Posts filed under Free Association

Re: Credit-Card Deform


Zopa did shut down their U.S. operations back in October, but they apparently made the decision because of economic conditions, not because of regulatory pressure. Unlike Zopa’s U.K. site, the U.S. operation wasn’t a true peer-to-peer lending site; when they paired up a saver and a borrower, what actually happened was that one of Zopa’s credit union partners issued a CD to the saver and a consumer loan to the borrower, with the interest rate on the borrower’s loan reduced proportionally to the amount of the CD. (The saver could also choose to receive a lower rate of return on the CD, in order to further reduce the interest rate on the borrower’s loan.) Since the loans were all mediated by regulated and insured securities issued by an established credit union, the credit union rather than the saver bears the risk of default, but, correspondingly, the return for the savers wasn’t much above the market average for CDs. (And would be less, if you chose to “help” your partner by lowering the interest rate on their loan.)

The case that you’re more likely thinking of is, which the S.E.C. did force to shut down back in October. (With several state regulatory agencies nipping at their heels.) The charge was that they were selling unregulated securities, while Prosper maintained that they were just acting as a broker between individual lenders and borrowers.

Interestingly, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they came back online just last week, and are apparently resuming at least some of their operations, even though the S.E.C. is still hanging the sword of Damocles over their heads. (Right now they are apparently using an agreement with California regulators to raise money within the state of California, and then loan it out to wherever someone is willing to borrow.)

Re: Anarchists for Ron Paul?

Here’s something Catharine MacKinnon said back in 1982, during a debate with Phyllis Schlafly over the Equal Rights Amendment: “I am for the ERA. I think it is progressive if not transformative. It is one of many small initiatives we can use. Whenever I hear the right attack it, I am more for it than I was before, because they think it will be so far-reaching.” I feel much the same when I see Caesarian running dogs like Eric Dondero slamming Ron Paul as a “leftwing Anarchist.” If only….

Jimi G, I can’t answer for Sheldon. But I’d be interested to know whether you think that the reasons not to support Paul’s candidacy are moral reasons or strategic ones. From a strategic standpoint, at least, there is at least one good reason to hope that Paul might be able to win in the Republican primary, which doesn’t have to do with any kind of delusion about “putting the right people in charge.” Specifically, if he somehow were to win the Republican primary, he would thereby prevent all the other Republican candidates from having a crack at the presidency. Putting “the right people” in charge is never going to fix a damned thing, but stopping even worse people from taking up the reigns does offer the chance for some breathing room and a lot more opportunities for progress by other means.

Sheldon, Thanks for this…


Thanks for this series. I’m sorry that being out of town for a while has kept me from taking much note of it until now.

The conversation reminded me a lot of the controversy between the disunionist abolitionists and the Liberty Party faction in the mid-1840s, when folks such as James Birney, Salmon Chase, and Alvan Stewart were arguing that the Constitution already forbade slavery, if you read the right clauses in the right way. Here’s a paragraph from Henry Mayer’s excellent biography All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, on the Liberator circle’s take on the controversy (boldface added):

‘Such readings Garrison dismissed as naive wordplay or deceptive political contrivance. He insisted that the courts and the public had so uniformly accepted the proslavery protections of the Constitution for half a century that individuals could not dextrously conjure them out of existence. Frederick Douglass made a keen summary of the argument: “They looked at slavery as a creature of law; we regarded it as a creature of public opinion.” Even if the document could be read as the Liberty men suggested, Garrison stressed, “such construction is not to be tolerated against the wishes of either party.” Certainly the South would never agree that the three-fifths clause had to defer to some vague emanations that the preamble embraced anti-slavery philosophy, and the Prigg and Latimer [fugitive slave] cases demonstrated that stern New England jurists would not substitute natural law for a strict construction of the fugitive slave clause. Political realism, he insisted, required people to recognize the Constitution as a corrupt “bargain and compromise” of which “no just or honest use … can be made, in opposition to the plain intention of its framers, except to declare the contract at an end, and to refuse to serve under it.”’ —Henry Mayer, All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, p. 326.

Those who want to end a legalized injustice would be better off challenging the climate of acceptance that sustains it, not the textual or procedural mumbo-jumbo that formalizes it. And that is far better achieved by appealing to conscience and common morality than it is by pseudo-legalistic grandstanding in the futile attempt to out-lawyer the whole American judicial-regulatory apparatus and the authors of the United States tax code.

Dean, I don’t think…


I don’t think that Sheldon objected to “massive non-compliance” with tax laws, at least not in this series of articles. What he objected to is the idea that tax protesters can get away with non-compliance by means of sophisticated lawyering.

