Monday, May 27, 2013

"Learning from Mistakes" Can You Walk Your Talk?

Someone named James E. Miller wrote a blog post over the weekend that was republished at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and at (perhaps other places as well).

The title of his essay was "Learning from Mistakes." You can read it here:

This is the most unintentionally funny piece I've read in a while. In it Mr. Miller endeavors to point out the intellectual hypocrisy of other people who just can't seem to learn from their errors, and he does a pretty good job right up to the point where he overreaches and falls victim to the same type of blind spot that he is so quick to point out in others.

Mr. Miller decided to use the example of the tragedy in Moore, Oklahoma last week to bolster his contention that people just can't break out of their "intellectual stupor" and take actions that will improve their lot in life. 

Miller claims that since unnamed "experts" had warned the residents of Moore after a destructive 1999 tornado that they might have a "1%" chance of a similar event happening in the future (who these experts are or what the time period for that estimate was, Mr. Miller fails to tell us), then they are really not deserving of our empathy.

Wow. On a long weekend in which comedian Doug Stanhope just demonstrated that religion has no monopoly on empathy by raising $100,000 (and counting) in donations to help out the "atheist mom" who stood firm in her beliefs in response to an uncomfortable and possibly condescending on camera question about her faith, Mr. Miller just had to go and re-affirm the stereotype of the greedy, heartless, godless, libertarian. 

Thanks, James. Not helpful.

But unhelpful as it was, I could excuse it if his argument were based upon anything other than ignorance and hypocrisy.

Let's look at the ignorance first. Mr. Miller apparently believes that because some expert told the residents of Moore Oklahoma back in 1999 that they had a 1% chance (per year? - he doesn't say) of a similar event repeating, because they still live there, in what he characterized as a "proven path of destruction," then basically, it's their own damn fault.

Mr. Miller seems to be ignorant of how tornadoes actually work and where they actually happen. There is no "proven path of destruction." Tornado Alley exists because of two geographical features, neither of which are particular to the local circumstances of Moore, Oklahoma. When strong fronts move east from the Rocky Mountains and run into energetic, moist air lifted up from the Gulf of Mexico, the air mass tends to produce strong lines of thunderstorms that spin.

The chances are higher of you running into a big tornado in the central section of Tornado Alley, and Moore is just on the eastern edge of that central core, but it's no more likely that you'd get a damaging tornado in Moore than you would in any other town in that area or in any randomly chosen set of geographic coordinates that point to some cow pasture in western Oklahoma.

But beyond even that, Miller is wrong because he's failing to account for the fact that tornadoes don't just happen in Tornado Alley. They happen in his part of the country too. 

Mr. Miller appears to be from the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area, as his profile states that he is a contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal of Middletown, PA.

According to NOAA, between 1991 and 2010, Oklahoma reported an average of 62 tornadoes per year, and Pennsylvania reported an average of 16 tornadoes per year.

Well that seems like an open and shut case, doesn't it? Mr. Miller's Pennsylvania obviously has fewer tornadoes, so the people living there must be a lot smarter than those dumb Okies, right? Well, let's think about that for just a second. Oklahoma *does* have more tornadoes than Pennsylvania does in a given year, but Oklahoma is almost half again as big as the state of Pennsylvania, and there are a lot fewer people living there. So what are the REAL risks to any single random person in those two states?

Oklahoma has a population of 3.8 million people who are spread out through the 68,594 square miles that comprise the state. That's about 55 people per square mile, on average (though most, like everywhere else, are concentrated in a few larger cities and towns).

Pennsylvania has a much larger population of 12.7 million people, who are rather more closely packed into a state which only includes 44,742 square miles. That's a population density (again, on average) of 285 people per square mile.

The damage track of the average tornado is about 250 feet wide and about 1 mile long. That's a small fraction of a single square mile, but let's assume that airborne debris extends that area up to half a square mile for the average twister.

If that's true, then in the average year tornadoes could be expected to impact, on average about 1705 Oklahomans who happened to be living in the 31 square miles damaged by the 62 tornadoes.   

