We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The big evil does not justify the small good

The following was posted as a Samizdata comment by the pseudonymous ‘Jaded Libertarian’, but it deserved to be an article in my not so humble opinion, and so…

I read in the paper today that after subjecting 500,000 people to mandatory face to face interviews, the government denied passports to eight for fraud.

This is the thing that most do not get. The big evil does not justify, never justifies, the small good. Causing inconvenience, misery and transgressing the privacy of half a million people in order to catch eight fraudsters is absurd.

And our society is full of such absurdities. Millions of adults are denied the “gift of giving” into their children’s lives by “child protection” policies. There is this assumption that any adult watching children swim is potentially sexually aroused, for example.

I would contend that the people who make such laws have dirty minds. I find it nobler and better to live life as though perverted degenerates do not even exist, for they are thankfully rare. And on the rare occasions where monsters abuse society’s trust, why, we should quickly and simply hang them in the town square and then return to life as before.

This is the model for transgressing only the liberties of the lawless, and not those of society at large. If you have to tread on the freedoms of innocent people to catch the lawless you’re doing it wrong.

“If it stops one fraudster, if it saves one life and if it protects one child it will all be worth it” the statists cry. These thoughts are supposed to make us feel warm inside as we queue to be inspected by the passports office, as security cameras follow us down the street and as police demand to know what we are doing for no particular reason. We are to lay our personal freedom on the alter of society in the name of the common good, and feel heartened by our sacrifice. As bizarre as it may sound, there are “true believers” in this cult – I see them all the time.

Down that road lies 24 hour policing of the entire population, and lives that are not worth living for all but the party elite. Basically 1984 made real.

And it all began when we passed that first law that mildly inconvenienced many in order to wheedle out the wicked few…

The government stands up for free speech

Alan Forrester is none too impressed with the evident wish of the state to stamp out any alternatives to state directed indoctrination

The government has recently published a review on home education written by Graham Badman in which he expresses a laudable concern for free speech for children:

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) gives children and young people over forty substantive rights which include the right to express their views freely, the right to be heard in any legal or administrative matters that affect them and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Article 12 makes clear the responsibility of signatories to give children a voice:

“Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”

Yet under the current legislation and guidance, local authorities have no right of access to the child to determine or ascertain such views.

What remedy does Mr Badman recommend? He recommends that all home education families should be registered with the Local Education Authority and:

At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.

Guidance should be issued to support parents in this task with an opportunity to meet local authority officers to discuss the planned approach to home education and develop the plan before it is finalised. The plan should be finalised within eight weeks of first registration.

Of course Mr Badman really has no interest in free speech and is just a political hack hired by the government to write crude propaganda for their campaign to destroy home education and he can’t even do that properly. Mr Badman is quoting a definition of free speech from the United Nations. Many of the UN’s member governments are tyrranical kleptocracies run by thugs who murder or torture anyone who dares to openly oppose them. Seems to me they don’t really like free speech too much and quoting them is a big giveaway.

Mr Badman takes their advice because he worships the power of the state and feels the need to have people who like to play at being an international state dictate what he says about fee speech. Free speech is freedom from having your speech dictated by anybody else, including the British government. The British government violates free speech rights on a massive scale by imprisoning children in schools in which they are not allowed to speak or go to the toilet without permission. Instead of solving this problem Mr Badman proposes to secure a child’s right to free speech by forcing parents to dictate what their children what their children will think in twelve months and if they fail to indoctrinate their child the child will be locked up in one of the government’s prisons for children schools.

A new, pathetic low for the British government.

America: closing her door to freedom

Douglas Young, Professor of Political Science & History at Gainesville State College in Gainesville, GA, has some well expressed views on the wrong turn the USA has taken

At 47, I lament how today’s America is far less free than the country of my youth. Replacing it is not a 1984ish totalitarian dictatorship, but what Alexis de Tocqueville called the ‘soft tyranny’ of what Mark Levin sees as a 21st century ‘nanny state’. We so feared a Stalin or Hitler that we ignored endless assaults on our liberty by idealistic home-grown statists and the seductive narcotic of ever more government goodies buying our acquiescence. What makes Americans’ surrender to statism so shameful is that we freely chose this course in direct contravention of our founding principles.

Nowhere have we seen such an accelerating atrophy of our freedom as in K-12 public schools where recent decades have witnessed far more books banned, and not some print version of Debbie Does Dallas. No, literary classics like J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain’s Huck Finn are verboten – required reading in those decadent days of my 1970s high school. But educrats with the backbone of a large worm now avoid anything controversial.

