Posts Tagged ‘ bikecast

Last Minute October Post and New Podcast

In a nod to the arbitrary divisions of time, I am motivated to post *something* to void the goose egg in October. I have been working on a podcast, so here’s my first promotional post for it. It sounds alot more carefully produced than the bikecast. Though the lack of wind and traffic has alot to do with it. Go have a listen and tell us what you think.

The Bikecast Episode #55: Chit-chatting About the Patriarchy

Th Bikecast is back, albeit without the bike this time. I’ll transition to another name when I think of a good one.

In this reboot premier episode, I’m thinking through the history and nature of patriarchy and how its position as the fundamental organizing principle of the various and myriad institutional hurdles to human happiness and flourishing. Good stuff!

PS. I have no idea why the embed is doing that. The Internet Archive has changed up some stuff since last year.

The Bikecast Episode #53: Which Virtues will Flourish in a Free World?

A gross misconception exists about the nature of a free world. Actually, a large number of misconceptions exist, and usually I find myself talking to people who believe that a free world would be swarming with Roving Bands of Armed Thugs who will systematically and perpetually victimize everyone else[1].

Lately, I’ve begun to sense another hypothesis in the ether, this from the libertarian camp itself. I haven’t heard anyone come right out with it, so this is kind of a patchwork of implied narratives.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

The world envisioned is mostly peaceful sparsely populated by wise, intelligent and strong men around whom industry and civil society forms. These men are not to be trifled with and disputes among them, if they can’t be settled by peaceful means can sometimes involve the judicious use of arms–perhaps modelled after the gentlemans’ duels of ages past.

These occasional clashes, though, needn’t be common because of the nobility and virtue of these men of merit. They don’t pursue selfish ends nor those destructive to others, so there’s no reason to challenge their will–which is a good thing because they are strong, quick, and well armed.

These men (both those of the imagined future and those that imagine them) could be described as consumate “porcupine pacifists”–the analogy speaks for itself–because they want to be sure that it’s understood that, although they won’t attack anyone, they will kick (or kill) your ass if you mess with them. They will also let you know about all the other people whose asses they will kick or kill if those people mess with them–the list is often long.

I have a couple of issues with this narrative–a couple posts worth at least. One related to the above bikecast is around my strongly held opinion that in a free world the virtues that will thrive and reproduce are mostly the opposite of those held by the honorable men in the above narrative.

To caveat: it’s of course impossible to predict the future with much reliability. It’s quite possible that, in the future, humanity abandons the standard of living produced by a thriving and tightly interwoven network of market relationships in favor of more isolation and simplicity. It’s possible that somehow that the armed and vigilant men never cross a line and threaten or bully a weaker person. I don’t know what long and transformative path would have to be tread for humanity to find itself in such a place, but as I say, the future is unknowable and this particular libertarian fantasy might play out somewhere down the line.

That said, I think a far more likely scenario is a society founded on something similar to the day-to-day relationships most of us enjoy now. These relationships aren’t based on fear of reprisal from some third party authority, but rather on trust, respect, empathy, and reciprocity. Flourishing in this possible future depends on skill at maintaining peer-to-peer relationships and a reputation for fair dealings instead of a strong right hook and good aim.

In this imagined libertarian world, understanding and anticipating the motivation and needs of others will be a highly valued and much sought after skill. Cooperating, negotiating and nurturing long term, win-win partnerships will be foundational to accumulating the social and physical capital to be a leader whose judgement others will voluntarily trust and defer to (without dueling).

In the fast paced and constantly adjusting economy that will be the engine of a global society that allows billions of people to thrive and prosper, guns will, I forecast, almost never be brandished. This is not to say that people won’t carry firearms for personal safety. I assume they will as they do now–sociopaths will always be with us, I fear. They will be used for this purpose very rarely. Even now, many people go a lifetime without needing to use lethal force to defend themselves (at least from strangers, assaults by spouses and family members remains very common).

That the very idea that empathy, cooperation, and relating to others as peers strikes some libertarians as weak, feminine and maybe sorta pinko (if you’re old enough) gets to the heart of the issue.

The virtues that will provide value to the future are frequently denigrated by self-labelled liberty lovers. Those that are antithetical to a free and prosperous world–primarily centered around the prominence of defensive or redemptive violence–are simultaneously given much attention.

