Government-Supremacist Assumptions

You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes with a magnifying glass. Government-supremacists are easy to spot by the bad assumptions they naturally make and wave around in public.

They’ve always argued over how to spend “tax” money; they won’t consider the fact that “taxation” is theft.

They’ve argued over what should be taught in government schools, but never questioned government control over (and destruction of) education.

And now they argue over whether it was the right move to issue stay-at-home orders and cripple the economy, but they never consider that no one has the right to do so.

It’s not government’s place to decide to shutter the economy to “save” lives from coronavirus or anything else. They don’t have that right and they shouldn’t be allowed to have the power.

It’s never an “adult decision” to govern other people (the political means) rather than letting them work it out for themselves (the economic means/the market). It’s the most childish thing anyone can do. No one should be allowed to make those decisions and decide for you what you will be permitted to do with your own life.

They also substitute government-supremacism for thinking in other ways.

If you are making the dishonest argument that to fail to sufficiently cripple the economy on account of the coronapocalypse is going to kill 50,000 additional people (or whatever your number might be), without taking into account those who will die because the economy is being destroyed, you aren’t contributing anything useful.

You can’t know how many the virus will kill, nor do you know how many will die from the effects of a shut-down. The number of dead from the shut-down could well vastly outnumber those who die from the virus, making the “net deaths from coronavirus” being tossed around a completely fake number. Any discussion of “net deaths from coronavirus” without taking those a shut-down will kill into account is– as of now– a lie calculated to limit the discussion to government-supremacist answers.

To pretend that someone has sufficient information to make such a decision, or the right to impose it, is to be dishonest. It’s what makes one a government-supremacist.

Government edicts and orders are the opposite of responsibility. You have the responsibility to not violate the life, liberty, or property of anyone else. Government-supremacy is explicit irresponsibility and is shameful. No matter who exhibits it or what excuse they grasp at to justify their violations. I have no respect for government-supremacists; they deserve none. They’ve worked hard to prove that.

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Don’t be Controlled by Government

I drink water. I’ve done so all my life. If government passed legislation today ordering me to continue to drink water, would I stop drinking water just because they ordered me to drink it? No.

Would it be hypocritical of me to continue to drink water while pointing out that the new legislation was evil? No.

I would be smart to be suspicious of the reasons behind any legislation ordering me to drink water, and perhaps I would seek out my own sources. I’d wonder what they had put in it if they were ordering me to drink it (I know some people already do).

But water, and drinking it, doesn’t suddenly change into the wrong thing to do just because government orders it.

Well, trying to avoid exposing yourself or vulnerable people to a potentially harmful disease– even when you don’t know the true risks– is the same thing. It’s strange that I feel the need to point that out, but some people actually don’t understand that reality.

If you stop doing something you’ve been doing just because government tells you to do it, you are letting government control you every bit as much as if you stop doing something you know is right just because government makes it “illegal”. Don’t do that.

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How Freedom Can Survive This Pandemic – With Your Help

There are not many possible outcomes in which humans become freer after the COVID-19 pandemic. Already Western governments (see: United States) are taking unprecedented powers and violating civil liberties on a mass scale, despite farcical mismanagement of the crisis. Countries already well along the authoritarian road are openly embracing dictatorship (see: Hungary) or violent suppression (see: the Philippines, China).

The stay-at-home orders and lockdowns have probably made you feel powerless to help fight either this pandemic or the emerging fascistic orders. But there is plenty we can do. This list is just a start:

Make yourself more resilient

Are you isolated? Very well. Become a stronger individual. Do things which will reduce your dependence on the people who would run your life.

  • Wear masks in public (and practice physical distancing): Protect other people from transmission of the virus by wearing a mask. You may be a carrier without having any symptoms. Stay at least 6 ft. away from others, and limit unnecessary travel. All the basics: don’t make things worse for yourself or others.
  • Stay fit: Eat well and exercise and monitor your own health.
  • Prepare for shortages: It’s a bit late in the game to “stock up”, but supplies of some things are still plentiful relative to supplies in a few weeks. Don’t hoard, but at least make sure you have enough for yourself and your family to avoid the bread lines.
  • Keep some cash: Having cash (rather than debt) right now will be a source of optionality. The more cash you have, the longer you can resist the dole.
  • Get good at doing things yourself: Whether you’re making a mask or raising chickens or building a home gym, you’re going to have to do a lot of things yourself, or else do without. You’ll have to fix a lot of things.
  • Learn self-defense, and get the tools for it: This virus will be making traditional police forces both weaker (due to sickness) and more dangerous (due to new levels of power and nosiness). You would be well advised to learn gun safety, get a gun, and maybe acquire some other self-defense skills (such as a martial art).

Strengthen voluntary communities

Even strong individuals will look outward for help. We can let them turn to dictators and/or bureaucrats, or we can make voluntary associations and the voluntary institutions of civil society strong enough to meet the demand.