Students have far less choice of classes in high school, and often teachers can not make their own lessons since they must teach the test so schools can make “adequate yearly progress”. Only about 40 percent of my college students say they ever discussed any controversial issues in high school. My high school classes revelled in such debate.

Similarly, so many high schools have become gated, closed campuses. Mine was wide open. ‘Zero tolerance’ for drugs and violence policies punish students carrying aspirin, cough drops, and Tweety-Bird key chains. Now diligent do-gooders want to ban school coke machines as well. And to think at my high school we could even smoke!

Today political correctness constipates free speech at many schools (as well as in much of the public and private sectors), and hysterical sexual harassment policies suspend children for hugging a classmate. If you had predicted all this to my 1980 senior high class, we would have laughed that you had smoked some mighty bad dope to conjure up such an Orwellian dystopia. → Continue reading: America: closing her door to freedom

The Rare Banker

Mike Oliver (who blogs as ‘Mr. Integrity’… currently off-line) spotted an interesting article over on National Review that for once does not try to give Rand a kicking.

BB&T – and its open defence of rational/individualist/objectivist philosophy, a credo that runs counter to 2000 years of Judea/Christian/subjectivist/marxist ethics and deeper subjectivist planks that link those categories. Explicit defense of reason – I say!

Yes, such businessmen do exist, they are not merely the stuff of a well-known novel. As opposed to at least a large plurality of “business leaders” who seek always to cultivate government/business linkages, contracts, and of course regulations that “rationalize” their sectors (with such government rules used to ossify the industry with them – the privileged businessmen- commanding a degree of non-market control over that business sector). In history classes the U.S. trends now massively underway was how Fascism was defined.

But modern lovers of the State seem to have conveniently blanked that out. Anyway BB&T stands out from the crowd. What is most curious on a meta-level about this online article is that it comes from NationalReviewOnline.

National Review has been and until now at least was always the most outspoken and spewing opponent of Rand & Objectivism. Denouncing Rand’s rational philosophical base. NR has always been at its core, and explicity so – Buckley’s first book was titled God and Man at Yale) a subjectivist, religiously-planked political credo, arguing that God and a belief therein is the basis of capitalism and individual rights, etc. No wonder over the decades so many young potentially-bright students have mistakenly linked (as their professors would have them do) capitalism, or such that we have had in the U.S. that is labeled “capitalism.” with a religous or non-rational philosophical base.

Many of those students, not realizing the subjectivist, A-is-not-A base of Marxism, therefore sized-up the two choices – of an ethical code based on mysticism (the Buckley-type defence of “capitalism”… or Marxism… which to so many seemed a “scientific” or otherwise rational view of the world. And tended to opt for the later – either Marxism or many of its falsely-“humanist” variants.

Anyway, National Review was on the side of mysticism and held that banner high while viciously attacking Rand and her atheism – almost foaming in their attacks over the years. Well, perhaps even that changes with new blood at National Review? No, it’s probably just the failure of one of their higher editors to notice that one of their writers slipped this article onto their online site. Well, in any case it is an interesting article about the current times and the role of ideas: ideas taken from reality then applied back to issues of dealing with reality.

The American Tribe Honors a Hero

Taylor Dinerman attended a funeral of a respected soldier and space advocate and sent us this small remembrance of the man. I expect a couple of you in the commercial space business knew Mil Roberts from his days in High Frontier.

Taylor is a freelance professional journalist who from time to time graces our pages both on ‘page one’ and as a respected member of the commentariat.

“The flag that he honored with his life, now honors him.” These words spoken by the Army   chaplain at the graveside ceremony for General Mil Roberts at Arlington on March 12th, explained why it is so symbolically   important that the flag cover the coffins of our fallen heroes. The idea of reciprocal shared honor is one that binds any good   military organization together, the past, the present and the future are all embodied in that symbol and with the deep meaning that we Americans give it.  

The ceremony, with the honor guard, the riderless horse,   a fifteen gun salute, the US Army Band playing Ruffles and Flourishes and America The Beautiful, the firing of the traditional three volleys, all done with precision and strict discipline but without the boot stomping and barked orders that one associates with some military ceremonies. The whole event was simple, elegant and dignified.   

Mil was sent off to what he, as a Christian, believed was a better place by his friends, comrades and family in a style and manner that he had earned in combat and in years of service to America. He landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th 1944 and fought his way across Europe ending up in Czechoslovakia. Later he served in the Army reserves while pursuing a normal civilian life. In 1970 he was called up for active duty as head of the Army Reserve in the Pentagon.  

