The Boston Bombing & Blowback

April 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

For many young libertarians, one of the defining moments when they finally “saw the light” occurred when Ron Paul made the “controversial” statement during the 2007 Republican presidential debates that the 9/11 attacks didn’t occur because the terrorists hated our freedoms. To the contrary, as Dr. Paul correctly pointed out, there is significant evidence which suggests that the 9/11 attacks were the direct result of the United States’ ruinous foreign policy in the Middle East. Watching the debate, you got the sense that everyone in attendance, especially Rudy Giuliani, was just about ready to gather the townspeople and storm the stage with pitchforks in hand. There’s no question that, at least at that point, no one within the mainstream Republican Party had ever heard the truths which Ron Paul fearlessly delivered on that fateful evening.

It just so happens that I was one of those young libertarians, I just didn’t know it yet. Almost six years later Ron Paul’s warnings, while almost completely unheeded by the mainstream, have managed to create a groundswell of support among high school and college aged Americans. As a result, Ron Paul’s emphasis on blowback and its consequences have shifted the dialogue on college campuses across the country and will undoubtedly shape American politics in the coming decades.

But perhaps just as important as the long term effects of Dr. Paul’s message of peace and freedom is the fact that, if properly understood, it gives us the ability to analyze current events with a level of clarity and precision which most of the mainstream pundits lack. The tragic bombings in Boston are the perfect example.

The Boston bombing suspects, Dzhokhar(left) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev(right).

In 2010, Robert Pape and James Feldman published a study which examines every recorded suicide terrorist attack from 1980 to 2009. In short, their findings fully support Ron Paul’s foreign policy prescriptions. Pape and Feldman found that the root cause of suicide terrorism is foreign military occupation, which has proven to trigger secular and religious groups to carry out suicide attacks. That last point needs to be emphasized. Contrary to the remarks made by some of the United States’ less “savory” voices, there is nothing inherently “combative” about Islam. Although it’s possible [although not certain] that Islam played a role in motivating the Boston bombers, this does not provide a proper reflection of Islam as a whole. It’s important to remember that these attacks are motivated by political factors more so than religious ones. Furthermore, it should be prefaced that at the current time, there is a lot of information that isn’t publically known about this case. The following is nothing more than speculation based upon the facts that we currently have. However, there is enough information to form a solid hypothesis of what the bombers’ motivations were, assuming they are indeed guilty. Finally, while the Boston Bombers obviously weren’t suicide terrorists, there is no question that Pape and Feldman’s approach can provide significant insight into the mind of most terrorists.

The study found that practically every case of suicide terrorism that they analyzed occurred in four distinct phases: filtering, discovery, cutting, and determining. The initial “filtering” phase describes the time period in which the different members of the eventual terrorist group originally meet. Granted, this should be obvious. The two bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, were brothers. Thus, the “filtering” process is self-explanatory.

Next is the “Discovery” stage. It’s at this point that the different members of the group recognize their common interests. They typically find common ground on anger towards Western political policies in Muslim lands. In this stage, I feel that the Tsarnaev brothers are unique. This is one of the question marks surrounding their case, but it does seem as if Tamerlan, the older brother, was the brains of the operation. Rather than meeting and finding common ground, it appears that Tamerlan somehow talked his younger brother into taking part in the bombing. By all accounts, Tamerlan had been becoming increasingly radicalized over the past few years. At one point, the Russian government actually contacted the FBI and warned them about how quickly his Muslim views have radicalized. On the other hand, Dzhokar is described as a very normal college student. Indeed, Tamerlan seems to have a history of “converting” others. He talked his American wife into converting to Islam – even wearing the traditional Muslim veil—in a relatively short time period. In fact, it seems as if Tamerlan exhibited all of the signs of radicalization. His younger brother did not.