But it's also true that in the same year, 2280 Pennsylvanians could be expected to be threatened or injured during the damage caused to 8 square miles of that state by its average count of 16 storms.

And the last time I checked, 2280 > 1705. So it is an accurate statement to say that if you lived in Pennsylvania over the past 20 years, you were more likely to have experienced a tornado than you were if you lived in Oklahoma during that same period of time.

So that takes care of Mr. Miller's ignorance about tornado activity in his own home state, but where does the hypocrisy come in?  Well, it's conceivable that Mr. Miller didn't take the time to look up tornado statistics so he was just ignorant about what he posted about Moore, Oklahoma. That could just be ignorance. But what about the behavior of the people more local to Mr. Miller's hometown on the Susquehanna river? He can't really claim to be ignorant about how they act, can he? 

We already know that these folks live in a state where it's statistically more likely than it would be in Oklahoma that they could encounter a tornado. But what about their behavior towards other risks... like say... flooding?

"Since record-keeping began 200 years ago, the Susquehanna River Basin has proven one of the most flood-prone watersheds in the nation."

"The main stem of the Susquehanna has flooded 14 times since 1810 – about every 15 years, on average. Even the Native Americans who once lived in the area told of frequent floods."

"Tropical storm Agnes in 1972 caused the worst recorded flooding in the basin. Seventy-two people died and damaged topped $2.8 billion – about $14.3 billion in today’s dollars. Flood levels exceeded the record levels of the 1936 flood by as much as six feet in some places. It was the nation's most costly natural disaster until Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2004."

These quotes all came from the web site linked here:

If the Susquehanna river floods, on average, once every fifteen years, that means that the chances for a flood in any given year are 6.66%!

So if the author of the post was so appalled by the blase reactions of Oklahomans to their dire tornado threat (which turns out to statistically less likely than it is in his home state) of 1%, what does he have to say to the people of his own home town who not only live under a greater threat from tornados but also a much larger threat of regular destructive flooding?

Perhaps that will be the subject of his next contribution to the Middletown Press and Journal, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Your move, James. Let's see if you walk your talk and learn from your own mistakes.

Update: it gets worse. It turns out that Mr. Miller misrepresented the quote. His contention was that Moore residents were foolish to continue to live there because "experts" had told them there was a "1% chance" that a similar storm could strike again. He characterized that as being a warning. It wasn't.

It was a lie. The actual quote from the official city of Moore's website was meant to reassure residents that the chances of a similar storm were LESS than 1%:

"Statistically, there is only about a 1-2% chance of a tornado - of any size - striking Moore on any particular day during the spring. But of all tornados that do strike us (again, not very many historically), there's only a less than 1% chance of it being as strong and violent as what we experienced on May 3rd. Put another way, there's a very small likelihood of Moore being struck by a tornado. There's an extremely smaller chance of Moore experiencing another "May 3rd" type event. If we are struck again, it will very likely be by a much less intense storm. "

James E. Miller, you should be ashamed of yourself.

What this quote actually very clearly indicates is that the expected frequency for an F5 in Moore is likely on the order of 100 years. If there's a 1-2% chance of a tornado of any size hitting more during the Spring, let's take the middle of that range for a 1.5% chance per day for each of the 90 or so days of Spring. Or, put another way about a 135% chance of a tornado of any size hitting the community during each tornado season.

But since the chances of that tornado being an F5 are less than 1% (how much less, we don't know), then that means the maximum frequency you could interpret from the statement made on Moore's web site is that you could expect to see an F5 hit the town about once every 75 years: 100/(1.35 * .99) = 74.8

If, we interpret the "less than 1% chance" to be .75% instead of .99%, then you'd expect to see an F5 in Moore once every 98 years: 100/(1.35 * .75) = 98.8

And if the chances were .50%, then you'd expect to see one every 148 years.

So as you can see, while there is quite a bit of variation depending on what our assumptions are for the "less than 1%" value, even the worst case scenario of one every 75 years, isn't exactly a panic inducing number. 