  • Help your neighbors: Your neighbors will be suffering too, whether from loneliness or from actual need. Donate to your food bank, send food or supplies to your local medical workers, volunteer if you can do so safely, and bring groceries for your older neighbors.
  • Support small businesses: The more independent entrepreneurs survive this crisis, the fewer the people forced toward welfare-dependency, government work, or employment for the crony corporations.
  • Create value: Entrepreneurs who can build new technologies and businesses to help during this pandemic will be doing a great deal for freedom, even if they don’t speak about politics at all. Growth and innovation are their own arguments for liberty, and private initiative to solve social problems will be a clear counter-example to the corruption and incompetence of bureaucracy.
  • Make churches and community groups work well remotely: You must find a way to transition traditional mass gatherings into forms of peer to peer connections. Livestreams won’t be enough. People need interaction. Consider group video calls, group chats, email threads, etc. for the communities you care about, and keep interaction going.

Organize and foster dissenting voices

Shutdowns and lockdowns create perfect opportunities for petty tyrants to rule isolated individuals – unless we find each other online. We will have to organize regardless of the distance:

  • Connect with fellow freedom-lovers: Reach out to your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who are likely to share a concern for political liberty. Find people you can trust and people who will be willing to stand alongside you in protest and even disobedience. There may be differing levels of interest or commitment as well as different ideological orientations – that’s fine. Work with people where they are, and build a coalition of people who care.
  • Share information: Watch and share important news about the pandemic and government overreach. Curate from many sources. Take the pandemic seriously and avoid fake news.
  • Speak out: I’m generally cynical on the value of political speech, but you never know how you might shift what someone else is willing to accept from their government. Say something. Share why bailouts are destructive of economic welfare, criticize police harassment of solo beach walkers, point out the illegality of business shutdown by state fiat, etc. Share how deregulation of a choked medical industry is helping, and how free people working together have often bested government solutions.

Prepare for active dissent and disobedience

More steps toward tyranny have happened in the past few weeks than have happened in a year, or so it seems. As economies quickly degrade and social unrest rises, governments will claim more power which they may use against dissidents in the name of safety. And if lockdowns on travel, free assembly, and free enterprise continue, civil disobedience will be both just and necessary (if more dangerous). So it’s not a bad idea to be prepared for further crackdowns by paranoid governments, as well as the risk of being libertarian in that eventuality:

  • Do the anti-surveillance basics: The surveillance state will probably take this opportunity to reveal itself fully. Make things harder for it, at least. Encrypt your chats using an app like Signal, encrypt your emails using PGP, and remember that your devices’ microphones and cameras might be watching/listening to you (block them if you can).
  • Reduce dependence on anti-privacy platforms: Platforms like Google, however well-intentioned, seem to have no qualms about making your data (location, etc) available to governments. Facebook certainly won’t mind turning over your communications if doing so can be justified by “the emergency.”
  • Reduce dependence on censorship-oriented platforms: Twitter recently announced its intention to remove tweets contradicting “expert” information about COVID-19, at a time when “experts” were still claiming that masks were ineffective (they now acknowledge masks’ usefulness). These platforms may continue to make terrible editorial/censorial decisions as economies .
  • Learn your legal rights: It has become a meme, but you should know how to challenge police officers for violation of the 4th amendment (and other rights). Consider the possibility that you may be arrested either for something as silly as going outside or for deliberate disobedience of business shut-down orders.

This pandemic will pass. The authoritarian gains made now will remain for a long time. But if we act early and often, we can thwart a lot of it, give the state some black eyes and PR nightmares, and maybe even eke out some victories for freedom.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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When Kids Ask: Why Is there No Toilet Paper?

At both of the grocery stores within walking distance of my house, there hasn’t been any toilet paper for days. My kids are asking why this is, and maybe yours are too. Sheltering kids from reality doesn’t do them any favors in the long run. It is both empowering and comforting to instead seize the teachable moment and replace confusion with understanding: in this case economic understanding. And you can only do that if you first acquire that understanding for yourself.

These are the ideas I try to impart when I explain to my kids what happened to all the toilet paper.

Fears of lockdowns and government stay-at-home orders to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have, understandably, led many people to buy as many essentials as possible. This hoarding tendency in the face of uncertainty is a natural human response to a difficult situation.

Higher Value of Toilet Paper

From an economic perspective, the value of toilet paper is much higher now than it was pre-pandemic. But with the price of toilet paper the same as it always was and not reflecting its increased value, there is nothing to prevent individuals from buying as much of it as possible. Indeed, that’s the rational consumer response. But if shopkeepers increased the price of toilet paper to reflect its new value, suddenly we would think twice about hoarding it and only take as much as we need. These rising prices would also signal supply chains of the increased value of toilet paper, prompting toilet paper manufacturers to boost production.

