Posts filed under The Distributed Republic

The Rule of Law-Enforcers

For a private person, yes. However, private persons do not investigate murders, rapes, assaults, etc… and do not need to worry about these possibilities. As I mentioned, LEOs do. They can’t act as mellow beings and still enforce the law.

Whatever you want, dude, but yelling at a cop is still not a crime. A cop who treats it as one is willfully carrying out a false arrest.

If you think that rule of law is not worth this then you are an idiot and need to study history again.

I’m sorry, what part of “the rule of law” calls for making up non-existent laws against yelling at police officers in order to ensure that people show proper deference to the position of Law Enforcement Officers? I mean, sure, I can see how that’s conducive to the Rule of Law-Enforcers, but I’m not sure that’s what advocates of “the rule of law” generally mean by the term.

In any case, if that is what “the rule of law” really calls for, then it sounds to me like “the rule of law” is as tyrannical as any other form of rule.

Countries without a respected police force are generally the lowest in the rung and generally unfit for humans.

I’m not sure what you mean by “respect” here; usually we use the term to refer to courtesy and consideration that are freely given to those who deserve them. But since you’re talking about the use of physical coercion and imprisonment, obviously this cannot be what you are talking about; you can get fear that way, and you can get submission, but you can’t get any kind of respect that is worthy of the name.

If what you mean is that citizens generally submit to the legal demands of police officers, and unhesitatingly collaborate with them in their work, well, I can think of a few places where that was pretty common. But I hear that Nazi-occupied Europe, the Soviet bloc, and Maoist China were all pretty bad places to be, too.

Yelling at a police officer is not a crime.

newt0311: He responded and tried to peacefully handle the situation at which point, the resident just starts yelling at him and continues to act in an uncooperative manner.

Yelling at a police officer is not a crime.

Police officers have many legal privileges (legal privileges which, actually, they generally should not have anyway), but being entitled to arrest obviously harmless people for their tone of voice is definitely not among them.

newt0311: “Abuse” by police officers?

Using the threat of physical force to arrest and jail a man who has not committed any crime, and who you know has not committed any crime, is a paradigmatic case of abusing police powers. If willful false arrests are not abuse by police officers, what is?

The union makes us strong


Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

I agree with you that worker ownership of the means of production wouldn’t instantly solve all the problems of labor, and that — for all I’ve said in the King Ludd post — there might be other reasons why it turns out not to be viable, or at least not universally practicable. My main point was just to show that one alleged problem with unionism, presented by De Coster and others as if it were intrinsic to unionism as such, was actually only a problem with the particular model of union organizing that both anti-union business types and the establishmentarian union bosses fetishize, and which the Wagner/Taft-Hartley system actively subsidizes and protects in the name of “industrial peace,” at the expense of competing organizing models — like, for example, the worker-ownership model of the IWW. Those other organizing models may have problems of their own, but they don’t have the problems that De Coster treats as intrinsic to unionism.

After all, one of the myriad justifications for profits going to the capitalist is that the capitalist takes on the most risks, using her own money as an entrepreneur to start an uncertain business, with a high failure rate, and also extending in time when she will get recompensated, assuming the business becomes successful. Whereas a poor laborer just scratching by may not have the wherewithal to take such a large risk, nor be willing or able to withhold present consumption for the chance at a bigger future payoff – the poor laborer just wants a certain payoff now, in the form of wages.

Well, O.K., sure, but two things.

First, insofar as this argument works, it seems like it’s an argument for capitalists to take a role and get a cut in the high-risk start-up period for a firm; not necessarily much of an argument for capitalists remaining as residual profit recipients after the firm is already well established. It’s perfectly possible to have both an infusion of working capital during the start-up period and a worker co-op at the end (either because the capitalist agrees to those terms, going in, or because the workers organize after a while and use their stronger bargaining position to convince her to disentangle herself and find a new entrepreneurial opportunity). The question is why that sort of thing doesn’t happen now. Maybe it’s because there’s some other reason why it’s not viable, but I’d suggest that a lot of the reason has to do with the way in which prevalent business models and prevalent union organizing models are supported and rigidified by government economic regimentation (as well as the establishmentarian business and union culture that that regimentation promotes).

Second, it’s true that, especially for very low-paid wage workers, a lot of their economic decisions are going to be made as a reaction to the extremely precarious economic situation that they are in. This will naturally tend to make people more risk-averse and more interested in certain and quick pay-offs than they might otherwise be. But the precarity isn’t a fixed natural fact; it’s largely the product of specific government policies which ratchet up fixed costs of living while ratcheting down opportunities for homesteading and labor, with workers’ livelihoods caught in the squeeze. Eliminate those policies and you’ll begin to see workers with more of their costs of living safely covered and with more in the way of back-up options should their current arrangement fail.

