have we now undergone, just this once, since 9/11?  When will those temporary measures, the police state, the unconstitutional surveillance, the TSA, the upsized ICE, FBI, BATF, DEA, NSA, and CIA go away?  Never.  Not even once.

The panicky members of any group will try to seize control.  Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Humans are consigned to space and time.  We cannot be in two places at once.  We have to opt for the present and the future, but the options can only be effected in the present.  Options effected in the present, however, always and forever have consequences rippling through the entire future.  Act in haste, repent at leisure

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Traffic Control, Beyond Control, On FTC

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“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

I reached 73 years old Friday, and there is only one thing that I have seen stay the same throughout each of those years — nothing stays the same.  In none of those years, did I ever have a clue in any reliable way what the following year would bring.  I have to observe now, looking back, that voluntaryism beats the tunket out of trying to stay in control.

Before I launch into this weeks oracular wisdom, let me give you a book recommendation — The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, by Kevin Gutzman.  It covers perhaps the grandest experiment in bending Nature to the wills of collections of humans — a failed experiment.  I don’t know how I have gone so long without the book.  My version is an audiobook from

Roads Have Intersections

All right, I make people uncomfortable at times.  I have two very talented English friends to whom I cannot resist speaking with disdain about Winston Churchill, cases in point.  A few days ago, I ruffled some feathers in my weekly meeting with my fellow writers at Lifelong Learning.  I insisted that natural law can stand up just fine to the rigors of reality without constant clarification (obfuscation?) by the legislators and other legal lunks in our midst.

It actually seemed as though nearly half of the room saw my point (borrowed from my alter ego, Kilgore Forelle in his recent blog, “A Secret Statist Decoder Ring).  My point was that Natural Law is quite exact, hardly ever needing further analysis from the way it applies in the real world.  Then one of my colleagues made the last statement by saying something like, “without artificial law, intersections would be catastrophic!”  This is like saying that the entire history of the world has been catastrophic until traffic signals came into general use.  The natural law that shines over intersections is that no two things can occupy the same space at the same time.  No illogic or fiction can unseat that truth.

I have thought about that quite a bit since yesterday: a sophisticated (fairly lightweighted) version of “Who will build the roads.”  Statists can really hang you up the most with that clichéd question — there is usually no answer that they will admit to accepting.  I think the answer is very simple — that users will build roads, as they have since the dawn of time.  It is a natural animal action.  Animals are defined by movement (anim-).  All animals build paths that are suitable for the uses to which they must put them.

But the question about intersections at least shows slightly more profound thinking.  I have a few thoughts on intersections.  If intersections were lethal, we would change them physically to lessen the chance of death.  At some point the cost in blood overcomes the cost in coin, and you cannot but foolishly pass a law that will make an intersection fatality-free.  Enter tunnels and bridges.  Or people will take other paths to avoid the carnage.

Traffic lights, and other signals, are not meant actually to control human action, but to give a political appearance that things are in control.  Really it is spreading the inconvenience in an egalitarian fashion.  It is interesting of late, here in my environs, that people are beginning to experiment with traffic circles.  I have heard not too long ago of European innovations where the engineers have eliminated traffic controls, urging instead that drivers proceed with intelligence, caution, and knowledge of consequences.  The last I heard is that it was working, improving the movement of people.  I have now driven through many overseas roundabouts, clockwise in Brit-world and the opposite elsewhere, and I have never yet had to consult any law book or local wizard to figure out how to succeed.  I have also seen web cam views of third world scenes where they either don’t believe in traffic signals, or they believe in the goal oriented behavior of human beings.  Furthermore, I have driven live through Boston, MA where nobody has formed an opinion one way or the other about traffic control.

When I cited a Web cam that showed a busy market place in an urban district in India, when I said everyone got where they appeared to be going with no traffic control at all, I got a bunch of eyerolls.  As if everyone acknowledged that India was a third world country precisely because they had no controls.

To repeat, what are the natural laws that apply in this case?  The first is that no two physical objects can be in the same place at the same time.  The second is that there can be no reasonable person who has an incentive to destroy themselves and their resources by testing that law.  Passing and imposing fictional legislation can change neither of those.

Rothbard Quote #18 — Beyond Control

“With reference to any given act, the environment external to the individual may be divided into two parts: those elements which he believes he cannot control and must leave unchanged, and those which he can alter (or rather, thinks he can alter) to arrive at his ends.” – Murray Rothbard, from Man, Economy, and State

This is complemented by the individual’s internal environment, where she either has the strength and training to do a thing, or she does not.  It also must necessarily include recognizing consequences, both those affecting the actor directly and those radiating out to others who may have taken no action which may justify the consequences.

