Author Archive: Javier George

I Always Got Along With Cuba

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According to news reports, we, as Americans, are finally going to start getting along with Cuba. Apparently, I’m now on speaking terms with the denizens of the island nation off the coast of Florida. This is news to me: I don’t ever remember ceasing communications to begin with.

I apologize in advance if this comes across like an ideological rant, but I feel it’s important to step back and realize exactly what’s going on here. The politicians, pundits, and news media outlets would have us believe that this is a great coming together of peoples, setting aside their differences at long last. Don’t be fooled. All this means is that the U.S. and Cuban governments are considering ending their criminalization of honest friendship and trade.

Make no mistake: there was never any great rift between the Cuban and American peoples. That was a lie perpetrated by the governments of each respective nation in order to justify their conflict. There is no voluntary citizen embargo. There never was a unanimous people’s decision not to travel between the countries. There were only government mandates, people’s will be damned. A select few deciding personal and business relationships between hundreds of millions of people, based on their own petty disagreements.

And yet, even when we are finally moving past all this, there are still those who push for maintaining severed U.S.-Cuba ties. Set aside for a moment the rhetoric about safety, national interest, and sending the wrong signals to dictators. These people are saying you can’t be friends or business associates with whole collectives of people. And if you try, they will stop you by force. They will show up to your business meetings armed and force you to disband. They will force your planes to stay grounded and keep your ships from setting sail. And they will shoot you if you resist. All because they believe it is their moral right to force entire peoples into pointless enmity.

I’m not saying violent dictators should be ignored. There is an appropriate response to oppressive governments. If they send armed forces to kill, destroy, and occupy, those forces should be crushed with an iron fist. Even in that case, though, the peoples of the respective nations should be free to engage in whatever peaceful relations they see fit.

I am willing to have relationships with the whole world. I buy from a Russian, have tea with a North Korean, sell to an Iranian, and form a friendship with a Cuban. I don’t care what the U.S. federal government says; they don’t represent me.

War Always Comes Home

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You can’t assemble a totalitarian war machine and expect it to never come home. Sooner or later, all those military-grade weapons end up in your own back yard. Pointed at you.

Over the last several decades, we’ve seen the rise of militarized law enforcement. From no-knock raids to Ferguson under armed occupation, America is beginning to look a lot less like the peaceful land of the free and more like a land where only the brave dare venture. Even sleepy little towns in New Hampshire are getting armored assault vehicles, despite hundreds taking to the streets in protest. Weapons of war are in our streets, and they’re here to stay.

Many ardent critics of America’s transition into the land of checkpoints and armored personnel carriers supported military interventions and occupations abroad. The argument goes, fight them there so they don’t come here. Heavily-armed patrols and universal inspections are easier to tolerate when they aren’t in your back yard, especially when accompanied by the expectation that they will never, ever, happen at home.

As it turns out, that expectation was foolish. The war has come home. To begin with, America’s civilian law enforcement increasingly benefits from tactics, training, and close ties with its military. Train cops with Navy Seals and give them a “war” on drugs to fight, and it’s hardly surprising when officers begin to view the people more like enemy combatants than civilians. With dispositions and training more suited to fighting a war than keeping the peace, it’s easy to see how an otherwise peacefully-solved conflicts could escalate into violence and death.

Next, state and city police departments are stocking up with some heavy equipment. Much of this is either direct military hand-me-downs or made available through federal grants. This means that federal defense spending approved under the assumption that none of it would be used against Americans is being employed for just that purpose. Local government, always aware of the popularity cost of raising taxes and fines to fund various projects, simply can’t say no to free stuff.

Finally, many military-style operations, though carried out by local law enforcement, are funded by the federal government. A prime example of these are so-called sobriety checkpoints, where police are paid by federal money to hold regular checkpoints arbitrarily detaining motorists. Slowing traffic and harassing citizens in a sleepy little town is hardly something that would be deemed cost effective in a city budget meeting. Provide the funding for free, however, and the objections simply wither away.

The tanks have come home to roost.

Privilege Should Be Celebrated

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The hills are alive with the sound of privilege-shaming. Whether it’s white, male, heterosexual, affluent, first-world, thin, attractive, animal, mineral, or plant privilege, chances are someone’s asked you to check it. If there’s anything about you that makes you better off than anyone else, you should be made to feel guilty.