As President of the High Frontier Missile Defense advocacy group,   he helped get the DC-X program off the ground. That Rocket proved many things, including the fact that worthwhile space launch development programs could be done for far less than the billions of dollars that the government normally requires. This helped jump start the suborbital space tourism industry and may someday lead to a revolutionary low cost way to get into orbit.  

Mil always had a great sense of humor and both he and his wife Priscilla had a wonderful gift for friendship.        

He lived his life according to the old Jewish rule “Be a Mensch!”

– Taylor Dinerman

The real Che Guevara

Dr. Douglas Young, Professor from the Political Science & History at Gainesville State College has a question for you to ask the next person you see wearing a Che Guevara tee-shirt

Hollywood has dutifully churned out yet another cinematic agitprop paean to a leftist ‘martyr’, this time Ernesto Guevara. So let us recall the real ‘Che’ and try to discern why many supposedly democratic, civil libertarian liberals still swoon over this Stalinist mass-murderer.

The meticulous myth of Senor Guevara is of a handsome Argentine heroically helping Fidel Castro’s guerrillas liberate Cuba from Fulgencio Batista’s military dictatorship in 1959. Then he became a global revolutionary icon inspiring the downtrodden to rise up everywhere, even personally leading rebel warriors in the Congo before being executed doing the same in Bolivia in 1967. The (communist) party line says Che personifies the selfless humanitarian courageously fighting for ‘social justice’. He is the Marxists’ martyred Christ figure replete with pictures of his half-naked corpse riddled with bullet holes. And the classic poster of an angry young Guevara has scarred countless college dorm rooms for over 40 years, putting a face on the eternally young rebel for angry adolescents everywhere.

The real Guevara was a reckless bourgeois adrenaline-junkie seeking a place in history as a liberator of the oppressed. But this fanatic’s vehicle of ‘liberation’ was Stalinism, named for Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, murderer of well over 20 million of his own people. As one of Castro’s top lieutenants, Che helped steer Cuba’s revolutionary regime in a radically repressive direction. Soon after overthrowing Batista, Guevara choreographed the executions of hundreds of Batista officials without any fair trials. He thought nothing of summarily executing even fellow guerrillas suspected of disloyalty and shot one himself with no due process.

Che was a purist political fanatic who saw everything in stark black and white. Therefore he vociferously opposed freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, protest, or any other rights not completely consistent with his North Korean-style communism. How many rock music-loving teens sporting Guevara t-shirts today know their hero supported Cuba’s 1960s’ repression of the genre? How many homosexual fans know he had gays jailed?

Did the Obama volunteers in that Texas campaign headquarters with Che’s poster on the wall know that Guevara fervently opposed any free elections? How ‘progressive’ is that?

How socially just was it that Che was enraged when the Russians blinked during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and withdrew their nuclear missiles from the island, thus averting a nuclear war? Guevara was such a zealous ideologue that he relished the specter of millions of Cuban lives sacrificed on the altar of communism, declaring Cuba “a people ready to sacrifice itself to nuclear arms, that its ashes might serve as a basis for new societies”. Some humanitarian!

Che was a narcissist who boasted that “I have no house, wife, children, parents, or brothers; my friends are friends as long as they think like me, politically”. This is a role model for today’s ‘post-political’ voters claiming we should get beyond partisanship?

Adding to the ridiculousness of the Che cult is that he was virtually a complete failure. As a medical doctor, he never even had a practice. When put in charge of the Cuban economy at the start of Castro’s government, his uncompromising communist diktats ran it completely into the ground, from which it never recovered. Humiliated, and also angry that Castro was not fomenting enough revolution abroad, he then tried to lead such quixotic adventures in Argentina, the Congo, and Bolivia, failing miserably everywhere while sacrificing the lives of scores of naïve, idealistic young followers as deluded pawns in the service of his personality cult.

Another reason he fled Cuba in the mid-1960s was the complete mess he made of his private life. Though he preached sexual purity to his colleagues, he was a shameless adulterer who abandoned two wives and many children, some legitimate, others not. As a grandson put it, “he was never home”. The public Che who supposedly had such great love for humanity privately could not stand most folks.

Guevara’s promiscuous communist adventurism was the pattern of a terminal adolescent running away from his problems to get caught up in some heroic crusade against his eternal bete noir, ‘Yankee imperialism’.