So when we make an apples to apples comparison of the annual risk of Susquehanna flooding to the annual risk of an F5 hitting Moore, these are the numbers: 

Moore F5 annual risk (under the .99% interpretation of "less than 1%"): 1.3%
Moore F5 annual risk (under the .75% interpretation): 1.0%
Moore F5 annual risk (under the .50% interpretation): 0.7%
Susquehanna annual flooding risk: 6.66%

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Throwing the Gun

I think everyone has seen this cliché at least once in an old western: there's a gun fight. One guy runs out of ammunition, and then for some odd reason, that guy decides to throw his empty gun at his opponent. 

My reaction to that has always been, in a syllable, "huh?" To me, it seems like a futile and counterproductive gesture.

Literally throwing your empty gun at an enemy is a bad idea for a couple of reasons: First, it announces that you're no longer armed. So if he wants to, your opponent can now walk up and shoot you without risk or fear. Yes, someone could use the throw as a ruse to draw someone in close for an ambush, but let's focus on scenarios with honest combatants for now.

Second, throwing the gun away narrows your future options. How awful would it be if you threw away your gun only to realize moments later that you still had a couple of rounds jingling around in your pocket that you'd forgotten about? That would suck a lot worse than that moment when you realize just as you're locking your car door, that you left the keys on the seat, right?

But even worse, what if your opponent were out of ammo too, but he happens to have a few extra rounds in his pocket that don't fit his gun but do fit yours? Or, what if he's completely out, but now he has two clubs (his empty gun and yours) while you have none! Doh!

Those scenarios might have made for funny bits in a movie like "Blazing Saddles," but they wouldn't be so funny if they happened to you in real life.

The only potential benefit I can see from throwing away the gun is that an empty gun can also be interpreted as a white flag... if you throw it towards an ethical adversary. If you're battling the Predator, then throwing away your empty gun might (literally) save your hide - but even if that's the case, you'd have been much safer had you never pulled it in the first place.

Since this blog is (mostly) about libertarian thought (bad or otherwise), why am I talking about a movie cliché? The reason I'm talking about this cliché is because engaging in ad hominem argument is a lot like throwing away your gun.

How so? Think about it this way: when you resort to ad hominem, what you're really telling your opponent is that you're out of intellectual ammo  - that you have no fact-based or logic-based arguments left in your magazine. Like a thrown empty gun, ad hominem is harmless to an opponent who recognizes it for what it truly is, so resorting to it is a desperate move because if your opponent is smart, he's probably going to club you with it.

And if you lead off with a thrown gun, then what you're telling your opponent is that maybe you never had any logic-based arguments to begin with - that you walk around all day displaying an empty gun. That's not smart. Better to leave it at home if you don't have the capability to use it.

Yesterday, an anonymous person left a comment on the second post of this blog ("Coming Soon from Bad Quaker Dot Org") that was essentially just a bunch of dressed up ad hominem

Joining a long line of others before him (a line, by the way, which also includes me - before I realized how self-defeating it is), he came out of the gate throwing his gun. The smartest part of the post was the author's decision to leave his or her name off of it. I hope they don't take the outcome personally, because I don't take pleasure in "shooting" the unarmed - intellectually speaking, of course (as well as literally - I don't get pleasure from shooting or otherwise hurting any living creature).

But leading with ad hominem was just the first mistake this poster made. The second problem I had with the post was the hero-worship for libertarian thinkers that was also on display. The sneering accusations that maybe I hadn't read or understood my Spooner or my von Mises, so "obviously" there's no value to what I say.

I'm going to dub that sort of thing "Libertarian Fundamentalism" from now on, just to make it easier to point it out when it happens again (as I'm sure it will). 

What's wrong with that approach? A couple of things I can think of: First, I must have missed the chapter in "Socialism" where von Mises talks about the nuances of telling people to "shut up" in order to promote a point of view. Maybe I was sick that day, or maybe that was Spooner, but if so, I still can't find the citation. :) 

So, in other words, this poster was wrong in trying to appeal to "authoritative" sources to defend behavior that they don't actually condone. And that's lame.

