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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Copyright, Plumblines, Vouchers, St. Louis Accord, Marc Montoni, Cost of Empire

Brian Holtz // Oct 16, 2009 at 11:10 am

Oddly, Watson doesn’t mention billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel or Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers. There is also Earthlink founderSky Dayton and founder Mark Cuban.

Rodgers spoke at the 1999 LPCA convention, and Thiel at the 2004 convention. The LP should be reaching out to these guys as much as possible. Thiel’s thoughts on politics here are a must-read.

Brian Holtz // Oct 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Kim, that is an EXCELLENT idea. I usually say that intellectual property is a free variable in libertarian theory, but this audience/demographic is just too important to ignore.

I think I’ll suggest on the LP Platform Committee that we finally take a stand on copyright, and propose this language from the Free Earth Manifesto:

Communities may recognize intellectual property in expression only to prevent unauthorized reproduction in cases of a) competition that diverts commercial benefit from the owner to the competitor, b) attributed use with unattributed defamatory modification, or c) unattributed use that misleads about who the owner is.

Brian Holtz // Oct 17, 2009 at 10:16 am

Thomas, if you have specific copyright language that would have a better chance of 2/3 support at a NatCon than what I quoted above, I’d love to hear it.

It sounds like Block’s argument against libel would work against any kind of fraud that doesn’t involve breaking explicit contracts. “Oh, you can say anything about any product or business opportunity. Doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Executives here in Silicon Valley typically view copyright as you would expect, given the rents they extract from it via government. The rank and file, and especially the young, have a totally contrary perspective. And that’s not just here in SV. 27-55% of all Internet traffic is from BitTorrent file-sharing. The masses are voting with their packets.

Brian Holtz // Oct 17, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Any use of copyright can be claimed by the copier to “suppress free speech”. The platform already says “We support full freedom of expression”. I don’t understand what your clarification clarifies.

Brian Holtz // Oct 17, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Gene, the standard I propose @7 would protect her from that such diversion of commercial benefit.

Brian Holtz // Oct 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm

The Reform Caucus statement of principles says it seeks “A platform that unites libertarians rather than dividing them. Where libertarians disagree, the platform should be silent. The party should be a tool for all libertarians.”

It’s a hilarious attempt at a to say that the Reform Caucus “claims it is the keeper of the flame, and attacks those who dare to deviate from the plumbline”.

Brian Holtz // Oct 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Tom Blanton wonders what the draft St. Louis Accord would think of a “neo-nazi claiming to be a libetarian”.

Setting aside Godwin’s Law, and pretending to take Blanton seriously, let’s ask the draft Accord what it thinks of neo-nazis. It says:

Principled libertarians can disagree about how best to reduce aggression or even about what can count as aggression, but we are united in defending the full rights of each person to his body, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges. Principled libertarians can disagree about whether every function of government can be performed by the free market, but we are united in opposing government’s growth beyond the protection of the rights of every individual to her life, liberty and property. Principled libertarians can disagree about how best we may each serve the cause of freedom, but we are determined to build a Party that welcomes and unites all those who want more personal and economic liberty. We defenders of freedom are too few, and the enemies of freedom are too many, for us to indulge in seeking heretics in our midst, rather than awakening allies across this freedom-loving land.

Thank goodness the LP has ex-members like Tom Blanton to protect it from inflitration by “neo-nazis”.

Brian Holtz // Oct 20, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Tom Blanton, I’ll simply repeated the standard Bob and I advocate from the draft St. Louis Accord:

* having an ultimate goal to banish force initiation and fraud from human relationships;
* sharing our conviction that governments must never add to the amount of aggression in the world;
* defending the full rights of each person to his body, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges;
* opposing government’s growth beyond the protection of the rights of every individual to her life, liberty and property;
* wanting more personal and economic liberty.

Again, it’s just silly to pretend that a “neo-nazi” might meet this standard. And I double-dare Marc Montoni to say it’s not.

Brian Holtz // Oct 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Tom Knapp’s mind-reading powers reveal that the people in the LP who say they oppose “plumbline” single-school ideological litmus-testing are secretly the ones who advocate it. ROTFL.

Hey Marc, which logical fallacy does mind-reading count as?

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 12:02 am

1) The LPers I know who want to change the Pledge requirement do so because of its ambiguity (Nolan says it’s merely a pledge against revolution) and its use as an ideological bludgeon. I can’t think of any Pledge reformers who disagree with aspiring to banish force initiation and fraud from human relationships.

2) You’ll have to quote more from Boortz than the single word “Islamofascism” to ask any fair-mined person to read him out of the LP.

3) You’re confusing means and ends.

4) If you’re still confused about what I think makes someone a libertarian, reread @96 as many times as necessary until comprehension occurs.

