Contrary to what Piers Morgan may think

We’ve been here before: a school massacre, media saturation coverage, the anti-gun lobby in full, furious flow, seeking to pin the blame on responsible gun owners and the NRA for the act of one crazy individual.

Reasoned debate is difficult in these circumstances. There is nothing more emotive than such a senseless slaughter, and the gun-grabbers intend to keep that emotion stoked long enough to push through their pre-set agenda, but whatever controls they enact cannot prevent another attack, neither will another attack make them doubt the sense of the controls they impose now. Rather, the logic of the interventionist is thus; we have tried X, it didn’t work. Let us try more X. Never will it occur that; maybe X wasn’t such a good idea.

Ban high capacity magazines, they demand. What the hell difference does this make, when the cops are five or ten minutes away? It takes two seconds to change a magazine. Ban assault weapons, they demand, no civilian has a right to own a military weapon (we’ll come to this next). Again, what difference does this make to a crazy killer, especially one who chooses as his victims the most vulnerable and defenceless?

Now, as the question of the citizen’s right to own so-called military weapons is being called into question, it may be time to take a look at what the law actually says on the matter, because it’s pretty damned clear. There is no confusion on this point. Those who dispute it, do so because they don’t like what it says. The 2nd Amendment guarantees (i.e. recognises as pre-existing) the right of the people to keep and bear arms, not for personal self-defence or hunting, but in case of the need to resist a tyrannical government, and as a deterrent to any government from becoming tyrannical. As such, the people have every right to such weapons, if not RPGs and Howitzers as well.

That’s no longer relevant, the other side declares. Fine. All you need to do, then, is amend the Constitution. There is a process. It has been used before. An amendment would need to clear Congress with a 2/3 vote in each House and then be ratified by the states. Good luck with that.

Assuming this doesn’t happen, Nota Bene: There are 80,000,000 gun owners in America, and a sizable minority of them, and let us hope we never know how many, are not going to hand over their guns, but will fight to the death to defend what they consider a God-given, inalienable and lawful right. If only one percent of gun-owners take the ‘cold dead hands’ approach, the federal government is facing the best part of 1 million people. Not only that, every law enforcement officer and military person has sworn an oath to the Constitution which obliges them to refuse any gun confiscation order, which would clearly be illegal, according to the Bill of Rights. They have every reason to remember their oath. Many of the gun-owners they would face are military veterans, as well trained or better than themselves, and most likely with a keener sense of the righteousness of their struggle.

An alternative to such an apocalyptic bloodbath would be for the states where gun-grabbers predominate to secede from the Union, seeing as they find themselves at such discord with the nation’s settled laws. Back before the Civil War (so-called), it was assumed that a state could leave the Union, and it was usually the northern states which threatened to do so, such as over the War of 1812, which was very unpopular in New England. Just a suggestion.

It must be assumed that the federal government will not attempt such a bloody strategy, and will instead try to impose lesser restrictions, with more onerous rules on buying guns, or types of guns or magazines, and more efforts to prohibit particular individuals from owning guns. Veterans are certainly being targeted, with the issue of mental health being used as a reason to ban them from keeping firearms.

What, however, lies behind this modern phenomenon of mass shooting? Simplistically blaming gun ownership ignores the fact that America has always been a gun-owning nation. Something else must have happened. One factor which seems to be almost, if not completely, constant in all such events is that the killer is on prescribed drugs of a certain kind. Although no doubt there were mass-shootings BP (Before Prozac), the rise of mass-medication coincides with the proliferation of this type of event. It could be said that people on these drugs are only on them because they are already mentally-unstable, but research does link them to psychotic episodes, and it is a matter of urgency to establish to what extent this type of drug may be causing people to do things no sane or moral individual could possibly countenance, given the staggering amounts of such drugs being prescribed.

It may seem counter-intuitive to the anti-gun lobby, but increasing gun control can only worsen the risk of massacres by deranged individuals, by preventing ordinary people from stopping such attacks in their tracks. All of these massacres over recent years have taken place in areas where citizens are prohibited from being armed. Therefore, no one is in a position to do the one and only thing guaranteed to stop the killer: shoot him dead. Indeed, these killers usually kill themselves as soon as they are confronted by someone else with a gun. This happened only the other day in the Clackamas mall shooting, but of course this part doesn’t get mentioned in the Guardian version.

Blaming the responsible gun-owners and the gun lobby may make the ‘liberals’ feel morally superior, but it won’t change anything. ‘Liberals’ want to “have the conversation”. Go ahead, but you won’t win the argument. Even if the ‘liberals’ are right that America without 300,000,000 privately-owned firearms would be safer than the America of today (yes, it’s plausible!), the genii ain’t going back in the bottle. Dangerous people, insane people, criminally-minded people will continue to possess or gain access to guns. You cannot change this fact, but you can choose how you respond to it, and, rationally speaking, given the circumstances, unless you can afford bodyguards like Michael Moore or the President with his motorcade of M134-mounted SUVs, your best bet is to get a CCP, buy a gun, and learn how to use it.