But becoming an investor and a risk-taker generally presupposes some level of acquired wealth, where you have taken care of basic needs and have some money left over to risk and save. Poor laborers aren’t generally going to have access to that sort of capital, and they are the ones who seem to benefit from organizing their labor the most.

Well, organizing your labor and providing a cushion of wealth to fall back on aren’t mutually exclusive options. Unions themselves can (and, in the past, often did) provide an institutional vehicle for helping cushion workers from economic falls — by improving wages, but, more importantly by providing institutions that help workers on the bum to find new work (e.g. union hiring halls, now illegal under Taft-Hartley) or for workers to help each other provide for themselves and their families during lean times (e.g. mutual aid societies, now partly illegal, or heavily regulated — if they do anything that might be construed by the government as selling insurance — and in any case crowded out by government welfare).

If it turns out that one aspect of radical labor solidarity (worker ownership of the means of production) works out best when accompanied by another aspect of radical labor solidarity (a vibrant network of mutual aid), well, I’m happy enough with that conclusion.

Whose conventions?

Matt Simpson:

I’m a conventionalist when it comes to property.* A cursory glance at the current convention in the geographic region we call Israel shows that the Israeli government does, in fact, have the right to be there.

Whose conventions show that?

Last I checked, a lot of Palestinians, for example, do not accept the property conventions in question (e.g. they reject the colonialist conventions behind the Mandate and Balfour, accept property conventions that would allow for a right of return after forcible exile from traditionally-held lands, etc.). So what then gives the Israeli government the right to force Palestinians to act according to the boundaries set by its own property conventions, as opposed to the property conventions that they themselves accept?

(Note that you can’t answer by appealing either to conventions that allow for that kind of imposition, or to the alleged legitimate authority of the Israeli state to fix property conventions, without crassly begging the question.)

Victim surveys

O.K., James, you got me. I’m a poisonous hate-filled politically-correct man-hater. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m also anti-sex, anti-America, and anti-life.

Let’s move on to empirical data.

Here’s what you say:

Acquaintance rape is indeed common – but rape by intimates quite uncommon.

Here is what Tjaden and Thoennes (2000) say in the report on their randomly-sampled survey of 8,000 U.S. women and 8,000 U.S. men:

Nearly 10 percent of surveyed women, compared with less than 1 percent of surveyed men, reported being raped since age 18 (exhibit 21). Thus, U.S. women are 10 times more likely than U.S. men to be raped as an adult.

The survey found that most women who are raped as adults are raped by intimates. Nearly two-thirds (61.9 percent) of the women who reported being raped since age 18 were raped by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date. In comparison 21.3 percent were raped by an acquaintance, 16.7 were raped by a stranger, and 6.5 percent were raped by a relative [other than a spouse] (see exhibit 22). The number of male rape victims was insufficient to reliably calculate estimates for men.

Tjaden and Thoennes (2006) breaks out the data into different categories of intimate partner rapists. (The prevalence rates don’t add up the same way as in [2000], because in this passage the data is broken out by victim-perpetrator relationship but not controlled by the age of the victim.)

Information from NVAWS confirms previ­ous research that shows most rape vic­tims know their rapist. Only 16.7 percent of all female victims and 22.8 percent of all male victims were raped by a stranger (see exhibit 13). In general, female victims tended to be raped by current or former intimates, defined in this study as spous­es, male and female cohabiting partners, dates, boyfriends, and girlfriends. In com­parison, male victims tended to be raped by acquaintances, such as friends, teach­ers, coworkers, or neighbors. Among all female victims identified by the survey, 20.2 percent were raped by a spouse or ex-spouse, 4.3 percent were raped by a current or former cohabiting partner, and 21.5 percent were raped by a current or former date, boyfriend, or girlfriend.

Age has a major effect on the risks from different groups of men. If you look at victimization rates for girls under the age of twelve, the greatest danger of rape comes from relatives (67.8% of female victims who were raped when younger than 12), followed by acquaintances (24.5% of under-12 female victims), followed by strangers (10.8%). If you look at adolescent women, aged 12-17, the greatest danger of rape comes from intimate partners (35.9% of female rape victims who were raped when 12-17), followed by acquaintances (33.3% of female victims age 12-17), followed by relatives (19.4%), followed by strangers (15.8%). Women raped in adulthood are overwhelmingly more likely to have been raped by a current or former intimate partner than by any other man — as seen above, more women are raped by current or former intimate partners than by all other categories of perpetrators put together. It shouldn’t be surprising that rape by dates, boyfriends, and husbands is much more common among adult women than among adolescent women and young girls, of course; adult women are more likely to be exposed to dates and boyfriends in the first place, and much, much more likely to have husbands, than women aged 12-17 are, let alone girls under the age of 12.