Secondly, hero-worship has no place in the mind of a free thinker. The freedom movement isn't a Madrasa.  Memorizing and repeating other people's ideas shouldn't be the goal. Understanding them and applying them, or understanding them and criticizing them should be a goal, but an even better goal would be to try to figure out more effective ways of popularizing those ideas and making them accessible to people who aren't willing or capable of consuming and digesting several thousand pages of dense philosophical and economic thought.

I realize this may be a touchy subject (but touchy subjects seem to be my "thing," so...) if the "Pantheon" of great (classical) liberal thinkers is so awesome and accessible, then why did the Libertarian presidential candidate get just 1% of the vote in the last election? Not enough ad hominem "debate?" I don't think so.

That's a rounding error, folks. That ain't good. If that's the result of the best efforts of the liberty movement from the beginning of time until now... then we need to think about how to do better by doing something different. 

Some author once wrote that there are no such things as contradictions, and if you think you've found one, then you should examine your premises because you are going to discover that at least one of them is wrong. I can't remember her name, because I'm a bad libertarian, but I think it started with an 'A.' Andrea? McNally? Rand? Rand McNally? That's probably it, because I'm pretty sure it had something to do with an "atlas." ;-) 

It seems to me like a pretty big contradiction that a philosophy of personal freedom could be SO unpopular that it only gets 1% of the vote. So I think that if we're going to walk our talk, then it's well past time for us to start examining our premises like Andrea Rand McNally advised us to do.

Maybe I can help with some suggestions in that direction, or maybe I can't, but doing more of the same and expecting different results makes no sense. It's insanity, as the saying goes.

A couple of people who are in my libertarian "pantheon" are Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Want to know why? Here's a hint: it's not because either of them have PhD's in economics. 

I'll give you one example of why I find their contribution to be so valuable, and if you're a fan of "South Park," then you can probably think of many others:

One popular topic among freedom loving folks is the idea that putting on a funny hat, or a suit, or swearing an oath, or wearing a badge, doesn't give one human any more rights than other humans who decided not to dress up like Halloween that day. 

In certain cases, civil servants might need some special privileges in order to effectively do their jobs (like selectively and cautiously ignoring some traffic laws to get to the scene of an accident or put out a fire as expeditiously as possible), but they don't have any more rights than anyone else does.

This is a familiar argument, right? But how many people really want to listen to someone drone on about that topic over and over? Or worse, get quizzed on their recollection of the source materials?

But, there's another way. A really effective way that can (and has) embedded the seed of that idea into the minds of 10's of millions (if not 100's of millions) of people all over the world, most of whom probably think "Walden" has something to do with the phrase, "Good night, John-boy." 

I probably don't even need to tell you what it is at this point, so I'll just post the image:

Respect... my... authori-tah!

If people want to keep throwing empty guns at me, that's fine. I'll either ignore them or occasionally pick one up to give that poster a friendly metaphorical tap on the head to try to wake them up to what they're doing.

But instead of spending time on that, why don't we instead focus on finding better ways to communicate our ideas - and stop throwing guns at each other altogether? It may not be easy, but I think it's worth trying... m'Kay?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lost in Translation

What follows are the contents of an email conversation between Michael W. Dean and me. I happened to see Michael's web site listed in the stats for this site and took a look at it the other day to see what it was all about.

Michael W. Dean

To my surprise, my name was mentioned in the description of the latest podcast, so I listened in and heard Michael and his broadcast partner discussing this site and the failed conversation I have described in detail below, with Ben Stone.

They sounded like a smart and good humored crew, so I decided to contact them and try to clear up the misconception that this was some kind of "beef" between Ben and me. From my perspective, it never was - I was just concerned that Ben doesn't walk his talk when it comes to non-aggression. Ad hominem statements, and demands to "shut up" don't make a lot of sense to me coming from someone you would hope values open and honest debate.

So I thought we could have some fun talking about the larger point - of communication issues in general, within the freedom movement as well as within society at large. Problems that can easily be seen by looking at the discussion section below any online news story, where it seems like most of the comments are about personality and anger rather than the issue at hand.

Wow, was that a mistake. Mr. Dean was, if anything, WAY more hostile and judgmental than Mr. Stone ever was. I can see now why they're friends. What I can't understand is why anyone would care to listen to anything someone this angry might have to say.