I can’t speak for Sheldon, but as far as I’m concerned, anyway, there is absolutely nothing wrong with evading or openly defying an unjust law. But if that’s what you choose to do, your choice should be grounded in principles of civil disobedience, not by trying to conjure up a Constitutional or statutory proof-text for your convictions. If you choose to be a tax evader or a tax resister, you should do so with a clear knowledge and an informed acceptance of the fact that you’re putting your person and property at risk, and that no government court is going to let you off the hook if you get caught.

The arguments that right-legalist tax protesters use are specious (as Sheldon demonstrates), and in general it is stupid to pretend that some esoteric legal incantation is going to save you from government reprisals when you defy tyrannical laws. That pretense obscures the real issue (which is moral, not legal), and also gulls people into taking serious risks without a full knowledge of the likely consequences.

A good suggestion. “Unsurveilled…

A good suggestion.

“Unsurveilled worker” might also help get at the heart of what the principled conservatives in the Know-Nothing Party are getting so exercised about, when their objections are colored by something other than overt racism or classism.

Sheldon: “The discussion has…

Sheldon: “The discussion has proceeded as if they have no rights in the matter but we do. We will let them come here if and only if we have a use for them. And “we” doesn’t refer to a group of free individuals, but rather to a collective Borg-like entity with rights superior to any held by its constituents.”

Yes. Thank you. Precisely.

A while back I had a discussion with Jason Kuznicki over his statements on immigration policy (which were more liberal than his interlocutor’s, but not in favor of open borders, and which spent a lot of time on the completely irrelevant subject of “assimilation”). I suggested, among other things, he was being presumptuous and condescending when he tried to talk up his willingness to “let nearly all of [the Mexicans] enter who wished” as if he were doing Mexicans some kind of favor.

He seemed pretty baffled about the suggestion, and since I was more interested in discussing other points I didn’t press the point. But I think this is a fine explanation of why the rhetorical posture grated on me, even from someone who favors a policy outcome that’s substantially more liberal than the current regime. Jason asked what he was “supposed to do with them, if not let them through?” I think the right answer is that you’re supposed to stop pretending like the American ambiguous-collective gives you some kind of authority to stand as a gatekeeper on property that doesn’t belong to you.

Larry, I don’t think…


I don’t think it’s true that Hoppe is “as far from a collectivist as can be imagined.” His positions on immigration and ethnicity being exhibit A for that charge.

It’s true that in a free society people will have the right to create intentional communities where they can do stupid things like require new residents to sign on to contracts curtailing immigration on the basis of ethnicity. It’s also true that in a free society people will have the right to close privately-owned roads, town squares, and other thoroughfares to immigrants on the basis of ethnicity if they want to. However, a couple of points need to be made. Although politically people have the right to engage in this kind of nonviolent segregation, it is frankly stupid, and the premises that it operates from are nothing less than pure tribalism. In a free society people will be free to indulge in nonviolent tribalism of whatever sort they like, but there’s no reason why that kind of bigotry deserves anything but the contempt of rational people.

Further, Hoppe’s policy prescriptions don’t even qualify as peaceful in the first place. Even if it were true that, under a “natural order,” residents of San Diego would make a community covenant obligating residents to sharply limit immigration from Tijuana, in the actual world there is no such covenant and no resident of San Diego has ever agreed to, or been asked to agree to, those terms. Invading their property, or public property in which they arguably have a stake in the rightful ownership (e.g. roads near their house, town squares, etc.), on the excuse that you’re enforcing the terms of this counterfactual covenant that they never agreed to, is as obvious an invasion of people’s rights as you can think of.

Finally, economically speaking Hoppe’s proposals are absurd. Continent-spanning government’s can’t approximate the outcome of free control over private property. In a free society people wouldn’t own continent-spanning swaths of land, and socialist calculation of the outcomes for a dispersed network of land-owners is impossible, for the usual Misesian and Hayekian reasons. At this point Hoppeans typically appeal to poll numbers on attitudes towards some form of immigration or another to justify the idea that if land were free of government control, immigration would be more tightly restricted; the sight of Hoppeans, of all people, suddenly rushing to defend a centralized, democratic plebiscite as a way of calculating hypothetical market outcomes is one of the most grimly funny things in the current libertarian movement.

Just as a side note, I don’t reject the concept of public property per se. I think there is rightful public property; I just deny that “public property” means “government property.” Cf. Roderick Long’s essay A Plea for Public Property. This has some bearing on immigration: private owners of roads (for example) can exclude whomever they want for whatever reason they please, but there may be cases where roads, paths, etc. are rightfully public property, and where (because of the sort of public ownership in question) there’s nobody who really has the right to bar immigrants from using the road, as long as they are using it safely and their use is not excluding others from using it. Of course, whether things would actually pan out this way, or whether people would choose to keep road ownership strictly private, in the hands of single proprietors or contractually defined firms, is something that we’ll need an actual free society to discover.