This Skeptic is Skeptical

I am skeptical of everything. In fact, I’m skeptical of my own claim that I’m skeptical of everything. I’m probably wrong; there’s most likely something I’m not skeptical of… but I need to be.

You’ve probably seen my skepticism come out on topics of statism and the “necessity” of political government, AGCC (politicized “climate change”), government “borders“, and politicized “gender” issues, but I’m also still skeptical of other stuff. Even libertarianism.

I test all these things constantly– in my mind, in my experience, and in the “thought experiments” and experiences of others– looking for ways they might fail. One failure tells more than a thousand successes.

Sometimes people present what they believe is a good example of a failure of some idea, but when I dig into it, their example fails instead of what it was supposed to topple. And that’s OK. I still want to see the attempts.

If something I trust is going to fail, I want to know it before I am in a situation where failure would hurt me or someone else.

Generally, I only write about the failures I find, which makes it appear that I am skeptical of some issues but not others. But that’s just because I haven’t found failures in some issues yet. Maybe they are there. If they are, I want to find them. It’s just how I am.

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Liberty isn’t Utopia

Statists. You can’t even get them to ask (or acknowledge) the right questions.

Whether the topic is “borders”, drugs, guns, rights, or socialism, they address all kinds of peripheral questions which seem to legitimize more statism when answered, but they avoid the real questions which would completely invalidate statism.

Is it intentional or are they really that ignorant? I honestly don’t know, and suspect it is some of both.

For example, I recently heard one arguing against ending prohibition because when the “laws” against Cannabis are loosened and the cartels’ profits go down, the cartels turn to smuggling opioids. What? How does that justify propping up the failure which is prohibition? All you’ve managed to point out is that if you relax prohibition in a piecemeal way, the cartels will focus on those areas where the profit motive is still high due to continued prohibition.

When you sink that deep into statism, you can’t seem to see beyond statism.

So, look at my crude graph . Sorry, it’s not to scale or painted (a lame Back to the Future joke).

See how I readily admit there are still problems with a condition of zero statism (total liberty)?

So?

Utopia isn’t an option.

But statists don’t like that admission and it’s a deal-breaker for them. Liberty would have to be Utopia with no problems at all for them to accept it in place of their favored statist Dystopia– no matter the specific issue.

Obviously, death– with no more problems for the dead– will result from increased statism long before total statism (whatever that may be) is achieved, but the exact place where that happens will vary from individual to individual and is hard to pin down. Use your imagination to adjust the exact scale of the graph.

We live somewhere along the line between zero statism (liberty) and total statism. The exact spot is debatable, but it’s irrelevant for my point. Wherever we are, there are problems– more problems than there would be under liberty. But statists don’t like liberty so that option is unthinkable and invisible to them. They advocate more statism to solve the problems which exist; most of which are worsened due to statism. They will claim that with added statism, the total problems will decrease. That’s not reality. More statism equals more problems.

But, because there are problems, and they can see ways to justify more statism because of those problems, they are blind to solutions which don’t mean more statism. They won’t even ask questions which might risk opening their eyes to the reality.

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Gambling: Let People (Not the Government and not “the” People) Decide

Why should it be up to the US Department of Justice, or this or that group of politicians or lobbyists, or some percentage of your state’s voters, whether or not you can place a bet on the outcome of a sporting event, a roll of the dice, a spin of the wheel, or what cards get dealt at a poker table?

Since a 2011 re-interpretation of the Wire Act, states have been able to permit, license, and regulate “intrastate” online gambling — that is, gambling where both sides of bets are located in the same state, even if the bets are placed over the Internet (for example, online poker games where all parties are located within their borders).

In December, rumors began to circulate that the US Department of Justice plans a re-re-interpretation of the Wire Act to crack down on such activities, which currently take place in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, voters in a number of states decided ballot issues related to gambling in the 2018 election. In my home state of Florida, a coalition funded by the Walt Disney Company, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and an anti-gambling group successfully pushed through a measure requiring a statewide popular vote to license any new non-Seminole casinos.

The motives for such actions are obvious but mixed. Some people think gambling is immoral and shouldn’t be allowed. Some companies (and some criminals) know that limiting gambling is better for their bottom lines than allowing it, and can afford better lobbyists and slicker advertising than new companies trying to get into the business.

Of course, most people who want to gamble find their way to the areas where it’s allowed (but regulated), or buy into their state governments’ own versions (lottery tickets, for example), or just make bets with friends in the reasonably certain knowledge that they’ll never get arrested at their weekly poker games or while handing over the money they (foolishly) bet against the Kansas City Chiefs to go all the way this year.

But why should anyone have to sneak around? Again, I ask:

In what universe is it legitimately the business of DoJ, or Disney, or the Seminole Tribe, or a legislature, or the little old lady next door who thinks that a deck of cards is The Devil’s Picture Book, if you and I want to bet five bucks on the outcome of a coin flip or anything else?

If I want to put money down on the spin of a roulette wheel, it’s my money. If you don’t, then don’t. Problem solved. Unless, that is, you just have an unscratched itch to run other people’s lives. In which case that should remain your problem, not mine.

