From Law Enforcement to Voluntarist – An Interview with Shepard (1h34m) – Episode 017

Episode 017: Jared recently had the opportunity to have an enjoyable conversation with Shepard from the “Shepard Thinks…” YouTube channel. On his channel, he shares the virtues of voluntaryism, life tips, business tips, and videos on his career in law enforcement. He delivers these messages in a well spoken, kind, and empathetic manner which we believe is vital in spreading voluntaryism to those whom have recently discovered the concept. Due to Shepard’s soft spoken, positive and peaceful delivery, Jared has suggested he be granted the honorary title of ‘Mister Rogers of Voluntaryism’. Enjoy the show!

Listen to Episode 017 (1h34m, mp3, 64kbps)

Contact Jared by emailing voluntarycontrarian@gmail.com, on Twitter @TVC_Podcast, on Instagram @voluntarycontrarian, and on Facebook fb.me/TVCPodcast.

Subscribe via RSS here, or in any podcast app by searching for “voluntary contrarian”. Support the podcast at Patreon.com/evc or PayPal.me/everythingvoluntary.

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What Do You Know That You Don’t Know?

There’s a lot of knowledge inside a human. Most of it isn’t readily accessible with the conscious mind. It takes some work to access.

You have physical knowledge. The ability to ride a bike. You can’t explain what’s happening in great detail, and you don’t even need to pay attention to it. You’ve got to go really deep to access the knowledge of what your body knows without you knowing.

You also know what will make you feel at peace. You know what you should do. But you don’t know that you know it. Somewhere, that knowledge exists, but it takes deep thinking, counsel, or other practices to unearth.

Most problems you face have solutions, and most of the time you know them. The real problem is accessing the knowledge you already have.

This is a weird fact. It raises a lot of questions about the nature of reality, biology, and the theory of mind. That’s all worth pursuing. But wherever that leads, I’ve still got to live day to day. While I’m trying to understand reality I have to experience it. And whatever it means, it’s undeniable that I know more stuff than I know, and accessing that knowledge is key to progress.

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Suppressing Discussion Doesn’t Solve the Problem; It is the Problem

Everywhere one looks these days, the world seems to be moving away from debate on contentious subjects and toward demands that those who have unpopular opinions — or even just ask impertinent questions — be forcibly silenced.

“You will never hear me mention his name,”  prime minister Jacinda Ardern said of Brenton Tarrant, the sole suspect in two deadly attacks on mosques in Christchurch. “He may have sought notoriety but here in New Zealand we will give him nothing — not even his name.”

That’s fine as a personal decision, I guess, but not as a top-down decision for her fellow New Zealanders. Even as Ardern spoke,  police working for her government  were arresting at least two people for sharing the shooter’s live-streamed video of the attacks on social media.

Across the Tasman Sea, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is calling on the governments of G20 countries to implement measures “including appropriate filtering, detecting and removing of content by actors who encourage, normalise, recruit, facilitate or commit terrorist and violent atrocities.”

Let’s be clear about what Morrison, other “world leaders,” and significant segments of activist communities and even the general public, are demanding (and to a frightful degree already implementing): Internet censorship.

This isn’t really a new development. The mosque attacks are merely the latest incident weaponized by politicians and activists in service to a long-running campaign against public discussion and debate that requires them to make arguments and persuade instead of just bark orders and compel.

The fictional “memory hole” of the IngSoc regime in George Orwell’s 1984 stood for more than half a century as an oft-cited and wisely acknowledged warning. Now that hole is opening up beneath us for real and threatening to suck us down into a new Dark Age of “thoughtcrime” and “unpersons.”

The threat is content-independent. Renaming climate change skeptics “deniers” and demanding “investigations” of them, or pressuring media to ban discussions of policy on vaccines, is just as evil as suing Alex Jones for promulgating bizarre theories about the Sandy Hook massacre.

The only appropriate response to “bad” speech — that is, speech one disagrees with — is “better” speech.

Attempting to shut down your opponents’ ability to participate in an argument isn’t itself a winning argument. Forbidding your opponents to speak to a problem doesn’t solve that problem.

In fact, those tactics are tantamount to admitting that your arguments are less persuasive and that your solutions can’t withstand scrutiny.

Freedom of thought and expression are primary, foundational rights. They make it possible for us to hash out issues and solve problems peaceably instead of by force. Any attempt to suppress them is itself a call for totalitarianism and the alternative to those liberties is social and political death.