Well I’m here to tell you that privilege shaming is a cancer upon society, and its proponents are the scum of the Earth. It’s useless, counterproductive, and overtly harmful. Here’s why:

Privilege can’t be helped. Ripping on people for being born better off than you is entirely useless because they can do nothing to change it. Was someone born wealthy and with greater access to education, health, and professional networking opportunities? That can’t be undone, and attempting to do so, to destroy a privileged person’s life to the point where all their natural advantages are undone, sounds pretty sinister to me. Additionally, some aspects of privilege can’t be changed. To persecute people based on their race, gender, national origin etc. sounds an awful lot like racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Aren’t those supposed to be bad things?

Privilege is a “victimless crime.” Sure, people benefit from privilege, but no one suffers by its hand, unless you consider envy as suffering. The health, wealth, happiness, and stability of an individual or group in no way harms others. Removing privilege makes no one better off while definitely making some people worse off. No one benefits. Just as no one suffers from privilege in the first place.

Privilege is a red herring. When privilege shamers work their dark art, what they’re really targeting isn’t privilege itself, but rather privilege disparity. Such a disparity is in part caused by natural circumstantial variations that can’t be avoided, and partially by oppression of underprivileged groups. That oppression is the real target, the real bogeyman in this story. Focusing on tearing down the privileged distracts from the true mission of making us all better off.

Privilege shouldn’t be shamed. It should be celebrated.

Bitcoin Is the People’s Currency

Photo credit: Isoviki

Photo credit: Isoviki

Bitcoin, everyone’s favorite online cryptocurrency, has taken the world by storm. It’s easy and practically free to use, almost instantaneous, doesn’t lose its value to inflation like government-controlled currencies, and has a healthy degree of privacy and anonymity.

Best of all, Bitcoin makes agorism (economic activity deliberately outside of state control) laughably easy. To illustrate this point, I lived for a week in Manchester, New Hampshire, spending Bitcoin every day. What I found was that a small group of people can already live outside the government controlled economy, even without a large, established infrastructure of participating businesses.

Over my seven days on Bitcoin I paid for numerous meals, went clothes shopping, bought coffee, got a taxi ride, tipped a server at a private club, and donated to charity. The best part? Only twice (the clothes shopping via a Gyft gift card and coffee at the Pão Café) did I use an established, official business. All the rest were transactions between individuals, made possible by a network of willing participants and the incredible ease of sending exact amounts Bitcoin instantly, to anyone, at no cost.

With Bitcoin, anyone can be an entrepreneur. Anyone can provide a service, accept compensation from anywhere in the world, pay employees, all in a matter of minutes at virtually no cost. Barriers to entry into the business world are reduced to almost zero. If this isn’t a wonderful way to provide everyday folks with an easy path to a better life, I don’t know what is.

And where is the Bitcoin economy really taking off? Surprise, surprise: New Hampshire. It should shock no one that the low-tax, business-friendly Granite State is fertile ground for innovative economic undertakings, registering more than twice the Bitcoin businesses on CoinMap.org than Massachusetts to the south, despite having less than one fifth the population. Factor in a world-class weekly Bitcoin meetup in Manchester and you have a recipe for a cutting-edge, decentralized, ground-up small business climate the envy of the free world.

We don’t need banks. We don’t need payment processors. We don’t need worthless paper money enforced by government decree. We have Bitcoin, and with it, a shot at a truly free economy. And not just for the lucky few. For everyone. Power to the people!

Joël Valenzuela, a mover to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project, is the editor of The Desert Lynx

How We Can Do Without Police

Photo credit: Chris Huggins

Photo credit: Chris Huggins

The cops are out of control. So much so that some of us are dreaming of a post-police world. Well, there’s no more need to dream. Wake up. It’s happening right before our eyes. And it’s about time. The police have gotten so far away from their purported role of protecting the people that more often than not they have ended up doing the exact opposite.

The tragic case of Marlene Tapia provides a perfect deconstruction of everything that’s wrong with today’s police state. First, Tapia was detained on suspicion of possessing narcotics. Never mind that she wasn’t hurting anyone, or that said narcotics were intended to make her, or someone someone else, happy, even if only temporarily. The officer involved was protecting or helping absolutely no one. Next, Tapia was strip-searched, a gross and forceful violation of her privacy and person. Again, such a procedure protects no one and only comes into play because of the aforementioned substance restriction. Finally, upon noticing evidence of a concealed substance protruding from Tapia’s body, the officer sprayed her genitals with mace, serving absolutely no purpose other than to cause her pain and humiliation.

What’s the worst part of this story? That everything the officer did except for the macing was standard procedure? That the officer had been “disciplined” for her torturous action, yet remained on staff? Or that millions of us involuntarily pay for an armed force to visit violence and aggression upon us?