The third phase is described by Pape and Feldman as “cutting”. This occurs when the individuals start to separate from their current social contacts and begin to interact within new social circles. This often includes international travel to the areas which they believe are threatened. This is an especially important phase because it’s where the individuals typically begin to radicalize. Tamerlan took multiple trips to his ethnic homeland of Chechnya. Although we are not sure what he did during his time there, it is known that soon after returning to the United States he posted a video of one of Chechnya’s leading Muslim radicals on YouTube. It’s also known that the Russian government had seen him meeting with militant Islamist groups near Chechnya, although those groups deny any involvement with the bombing.

Also, as the Guardian reports, Tamerlan’s attitude began to spiral downward once he returned from Chechnya:

“After returning from Russia, Tsarnaev made his presence known at a Boston-area mosque, where his outbursts interrupted two sermons that encouraged Muslims to celebrate American institutions such as the July 4 Independence Day and figures like Martin Luther King Jr., according to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. During one incident congregants shouted at him, telling him to leave.”

Furthermore, Tamerlan admitted to not having a single American friend. Thus, he was already effectively isolated from much of American society.

Finally, the last phase is “determining”. It’s at this point that the individuals decide upon a course of action. This is the part of the process which we know the least about. It’s my personal belief that Dzhokar did not join his brother until this last step. What possessed him to do so is beyond me. Perhaps more information will become public which can answer this question. Interestingly, FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers claimed that they have video of the younger brother, Dzhokar, “planting a device” just before the explosion [one would hope that they will eventually release that video]. So perhaps his involvement is more significant than I first expected.

At any rate, it is clear that at least one of the brothers was driven, in part, by political motivations [Admittedly, I’m not sure how anyone got him to admit that as Dzhokar was apparently ‘incubated and sedated’ in the hospital and could only answer by nodding his head]. Once again, these attacks have very little to do with Islam. The “jihadists” are a minority group within the religion who are capitalizing on Western invasion as an excuse to increase their numbers and power. Tamerlan and young Muslim men like him are a product of American foreign policy—not a religion hell bent upon destruction.

If Tamerlan and Dzhokar are indeed guilty, this is just another example of American foreign policy leading to disastrous results. And as if the American government committing to a foreign policy which invites terrorism isn’t enough, take a look at some of the domestic policies being pushed by Americans in the aftermath of the bombing. The United States is now fully engaged in what Charles A. Beard called “perpetual war for perpetual peace” at home and abroad.

The libertarian answer is obvious: peace. No one could have said it better than Murray Rothbard, Mr. libertarian himself:

“It is particularly ironic that war always enables the State to rally the energies of its citizens under the slogan of helping it to defend the country against some bestial outside menace. For the root myth that enables the State to wax fat off war is the canard that war is a defense by the State of its subjects. The facts, however, are precisely the reverse. For if war is the health of the State, it is also its greatest danger. A State can only “die” by defeat in war or by revolution. In war, therefore, the State frantically mobilizes its subjects to fight for it against another State, under the pretext that it is fighting to defend them.”

Regardless of who is actually responsible for the Boston Bombing it’s obvious that certain political forces in this country will use the tragedy as a springboard for their own twisted designs. As Rothbard said, “war is the health of the state”. Rather than infighting over the potential culprits for the Boston bombing, libertarians should use this as an opportunity to expose the American war machine and its ugly repercussions. Debates about potential false flag attacks simply distract from the more important problem: the state. The state is the culprit no matter what the source of the attack is. If libertarians were wise, they would use these events as an opportunity to reach out and explain to the public who the real enemy is.

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The Case Against Gun Control

April 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Due to the recent uptick in the number of mass shootings over the past few months, the call for gun control has once again reached a fervent pitch. People like Piers Morgan insist that the right to bear arms has severe limitations in the modern age. That seems to be the major case made by proponents of gun control; times have changed, they claim. The guns are more deadly, society has deteriorated, and human life is more valuable than the arbitrary “rights” codified by a piece of paper hundreds of years ago.