Normally, I would never post private emails in a public space like this, but without my asking, Mr. Dean gave me permission to do just that (look for the red box in the images below), and his responses get so out of control, that I think other people should see it.

So instead of taking advantage of an opportunity to ADDRESS the issue of hostility getting in the way of productive communication between people, Mr. Dean instead made the choice to be a slave to his anger, and become yet another example of the phenomenon I've been talking about.

So far, so good, right? I was telling him about the unfinished conversation  that he and I had started so that I wouldn't surprise him with it when I brought it up on his show. I didn't want to ambush him with a line of thinking that he wasn't prepared for. I thought that would be the nice thing to do. 

Unfortunately, the tone of this conversation is about to drastically change, and I'm still not entirely sure why:

While there's obviously a lot of hostility coming through in the post above, it was also apparent to me that there were a lot of misunderstandings on his part, about where I'm coming from.

For example, I'm not a "newly-minted libertarian." I may be a bad libertarian, but newly-minted, no. :)

So in my response, I tried to overlook the hostility and instead try clear up those misunderstandings as best I could. But as you'll see in Mr. Dean's reply back to me - he had turned off his brain at this point, and was only hearing what his preconceptions about me allowed him to hear:

Wow, Michael. That's a lot of forced outrage, unsupported assertions, and ad hominems.

"That's like saying 'the bitch was asking to get raped, look at how she talks to men.' You are immoral."

Uhhhh, Michael? Didn't you JUST write in your previous response, "Facebook encourages idiots to say things from behind a screen that would get their ass kicked face-to-face on any street in the world." ???

Mr. Stone's lead-off comment to me on facebook was that I should "shut up and go learn stuff." And yeah, I agree that if you said that to someone in the real world there's a good chance you're going to wake up on the ground with some loose teeth.

So I'm AGREEING with your statement. I'm not putting a value judgment on it, and you're using that as pretext to call ME immoral? Your brain HAS really turned off at this point, hasn't it?

Here's the link to a story about the sale of toll roads, if anyone wants to read it. And incidentally, the road that ran in front of the house I grew up in was privately owned also. The people who lived in the neighborhood paid for its construction.

There's nothing wrong with being wrong, but being wrong, arrogant, and angry is an ugly combination. During this exchange, Michael was all three of those things, so I'm glad I don't have to live in his head.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bad Libertarian, Part Three

Below I'm going to post some additional screen shots of the exchange that happened between myself and Ben Stone on his facebook page a few days ago, prior to his banning me from the page and deleting most of my comments. 

Going back though these screen captures, I've noticed that I failed to expand a few of my longer comments, so some of the detail may be missing, but I think there's enough there to fairly represent what happened.

The first capture contains Mr. Stone's threat to ban me for posting "strawman" arguments and then my response that I'd prefer he point out and dismantle any of my arguments he finds to be flawed or weak rather than just claiming that they are and then threatening to silence me.

Further down the page, you'll see where Mr. Stone accuses me of making an "argument by assertion," which is pretty funny considering that's actually what HE is doing here with his references to my arguments being "strawmen."

At the end of my response, you can see a portion of the quote that now constitutes the header of this website - "Your choice, your consequences." Unfortunately, Mr. Stone did act like a slave to his lower nature in this instance by eventually banning me and removing my posts. Hopefully in the future, he'll make the choice to act like a thinking human instead.

In the next screen capture, you can see Mr. Stone's reaction to my registration of and some of the initial posts. You can also see the beginnings of his ad hominem attacks, first calling me slow and then denying that his behavior is a sign of his growing frustration. 

There were a few additional ad hominems directed at me by Mr. Stone, but it looks like I missed them with my screen captures. One suggested that maybe I needed some help programming (update: I just found that one - it's at the bottom of the second image in "Bad Libertarian, Part Two, which you can read below) and another suggested that perhaps I wasn't smart enough to operate a computer or click a mouse and thus a pad and paper might be more my speed. Since he didn't delete his own posts, as far as I am aware, anyone who's interested enough can probably still find them on his page.