There are universally positive qualities around independence, free thought, determination and other traits expressed historically in “free men” because their position in the social hierarchy allowed them to express these traits and society rewarded their expression. It’s an error to blend in physical size, strength, and martial ability–the traits that kept men atop the hierarchy–with the others and label these as masculine virtues.

In the same way, there are universally positive qualities around cooperation, empathy, ability to communicate and to maintain a complex web of social relationships–the traits expressed historically by slave classes, primarily women. It’s an error to blend submissiveness, humility, and self-deprecation–the traits that kept the slave alive–with these others and label them feminine.

The future belongs to the courageous and independent free thinker, the empathetic communicator and the social negotiator. These characteristics have no gender or race and are the cornerstone of a free and prosperous society. The martial virtues, physical strength (beyond what improves health and vitality), and a belief in redemptive violence have very little use in any popularly desirable free future world and yet they seem to play such an core role in the current libertarian movement. I believe that, going forward, it will be increasingly important to examine and question this tendency and those who hold it.

  1. [1] I always like to point out, usually to poor effect, that there already are Roving Bands of Armed Thugs systematically and perpetually victimizing everyone else, but apparently national militaries and police don’t count).

The Bikecast Episode #51: American Exceptionalism

“American Exceptionalism” undergirds nearly every channel of information and every aspect of political discourse in the United States. It is, at its core, the belief that the unbending laws of nature and the consistent historical forces that have affected every institution throughout human history are not and will not be factors in the history and future of the American people.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

One aspect of this delusional concept comes immediately to mind and wouldn’t be disputed by readers of this blog, though it would be by most Americans. American Exceptionalism is used to recast the aggression of our rulers against foreign peoples as wars of liberation, humanitarian interventions, peace keeping, police actions and the like.

Every ruling class in recorded history initiated wars to accrue control over additional resources, territory, slaves, and tax base to themselves. This expansion of power always takes place at the expense of the subjects who produced and had expropriated the materiel for war and who are called on to fill the ranks of the army. Nobody seriously disagrees with this most basic, obvious, and repeatedly demonstrated fact of human history.

The popular narrative, however, exempts the United States from this ironclad historical pattern. Illumination collapses the dichotomy and returns us to the reality in which the aggression of our current rulers and the sacrifices of the workers parallel those of rulers and subjects throughout history.

The domestic facet of American Exceptionalism is even more widespread and is more immediately dangerous to those of us living here. Behold the remarkably clear analysis of one Anne Applebaum:

The result: Egypt, like many Arab societies, has a wealthy and well-armed elite at the top and a fanatical and well-organized Islamic fundamentalist movement at the bottom. In between lies a large and unorganized body of people who have never participated in politics, whose business activities have been limited by corruption and nepotism, and whose access to the outside world has been hampered by stupid laws and suspicious bureaucrats.

-Anne Applebaum

As IOZ points out, and let me state again that each and every one of you should read IOZ every day and send him threatening letters on days that he doesn’t post (don’t really do that last part). Anyway, as IOZ points out, “with a few tweeked adjectives,” the above critique fits the United States to a T. He also observes that she, and I will add most Americans, would dismiss such a claim as absurd.

We’ve recently seen European social programs stripped down and eliminated, food and energy prices increasing and the rising up of people against their governments. Many Americans are already facing the challenges of getting by without regular work while prices increase and state assistance becomes increasingly scarce. Somehow, the idea that a confrontation is coming between the state and the people remains popularly inconceivable.

Even when the world is watching the rulers of a country shut down the country’s communication infrastructure, systematically imprison popular leaders, and send para-military “security forces” out to do battle with those demanding very basic institutional reform, the myth of American Exceptionalism keeps most people from seeing the connection to domestic events.

The myth is pervasive and deeply ingrained. Anyone who even suggests that “national security” policies (for example, the internet kill switch, massive increases in security infrastructure/personel/armament, the elimination of habeus corpus and basic legal principles) aren’t intended to protect us from terrorists, but rather to protect the ruling class from future domestic dissent is immediately labelled paranoid, a wingnut, a conspiracy theorist.

We who live on the North American landmass are not immune from any of the historical forces that govern the dynamics of human interaction and have special predictive powers around human systems premised on violence. We are not protected by the rulers. The “defensive” apparati that we are taxed to build are intended to protect the rulers from expressions of our discontent.