Of course, all of this is rubbish. Approaching the topic from two points of view, it can be shown that any form of gun control would inevitably be both ineffective and a regressive policy for civil liberties across the board. First, it will be shown that government enforced gun control is immoral and a recipe for further government diminishment of rights. Secondly, it will be shown that government gun control will never accomplish its stated goal.

Before we get there, do yourself a favor and go through some of the common myths associated with mass murderers (and by proxy, most murderers). Most of these supposed “facts” are pushed by the media and other outlets as proof that “something” needs to be done about gun ownership in the United States. To give the short version of the responses to these myths: no, mass shooting are not on the rise, background checks will not prevent murderers from purchasing weapons (more on this later), and most mass shooters do not use “assault” weapons.

Now let’s get down to business. In an effort to avoid mischaracterizing the arguments in favor of gun control, I will consider the more “sober” suggestions provided by its proponents. That is to say, most (sane) gun control advocates are not calling for completely outlawing the private ownership of firearms. Rather, they merely want to outlaw what they consider to be the most dangerous weapons. Presumably, they believe that these measures will deter violent crime associate with guns. Thus, if it can be proven that these measures will not deter gun violence then the argument falls flat on its face. Just to cover every angle, I will also discuss the argument for complete prohibition of guns.

First of all, it should be emphasized that “the right to bear arms” goes much deeper than the American constitution. There are certain individual rights which we all should hold paramount. It’s particularly interesting that many leftists are (correctly) against prosecuting “victimless” crimes, yet somehow make a completely inconsistent break in logic on the topic of guns. Is it not “victimless” to purchase a firearm? Of course, gun control advocates will reply that guns are different because there is a possibility that they may be used to harm others. But couldn’t the same be said for other victimless crimes which many leftists defend? For instance, alcohol, when consumed in copious amounts can cause humans to inflict pain on others. Gambling can become an addiction and the actions of one family member can bankrupt an entire household. If gun control advocates were being consistent they would be in favor of outlawing all of the above “crimes” as well. The free will of the individual should never be sacrificed in favor of the supposed “safety” of the whole.

The case of complete prohibition of private gun ownership is particularly interesting. In this situation, guns would be “outlawed” and we would supposedly have a “gun free” society. This line of thought is particularly dangerous. In the first place, guns would not be “outlawed” from society. To the contrary, guns would still be in full use by government officials. Of course, some may not have a problem with this. The government is the servant of the people. There is no reason for civilians to fear their government. Unfortunately, this is a highly naïve way of approaching the state machinery. The state itself is not some giant, monolithic entity with one motive—to serve its citizens. The state, like any other human institution, is an imperfect entity directed by the decisions of individuals. The officialdom is not composed of superhuman beings incapable of error. Although the thought of the United States government turning its guns against the citizenry may seem outrageous, it is absolutely within the realm of possibility. It’s apparent that only a fool would trust the state with a monopoly on gun ownership. Favoring such measures would require a level of state worship which rivals the fervor of any hardline religious group.

But more importantly, the complete outlaw of private gun ownership would fail. Put simply, state decree cannot prevent human action. Even if the state declares a voluntary action illegal, it will still take place in the black market. The evidence for this is staggering. Alcohol prohibition is seen as one of the most glaring examples of a policy which led to disaster. By outlawing alcohol because of its alleged moral and safety risks (sound familiar?), the state created a giant black market in which alcohol was sold at a premium in thousands of “speakeasies” across the country. A similar situation has occurred since the 20th century. The so called “War on Drugs” has been an unmitigated disaster. Millions of dollars have been spent in an effort to stamp out the black market for illegal drugs. Without question, the drug market has thrived and the “War on Drugs” has been a complete failure. Most gun control proponents agree with all of the above, but somehow have failed to learn anything from the examples they provide. Common sense tells us that even if the purchase of firearms is allowed, they will still be purchased. Thus, the total outlaw of private gun ownership would result in taking guns from the hands of law abiding citizens and placing them in the hands of criminals and government officials. Given the history of those two groups, that should instill fear into the hearts of any thinking human being.