How can we get the police to start working for us again? By making them private. Now I know you’re thinking this is just another libertarian fantasy. It isn’t. It’s real. And where is it happening? In the land of government failure: Detroit.

Yes, we’re talking about private citizens picking up the slack left by police incompetence. But we’re also talking about something even better: the Threat Management Center. This Detroit-based business has effectively filled the protection void left by law enforcement. But it gets even better. The Threat Management Center’s sole priorities are the protection of the people under their charge. They have specific incentives to focus exclusively on safety, and find non-violent ways of defusing tense situations before resorting to force. Since they’re privately funded, they have a direct incentive to make their customers happy. Any form of misconduct can instantly result in a loss of funding.

The best part? The Threat Management Center doesn’t exclusively protect paying customers. Yes, they protect people for free. They are able to do that because their profit margins are high enough. You heard that right: the evil, capitalistic word pairing “profit margin” working for the protection of the poor and weak for free. Their track record? Twenty years without a single court date, fallen officer, or fallen victim; a two-decade perfect score. All the while competing with government police, and outclassing them handily. Somewhere, a socialist is softly weeping.

Even some of the staunchest liberty advocates see a minimal role of government. Courts, justice system, law enforcement, national defense… all part of the proper, necessarily evil of the state. We at least need government police… right?

Apparently not. Score one for a peaceful, voluntary world.

Time to Imagine a Post-Police World

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The time of the friendly neighborhood policeman is over. Instead of counting on cops to keep us safe, it seems like we can count on just the opposite. It’s time for Plan B.

We live in an age of an increasingly militarized, violent, and hostile police force. A far cry from the original purpose of law enforcement (to keep the people safe by enforcing the law), the cops themselves are fast becoming a greater threat that the criminal elements they were hired to stop in the first place. In fact, over 5,000 completely innocent civilians have been murdered by police in the last decade alone. And that’s without counting those targeted for victimless crimes.

Why is this happening? What could cause a system put in place for the benefit and protection of all society to turn into a greater threat than the very thing it was set in place to stop? The answer to that question is far simpler than you might think: a ridiculously bloated, expansive, and downright unfair legal system. In fact, it’s damn near impossible to avoid breaking a law every single day. It’s quite literally impossible to enforce all the laws and regulations on the books today, so enforcement has become selective. This effectively means that any and all of us can be considered criminals by law enforcement at any given time. The result? We the people are always the prey, on the lookout for our number-one predator in blue, who could at any given time find an excuse to swoop down and prey upon us in a very legal manner.

This predator/prey dynamic has become quite obvious as police prey on their victims in an increasingly bandit-like manner. For example, threatening an honest, innocent family in Texas with arrest if they don’t turn over their cash. When a society’s protectors have become so corrupt, hostile, and downright evil as to become indistinguishable from common highway bandits, save for the uniform, then it’s time to admit a hard truth: law enforcement has failed. It is now the enemy. We must seek other options for protection.

Easier said than done, though. How do we dismantle this corrupt system and still remain protected from the actual violent criminals law enforcement was supposed to keep us safe from in the first place? There are three big ways we can do this. One: Whenever and wherever possible, avoid dealing with the so-called justice system completely. In absolutely every case possible, avoid calling the cops. Avoid talking to them altogether. Two: Take personal charge of safety. Arm yourself, protect your home, take steps to secure yourself against fraud and theft, etc. Through personal responsibility we can greatly lessen the need for outside intervention for our safety. And, finally, three: Organize to take charge of the public safety. Build a local support network to contact in case of emergency that can provide better, faster, more reliable protection that police. This last point alone can be the subject of a whole other article. Expect it.

The cops have gone rogue. They increasingly cause more harm to society than the violent thugs they were put in place to protect us against. It’s time to change that. It’s time to start imagining a post-police world.

Anarchism Isn’t the Answer

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Faced with repeated governmental failures, coupled with the success of voluntary cooperation in picking up the slack, it’s easy to come up with one simple solution to the world’s problems: get rid of the state. Without the government getting in the way of all that is holy and good, all things will spontaneously come to order, virtue and prosperity, right?

Wrong. Anarchy is not the solution.

Well, let me clarify that: anarchy isn’t the whole solution. Autrement dit, it isn’t the fact of having no state that causes a better world to magically happen. It’s what a society can accomplish through hard work, dedication and perseverance once a coercive government is out of the way.