The ruling class has disassembled and replaced voluntary social networks with compulsory institutions that they control. They’ve syphoned off so much wealth and warped the economy to such a degree that they can no longer afford to stuff their pockets with gold while maintaining payments to those that have come to depend on them. Thus, the payments will dwindle or cease (what? you thought that they’d stop stuffing their pockets?) and, out of desperation, people will take to the streets, demanding a restructuring of the social order.

They will be met with the tear gas, batons and bullets that they’ve spent their life funding. They’ll be tossed into the prisons they’d imagined were meant for drug dealers. Their communications will be disrupted by technologies sold as protections against terrorism. This is a historical inevitability. This is the ironclad dynamic of societies whose “order” is premised on violent domination of one group by another. America is no exception.

The Bikecast Episode #48: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Bikecast listeners. A million thanks for listening, commenting, emailing, engaging with the ideas I’m relaying and for your encouragement, both on and offline. The Bikecast has suffered a few setbacks, my studio was stolen forcing me onto the bus for a few weeks and my equipment is malfunctioning at the moment. This brief episode of the Bikecast was created entirely at my in-home media center.

Download this episode of the bikecast
I’m unsure if I’ll prefer podcasting from a stationary position inside my house, or if I’ll start putting up audio-less posts until I can reassemble my mobile recording rig. Who knows, maybe I’ll do both.

Yesterday, the 12th day of Jadmas[1] marked the end of the Jadmas holiday season. I just turned 36 which is one of those highly divisible numbers that leads me to compare the first 18 years of my life to the second, the third 12 year span to the first two, the fourth 9 years to the first 27, etc. I intend to put up some more personal stuff that you may or may not be interested in along these lines. I’ll tag all those posts with Jadmas if you want to follow up on that thread.

During the holidays, I watched the first couple episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos for the first time. His enthusiasm and his ability to capture the wonder of existence is infectious[2] and I’m feeling inspired to seek out latter day Sagans of various stripes and engage them in conversation. If it works out, I might try to record the chats and present them here. I’m also considering doing a review of Cosmos, though I imagine it’s been reviewed nearly to death.

The last thing on my radar, and perhaps the most impactful is something I encountered late last year. It’s a process called non-violent communication or NVC outlined by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. I heard about it on the Complete Liberty podcast (episodes 126 – 130) and it incorporates alot of material that I was interested in towards the beginning of my journey out of leftist politics and toward various ideas around non-violent social structures.

At first glance it may not seem like much of a departure from the positions I’ve taken throughout the last year, but it challenges a major tenet of what I consider the leading edge of the effective revolution: that people are inherently driven by notions of good and evil. I think there might be a clarifying synthesis between the clear natural tendency of humans to cooperate and to be repulsed by violence and the slippery and historically dangerous concepts of good and evil. I’m still thinking this through and plan on studying up on the details of NVC in the near future (and reporting back, of course). I’ll mark these future posts Non-Violent Communication for your future perusal.

Thanks again for your support. As always, let me know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see/hear in the jVerse or on the Bikecast. I think 2011 is going to be a year of growth and increasing clarity. I look forward to sharing it with you.

  1. [1] Jadmas falls on December 27
  2. [2] This is an even more impressive feat given the technology of 1980 and Sagan’s penchant for leading his tour from a glass bottomed space ship

The Bikecast Episode #45: Iraq For Sale and Creepy War Profiteer, Michael Chertoff

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers covers the art form of syphoning tremendous wealth from the body politic into the hands of state corporations under the guise of “defense.” In recent years, this racket has become even more sophisticated as the military moves from purchasing materiel from “private” sources to hiring out for services previously provided internally.

In the days of Smedley Butler, war meant ridiculous profits around the provision of goods: leather, nickel, sugar, meat, cotton, steel, coal, garments, etc. Today, similar artificial profits are realized by corporations serving meals, washing laundry, building infrastructure, and providing internal security for the military.

This serves a number of purposes: it allows for misrepresentation of the size of the military presence overseas and it allows avoidance of auditing and oversight (what little there is to begin with). Most importantly, however, it allows for unimaginable amounts of wealth to be appropriated by the corporate-political ruling class with a minimum amount of political effort.