5) You confuse not wanting to talk about something (on the indexed, archived Web) vs. not immediately launching a behind-the-scenes full-court-press to resolve it. Is this apples-and-orangutans comparison really your best effort at defending your still-silly scenario about “neo-nazis” infiltrating the LP?

Hey Marc, if Blanton doesn’t take your last-word advice, then does answering questions from such a “smart guy and great libertarian” still count toward my wasted-words totals?

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 2:13 am

Mr. Knapp, I defy you to quote any words from me ever advocating that the LP choose one school of libertarianism as a “plumbline” deviations from which are to be attacked. You surely know that my position is precisely the opposite. As we convened in Denver, I restated my position for the umpteenth time:

What the Dallas Accord became was a deal in which anarchists get to veto all Platform content they disagree with, while minarchists get to veto only the one statement that the empty shell of the state will be discarded once we’re done hollowing it out. That is not big-tent. The Reform Caucus is trying to restore the symmetry of the Dallas Accord, so that the Platform is as respectful of small-government minarchist principles as it is of zero-government anarchist principles. We seek a Platform that includes all and only the principles that unite the major schools of libertarianism.

If we adopt this platform, our most radical candidates will still be free to campaign for zero-government abolitionism. Similarly, small-government libertarians will be equally free to campaign for a limited constitutional Ron-Paul-style government, without having the Platform used as a bludgeon against their “deviations”.

Support the Platform Committee’s all-principles unity Platform, and let’s end the Platform purity wars this week, in this city.

And, except for a few echoes, we did.

Sure, I advocate geominarchism as the optimal school of libertarianism, but I don’t try to twist the Party’s foundational texts into an endorsement of my favorite school as more principled than the rest. I have neither a psychological nor ideological need for such a bludgeon. And that is the core difference between reformers and radicals.

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 9:08 am

@105: Who are you, and what have you done with the Tom Knapp who occasionally tries to muster, you know, actual quotes when challenged to produce one? This “just recombobulating that power” charge is pure drivel. For a list of 125 agencies and 50 laws that I’d abolish, see

When I criticize abolitionists for not recognizing e.g. school vouchers as obvious progress, I’m not saying that vouchers should be LP dogma. I’m just saying that opposition to vouchers should not be LP dogma.

Again: you’re confusing 1) disagreement among schools of libertarianism with 2) advocating that a particular school be considered privileged by the LP’s foundational texts.

Your earlier charge @75, that the Reform Caucus “sanctimoniously claims it is the keeper of the flame, and attacks those who dare to deviate from the plumbline” remains pure nonsense. (It is, however, a revealing case study in the knee-jerk shrillness and lack of intellectual self-discipline that some would say characterize many of the LP’s louder self-identified radicals.)

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 11:11 am

Blanton is also ignorant whether @105 implicates the LP’s foundational texts. When Knapp says “the plumbline/true school folks are at least honest about what they’re doing”, he’s obviously talking about people like the Restore04 crowd.

Thus Blanton’s first two paragraphs in @109 are trivially falsified. His remaining paragraphs there are unfalsifiable content-free sputtering. If the facts were on Blanton’s side, he’d cite some.

He can’t, so he doesn’t.

As for Blanton “not taking me seriously”: Blanton needs to take lessons from Montoni about ignoring Him Whose Name Must Not Be Written.

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm

OK, Tom, now get ready for the next apology for your misrepresentations. :-)

My position isn’t “keep government in control of education”. My position is:

  • Completely separate education and state.
  • Pending that, auction off all government schools, and convert all government school funding into parent-controlled tuition vouchers.
  • Pending that, give tax credits for tuition spending.

By all means, keep making stuff up about what I believe. Your need to do so is the best possible evidence that you can’t argue against what I actually advocate.

We clearly have different judgments about what’s politically possible and tactically astute. It’s simply par for the radical course for you to twist those differences into me having a “we must keep government in control of education” position.

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 3:07 pm

89 words from Marc, but (again) zero substance about

  • the merits of the language I’ve proposed for inter-factional accord;
  • whether that language leaves room for “neo-nazis” to join the LP; and
  • whether my hobby of answering charges from radicals leaves me insufficient time for LP-external activism.

Interestestingly, only half a day after Montoni’s drive-by complaint @94 that “I have yet to see a single assertion of his that was actually *proven*”, Mr. Knapp went and admitted he misrepresented me.

I’d ask Montoni to cite a “single assertion” against me by a radical “that was actually *proven*”, but I know his policy is to not bring anything to these discussions beyond ironic and fact-free accusations of “grade-school nonsense”, “childish”, “insipid”, etc.

I did, however, enjoy his link to Wikipedia’s catalog of logical fallacies. I guess he missed this one: Irrelevant Conclusion: diverts attention away from a fact in dispute rather than address it directly. I respectfully invite Mr. Montoni to back up his charge @94 and try to demonstrate me ever falling prey to a formal deductive fallacy.