I have a quibble with this phrase, “… cannot control and must leave unchanged …”  It is only a grammatical complaint for I expect that Rothbard and I are on the same page (my default expectation with Rothbard).  Most of the problems in the world are caused by the slip between A and B, where A is the mature recognition of limitations and B is in the confines of the mature decision not to go beyond A.  Rothbard uses “and” which infers that B follows A, then he uses “must” to infer that no other choice is possible.  I quibble with the phrase but I never quibble with Rothbard.  Rothbard is a man who has left the world a permanently better place for his having been in it.  And I hasten to add that he was never selfish in sharing his wisdom.  That he may have penned a sentence, among his millions of shining sentences, that could perhaps have been written to better effect, is an inevitability not a defect.  I would change the phrase in a de minimus way, to “… cannot control and must ethically leave unchanged … ”  It is a matter of choosing between an ethical or unethical course.

This is the inner sanctum of making choices.  A great deal of risk management by the ethical voluntaryist must go on from here.

Finding the Challenges

It occurred to me this week that I may never have explained the continuing title of this column, Finding the Challenges, to you.  It’s probably a good thing.  Even though I understood the title in a non-verbal way, I was a pretty green newcomer to voluntaryism 3 years ago.  Again, multifold thanks to Skyler for giving me the chance, then sticking with the experiment for this long.

I was kind of navel-gazing back in the day that Column #1 came out.  I had first become a self-id’ed libertarian during the Bush the Younger regime.  I learned quickly that it was far better to argue positively about libertarian principles than it was to explain to wannabee neo-cons why the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Rumsfeld dumvirate was inimical to civilization.  So I was still just doing early learning in 2013.  I regarded my own continuing education as the challenge.

Since then I have learned that voluntaryism is a dynamic place to be, where everything must be considered voluntarily, with voluntary principles applied voluntarily to circumstances you take on through reasoned volition.  In every moment of your life, you are challenged to think, to reason, and to act in the most voluntaryist way.  An adjunct to this idea is that you, as a voluntaryist, need to unclutter your progress to simplify (not oversimplify) all of your associations.  You can only pursue one association at a time.  Which would you choose, voluntary associations or coerced associations?

Let’s all thank our lucky stars that natural law is even consistent when not revealed to this humble species, humans.  Natural law just works, and it manifests itself in simple ways.  It does not concern itself with temporal questions such as “who will build the roads?”  All things are causally linked to who wants what?  Things are not causally linked to how will it happen?  Process influences outcomes but there are no products which can survive beyond a non-answer to who will use it.

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Human Action, Rothbard on Human Action, Empty Symbols

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“Finding the Challenges” is an original column appearing every other Wednesday at, by Verbal Vol. Verbal is a software engineer, college professor, corporate information officer, life long student, farmer, libertarian, literarian, student of computer science and self-ordering phenomena, pre-TSA world traveler, domestic traveler. Archived columns can be found here. FTC-only RSS feed available here.

You can go through weeks at times in your life, when it may seem as though there is not enough intellectual stimulus to keep an earthworm wriggling.  But now I am involved in a whirlwind.  I participate in a writers’ group, two philosophy discussion groups, a group studying mindfulness, Springtime, and track season for my youngest granddaughters.  In addition, I have begun reading and listening to Ludwig von MisesHuman Action.  I am listening to the audio, wonderfully read by Jeff Rigginbach, and I am keeping up by reading a PDF version on my computer and cell phone.  Wow!  Quantity and quality.  The audiobook is more than 57 hours in length.  That should take care of a few round trips to Lexington and Louisville.

Human Action

“Only the individual thinks.  Only the individual reasons.  Only the individual acts.”  So wrote Ludwig von Mises.

The great painter, George Seurat, introduced us to a technique call pointillism wherein he made a vision of concrete life through the abstract action of placing single dots on the canvas.  Each of those dots had a position and a color and the intent of the artist that they should contribute to a whole.  The viewer sees a magic scene.  Please see “Sunday in the Park” here.

Our books and newspapers have for a few centuries carried organized dots to our eyes, from which we make pictures and stories.  Now our televisions, computers, projectors, and all presenters of digital information do the same.