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Community, True and False

Leftists affect to love the community. When they make or support a political proposal, they are likely to say that it is for the community, that it is what the community wants. In discussions with such people, I find that they think I’m crazy for challenging their conception of community and what serves the community’s peace and good order. They take me to be some sort of rugged individualist, the sort of character Ayn Rand might relish.

They’re wrong about me. I place a high value on community, and I feel sorry for people who have no membership in one.

But I distinguish true community and false community. The line that separates them is the locus of points at which people bring government compulsion to bear to compel those who disagree with them to fall into line or suffer punishment, the line that separates those who recognize and respect everyone’s natural rights and those who do not.

True communities form spontaneously and function voluntarily. False communities represent groups of people who use political means to victimize those outside the group and violate their natural rights. True communities have no need for cops; false communities cannot get by without them. False communities are more accurately described as political factions.

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None Obligated to Obey Bad Laws

While I appreciate when governments express support for natural human rights, I wonder if they really understand the rights they claim to support.

Roosevelt County was recently declared a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” by the county commission. How serious are they?

Are they only concerned with additional violations of the Second Amendment by the state? What about enforcement of all the violations on the books beginning in 1934 with the National Firearms Act?

Do they understand the only purpose of the Second Amendment was to make it a crime to pass or enforce any laws against weapons?

Do they understand that the Second Amendment recognizes and protects the right to own and to carry weapons however you see fit, everywhere you go, without asking permission?

Do they understand this right existed before the first government was established and will still exist unchanged long after the last government has been forgotten?

These are rhetorical questions because I know the answers. I also realize they call the resolution “not legally binding;” a symbolic nothing.

I wonder how seriously anyone would have taken politicians in the 1850s had they “symbolically” declared their region to be a sanctuary for escaped slaves, yet continued to allow slavery in their communities, and allowed slave catchers to brutally capture and return runaways to the individuals who claimed them as property.

You aren’t a Second Amendment Sanctuary if you allow even the slightest anti-gun “law” to be enforced on your watch.

To posture over additional infringements if they are “unnecessary, duplicate, and possibly unconstitutional” is to miss the point of the Second Amendment. To try to weasel out of responsibility, claiming you “cannot determine the constitutionality of a law” is dishonest.

As pointed out in a previous column, the Supreme Court stole the power to be the final arbiter of constitutionality — this power was not theirs to claim. Constitutionality is yours to judge. Would you wait to see if the Supreme Court says the Constitution permits the federal government to murder a peaceable neighbor over the church he attends before you know it’s unconstitutional?

The federal government will never allow unconstitutionality to stand in the way of established rules and bureaucracies.

No one needs to fight unconstitutional “laws” since even the Supreme Court has ruled that a law that violates the Constitution isn’t a law at all, and no one is obligated to obey. All who enforce such non-laws are criminals.

Don’t stop at symbolism. Respect human rights; all of them, completely without reservation or hesitation. It’s the right thing to do.

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Some Men Just Want to Watch Mexico Burn

In the introduction to La Vida, famed anthropologist Oscar Lewis unfavorably compares Puerto Rico to Mexico:

But perhaps the crucial difference in the history of the two countries was the development of a great revolutionary tradition in Mexico and its absence in Puerto Rico.  Puerto Ricans sought greater autonomy from Spain during the nineteenth century, but they were never able to organize a revolutionary struggle for their freedom, and the single attempt along this line, at Lares, was short-lived and never received mass support.  By contrast the Mexicans fought for their independence from Spain between 1810 and 1821, drove out the French in 1866 and later produced the great revolution of 1910-20 with its glorious ideals of social justice.  In the course of these struggles great heroes emerged, men who have become symbols of the Mexican spirit of revolution and independence.

La Vida was published in 1965, just 45 years after the end of the Mexican Revolution.  Lewis personally knew many Mexicans who lived through it.  But what actually happened during this “great revolution” with its “glorious ideals of social justice”?  The best paper I could find on the topic is Robert McCaa’s 2003 paper “Missing Millions: The Demographic Costs of the Mexican Revolution” (Mexican Studies 19, pp.367-400).  After a detailed review of earlier estimates, McCaa deploys new techniques to reach a grim conclusion:

The human cost of the Revolution was paid mainly in blood. Of a total demographic cost of 2.1 million, excess deaths accounted for two-thirds,  lost births one-fourth, and emigration considerably less than one-tenth of the total… The best two-sex inverse projection to 1930, taking into account the age and sex distribution of the population in that year,  points to some 3 million missing as of 1921. Census error in the 1921 enumeration reduces this figure by 1 million. Two-thirds of the remainder was due to one factor: excess mortality (1.4 million deaths), with 350,000 more male deaths than female. Lost births were substantially less at 550 thousand. Smaller still, at less than 10 percent of the total loss, was emigration to the United States, with the persisting number of male “refugees,” generously defined, slightly more than 100,000, and females about three-fourths of this figure.