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 3:49 pm

More misrepresentations from Knapp. Sigh.

Our voucher debate ended with me saying:

  • Education is perennially one of the top four or five voter concerns.
  • Replacing government ownership of schools with tuition vouchers is considered too radical a decrease in the size of the nanny state that GOP legislative majorities don’t attempt it, and GOP candidates (like even the “libertarian-leaning” ones for governor here in California) dare not advocate it.
  • Seven out of the eight leading libertarian think tanks that take a position on vouchers support them, and even an anarcholibertarian academic like David Friedman says they would be a “great improvement”.

Nevertheless, the Libertarian Party has never spoken positively about tuition vouchers even as an incremental reform. WTF!?

This is emblematic of why prominent libertarian policy analysts and policy shops want nothing to do with the LP. And it also demonstrates how, even now, the LP’s vocal abolitionist minority retains an effective veto power over the official policy positions of the LP.

I also explicitly answered your misunderstanding about this being an “anarchism next week” issue:

You apparently didn’t catch the distinction I intended when I said “your abolitionist agenda” instead of “your anarchist agenda”. I’m not accusing you of always being upfront about wanting to raze the building — on the contrary, you’re one of my poster children for how LP anarchists don’t campaign on their beliefs as forthrightly as I do. Rather, I’m accusing you of opposing any reduction in the building’s size that might involve hammering a nail and not just swinging a wrecking ball.

That’s not an “anarchism next week!” complaint. That’s a complaint that, as an anarchist, you self-consciously and explicitly take out of your more-liberty quiver any arrows that involve replacing government programs with smaller-but-different ones.

Again: principled libertarians can disagree about whether a given arrow fired at the Nanny State will bounce off it or even somehow allegedly strengthen it (even though all nanny-staters oppose the arrow). My point here is that:

1) the LP should leave room for its spokesmen to advocate an arrow like vouchers, rather than mandating that all LP spokesmen support/oppose them; and
2) this big-tent position is the exact opposite of the “plumbline” position you falsely accused me of demanding.

I’m getting tired of you arguing with the voices in your head. When you use quotation marks in a debate with me, trying wrapping them around words I actually wrote. Is that too much to ask?

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Blanton is fact-impaired yet again: I’ve never censored anything on IPR. On the contrary, I want people to read fantasies of playground force-initiation from the “great libertarian” Tom Blanton.

Poor Marc just can’t catch a break here. First Knapp instantly undercuts Marc’s claim that I never “prove” a point, and now Blanton undercuts Marc’s calling my postings “childish and insipid”.

However, I will cop to insufficiently disguising my delight at the polemical ineptitude of angrytarians who rebuff/ignore my proposals for intra-party harmony. If my words upset them so much, maybe they can be soothed by TV-shaped moving pictures with sounds.

Brian Holtz // Oct 21, 2009 at 7:18 pm

The freedom movement has a rich vocabulary of neologisms: minarchist, lessarchist, partyarchist, smallarchist, angrytarian, losertarian, povertarian, agorist, mutualist, panarchist, nonarchist, voluntaryist, propertarian, geolibertarian, ecolibertarian, paleolibertarian, anarcholibertarian, cosmo-libertarian, econ-libertarian, neolibertarian, etc.

I just don’t see “waffletarian” making it into our vocabulary. Plus, it already apparently means “people who don’t eat waffles”. Apparently, Waffletarian Day is July 13.

Brian Holtz // Oct 22, 2009 at 9:33 am

Yeah, it’s not like a CEO has ever won 18.9% of the popular vote in recent decades while running for President outside the two-party system. Let’s stick with reality, people.

Nobody said anything about hiring a Carville. What Perot did with his money is what Koch did in 1980 for Clark (on a much smaller scale): buy TV time. But the best thing about money is that it gets you media attention even without having to spend it. More media attention will not magically win us the White House, but it will spread our ideas, and tempt the majors to co-opt some of them.

Nobody said that fixing the platform was a silver bullet. I wrote in May 2007: The Platform should not be a battleground on which we declare defeat for all but one LP strategic vision. Fixing the the Platform — i.e. smoothing its sharpest kookiest edges and scouring away its decades of laundry lists — is hard enough without also trying to engrave into it a particular short-term legislative program or explicit strategic plan. We need to practice the incrementalism we preach, and focus on the narrow goal of making the Platform reflect our common ground instead of our battle lines. We don’t need to make the Platform into a marketing silver bullet, we just need it to stop being a poison pill. The absolute worst thing that can happen to Platform reform is not to fail to rewrite the platform, but rather to succeed in rewriting the platform while promising that the rewrite will accomplish feats that no rewrite possibly could. If in Denver we pass a new Platform and claim to have created a “marketing tool”, then the new Platform will be blamed for any subsequent lack of candidate success.