The same argument can be applied to any less extreme calls for gun control. Let’s assume that certain guns are prohibited from being bought. In that case, criminals looking to buy a gun for violent purposes will simply go to the black market for weapons. Thus, not only does the gun restriction put guns into the hands of criminals while disarming law abiding citizens, it also creates a dangerous underground network of crime and violence. Multiple surveys conducted have shown that only an extremely small fraction of convicted criminals actually went to licensed gun dealers to buy their crime weapon. This reinforces the common sense truism that criminals don’t follow laws.

Another group of individuals aren’t in favor of gun control, yet favor actions to increase background checks for any gun purchase. It should be emphasized that first of all, criminals with a background simply will utilize the black market to obtain guns. Furthermore, almost all mass shooters had no prior criminal record before they committed their crime. Thus, increased scrutiny of their background would not have prevented them from obtaining a firearm.

Lastly, a word on statistics. The statistics used by both sides of the gun control debate are hard to gauge and impossible to apply universally. For instance, the city of Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, yet has one of the highest crime rates in the western world. Similarly, there is likely some European nations with much stricter gun laws accompanied by a low crime rate. It’s important to recognize that in both cases, correlation is not causation. There are a number of cultural, economic, and historical reasons for disparities in crime rates. Thus, for every statistical example in favor of gun control, there is likely another statistical example which favors gun freedom. Put simply, human action is much too complex to gain any serious understanding from statistical methods.

Finally, some might accept all of the above and simply respond by claiming that if gun control can save one life, it’s worth it. To which I respond: at what cost? The elimination of liberties is a slippery slope which can lead to the further erosion of other rights. Remember, the income tax was sold to the public as a tax which would only affect those in the very highest income classes. Furthermore, it’s already been shown that increased gun laws expand the dangerous black market and remove guns from the hands of law abiding citizens, all while completely failing to seriously address the issue of gun violence. Perhaps it might save “one life”. Similar logic would suggest that the government should install cameras into every household, because such a measure would forever prevent the possibility of child abuse.

Alas, let us not give these fools any ideas. Like every other issue, the answer to the gun debate is more liberty, not less.

The Boston Bombing: A Clarificiation

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

In my earlier post, I was mainly working under the assumption that the two men are guilty and that they have a motivation that may become public.

That is not a safe assumption, and I did not mean to suggest that they are guilty until proven innocent. To the contrary, their case strikes me as highly dubious, because if this actually was a terrorist attack, why wouldn’t the terrorists leave some type of note, video, or other media to inform the public as to their motivations?

Perhaps they did leave behind some sort of warning and it isn’t public yet. Perhaps they didn’t. Perhaps they aren’t even guilty.

It’s too early for anyone to start pointing fingers.

Boston bombing suspect: “I don’t have a single American Friend”

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

According to Slate, the dead Boston bombing suspect was a Chechen refugee who didn’t “have a single American friend”. This is particularly interesting, because it fits one of the main criterion of suicide terrorists documented by Robert Pape and James Feldman in their groundbreaking book. Of course, the Boston bombers were not suicide terrorists. Regardless, it isn’t that much of a stretch to assume that similar criteria fit terrorists of all flavors. Given the fact that the two suspects were Chechen refugees whom were also (according to Slate) rather isolated from the rest of American society, it certainly looks like they fit at least one of the main criteria for terrorists.

Granted, we do not know the motivation of the Boston bombers. Pape and Feldman showed that in almost every case, suicide bombers would attack a nation which they perceived as a threat to their homeland/ethnic group. Thus, if this was indeed a terrorist attack, it’s more likely that the bombings were motivated by perceived religious/ethnic threats(they were both Muslim) as opposed to nationalistic ones. If the Chechen bombers were motivated on behalf of their homeland, they would have more likely attacked Russia due to the atrocities that the Russian government has committed in that part of the world.

I haven’t been following this story very closely, but whatever happened to the Saudi national that was originally taken into custody as a suspect? What happened to him? Was this just another instance of the mainstream media getting something entirely wrong?