Them’s the facts, as far as I am aware of them. If you have empirical studies of the prevalence and incidence of sexual violence against women which indicate something different, then your mission, should you choose to accept it, is actually to produce the specific studies in question, and demonstrate how they contradict or undermine the findings from the NVAWS. Or I guess you could just impugn my intellectual honesty again without providing a reference to any specific data.

Now, if Tjaden and Thoennes’s findings are accurate, I guess you could ask why the facts hate men so much, but the truth is that I really have very little idea what, if anything, in my remarks was supposed to be “man-hating” in the first place. At most it is boyfriend-and-husband-hating, and it’s really not even that. Lots of boyfriends and husbands are violent towards their girlfriends and wives. Does it follow (1) that there’s something intrinsically wrong with boyfriends or husbands as such, or rather (2) that there’s something deeply wrong with how boyfriends and husbands are expected to conduct themselves in this particular society as it actually exists, or rather (3) that there’s something deeply wrong with how a large minority of boyfriends and husbands in this particular society expect themselves to act, which doesn’t necessarily apply to the majority of boyfriends and husbands who don’t commit rape? My own view is (2), although for all I’ve said so far, you could just as easily take option (3), and neither case seems to me like something that you could fairly call “man-hating” or anything of the sort. (For comparison, during the 1910s black men in Mississippi were overwhelmingly more likely to be lynched by white men than by black men, white women, black women, or children of any race. Is it somehow anti-white or anti-white-male to point that fact out, or to point out that it might have had something to do with the norms and ideals accepted by the majority of white men in the racial system of Jim Crow?)

Re: Oppose the abuse, not the technology


I’m not sure I’ve succeeded in making my point clear to you.

Sure, and that’s an argument against the government being selective in how it sells/promotes/distributes the technology.

(1) My primary concern about this scheme is not with the actions issuing government (the U.S.). If the U.S. government started issuing some form of international biometric ID, it might very well do something fucked up with that (like incorporating that into its border-Stasi system). But the primary concern I was expressing has to do with how the issuing government would be facilitating more intensive government surveillance by other governments in the name of “security.” The point is that the more or less inevitable outcome of the U.S. government providing this kind of ID according to the political and state-security incentives that it faces is that other governments would take advantage of it by beefing up their surveillance regime and forcing their own citizens to become unwilling clients for state-security purposes.

(2) I’m baffled by your suggestion that you could somehow prevent the government from being selective in how it sells/promotes/distributes these ID cards. How? No government “service” in the world is like that. And now government “service” is ever likely to be. Especially not a government service that most directly impacts the fortune of this governments primary allies, beneficiaries, and partners in crime — viz., other governments.

But the technology itself is not objectionable,

I didn’t say that the technology was objectionable. I said that having the U.S. federal government promote and distribute it is objectionable. If some private company were issuing IDs like these, I probably wouldn’t buy one (I don’t need that kind of ID for anything that I currently do, and I’m very impatient with paperwork), but I wouldn’t be lodging the same complaints against it.

Of course, government abuse is a serious and very plausible worry. But that’s true with anything the government does.

Sure, I agree with that. There’s a simple solution: don’t propose for the government to do anything at all.

Government “services” are never going to be anything but corrupt, stupid, inefficient, selective, tilted to political advantage, and often quite dangerous. Why waste one’s breath on proposing new ones, or let government off the hook by pretending that they could somehow be done “right” this time?

If you want biometric ID cards, start trying to sell your idea to entrepreneurs or start designing your own. Nobody’s stopping you. What possible benefit is there to pushing the idea of having the U.S. federal government do it instead?

In any future system of fully private, fully free-market law and contract enforcement, technological and social advances in identification, reputation, and security will all be a boon for liberty.

Sure. But the first clause of that sentence is the most important part, and it’s precisely the part that’s dropped in the proposal I’m objecting to.

Technological and social advances are, as a rule, only broadly beneficial when people are free to accept them, reject them, modify them, or adapt to them on their own terms and at their own pace. The uptake of cell phones in impoverished areas is a good example. The emergence of signature-confirmed credit cards in the U.S. and Europe is another. New ID schemes pushed by the government and implemented for their “positive security implications” are not. The “security implications” for which these IDs would be have nothing to do with ordinary people’s uncoerced choices or everyday needs, and everything to do with new surveillance and new requirements imposed on them by a government “security” apparatus.