So why do so many well-heeled American libs still admire this thug? Are the young simply ignorant of his execrable record and drawn to the image of the dashing young rebel? Do older progressives feel guilt for their free market prosperity, and showing solidarity with Che absolves them? Do hippies-turned-yuppies get nostalgic for their youthful protests and rationalize that the symbolism of Che as a ‘social reformer’ eclipses his actual horrific human rights record? And are some American Guevaraistas truly dangerous leftists who seek to emulate their icon and destroy our free, democratic, capitalist society?

Ask that guy wearing the Che tee-shirt.

Russia’s descent into reality

Nicolas Bourbaki presents a very interesting insider’s view of the how things are developing in Russia. Several of the article’s links require registration at the linked site.

The summer of 2007 was a busy year for the Russian oil and gas business. In April of that year, the state-run energy company Gazprom finally exerted enough pressure on the Sakhalin II consortium to wrest control of the giant project in Russia’s Far East from Shell, who had hitherto been the majority owner and manager of the development. In return for a cash payment of $7.45bn, at the time seen as a knock-down price, Gazprom acquired a 50% plus one share stake in the project. The deal was struck after months of the Russian environmental regulator exerting pressure on the consortium, Sakhalin Energy, resulting in works being delayed, stopped, and threats being made to withdraw the license to continue the development altogether. Despite there being genuine concerns regarding environmental damage incurred by the development, not to mention the doubling of project costs to $22bn, few believed that the governmental pressure exerted on Sakhalin Energy was anything other than a naked attempt by the Russian government to gain control over the project, its resources, and its revenues by force. Sure enough, within weeks of Gazprom taking the keys to Sakhalin II, the environmental regulator cheerily announced that all concerns had been resolved to its satisfaction and not a peep has been heard from them since. The outcome at Sakhalin II was presented by the Russian government, and accepted by many Russians, as a significant victory of the resurgent Russian state in reversing their exploitation at the hands of foreign powers when they were weak, and regaining control over Russia’s strategic resources, its wealth, and its independence.

Buoyed with confidence from their coup on Sakhalin, the month of June saw the Kremlin use alleged breaches of license obligations to ‘persuade’ BP to sell its 62.85% stake in Siberia’s Kovykta development to Gazprom for $900m in cash, a figure many people thought better than what was feared, i.e. nothing. Two months later, in August 2007, the Russian government moved to deny the Exxon-led Sakhalin I consortium the right to export gas from its development in an attempt to force the sale of the gas to Gazprom at artificially low domestic prices, after which Gazprom would be free to export it via pipeline or LNG carrier at international prices.

Now that Russia’s foreign-run developments were back under government control or suitably compliant, the government ensured that all future developments would remain similarly tied to the Kremlin with limited foreign influence. In April 2008, the Russian parliament approved a new law which effectively handed monopoly rights for all future developments of the Russian continental shelf to just two companies: Gazprom and state-owned Rosneft. By now, the bulk of Russia’s enormous hydrocarbon wealth both present and future was firmly in government hands, a situation which was looked on with gleeful satisfaction by Russians and allowed them to wield considerable influence beyond their borders. Soon followed grand plans for Gazprom to build a pipeline across the Sahara desert, buy all of Libya’s gas, and build LNG plants in Nigeria. Energy nationalism at home and the loudly announced forays abroad as personified by Vladimir Putin helped ensure the Russian population returned approval ratings of over 80% for their then president, now prime minister. Russia had picked itself up off its knees, Russia was strong once more, Russia could once again command respect from others. Russia was back. → Continue reading: Russia’s descent into reality

On true ‘Bad Faith Economists’

Nicolas Chatfort calls foul on the absurd sense of moral superiority trumpeted by Paul Krugman when the man’s own pronouncements are riddled with falsehoods

In a recent New York Times column, Paul Krugman wrote about what he called the bad faith of the opponents of President Obama’s economic stimulus plan. Krugman is apparently labouring under the view that his side has a monopoly of virtue in the current debate and that the Obama plan can not possibly be attacked on the merits. It must be comforting to be allied with people of such beneficence and infallibility.

Perhaps Krugman, however, should examine the good faith of his own claims before casting aspersions against his opponents. At first glance his counter arguments appear cogent, but a closer look reveals that Krugman is a master of illusion, employing many tricks that would do any sideshow magician proud.

First, Krugman assails the criticism that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created as being a bogus talking point. His reasoning is that this figure involves taking the multi-year cost of the program and divides it by the number of jobs created in just one year. Krugman claims that the true cost per job is closer to $100,000 – or even a net cost of only $60,000 if you take into account the higher taxes that would be generated from a stronger economy.