Which brings me to my next point. The internet has been crucial in gathering quality information about this atrocity. The few times that I’ve seen mainstream news sources on television or print, the quality and depth of information has been slim. Compare that with the Internet, where thousands of tips and photos have popped up in places like Reddit.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, one has to wonder about the steps the United States government will take in reaction to this horrible act. I’m rather worried about Patriot Act, NDAA-esque garbage filtering its way through Congress(to be promptly signed by Mr. NDAA himself, Obama). Furthermore, will the United States government, via it’s trusty mainstream media outlets, start to think about intervention in Chechnya? Or perhaps more likely, will the fact that Chechnya has made national news provide the feds with the opportunity to badmouth the Russians and create a public outcry against the previously ignored atrocities in Chechnya?

Whatever happens, you can rest assured that it won’t be good for the average American. Sadly, it’s just as likely that most Americans will support whatever terrible decisions the federal government makes. The peasantry do not think very clearly when they’re emotional, and the elite know that.

‘Corporatism’ and its Roots

April 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve often noticed that many Americans, especially those who consider themselves “left” of center, are very pessimistic about the state of democracy in the United States. The United States is often held up as an example of everything that is wrong, and many European countries are provided as an example of everything that is ‘right’ about modern democracy. It isn’t hard to understand why. Record amounts of corporate lobbying are shifting the outcome of American politics. Furthermore, one almost gets the sense that many Americans (no doubt Europeans as well) blame American citizens for the sorry state of American democracy.

Ignoring the problems that Europe’s democracies are currently experiencing, it seems clear to me that this last accusation is entirely wrong. The blame does not lie on the American citizens. To the contrary, American citizens had little to do with the inevitable state in which American politics currently finds itself. Well, put more precisely, Americans had everything and nothing to do with it.

I would argue that, in fact, the main issue with American politics is not the alleged stupidity of its voters, but rather, American government was the victim of historical circumstance. Indeed, I see no reason to believe that most Europeans are more educated than their average American counterpart. In fact, there are likely a number of areas within the United States with much higher levels of educated citizens than many entire European nations. This brings me to my first explanation for the demise of American political process: size.

The American federal government has control of a land mass approximately equivalent to all of continental Europe, including most of European Russia. The population figures are also relatively similar. There’s only one way to describe this situation: The United States if fucking huge. Indeed, how ludicrous would it seem to most Europeans if it were suggested that all of their nation-states combine into one European nation with a capital in, say, London? Although, sadly, there are many proponents for such a thing, I highly doubt most European citizens would see this as a realistic power structure. How fair would it be if decision makers in London made decisions which dictated the lives of Spaniards, for example? Well, this is the system we currently have in the U.S. As power continues to centralize in DC, more decisions are made about individuals living in such places as Iowa, California, and Wyoming. Democracy has been proven to fail time and time again, but there is no question that it’s most effective on a smaller nation. The larger the nation, the more likely that your vote won’t even matter. There’s no question that the enormous size of the United States creates a gigantic power vacuum within the 68 square miles in Washington DC. This power vacuum, of course, did not remain unoccupied for long.

Just as important in the demise of American democracy as the large power vacuum created in DC is the large private industry in the United States. Throughout its early history, the United States was a hotbed of private enterprise. Low to no taxes, a libertarian spirit, and the resulting industrial revolution led to the most significant advancement of living standards human society had ever seen. There is no question that early on, the American government was largely restricted from growing due to a population which distinctly remembers shaking off the shackles of the leviathan. The unprecedented growth in American industry led to a number of rather large firms. To make a long story short, the growth of the state from Lincoln through the New Deal created a new bond between American private interests and the American government. This bond, no doubt, is what eventually ‘sealed the deal’ on the death of American democracy. The unification of interests between the government and the private elite, or the “corporate state” was the culmination of a century of government planning and corporate weaseling.