Download this episode of the bikecast

As usual, when I listen back to my (very brief) review of someone else’s work, I sound far more critical towards it than I feel. This podcast is no different–I end up picking nits rather than doing a traditional review. But hey, I’m a nit-picker. It’s what I do.

Iraq for Sale covers alot of interesting material and is well made. The unspoken position that I believe underlies the documentary is that “re-nationalizing” the peripheral services that have been outsourced to “private” corporations would lead to a more efficient, less corrupt, “better” military. I’m skeptical of this position and believe that it surrenders a crucial point. The fraud, waste and abuse around lives and wealth in Iraq is a function of the warfare state. That the people involved are nominally “military” or “civilian” is irrelevant.

At the end of the bikecast, I touch on another war profiteer who is making his money from the domestic police state. Michael Chertoff’s security consulting group has a client, Rapiscan Systems, which is one of two manufacturers of the backscatter x-ray machines currently in the news[1]. While the big news is the constitutionality of being imaged without clothes, the real story[2] is how a creepy, incompetent [3] evil fuck like Michael Chertoff can, apparently, bring about the irradiation and intrusive imaging of every airline passenger in the united states in order to pocket a few million dollars in the process.

For more on the Chertoff story:
Mother Jones (from before the current porn/cancer/grope fiasco): The Airport Scanner Scam
Glen Greenwald (apparently no relation to Iraq for Sale director/producer Robert Greenwald): The Obama administration’s war on privacy
The Hill: GOP lawmaker: Full-body scanners violate Fourth Amendment (yeah, cause they give a shit).
Alternet: Details of the increased lobbying by Rapiscan

  1. [1] I claim, mistakenly, in the bikecast that M.C. is an executive for Rapiscan–my bad, Mike.
  2. [2] at least for this episode of the bikecast
  3. [3] Thanks to the commenter for setting me straight

The Bikecast Episode #44: Armistice Veterans Day and Moral Honesty

On Veteran’s Day[1], as on most other days, I find myself pulled by a fierce need to condemn the role of “soldier.” This concept, soldier, is used to create an inverse morality where killing is noble and those who kill are heroes. Surely nothing could be less heroic than taking money in order to kill, without question, whomever one is directed to kill.

On Veteran’s Day, as on most other days, I find myself pulled by a fierce need to condemn the role of “soldier.” This concept, soldier, is used to create an inverse morality where killing is noble and those who kill are heroes. Surely nothing could be less heroic than taking money in order to kill, without question, whomever one is directed to kill.
At the same time, it strikes me as unjust to lay blame at the feet of the human being who has assumed the role of soldier. Most soldiers were 18-year-olds who were sold on the honor and virtue of service to one’s country; their friends, relatives, peers, church and community leaders spoke in solemn tones about the noble sacrifices that the armed forces of the united states have made throughout its history. They’ve heard during 12 years of state schooling about how the u.s. military has repeatedly and continuously protected the freedom of the citizenry while spreading liberty and democracy around the globe. How is it fair to hold someone to account for their actions when they’ve been told all their life that the evil they’re signing up to do is good?

Download this episode of the bikecast
It is for this reason above all others that I believe it necessary to be unrelenting in the moral condemnation of soldiering. Mercenaries and hitmen[2] are paid commensurate with the social stigma attached to killing for money. Nobody honors assassins–there is no day to thank (expressly) paid killers. Nobody becomes a hitman with the expectation that one’s church community will be proud.

To a healthy person, the moral context attached to joining a military is identical to that of becoming muscle for a crime family. Everyone who is considering a career in the military should have the objective nature of the job presented honestly to them. Anything less is moral fraud of the most harmful kind.

The vast majority of the victims of the current slate of wars are, of course, those killed, kidnapped, robbed and displaced by the u.s. military. The greatest moral condemnation, by far, belongs to the political class and their corporate counterparts. In between are the humans sent to do the killing and the dying. Their lives as full humans will likely end with their first kill or their first interrogation. Thereafter, they’re doomed to a shadow existence, unless they brave the road nearly untraveled and examine and atone for their actions.

It will be a great kindness to a large number of potential recruits to accurately and honestly describe moral import the choice that lies ahead. When somebody chooses not to join the military, everything good in the world wins and evil is slowed, however minutely, in its mindless destruction of humanity. The greatest good is likely to the soldier-not-to-be him/herself. We’ll be on the right path when we thank and honor those that choose not to join the military.