Roads still need to be built. Communities kept safe. Poor and hungry fed. Not by the mystical power of the black-and-gold flag. Not by a society’s statelessness. Not by fervent belief in the Non-Aggression Principle. But by people. By individuals, companies, associations etc. who roll up their metaphorical sleeves and make their world a better place. Of course, they are most free to do so without a coercive government to stand in their way. But it still needs to be done. The reduction (and eventual dissolution) of government must go hand-in-hand with a concentrated effort to build up the voluntary sector to tackle all of society’s many challenges.

Anarchy isn’t the answer. It’s the precondition. Eroding the power of the government is a worthy endeavor. In the meantime, though, we have a lot of work to do.

Shutdown Proves Public Goods Don’t Need Government

Washington_Monument_Dusk_Jan_2006

With the infamous “shutdown,” the federal government attempted to drive home one point in particular: “You need us.”

The people’s answer? “No we don’t.”

The big centerpiece of the shutdown charade was the closing of national parks and monuments all across the country, as they are a highly visible target, and therefore perfect hostage material.

Unfortunately for the feds, they forgot one thing: the monuments etc. are still there. They didn’t magically disappear once funding was cut. People were still free to visit them as usual. So they erected barriers and “do not enter” signs, and posted guards where possible. Still, scores of tourists brazenly disregarded the prohibition and entered parks and memorials anyway. Apparently, the people have realized they don’t need the government to tell them when to be proud to be Americans.

But all that rebellious touristing is only possible for a short while. Sooner or later, that public property is going to need maintenance. Without the government there, who will cut the grass? Protect the memorials from vandals? Our heritage sites will surely fall into disrepair without public funding… right?

Wrong. As it turns out, some people will just take charge and do a public good. Without direction or permission. For free.

All of a sudden, the shutdown doesn’t look so scary anymore. Then those dangerous little questions start bubbling up to the top of our heads: If we can do without some government programs, what else can we cut? Do we ever have to raise the debt ceiling? What if America became great in spite of, not because of, a strong federal government? What if the only thing standing between us and another couple hundred years of glory is precisely that government?

The federal government attempted to engage voluntary action in a grand duel. Big mistake. The lesson to would-be tyrants? Be careful when you threaten to give people more freedom… they might like it.

Government Challenges Anarchy to a Duel

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The U.S. federal government just challenged anarchy to a test of might. And each passing day that’s looking more and more like a big mistake.

The much-vaunted “shutdown” of the federal government over an inability to raise the national debt ceiling has turned out to be partial at worst (best?), only targeting the most publicly visible services. Indeed, from the long list of high-profile nonessentials shut down, it has become pretty obvious that the entire point of the shutdown stunt is to make the people’s lives as overtly affected as possible. The message from the feds is clear: “We’ll make damn sure you miss us.”

And how is that little war for relevance going? Not very well, apparently. The massive shutdown of parks and public landmarks, along with all too many private businesses, has given birth to a healthy resistancefrom the general public who have begun to realize that it’s the presence, not absence, of government that has been making their lives miserable as of late. This policy of keeping the people out of national monuments has resulted in a legendary public relations disaster: a now-infamous photo of Vietnam veterans being hauled away like stray dogs for visiting their own memorial. The government’s benevolent father figure mask is quickly melting away to reveal the visage of a wicked tormentor.

This is not lost to the general public. Life goes on unabated for most. Rather than capitulate, most Americans want serious spending cuts before any kind of a deal is reached on the debt ceiling. The petulant little tantrum we are bring forced to endure has only reduced sympathy for the federal government. And society is soldiering on just fine without them. Better, even.

The feds: 0. Anarchy: 1. Good game.

Manning Trial Exemplifies Greater War

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Bradley Manning’s conviction of almost all charges, save aiding the enemy, speaks volumes as to the state of the escalating cold war between the American people and their government.

The conviction of young Manning for leaking information of war crimes sends a strong, nuanced, two-part message. The first is that whistle-blowing will absolutely not be tolerated. That’s why they threw the book at Manning, ensuring he’ll be behind bars for a very, very long time. The clear message from the U.S. government: we are the law, so don’t you dare oppose us.

But the second, more subtle point is that all-out war has been avoided. By dropping the charge of aiding the enemy, the government avoided implying that the American people are said enemy. The overall posturing signaled by the verdict still communicated a tough, hostile tone, but intentionally stopped short of an actual declaration of war.

And so the cold war between the U.S. government and its citizens continues. Will it ever flare up into actual war? Only time will tell.