No one denies that the American government is in bed with corporate interests. They may, however, be in denial as to how it happened. Either way, the historical route to today’s corporate leviathan is not the most important point. Regardless of how the U.S. got here, it’s essential to understand whether or not this situation could have been avoided.

The sad truth is that the current state of American politics was all but inevitable. Although the founders drafted the most radical and unprecedented attempt to reign in the power of the state, it must be pointed out that they failed miserably. Sadly, the American founders undertook an impossible task: designing a government which will limit itself. The state machinery is, by its very nature, monopolistic. It should be no surprise that the limited minarchist state of the founders has devolved into the leviathan American empire in the span of a coupe hundred years. Such is the nature of the state. When provided with the opportunity to increase its power, the state almost always takes it.

Let the failure of the American republic be a warning to all Americans: the ‘limited’ state is a misnomer. There is no such thing as a limited state. In the long run, menacing forces will grab hold of the state machinery and manipulate it for their own benefit. They will come in the form of corporatist CEO’s, politicians, and bureaucrats. After all, government cannot remove the self-interested nature of human beings. European socialist nations will meet their own demise, but at least they didn’t have the misfortune of being deluded by the notion of ‘limited’ government.

The Skeptical Libertarian: Skeptic of the Skeptics

April 15, 2013 § 1 Comment

First of all, I’m not a big fan of libertarian internal “politics”. As a result, I’m not very interested in the different instances of libertarian infighting, and I typically don’t take sides in these internal debates. More often than not they aren’t very productive. In other words, I’m not doing this because I enjoy it. Rather, I’m doing this because I think there are certain things which need to be said about the Skeptical Libertarian (I will refer to them as TSL) and its (albeit minor) role in the liberty movement.

Put simply, I’m a ‘skeptic’ of The Skeptical Libertarian. As Tom Woods notes, TSL are in fact skeptical of actual skeptics. So I suppose that means I’m skeptical of skeptics whom are skeptical of skeptics. This raises an important question: at what point is language useless? Anyway…

A Disservice to Libertarianism

Libertarianism has nothing to say about conspiracy theories, GMO’s, or religion. The only “libertarian” opinion on such topics would be to remove the state from the picture. Anything beyond that is the opinion of an individual. It’s true; some people have some bat shit crazy opinions. And yes, some of these people happen to be libertarians. But having a wacky fringe is not unique to libertarianism. Conspiracy theorists can be found at the fringes of the left and the right. If someone has a problem with conspiracy theories, they don’t have a problem with libertarianism per se; they have a problem with the opinions of specific individuals.

That’s part of the reason I find TSL’s self-described mission perplexing. From their website:

“But the more the spotlight turns toward the “liberty movement,” the more concerned libertarians should be about the unsavory, conspiratorial, and pseudoscientific beliefs being spread under the banner of the libertarian and antiwar movements….Instead of trying to silence or ignore the crazies in our midst, we ought to confront them and expose the lunatic fringe for what they really are: peddlers of fear, falsehood, and paranoia, just like the politicians they claim to oppose. We cannot sit passively next to the people in tinfoil hats screaming about chemtrails and FEMA camps and still expect to be listened to when we try to speak about our real concerns on foreign policy or personal liberty.”

Within a couple paragraphs, TSL managed to passively define those with a fear of chemtrails and FEMA as “peddlers of fear, falsehood, and paranoia” whom are “unsavory, conspiratorial, and pseudoscientific”. In other words, they’re extremists whom TSL founder Daniel Bier would like to make an example of. Why, how nice of Daniel Bier! He has volunteered himself to be the new libertarian thought police!

I’ve never been a fan of conspiracy theories, but there is nothing distinctly un-libertarian about them. It shouldn’t be surprising that libertarians are typically very skeptical of power and the potential for abuse that it carries. As a result, there may be some conspiracy theorists within our midst. My response: who the fuck cares? How many wacko pinkos are out there waiting for a reason to riot? How about the hordes of conservative conspiracy theorists?