Brian Holtz // Oct 22, 2009 at 9:59 am

Thus my bottom line is that I agree with Eric that liberty-oriented legislative changes will not be passed by LP legislative majorities or signed into law by LP executives. Any such reforms will come from non-LP politicians feeling compelled to co-opt our ideas. Eric, do you support changing the LP bylaws so that the LPUS or its affiliates can do what you did in your last election effort — endorse a lesser-of-two-evils opponent if we want to punish a greater-of-two-evils one?

Brian Holtz // Oct 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Michael, a response I started writing to you got way out of control, and became this:

You accuse Bob of “your way or no way”, but I’m saying that accusation should be leveled at all of us. Who here is willing to have the Platform or LPHQ say something you disagree with? I’ll bet that I have a longer list of deviations-from-personal-plumbline that I’m willing to tolerate than any Radical Caucus leader or Restore04 signatory. I bet Bob’s list would be pretty long too. How long is yours, Michael?

Brian Holtz // Oct 22, 2009 at 10:34 pm

We don’t say nothing. We say: “The United States should both abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world and avoid entangling alliances. American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and its defense against attack from abroad. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid.”

And just a few weeks ago, we reiterated: “The Libertarian National Committee calls on the government of the United States to withdraw the armed forces of the United States from Afghanistan, without undue delay”.

I doubt you could get the requisite supermajority to get an LP convention to demand that every last member of the U.S. armed forces be brought back to U.S. soil.

Brian Holtz // Oct 23, 2009 at 12:52 am

Annual spending on the nanny state is $1.6 trillion, compare to $500 billion for all defense spending (not just on “empire”). Further, even the most wild-eyed estimated total future price tag for Bush’s wars is only about 2% of America’s unfunded entitlement liabilities.

Brian Holtz // Oct 23, 2009 at 3:00 am

Good libertarians know that foreign trade is positive-sum, and that xenophobic fears of “competition” come from the same dark place that wars come from.

Even if we forget all we know as libertarians about how comparative advantage makes trade positive-sum, it would be ludicrous to suggest that the U.S. troops in Germany and Korea are what created the American Nanny State, or that returning them to U.S. soil would dent the demand for continuation and expansion of the Nanny State.

The “Chickenhawk” argument is the weakest on my list of fourteen arguments against liberventionism. That argument says I only get to advocate the existence of crime-fighting and fire-fighting and drowning-prevention and jails if I personally am a combination cop / fireman / lifeguard / warden.

I don’t order anyone to be a soldier; the U.S. military is (and should be) all-volunteer. American soldiers voluntarily enter a contract to “obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” I don’t believe in any gods, but people in my family have indeed been in war. My grandfather lost a leg in one. Nevertheless, as a Libertarian I don’t believe that the lives of my family are inherently worth more than those of the many innocents abroad that the U.S. military has variously saved, avenged — or killed. In general, you can count me as in favor of minimizing the killings of innocents — by anybody.

Brian Holtz // Oct 23, 2009 at 11:42 am

Bzzzzt. Those figures ludicrously assume that 91% of the national debt is defense-related, when in fact social spending has dwarfed military spending throughout the run-up of the debt in the last few decades. The Higgs article is based on 2006 data, and even it says “the Department of Defense itself spent $499.4 billion”.

This almost as comical as when Paulie cited some figures that tried to exclude Social Security and Medicare because they are allegedly self-financed through payroll “contributions”.

For more recent numbers than either Higgs or I were using:

Oh, and thanks for completely ignoring the $50 TRILLION in unfunded nanny-state liabilities:

Brian Holtz // Oct 23, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Higgs plainly writes: “This sum is equal to 91.2 percent of the value of the national debt held by the public at the end of 2006. Therefore, I attribute that same percentage of the government’s net interest outlays in that year to past debt-financed defense spending.”

You simply echo Paulie’s silly lefty propagandists who attributed 100% of the national debt to defense, for no other reason than it’s the kind of spending they personally like the least. Typing in the word “discretionary” doesn’t make this move any less silly.

I apologize for the sarcasm on unfunded liabilities. I should try harder to assume agreement with fellow Libs rather than disagreement.

Out of curiosity, how do you as an ex-Marine view veterans’ benefits? Would you immediately repudiate such obligations, just like (if I understand correctly) you would repudiate the national debt?

My position is: 1) we should honor the terms of employment that led people to choose to become government employees; and 2) we should continue “entitlement” benefits for individuals up until they have recouped their past payroll “contributions” plus interest plus inflation.

If you wouldn’t cancel veterans’ benefits tomorrow, it sounds lame to complain about them. If people should be punished financially for lendingto The Omnimalevolent State, then surely they should be punished financially (at least!) for fighting for The Omnimalevolent State.

Brian Holtz // Oct 23, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I’m just as OK with it as I am with taxing American workers to subsidize my continued beating of my wife.