Let us examine this counter argument carefully as Krugman is employing some slight of hand here. He is pulling a switch by re-framing the costs from a total program basis to an annual basis. The critics of the plan never claimed that the $275,000 per job was an annual cost. By the way, the $275,000 per job estimate is generous as it cedes the point that the plan will create the 3 million new jobs claimed for it by President Obama. Not all economists believe that anywhere near this number of new jobs will be created under this plan. → Continue reading: On true ‘Bad Faith Economists’

Unmasking the crisis of regulatory statism

Mike Oliver has spent a great deal of time on the coalface of capitalism and has some interesting things to say about the current economic crisis.

In years gone by I was a radical libertarian/objectivist fomenter in the U.S. In fact in the mid-1970’s when the late Chris Tame of the Libertarian Alliance spent a month or few crossing this once great land, he spent a few nights under my roof. He was a great guy and I miss him.

In any case in the years since my crusading lapsed (I used to be editor of The New Banner, perhaps the first widely read national objectivist/anarcho-capitalist periodical in the U.S.) I since went to ground. I became a futures market specialist and then a market analyst (for hire to major asset management entities such as multi-billion dollar mutual funds). I did my work and looked at the world from a market perspective.

In the summer of 2007 as a small hedge fund manager/analyst-for-hire I realized that the interventions of the U.S Fed under Bernanke were engineered to hold up/support the S&P500. I realized that if that persisted that the downside move that I had expected in the market ‘correction’ would turn into something other than a mere correction… as indeed it did.

The lovers of statism (and of we the people) decided to pull out all the plugs and defend the market at each and every low – to try to fake reality. Instead they super-charged the downside. What would have been a normal correction in the market ballooned into a disaster. Why?

Benanke allowed in summer of 2007 for an asset class never previously allowed to be used as collateral in fed borrowings by financial institutions, and even expanded what institutions could come to the Fed. In effect the Fed was “pricing” this debt (sub prime mortgages, etc.) at a level such that it would not have to hit the market and be priced openly and fairly.. The Fed was apparently afraid of the real consequences of seeing it priced openly. So they in effect took it off the market and froze it at the Fed window as “acceptable collateral” but as an unpriced asset. Hence from that point forward these sorts of assets on bank books were not “priced” in an open and market manner. Hence those who wanted to invest in the bank were uncertain as to the value of these assets. Hence uncertainty arose as to any and all bank valuations.

Uncertainty breeds doubt and fear and finally the collapse we saw in October and November. The lack of clarity of valuation – created by the Fed’s motherly and smothering love of “the people” in effect created the doubt and uncertainty that cascaded into the spiral we later saw in October of 2008. Oh sure, the chain of statist actions that helped to build and blow-up these malevolent factors date from before Bernanke, but he was pivotal at his unique moment in time.

Well, for the record my small hedge fund was up nearly 10% in 2008 while the lovers of “trend following” and statism sank some 30-40%. Good riddance.

Then came the onslaught of statist bandages and programs etc. And therefore here comes the final wave of statism – fully open to “caring” for us all in the wake of the failure of “capitalism.” And all the while many in the press and public accept the notion that the “market” failed and government has and will be our saviour. But reality ultimately will betray the fakery. There are already too many in the financial markets and in the financial press who realize the sequence of events, and who will not be fooled. The Charade has reached its zenith. The seemingly perpetual ascendancy of the State is in fact a paper tiger. Yes, the State will appear to rise as The Saviour, but its salvation and credibility will not weather the storm that it has itself created.

The Libertarian’s Song

by Liberty Fitz-Claridge

I am the very model of a modern libertarian;
I’m at the Diamond’s farthest corner from ‘Authoritarian’.
I’m of the view, in short, that we should do away with all the laws,
Except the ones that thwart the sort who’d harm or take my things by force.

The socialists demand that we ought really to redistribute
The money made by businessmen to help support the destitute.
But those of us who set less store by looting than by Liberty
Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibility!

Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibility,
Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibility,
Would say a man’s well-being is his own responsibili-bili-ty!

Ideas which stem from this include that school is not compulsory.
When older, children may attend free-market university.
In short, it is the opposite of life totalitarian,
With free adults and children in a climate libertarian.

In short, it is the opposite of life totalitarian,
With free adults and children in a climate libertarian.