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Why I am Still a Cryptocurrency Enthusiast, 2019 Edition

Cryptocurrencies had a rough ride in 2018. As of January 7, 2018, the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies tracked by CoinMarketCap.com came to more than $800 billion, its highest point ever. As I write this on January 3, 2019, that total market capitalization is down to about $130 billion — about 1/6th of the market’s high point.

You might be surprised to learn that I’m still a cryptocurrency fan. But, just to be up front, yes, I am.

Not because I’m sitting on a huge pile of the stuff (as of this moment, my cryptocurrency holdings are worth less than $100 US), nor because I expect to make a killing speculating (when I get some crypto, I generally spend it without waiting very long to see if it increases in value).

I’m still enthusiastic about cryptocurrency because I’ve seen what it can do and make plausible predictions about what it will be able to do in the future. Cryptocurrency seizes control of money from governments and puts it in the hands of people. With improvements in its privacy aspects, that’s only going to become more true. In short, cryptocurrency fuels freedom.

But can it last? Will it win? I think that the last year, far from dispelling that notion, reinforces it. Let me explain.

Two kinds of noise related to cryptocurrency seem to have faded in tandem with the market cap’s downward trend. As one might expect, the ultra-bullish “Bitcoin will go to $100,000 real soon now!” voices have gone down in number and volume. But so have the voices comparing cryptocurrency to a Ponzi scheme or to the 17th century “tulip bubble.”

Yes, there are exceptions. One is Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman, who still seems to think that transaction costs and lack of “tethers” to fiat government currencies will make crypto a bad bet. Of course, Krugman also said, in 1998, that “[b]y 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.” So however expert he may be in other areas, I doubt I’m alone in discounting his predictive abilities when it comes to technological advancements.

This year-long market correction has been exactly that — a correction toward real values. After a period of hype (“Initial Coin Offerings” based on bizarre use cases) and scams (“pump and dumps” cons based on new fly-by-night “altcoins”), the wheat is separating from the chaff, the fraud is settling down to a level consistent with the rest of human activity, and the financial “mainstream” attitude has gone from dismissive to curious to “how do we get in on this?”

Cryptocurrency is getting better and better at what it was meant to do. It facilitates transactions without regard to political borders, it safeguards the records of those transactions through a distributed ledger system (“blockchain”), and to varying degrees (depending on which currency and the individual user’s habits) it protects the privacy of those who use it from prying eyes.

Cryptocurrency, and the freedom it entails, are here to stay. Welcome to the future.

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Without Borders

Nobody asked but …

In my previous post, Kilgore’s Travels, I reveled in the fact that I could span the globe, cybernetically, using the amazing app, Google Earth.  Today, I realized that I went where I wanted without regard to borders, or without thinking whether I was welcomed there or not.

So today, I will try to visit some sites that may be forbidden to me and/or Google.  Let’s try The Kremlin.  And … here I am in Red Square —

What about Tibet?  Voila!  The Potala Palace in Llasa:

Now let’s look at a place inundated by current events, Baghdad (Iraq, not Kentucky):

Where would you like to go?

— Kilgore Forelle

 

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Some Still Waiting Return of Liberty

For decades I’ve had my doubts about whether America is still the land of the free. With rules and enforcers everywhere you look, it doesn’t seem so.

I’ve been wrong. Most Americans are free — as free as they want to be.

I prefer liberty to freedom. Liberty means having the freedom to do everything you have a right to do; freedom is simply doing whatever you want, without regard for others.

This is why, for most Americans, America is the “Land of the Free.” They are doing what they want.

They tolerate checkpoints because they make them feel safe. They comply with the airport “security theater” gauntlet, pretending it’s fighting terrorism. They are content to beg for licenses as long as they can usually buy the license they want. They are fine with economically crippling taxation as long as they can imagine the money is spent on necessities. They are happy to see the “borders” locked down, not realizing this traps them more than it protects them.

They are free as long as they have smartphones and video games; free to eat, vote, and watch sports. Free to control the lives of others. Free, because this is what they want.

You’ll never reach people who are content in their chains while their chains have enough slack to let them do what they want.

So they are free. Free to be cattle. Free to comply; free of unwanted responsibility. Free of fear. They want more of this kind of “freedom.” They want to be free of consequences, free of hard decisions, free of everything that makes them human.

They are also free (and encouraged) to look down upon those dangerous lunatics who don’t value this “freedom” as much.

They don’t want to do the things they can no longer legally do, which previous generations could. Those who complain or fight the limits on liberty are to be feared, laughed at, or even hated. They should be happy with their chains like everyone else.

Few care about their lost liberty. But the Remnant does.

Somewhere out there, mostly silent and unnoticed, the Remnant listens, learns, watches, and waits. These individuals know what has been lost and will never be satisfied until they get it back.

The Remnant has been patient, but the patience will run out one day. If something can’t continue forever, it won’t. That will be an interesting day for the political class and their oppressive bureaucratic puppets whenever it finally arrives.

May liberty then be restored.

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