The Reality of UK Uncut

What is it like at a UK Uncut demonstration? What do they stand for? What do they think? What are they like to talk to? I set out to find out. I had an opinion in advance, like Richard Carey I was not fond of them. You could say I was looking for problems with them and had made my mind up, perhaps so, but it was not hard to find problems.

As you can see, I found they were actually fairly civilised and put up a good argument when I debated them. Debating them alone was hard going though. Obviously this video focuses on the gaps in their thinking, but they are not stupid. They just haven’t considered all the alternatives or properly thought through what they are doing.

They have managed to undermine the rule of law in this country by pressuring a company active here into paying tax at a rate decided by them, not by law. You might argue that Starbucks already did that, and their dishonesty is part of their problem, but before it was between them and the tax man, now it is a matter of mob rule. This mob is quite civilised, but it can only get worse.

I’m not sure if UKUncut really think about this in a deep way, but advocating for the force of the state to be applied, other than in self-defence, is fundamentally aggressive. They probably see themselves as just talking and “exercising their right of protest”.

Of course, it isn’t universally true that UK Uncut are civil. I was at Vigo Street, but there were people who wanted to violently force their way into the Conduit Street store and even the spokesperson in the store seemed to be being deliberately loud and disruptive in a way that she must have known would have stopped the business trading. There is an interesting philosophical diversion to be had about whether that kind of stoppage, which seems to need force to be resolved, is force as much as tax is, but it isn’t pretty in any case. Vigo Street was also closed and I know they got into the store, but have no idea if it went down the same way.

The main problem I have, and what the video focuses on, is that the numbers don’t stack up. Their avoidance loopholes would save 15% of the deficit if they were closed, but it would take 115% cuts, relative to the deficit, to pay off the accumulated debt in 37 years. Thirty seven years of services being trimmed will not work, I appreciate why they fear that, but what we really need is radical pro-growth policies and alternative sources of funding wherever it can be done. Democracy has failed to run its bank account properly. We need to bail it out, pay off the debt, and cut the responsibilities which we entrust to its institutions.

Towards Sound Money

The segue, how to get from here to there, has been a major part of my thoughts regards Libertarianism. One area is the issue of Sound Money and how to get away from a fiat system.

The route is well trodden: Free Banking, sound money and, ideally, gold-backed offerings.

Free Banking – the ability for entities to set up their own currencies and offer currency competition is basically the beachhead against a de-facto fiat currency geographic monopoly. In addition, banks should not be allowed to get away with the sleight of hand that is the fractionally-reserverd “demand deposit” account, however, without telling customers that their bank statement is just a record of lending to the bank and that the bank cannot guarantee to repay that amount on demand. This is basically down to an issue of misrepresentation, of basic contract fraud.

In all honesty, I do not believe enforcing transparent contracts in itself will solve anything. People will be blind to it. “Free” bank accounts offering near-current services will be offered and life would return to “normal”.

So, Free Banking in itself is likely not to be enough on its own. There needs to be Sound Money, even better, a fully-backed gold currency.

While a State-run gold currency can be a tempting option, it flies in the face of consistent Libertarian reasoning. If it will be viable, other entities will try, so State involvement is a distortion. If it is not, how to justify and fund a loss-making endeavour? Either way, it is still none of the State’s business. The only exception might be if the State decides to set up its own currency for the storage of its own wealth, so as to be independent of privately-run vaults. It would need good justification for doing so, but cannot be dismissed out of hand.

But what of migrating the existing currency from fiat to gold? As discussed many times, and most recently for me, here, the shift of a particular currency from fiat to gold has many obstacles. Apart from the basic logistical ones of conversion, pegging, convertibility and bank runs during the transition, the very concept of Free Banking and/or hard currencies are anathema to the State. It prevents governments from practicing invisible taxation via inflation and of pushing spending today onto the earnings of children as yet unborn.

Logistics are trifles compared to the politics of hard currency backed by gold that strips the State of arbitrary, opaque power. The State will not let go of such power unless it is prised from its cold dead hands.

There is no point just moaning about this or dreaming that the State will suddenly not think of its own narrow vested interests – solutions are required. Well, I want a solution, even if nobody else does!

A Taoist Approach

Taoists have been said to be the worlds first Libertarians. We need to not just think of a frontal assault, but work around the problem to achieve our goal. Not the end of fiat money, but an end to being forced to use fiat money and thus robbed by its controllers.