Ludwig von Mises, writing in Switzerland in 1940, in the shadow of the Third Reich, imagined pointillist economics.  The single irreducible source of human events is the individual human.  Just as Seurat discovered that the overall effect of dots was an image that was greater than the sum of its parts, Mises intuited that the most rational view of economic history was in an understanding of its component parts.  Just as computer scientists know that the nearly infinite colors of pictures are made up of dots composed of varying intensities of red, green, and blue subdots, Mises figured that the behavior of human society can be concretely evaluated by the place and time of a human action with varying intensities of thinking, reasoning, and acting.

This is an introduction to my continuing observations derived from Mises, which I hope to share with you more in future columns.

Rothbard Quote #17 — On Human Action

Mises’ original work was written in German.  I am listening to a translation published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.  But one of Murray Rothbard’s most towering works is an “explanation” of Human Action, with the title of Man, Economy, and State.  In his first chapter he writes,

“Human action, on the other hand, can be meaningfully interpreted by other men, for it is governed by a certain purpose that the actor has in view.  The purpose of a man’s act is his end; the desire to achieve this end is the man’s motive for instituting the action.”

In my professional life, I am a software engineer.  I may be retired but I can never again not be a software engineer.  The most basic principle is that all software must be pursued only with a human user goal in mind.  For instance, manage a checkbook.  If there is no user goal, of what possible use could the software be?  It is not the engineer’s task to determine whether the goal itself is valid.  Why would a human user seek the invalid?  Purpose is the place where humans see the intent of other humans.  Purpose drives action, and the revelation of purpose drives out attempts to cloak purpose.  Only purpose can remain, not falsehoods pretending at purpose.  One might remember this the next time we see or hear a candidate for POTUS laboring mightily to distract us from the true purposes of his endeavor.

One of the early parts of Mises’ book cites this tremendously useful idea from Baruch Spinoza — as light is the illuminator of darkness, so truth will illuminate falsehood.

Logic Fallacy #47 — Empty Symbols

Symbols are empty.  Apples and oranges are also empty of anything that is not orange stuff or apple stuff.  Yet we feel free to use apples and oranges symbolically to represent something else entirely — things are both different and alike at the same time.

This week at Socrates Cafe Louisville we got all amped up over several symbols.  I speak of a statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University, of a statue of Joe Paterno at Penn State, of a couple of red, white, and blue flags (USA and Confederacy), of flags in general.

The critical junction where symbols become problems is that since any symbol is a fake relationship to the real thing symbolized, the fake can be further faked, and the real rolls farther away.  Look at the swastika — it was a symbol of evil in 20th century Europe but a symbol for good throughout a Hindu culture both before and after Nazi Germany.

In the case of Cecil Rhodes, we have an Englishman who did both good and bad, depending on what one’s frame of reference indicates.  He oppressed colonial Africans but funded the Rhodes Scholar program.  But today, some students want Lord Cecil’s statue removed from the cloisters of Oxford.

With Joe Paterno, we have an exemplary football coach who nonetheless fell asleep at the switch of the program he ran.  We now ring out the symbol of the captain going down with the ship (don’t ask me to explain the utility of that chestnut).  Furthermore, the symbol “Joe” and the symbol “Paterno” were misapplied by an orange-headed politico, and a great deal of symbolic hoopla was made about that.  And, by the way, what symbolic mischief is being done with artificially colored hair and suntans from bottles.  And while we’re at it, let’s not forget to note the underlying sports team symbolism dancing around this issue.  The politico was pandering to the blue-clad Nittany Lions, mistakenly while addressing a crowd undoubtedly full of blue-and-gold attired Pittsburgh Panthers.

Now, we turn to the stars and bars.  After a white-on-black massacre in a church in Charleston, last year, the people in South Carolina who hated that the stars and bars were still part of the culture used the event, symbolically, to at last prevail over the people in South Carolina who loved that the stars and bars were still part of the culture.  The flag no longer flies over statist institutions and many private entities.  Meanwhile, in Mississippi the stars and bars icon is still part of that state’s flag, and the pot boils.

And I confess that only two columns ago, I regaled you with “The Wearin’ o’ the Green,” and an observance of St. Patrick’s Day.

The human race would quickly cease to have importance or impact without its individuals who think, reason, and act.  The collective becomes extinct without its individuals.  Beyond that, we must communicate our thinking, reasoning, and acting through both real and symbolic content.  Wouldn’t we be better off with symbols that are closer to truth?

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