The hoi polloi have rolled their eyes and left us to obscurity,
Since fans of David Friedman cry, “The state, the state is after me.”
Indeed, there are among us those who dream of a utopia.
For this they are thought madmen, though it’s only hyperopia.

We liberals won’t rest until all state-run works are privatised;
From ports to courts, from wealth to health, we want the state to be downsized.
These things are not done well by even loving, caring government;
It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love is spent?

It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love is spent?
It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love is spent?
It loves us at our own expense – and what when all that love-is love-is spent?

And surely no one’s worthy of the job of politician
Who does not see the value of untrammelled competition.
In short, you should repudiate the crude authoritarian
And study to become a far superior libertarian.

In short, I should repudiate the crude authoritarian
And study to become a far superior libertarian.

When I have read von Mises’ massive tomes from end to end firsthand;
When I’ve the nerve to voice in English classes that I like Ayn Rand;
When I have studied economics and gone earnestly to FEE;
When I have learnt what progress has been made in private law theory …

When I’ve read Hayek, Mill and Smith, my expertise evincible;
And when I know exactly what is meant by ‘homestead principle’;
In short, when I know politics and all the right philosophy,
You’ll say a better libertarian there never was than me.

You’ll say a better libertarian there never was than she,
You’ll say a better libertarian there never was than she,
You’ll say a better libertarian there never was-than was-than she!

Though mainstream folk are loath to recognize or even tolerate
These vital, timeless principles that libertarians venerate,
And though the ignorant consensus is authoritarian,
I am the very model of a modern libertarian.

And though the ignorant consensus is authoritarian,
She is the very model of a modern libertarian.

The dilemma of ‘doing something’

Darryl Watson wrote in with something that is indeed a topic worthy of pondering…

I am not sure if this is a worthy topic of discussion, but the issue is gnawing at me right now, and thought I would share:

I have a ten-minute walk to my preferred parking spot, from where I work in downtown Denver. The parking lot is in a less savoury neighbourhood. While I was on my way to my vehicle, half a block away, I saw a man come around a corner quickly, pushing a bicycle. He was moving too quick to simply be going from point A to B, and I immediately knew something was wrong. As he hopped on the bike and started pedalling toward me, another man came around the corner, grizzled, a biker type, with a big beard and leather hat. He was shouting, ‘Hey! Hey!’ at the man on the bike, who started to increase his speed.

It was clear that the man on foot wanted the man on the bike to stop, and that the man on the bike was fleeing. And both were approaching me quickly.

I was immediately conscious of the motorcycle helmet in one hand, my bag of work sundries in the other, and the distance between us. There was no one else anyone else within a block. I immediately moved to block the fleeing man’s path on the sidewalk; he saw me and swerved sharply out into the street, trying to stay out of my reach.

This is the instant where I disappointed myself. If I had not hesitated, I would have been able to clothesline him and bring him to a stop, but instead I was thinking:

  1. This situation might not be what it looks like… a bicycle theft
  2. I knew without a doubt the fleeing man would have to be knocked off the bike to get him to stop
  3. I had my cowboy boots on (yes, I work in an office in cowboy boots… it is Denver) and they were terrible for running
  4. If I injured the guy, I could get charged with battery

It was option ‘4’ which caused me to hesitate and let the thief slip by. He got away, and the man on foot ran after, calling for police to no avail.

I imagine the threat of criminal charges for being decent and willing to apply a little violence to better one’s neighbourhood is a sore topic in this blog. We in Colorado have not quite gotten as bad as England, but, I fear it will come to that as people increasingly rely on authorities to rescue them when there is trouble. I would be interested in reading commentary on the issue.

When is it time to quit?

The pseudonymous Sunfish is well known member of the Samizdata commentariat and brings some interesting perspectives as when he is not throwing down pixels in this parish, he is a policeman ‘somewhere in the USA’. And Sunfish has a question…

Governments have goons. That’s what makes them governments rather than debating societies. Even the governments of relatively free societies have them. I would like some guidance from my fellow goons now.

Back in the 1990’s, when I first graduated the academy and became a cop, I thought I was going to go out and slay dragons. I also thought that I would not have to compromise any of my beliefs in order to do so. I can not have been the first libertarian to go into this line of work. However I did not originally sign up to be a drug warrior, tax collector, or the mailed fist of the ‘Mommy Knows Best’ state. Yet somehow, I occasionally end up being all three of those things. Most of the time, though, I think that we still do more good than harm.

But at what point do we actually do more harm than good for liberty? When is it time to quit?