In the next screen capture, you can see where I suggest to Mr. Stone several times that he might want to cool off before posting to avoid more of the ad hominem stuff which I believe always discredits the person making the attack much more so than the person on the receiving end, but more importantly, is just a waste of time.

Below, you can also see Mr. Stone attempt to twist things I've said to better suit his line of attack. That's a passive aggressive tactic that people usually find infuriating, but I've seen it way too many times before to let get to me in an online discussion, so again, I tell him that he may want to cool off, because his posts are making less and less sense to me, the more frustrated he becomes.

In the final screen capture, you can see Mr. Stone's response to my question about the 1st and 2nd amendments and whether or not they too are "arguments by assertion" (which coincidentally are exactly what his claim of my arguments being "strawmen" were - all assertion, no examples, no logic, and no proof).

Unfortunately, my second to final post is cut off, but in the cut off portion I mentioned that in my initial comments on this topic, which you can read here: Israel Anderson Builds a Straw Man (I was posting as voiceofreason and voiceofreason2), I said that we could argue about how a commons is managed but if someone wants to argue that a commons SHOUDN'T be managed, then I think that person is a loon.

And I stand by that statement. If two parties can't even agree on basic things like: ad hominem attacks being non-productive, or that the 1st and 2nd amendment aren't meaningless, or that failing to manage a commons will result in its destruction, then we might as well be two networks that don't share a common protocol - there's just no basis for even the START of communication and understanding. 

And so when we find out that's the case, as I did with Mr. Stone via my questioning, then there's really nothing left to say. I had learned what I had come there to learn, and my last word to him (in the cut off post above) was "Peace."

Mr. Stone chose to characterize that as the admission of a personal attack, which it certainly wasn't intended to be, and I followed up with the comment about the use of the subjunctive mood - that I was saying IF we can't even agree on basic things like that a commons needs management, then to me you're a loon, as perhaps I am to you. There's no basis for productive dialog between us - is the point. And clearly, that was true in this case: we failed to communicate.

I have more to say about what constitutes a personal attack vs. what constitutes an ad hominem attack, but that will have to wait for another day. Also, I still need to do the post on snakes in the libertarian grass and what we can do to identify and avoid them, and I have another idea for a post to examine personal interactions using network utility theory, but those are going to have to wait for another day as well.

I'm going to try to call in to call in the the Freedom Feens live show on Thursday afternoon, so hopefully I will be able to address some of these issues in that forum.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bad Libertarian, Part Two

Here's the first of several exchanges between the "Bad Quaker," Ben Stone, and me. My point, as I have mentioned before, is that Ron Paul is actually the wronged party in this case, so calling him the "aggressor" makes about as much sense as accusing someone of wrongdoing if they defend themselves from a physical attack. It's a nonsense argument.

But not to the Bad Quaker, apparently. His first response to me was to "shut up and go learn stuff," lol. Leading with hostility doesn't impress me, but I had to laugh at that comment just a bit, because his remarks reveal something about HIM that he probably doesn't realize.

The first thing they reveal is that he has NO IDEA where I'm coming from. I'm not a Ron Paul fan. I'm not a fan of any politician. So he missed the mark by a wide margin with that one. 

But the second, and more interesting thing that his comments reveal is that for the Bad Quaker, this is a personal grudge. It's about personalities not principles - that's why he assumes that anyone arguing against his position is ALSO doing so based on personalities rather than principles, and in my case, he was dead wrong.

Failing to hit me with the "Paulite" stick, next he tries to dismiss my comments because my concern was for the economic injury done to Ron Paul by the operators of 

I'm not sure if he's doing that because he's a socialist or he's trying to imply that I'm one, but either way, it's an odd comment to make and another a swing and a miss for him. 

Why is the commission of economic violence more justifiable than the commission of physical violence? Sometimes one leads directly to the other, so if you're going to claim to be against the initiation of aggression, then I think you need to be consistent about it.

You can click on the image below to enlarge it for more comfortable reading.

To set the context, my initial response was to a comment from Taylor Greenwood that since Ron Paul had not trademarked his name, he didn't deserve to have it protected - which also seems like a BIZARRE statement for someone who claims to be against the state to make, does it not? You deserve no protection unless you've already run to the state to get it?