Setting up a new currency requires Free Banking and that, in turn, requires, I believe, a Libertarian victory in the polls or the overthrow of the State, for the reasons I have given above. Before even a chance of that, we are likely to descend into chaos if, or it is increasingly looking to be, when, the fiat money system collapses in on itself. I fear that the replacement of our existing system will not be kittens and cushions. It is as likely to be disorder, corruption and risk of a “Strong Man” gaining power to bring “order”. We have seen how Libya and Egypt have turned out. We saw how a convulsing Russia panned out from 1917 and Europe a few years later. In other words, it is unlikely to be very pretty.

But what if we could allow people to use gold as a store of wealth without all the downsides – risk of counterfeiting, storage and transportation? Something that applies to individuals, banks and to international and national trade alike.

One Potential Solution

I envision a series of vaults containing gold reserves accessible via a charge card.

As with currency reserves now, entities would conduct transfers between each other at a series of central clearing and settlement vaults, netting off transactions unless absolutely necessary, by electronically re-allocating the ownership of the gold intra-vault and inter-vault. Of course, lending of depositors’ gold to satisfy short term inter-bank or inter-vault shortfalls is not an acceptable mechanism unless the depositors are aware of the limitations on access and, one would suspect, commensurately rewarded. All parties would work to ensure as little lending as possible is needed, so as to reduce the need to secure sufficient time deposits of gold in advance. To lend without permission, to say gold is on demand when it was not, would be fraud and theft.

There would be no notes or specie in general circulation. The accounts would be accessed via a charge card. Just as a Sterling or Dollar-denominated credit card can buy goods in another currency, your gold card could buy goods denominated in any currency. All the apparatus for charging and conversion exists already. We have the means here and now to handle such operations.

All transactions can be performed in gold. If the seller wants to redeem in currency, then they have the option to do so at the point of exchange. It would smooth the adoption of the system if the seller could know precisely how much they would get in fiat currency, if that is what they wanted. Therefore, the option to have the sale performed by the buyer at that moment should be provided.

And what has Peter Schiff of First Pacific Capital done?

Peter Schiff has, via First Pacific Capital Bank, created a “real” gold and silver card, which is linked to a personal gold or silver trading account. It requires you to first buy your gold in this account, then sell your gold or silver to charge up your card in a particular currency when you wish to purchase something with it.

Half-way is better than no-way

The First Pacific Bank does not function as a clearing and settlement operation for gold exchange, and so its Gold Card relies on fiat currencies for the actual transaction. Each account is just for buyers, so direct buyer-seller transactions are not supported. However, the logical progression is there for all with eyes that see and wits about them. Introducing this card will stimulate others, who are in a position to do so, to make the logical steps necessary and provide more integrated services.

The vision of transferring wealth denominated in gold, electronically, from anywhere to anywhere, to use it to buy goods almost universally, has made a big step forward. The ability to be free from rapacious controllers of monopoly fiat paper currency gets closer.

Peter Schiff should be applauded.

Video: Libertarianism is not simple to argue for

After a record short wait, the latest video from the Rose and Crown meetup is online. I would like to claim that my effectiveness at video editing has greatly improved, or that the talk required less encoding time than other talks or less editing, but the real reason was that I did it while off sick with a sore gut. Woe is me, but the rewards are yours:

Brian prefixed his talk with the warning that he wasn’t sure that it was worth listening to, or why it was worth a listen, but by the end the value of his message was abundantly clear: since libertarianism is so very hard to argue for, consider another approach. Don’t argue for it, but instead explain what it is and focus instead on building the libertarian community. Having an explaination and a label for the theory and basic policy directions is enough to raise up the flag and gather together all the people that already agree with them. This is surprisingly useful, he argued, becuase it will help to develop the talents that can take on the detailed work of bringing libertarianism to the detailed areas.

He gave an example of James Tooley, a visitor to some the the earliest libertarian meetups in Brian’s own home who now researches the work of private enterprise in bringing education to the very poorest people in the world, an example of a detailed policy area that needs to be explored to address the second “arguing for it” phase.

That word “phase” was not Brian’s but was rather introduced into the Q&A by regular meetup participant James Rigby who, with Richard Carey, floated the Pro-Liberty Party at the meetup in September. The fact that that earlier launch happened does tend to prove Brian’s point about developing the community, but James’ point brought a new dimension to the evening for me.

Perhaps it is true that a focus on defining the movement is sufficient to grow it, at the moment, but there will come a second “phase” when the movement has grown to it’s natural maximum and action is required to expand it’s potential; to grow beyond natural libertarians. That phase will be much harder, take much more time, will require much more specialist knowledge, it’s more likely to be a career than a hobby and if’s a hobby then you will be lucky to die having completed your small part of it. Fortunately the two phases are, I think, already happening in parrallel at different ends of the battle front.

If there is one thing to take away from Brian’s talk it’s this: know that there is a variety of different ways to fight for liberty and choose your targets according to your strengths.