By bringing up some of the goofiest libertarians for sacrifice in front of a large audience, TSL is actually doing libertarianism a disservice. Could you imagine MSNBC running a series on leftist de-fluoridation wackos? Or how about Fox News doing a segment on anti-Obama racism within the Republican Party? Do you know why they would never do that? Because they realize that airing out their dirty laundry would accomplish nothing. The fact is, every movement has weirdos. By painting the picture that libertarianism is somehow unique in this respect, TSL is accomplishing the exact opposite of its intended purpose. I find it extremely hard to believe that Bier and company are naive enough to miss this important point.

Skeptical of Libertarianism?

Perhaps Bier simply wants libertarianism to be treated seriously by the mainstream. As a result, he’s isolating its goofballs in an effort to make the most essential libertarian ideas more palatable to the American mainstream. Okay, let’s give him that much credit.

Surely, he must be using this platform to present unabashed libertarianism to the mainstream.

But wait, there’s more! Not only does Bier spend his time criticizing the lunatic fringe of libertarianism, but he also preaches to his audience about the extremist libertarians, or “ideological purists”. Who are these menacing individuals? Why, they’re the no good rebel rousers who take such controversial stances as:

Anyone who dares utter a phrase in favor of these detestable ideas is put on TSL’s short list. Why? Well, it’s simple: you’re being a stubborn fundamentalist! Well, that, and the fact that you disagree with Daniel Bier. Remember, we’re trying to rid libertarianism of these wackos who disagree with Mr. Bier. It’s only fair.

Now, it could be said that Daniel simply doesn’t understand (or has never heard of) some of the most basic arguments in favor of the positions listed above. Surely, his excuse must be ignorance. In which case, I’ve provided links which can educate him on these topics. As a wise man once said:

“It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

It appears that Bier’s most glaring folly is to mistake genuine skepticism for fears of a completely centralized evil plot. It’s true, there are some very odd characters who call themselves libertarians. However, suggesting that an industry with a few large corporate players (which are isolated from competition via the state) may not be the product of simply “competitive scientific discovery” is not lunacy. It’s an extremely sensible conclusion based upon the evidence we have.

Radical Empiricism

Finally, let’s move to the heart of the matter.

A cursory glance at The Skeptical Libertarian’s Facebook page, blog, or twitter provides a clear insight into what exactly Daniel Bier is all about. To the untrained eye, it may seem like a harmless, perhaps annoying attempt to dig up libertarianism’s fringe groups for public sacrifice. But a closer look reveals something much more menacing. In just about every attempt to expose the so called “extremists”, Bier stresses the importance of empirical evidence. Indeed, every single one of The Skeptical Libertarian’s critiques focus on the lack of empirical evidence to support the supposedly controversial claims. Be it gun control, big pharmaceutical firms, or religion, Bier places all of his weight behind the “empirical” evidence which he believes invalidates the “peddlers of fear” as “pseudoscientific”. By insisting on the use of empirical data to decide upon both scientific and social issues, Bier clearly is embracing a form of radical positivism.

This is where he should be careful.

In 1962, Ludwig von Mises published The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science.  The final chapter of that book, “Positivism and the Crisis of Western Civilization” should be added to Mr. Bier’s reading list. In that chapter, Mises rejects logical positivism (the precursor to today’s positivism) as a “misinterpret[ation]” of mankind’s history.

There is certainly nothing objectionable about analyzing empirical evidence when dealing with the natural sciences. Indeed, only a dogmatic fool would reject the empirical scientific facts which support evolution, for example. However, the use of empirical evidence is much less stable when dealing with social topics, especially economics. This is because humans are the only beings on earth which act. To deny this is to deny the whole of Austrian economics. Thus, there are two potentialities: either Bier is once again in a state of ignorance, or he is knowingly rejecting the economic basis for much of modern libertarianism.

Either way, it’s probably best if Bier were more clear about these issues. Otherwise, skeptics are left wondering.

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