The basic history of the Mexican Revolution, moreover, was hardly “heroic”:

[O]nly six months passed between Francisco I. Madero’s pronouncement of revolution (November 20, 1910) and the overthrow of the old dictator Porfirio Díaz. The resignation of Díaz came in late spring 1911 and was accomplished with little violence or destruction. The fighting scarcely began until 1911… Victory at Ciudad Juárez came to the revolutionaries on May 10, 1911, after a siege lasting only a couple of days… Although the fall of Díaz was achieved due to uprisings throughout the republic, the cost of the Revolution, to this point, was probably only a few thousand deaths.

The real fighting began as the revolutionaries trained their weapons on one another over the course of the following six years… Zapata, having waited four months to rebel against the hated Díaz, did not allow four weeks to pass before rebelling against the enormously popular Madero. In late November 1911, Zapata, “tired of waiting” for Madero to carry through an agrarian revolution, according to the conventional view, denounced Mexico’s first democratically elected president by proclaiming the Plan of Ayala. Yet, until 1912, Zapatistas did not pose a serious threat to the Madero government. Elsewhere regional bands (and bandits), some with plans, others without, escalated the plundering of the countryside, hamlets, and towns. As is well known, within two years of Díaz’s resignation the nation slid into chaos…

With the assassination of Madero on February 21, 1913 –- probably on the order of the Madero-appointed commander in chief of the federal army, Victoriano Huerta—civil war erupted. The usurper proved incapable of suppressing the many revolts… [A]fter the failure of the Convention of Aguascalientes to resolve the differences of regional warlords, an even bloodier phase of the Revolution began, as, once again, the victors turned on one another.The year 1915 was the year of hunger. Marauding bands destroyed the few crops that were sown, many before they could be harvested. Destruction continued into 1916, although with the defeat of the northern chieftain Pancho Villa at the Battle of Celaya in April 1915, the violence began to wane, however slowly. Devastation was made worse by the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918/19, to be examined in detail below.

McCaa thoughtfully concludes:

Given the magnitude of the human losses caused by the Mexican Revolution, the silence of some scholars and disbelief by others is surprising…

For the Americas, both North and South, the Mexican Revolution was the greatest demographic catastrophe of the twentieth century. From a millennial perspective,the human cost of the Mexican Revolution was exceeded only by the devastation of Christian conquest, colonization, and accompanying epidemics, nearly four centuries earlier.

How then could as knowledgeable a scholar as Lewis credulously praise the sordid bloodbath that was the Mexican Revolution?  As a Marxist, he was obviously predisposed to positivity.  His gushing, however, would probably resonate with many non-Marxists, too.

What possesses anyone to so gush?  One could say, “You can’t make huevos rancheros without breaking eggs.  The war was tragic, but the results were great.”  Since we’re talking about Mexico, though, this seems absurd.  Sure, it’s a middle-income country, but violence remains a grave problem to this day.  And given its proximity to the U.S., gravity alone should have turned it into a peaceful, First World country by now.  The legacy of the Mexican Revolution is one of the better explanations for why this transformation has yet to happen.

In any case, people who admire revolutions rarely bother with counterfactual history.  What excites them is revolution itself.  Revolution is romantic.  The vision of tearing down the wickedness of the world, serving wrong-doers their just deserts, charging barricades with our brave leaders, and building a better world on top of the ashes is a thrilling story.  Counting corpses and asking, “What was it all for?,” in contrast, is a real downer.

If you share this romantic vision, you might even welcome my analysis: “Yes, I’m inspired by revolutionary idealism.  At least they tried.”  Yet calmly considered, this romantic vision is inexcusable.  Launching a bloody war without even asking, “How likely is this war to improve the world?” is as “romantic” as drunk driving at a playground.  Giving revolutionaries credit for “trying” is ridiculous.  If you combine brutality with wishful thinking about the consequences, your real goal isn’t to make those consequences a reality.  Your real goal is just to exercise brutality.

So why did Lewis gush over the Mexican Revolution?  Batman’s butler got it right: “Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”  I’ve learned a lot from Lewis, but the less real-world influence people like him have, the better.

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