What kind of people are these? Their "philosophy" is all over the place. 

Below the image of the original conversation, there's another image that shows how the thread looks today - with my comments removed, but the Bad Quaker's comments to me still in place. Again, you can click it to make it larger. 

It's amazing how cowardly this guy behaves. But I'll bet he's a mighty tyrant... in his own mind. :)

Update: I took a look at the Bad Quaker's facebook page, and could not believe what he just posted. Is this guy too clueless for words, or what? Regardless of whether or not the operators of were trying to "benefit" him or not, they were violating the principle of self-ownership by attempting to profit from his name and likeness without his consent. It's right there in black and white on this faux libertarian's own page. 

Need I say more? It's really unfortunate that this person either doesn't bother to read or isn't capable of understanding the materials he posts on his own page. Case closed, as far as I'm concerned.

Update 2: Wow. This cowardly person has deleted yet another post that pointed out how silly he is being. How can someone with ANY intellectual honesty behave that way? Oh, I think I just answered my own question. No one with intellectual honesty COULD behave that way. :)

To me, this guy seems like a thug masquerading as a libertarian. In my next post, I'm going to talk a bit about why charlatans like the Bad Quaker are such a problem in the world of libertarian philosophy and what we can do about it. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bad Libertarian, Part One

A few days ago, I listened to a podcast from some guy who styles himself the "Bad Quaker," a guy named Ben Stone. He was ranting (listen to it yourself if you think that's hyperbole) about what some Ron Paul supporter said about Mr. Paul trying to regain control of, a website that was taken over when the registration lapsed, by some people in Australia who are running a Ron Paul "fan site," selling merchandise with his name and likeness on it, and developing a mailing list of people who are presumably Ron Paul fans.

The gist of Mr. Stone's argument was that the Ron Paul fan in question was trying to obscure the fact that Mr. Paul's attempt to regain control of his namesake domain was happening through a UN agency rather than the non-profit ICANN agency that is responsible for managing the domain name system.

My initial thoughts, in order, were: "why does this guy sound so angry?" and "so what?" 

Who cares what agency is managing the naming service? The real issue here is that some people decided to try to make money off of Ron Paul's name without his permission. So for me, whatever legal steps he needs to take to make that stop are absolutely justified - UN or no UN. That's the actual heart of the issue here - is stealing okay or isn't it?

I always thought that libertarians believe that each individual's rights stop when they begin intruding on the rights of others. Did I get that wrong? Am I a bad libertarian?

Mr. Stone appears to believe that, at least in this instance, stealing is okay, and I find that attitude to be both in violation of the non-aggression principle as well as being something I would expect to hear from a child who selfishly doesn't understand right from wrong. It is not something I would have expected to hear from an adult who claims to respect freedom and the principle of non-aggression.

So I decided to engage Mr. Stone in some friendly debate on his facebook page, in an attempt to clarify his views. Failing to address any of my arguments, and instead engaging in ad hominem attacks and threats of banning, Mr. Stone decided to not only ban me from further discussion on his site, but also decided to delete my posts. This seemed like strange behavior coming from someone who claimed they were "winning" the debate, no? :)

But not to worry. I screen captured the discussion before Mr. Stone deleted it, and I'll be posting it here over the next few days, along with my commentary.

Oh, but before we begin... here are the ground rules. This blog is set up so that anyone can comment. You don't need to have an account with Google or anyone else to post here, but you do need to be civil. Ad hominem attacks or exhortations to violence (directed towards me or others who post here) will not pass moderation, but everything else is fair game.

For an example of what won't pass moderation, here's exhibit one (three guesses as to who this came from):

"Wow, you're really butt hurt over this aren't you. [sic] Thank goodness for the internet, where every angry little person can make himself known."

I have plenty of time to engage in rational debate with intelligent people, but no time for individuals who can't elevate their discourse above the level of the schoolyard bully. I think that's a reasonable restriction, in the interests of having a productive discussion.

Bumper Sticker?

I think this would make an excellent bumper sticker. What do you think? Comments are now open, just click the "comments" link at the bottom of the post.