Recommended reading:
Punk Johnny Cash on being thanked.
Arthur Silber: On Veteran’s Day, Fuck that Shit
Kelly Patterson on the 2738 Soldiers that died on the final day of the war so that it would end at 11:11 on 11/11/1918

  1. [1] previously known as Armistice Day, until the “War to End All Wars” turned out to be the bloodiest century the world has ever seen
  2. [2] and hitwomen

The Bikecast Episode #40: Giving Up on Politics

Another element of Getting from Here to There is giving up on politics. The theatrics and drama of politics, along with the ever appealing us vs. them dynamic involved, freezes people for years and decades in the mistaken belief that the state can effect a reversal of social ills. Endless energy and resources are expended in the pursuit of political solutions and are thereby diverted from alternative efforts. This starving of effective, decentralized, and sustainable non-governmental approaches to social problems insulates and protects the existing power structures from the threat of any substantive change.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Case in Point, Ralph Nader

I recently watched a documentary on Ralph Nader titled, An Unreasonable Man. Nader is the platonic ideal of a citizen in a democracy. His roots are in small town New England where the image is of political activities occuring with every town person present and having a say in the decisions affecting the community[1].

Tangential note: this direct democracy is the model that the populist-statist mind attempts to wrap around 300 million people. The idea that everyone is participating and has a say and is therefore justly bound to the decisions arrived at by the political process.

Unsurprisingly, Nader has a number of tremendous successes finding corruption and inefficiencies in the ballooning federal state of the 1950s and 1960s. The legislative process still had enough remnants of openness that he was able to blindside the corporate-political partnerships of the time and force politicians to make at least a show of protecting their constituents.

Another tangential Note: Something I might talk about some other time was Nader’s role in drawing the revolutionary margins, especially the academic margins away from anti-state/anti-authoritarian activities and into the political arena. Ron Paul is the conservative equivalent in this respect.

In the bikecast, I focus on Nader’s persistence in the face of ongoing disillusionment. If we accept the documentary’s narrative, having reached his political apex in the 70’s, he is betrayed by Carter and then has the state agencies he worked so hard to create dismantled or perverted under 12 years of republican executives. Next comes Clinton and the vitual 4 and 5 term of republican rule (here’s a good summary of Nader’s views on Clinton’s presidency)

Finally, he decides to run for office in 1996, 2000, and 2004[2]. The viciousness and venom towards him since 2000 highlights the mental instability of a people looking for something, anything, to blame for their own weakness and cowardice–their own inability to admit to the systemic flaws that preclude anything but human suffering to come from the state.

The corrupt and despicable system that Nader believed in and that he encouraged so many others to believe in had at last destroyed him.

Nader supporters claim that the united states would be much worse off today without his legislative victories, even though most of them have been rendered impotent by subsequent legislation or turned, in some cases, into tools of corporate plunder.

I like to imagine what the world would be like if the Ralph Naders turned their attention away from the state and started solving problems on the community level via organic institutions akin to the townhall meetings of his youth. Continue to point out the injustices, yes, but stop asking the source of the injustices to increase its size and power in the vain hope that it will fight those injustices.

Unshakable Faith and my Own Dumb Story

Nader is also the ideal citizen insofar as his faith cannot (apparently) be shaken that the state can be made to serve the citizen, despite all of his experience to the contrary.

Luckily for the human race, not everyone has Nader’s loyalty. As the world burns and the nation plunges into financial ruin, the bar for loyalty rises. It used to be that several administrations had to pass before the astute would notice the pattern of state power.

I became politically aware in the early 90s and was completely convinced that, once a democrat took power, the globe spanning military would bases would be disbanded and the resources spent on war would be turned to education and social programs.

Disillusionment happened in a stair-step series of stages. After watching Nader get torched and then villified in 2000 and after the US invaded all points east despite the largest global protest in the history of the world (and with near full support of the opposition democrats, I finally accepted that these institutions of governance were irredeemably flawed. Eventually, I came to accept that governance itself, based on violence, was fundamentally unsustainable.

Establishment politics had me entranced for around 10 years. People younger than myself, who don’t remember the pre-Clinton political scene were alot more likely to get excited about Barack Obama, I think. Many of them won’t be fooled the next time around. The same is true, I think, for conservatives, and I imagine the inevitable collapse and/or co-opting of the Tea Party will send the more alert off the edge of establishment politics.