In natural disasters, like a hurricane or an earthquake or a pandemic, we often hear people decry “price gouging” and blame “greedy shopkeepers” for trying to profit off of misery. Yet, price gouging is an unfair term. If the shopkeeper raises the price of toilet paper (or hand sanitizer or bleach or eggs or any of the other items that are currently in high demand), then it incentivizes the consumer not to hoard and to buy only as much of an item as is truly needed. It’s not greedy, it’s responsive. Instead, some stores have implemented rationing, allowing only one dozen eggs per customer, for example. This can prevent hoarding, but it doesn’t signal producers to increase the supply. Rising prices do that. Without that signal, shortages remain.

The same is true of government price controls that prevent rising prices, keeping the price artificially low and not reflective of the true value of today’s high-demand products. Price controls also encourage more hoarding and less production, leading to ongoing shortages. If instead we allow pricing signals to work properly, then producers and entrepreneurs will be spurred by the higher price of toilet paper to bring more of it to market, which will ultimately shift the price of toilet paper down.

Price Gouging

Economist Antony Davies and political scientist James Harrigan, who host the popular weekly podcast Words & Numbers, wrote recently about the economics of shortages during a crisis and why “price gouging” is a misleading term. They explain:

In economic terms, shortages in the wake of the coronavirus, or a hurricane, or even seats at a Led Zeppelin reunion, are similar things. In each case, rising prices aren’t the problem. The problem is that people want more of something than what exists. Rising prices are a response to this reality—a response that incents buyers to buy judiciously, and sellers to rush more product to market.

The present toilet paper fiasco is just one of many current events worth talking to your kids about, especially now that all of us are home together with nowhere to go. To help facilitate some of these discussions, I have created a new FEE Facebook group, Learning@Home (Coronavirus 2020), with the help of the FEE team. Please join me there to discuss these ideas in a more dynamic way, and to learn strategies for introducing these concepts to your kids during this unusual time.

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Neither Pandemic nor Panic Supersede the First Amendment

Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor of The River church in Tampa, Florida, strongly believes that God wants his church to continue holding live services for hundreds of parishioners even in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hillsborough County sheriff Chad Chronister and state attorney Andrew Warren strongly believe that they’re entitled to threaten Howard-Browne with arrest for holding those services, then follow through on that threat.

Howard-Browne is obviously willing to go to jail for his belief. Are Chronister and Warren willing to go to prison for theirs?

Whether Howard-Browne is correct in his assessment of God’s commands isn’t something I’ll pretend to know. But Chronister and Warren are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, incorrect in their claims of authority.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects both the “free exercise of” religion and the right “peaceably to assemble.” While that amendment initially bound only Congress, the 14th Amendment has generally been construed to extend its strictures to the state and local levels of government.

And then there’s 18 United States Code, Sections 241 and 242.

Section 241 provides for up to ten years of imprisonment if “two or more persons [for example, Chad Chronister and Andrew Warren] conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same.”

Section 242 adds another potential year of imprisonment for doing the above “under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom,” including “stay-at-home” or “lockdown” orders issued by local and state political officials.

I double-checked, just to make sure. Neither the First Amendment nor either of those US Code provisions include an “unless someone jumps up and down and screeches that there’s an emergency” exception.

Rodney Howard-Browne may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer (many churches are holding services online and I haven’t heard of any divine smite-downs over it), but he’s within his rights.

Chronister and Warren may be genuinely concerned about the spread of COVID-19, but they’re also lawless hooligans operating well beyond any reasonable claim of legitimate authority.

Sadly, they’re far from unique. Once the immediate danger is past, we should proceed immediately to Nuremberg-type tribunals to deal with them and the hundreds or even thousands of temporarily over-empowered scofflaws like them.

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Love the Very New and the Very Old

I love old farms and skyscrapers under construction, old cars and Elon Musk’s newest spaceships. I think my ideal way of living would consist of working on a farm (or hunting/gathering out in nature) during the day and working on a high-tech project at night (call it “Jeffersonian futurism.”)

I love the very old and the very new. I see no conflict in that – but I do see a necessity.

Futurists seem to miss the fact that old things contain worthwhile wisdom and usefulness. Traditionalism seems to miss the fact that static institutions become corrupt without change. Meanwhile, the modernists are so tied up in the recent past as to be blind to both tradition and innovation.

But in the years ahead, it’s the futurists who will deliver us interplanetary travel, life-saving medical cures, and clean and renewable nuclear energy in the years ahead. It’s the traditionalists who will help us to remember the human values of fidelity (marriage, etc), individual dignity, self-reliance, and honesty are the foundations of a society that can enjoy technological progress properly (i.e. without self-destructing).

If we’re to appreciate and encourage this outcome, we need a way of thinking that embraces the dialogue between the old and new*. We need to understand that the only conflict is between the life-enhancing and the life-destroying, and that either force can be found in our newest inventions or our oldest customs.

Author Ross Douthat recently summed up the interesting fusion he posits will lead us out of the current “age of decadence” – a combination of old-time religion and high-tech futurism:

“So down on your knees – and start working on that warp drive.”

I dig it.

*Credit to Jordan Peterson for first (in my experience) formulating this yin-yang interplay of liberalism/openness and conservatism/orderliness.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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