And it often seems like these kinds of advances in reputation verification move us closer from a statist world of contract enforcement to a free, market-based world. Government policemen have less to do (well, less legitimate things to do) …

Like that’s ever stopped them.

Anyway, the proposal wasn’t a proposal for giving government agencies fewer things to do. It was for giving a government agency more things to do (viz. designing and issuing biometric ID for absolutely anybody in the world).

Forced and voluntary


Uh…it’s the difference between forced and voluntary. … You know, like the difference between the FDA and a private certification agency.

See above.

The proposal was to issue “hard” biometric international ID cards for their “positive security implications.” Who do you think are going to be implementing the “security” procedures that require ID cards like that to be presented — private businesses or governments?

Who implements most security procedures and imposes most ID requirements now?

The reason I currently have to present my papers at the airport, or when I open a bank account, or when I start a new job, or when I go to a bar, or what have you, almost never have anything at all to do with policies voluntarily adopted by private businesses. How about you?

Security implications


The author explicitly structures his scenario as voluntary.

I hear that you don’t, legally speaking, have to sign up for a Social Security Number, either. The problem is just that, if you refuse to, there are a lot of things that the government will just happen to keep you from doing.

Suppose that the U.S. government gets into the business of producing biometric identification cards aimed (as the author explicitly suggests) especially at developing countries where the local regime doesn’t really have the resources to issue those kind of “hard” identification papers without help from richer and more efficiently organized states.

Who do you suppose would be the primary “customers” for a “service” like that? (1) Willing customers who just happen to want an absurdly detailed ID card for “security” in their day-to-day business, or (2) unwilling customers who are either directly or indirectly forced to get that absurdly detailed ID card because the regime in the country where they live now requires everybody to get this biometric ID card as part of its coercively imposed “security” procedures?

A “service” like this is sure to have “positive security implications” for the primary consumers of “security” technology today. But those are governments, not ordinary citizens, and the degree to which they are able to carry out their “security” schemes has little or no connection with positive outcomes for ordinary citizens’ safety or quality of life.

Simply replace “U.S. government” with “trusted third party institution”, like Visa or Mastercard.

Oh, come on, you know better than that. I may as well argue that government welfare is a great idea, because, hey, if you replace “U.S. government” with “voluntary mutual-aid societies,” then I’d be describing a voluntary and potentially valuable service.

Governments don’t have the same incentives, the same structure, or the same partners and allies as private organizations. Not surprisingly, even though Visa or Mastercard could in principle already be issuing “hard” global biometric identity cards like this, they aren’t, because it doesn’t pay to do so, if your incentives depend on voluntary customers, and are based on making money rather than on geopolitical power and “security.”

Either way, I don’t see how better identification is necessarily inimical to liberty.

It’s not. However, more relentless government surveillance is. And that’s the primary thing that any government-issued biometric ID scheme being put into effect for its “security implications” is going to facilitate.

Dog whistles


I have never heard it claimed that the terms “hard-working” and “law-abiding” are Southern strategy code words,

They are. They’re especially closely associated with Nixon- and Reagan-era efforts to pull in working-class, often unionized white men (“hardhats,” “Reagan Democrats,” et al.) for the Southern Strategists’ racially-charged anti-welfare and Law-n-Order kicks.

Try thinking about it in reverse, if that helps. “Hard-working” and “law-abiding” are deliberate contrast terms for “lazy,” “shiftless,” and “criminal.” These terms were all deployed with pretty clear racial dimensions during the political debates in question.

(Personally, I’m all for an anti-welfare kick; but the Law-n-Order kick has been one of the single most politically toxic positions in mainstream American politics for the past several decades. And in either case the deliberate use of racial resentments for political ends is a nasty business.)

Totalitarian nightmares

Maybe that’s why I can’t get into thick libertarianism: it sounds like a totalitarian nightmare to me.

Yes, you got it, it’s just like that, except without the totalitarianism.

Getting criticized over the alleged social connotations of your word choice, in light of recent political history in America, is not “totalitarianism” by any conceivable stretch of the imagination. In real totalitarian states people are jailed or killed over the language that they use. Get a grip.

You may not like a particular practice, but there’s no need to use this kind of melodramatic language to describe it. Particularly not when the melodrama distorts the position that you actually intend to criticize. (There are no left libertarians who believe in government speech restrictions. If someone believes in that, they’re not a left libertarian, but rather something else.)