Another point tied to my 10 year arch from a believer in politics to near anarchist: I don’t think it takes nearly that long anymore. It may be a cliche that “information moves faster now,” and it’s probably the case that a number of my peers in highschool had already learned from their elders that politics is a racket.

I still think an 18 year old me in 2010 would be able to reason through to statelessness in a year or two–if I was even still a statist given 6 or 8 years of casual access to the sum total of all human knowledge. The possibility of being shielded the war pre-internet youth were from streams of information unfiltered by authority figures is much greater, in any case.

In Summary . . .

In the time before each disillusionment, though, think of the time, energy and resources squandered in the political process. Collectively hundreds of millions of dollars and billions of productive hours spent campaigning, arguing, worrying, cajoling, researching, defending, and attacking. All for nothing. Worse yet, all to create a façade of participation and legitimacy that provides an air of legitimacy to the crimes of the state.

The historical record is completely clear on this: democrats start wars, republicans grow government spending, democrats neuter social programs, republicans regulate small business to death. Of course both parties do all these things, but the tiny amount of influence that the whole weight of opposition public opinion can sometimes check the most egregious moves by the party in power. Any move in the direction of opposition finds no resistance at all.

Although this is obvious and the evidence is piled a mile high, most people will continue to support their chosen party. Most of those who leave one party will join the other. Most that leave both will attach to a third party. A small but growing super-minority is accumulating that have been sloughed off the ends of the political spectrum. The elements of this group may disagree on some issues, but each carry a piece (or two, or seven) of the airtight case against the state: practical, moral, around economic issues and issues of justice, racial, spiritual, sexual, statistical, philosophical, ethical, mathematical, you name it.

The future is unwritten and anything can happen, but I have high hopes that the accumulation of people opposed to imposing political solutions on their neighbors and on strangers will outpace the growth of people brainwashed into supporting the political establishment. I hope that the simple truth is eventually accepted by a critical mass of people: The historical struggle isn’t between left and right, it’s between the rulers and the ruled.

I’ve got a couple more “Giving Up on Politics” podcasts in the pipeline. Let me know if you dig them or if there’s something in particular you’d like to hear about.

  1. [1] Which doesn’t change the underlying immorality of imposing the majority’s will on the minority, of course.
  2. [2] He was actually a write in candidate in 1992. He ran as “None of the Above.” I had forgotten (or never knew) this

The Bikecast Episode #39: The War on Drugs and the “Winding Up of Violence”

The war on drugs, like all wars, is actually a war on people. It has an endless list of disastrous and tragic social consequences that reaches to the very heavens. In this episode of the bikecast, I focus on one of the most pernicious and long lasting effects of this type of psychotic state program–what I call the “winding up of violence”.

By applying ever-increasing levels of force in an attempt to control voluntary human interactions, international drug policy weeds out all but the most lunatic element of the black market. It then makes this element very, very, very rich and gives them monopoly on the use of violence over a geographical region (just like their larger counterpart, the state!). Even if the drug war were to end tomorrow, the violence in places like the U.S. – Mexico border will take decades of ongoing human misery to wind down.

Download this episode of the bikecast

Prohibiting commodities of any sort has two effects that I want to concentrate on. First, it tends to remove peaceful, honest business-people from the production and distribution processes. For obvious reasons, most farmers won’t grow that which is illegal and most distributors (pharmacists in many instances related to the drug war) won’t stock illegal products. The exceptions to this tendency are people who don’t have good prospects in the conduct of legal business. People who are already distrusted, who have a tendency toward violent dealings or who otherwise prefer not to rely on the legal market will fill the spots vacated in the newly criminalized market sector.

The greater the degree of prohibition, the more this tendency will increase. At the level of open warfare that exists between the drug cartels and the north and central american states[1], only the most desperate and brutal criminal elements are willing to risk traffic large amounts of product. All but the most casual growers and sellers face threats so large that any reasonable alternative source of income is preferable.

The second effect that I want to look at is that prohibition drives the price of the commodity artificially high because of the new overhead of avoiding or bribing law enforcement and the associated risk of imprisonment and death.

One result of the price increase is that it becomes profitable to grow the market for the illegal substance in a way that it previously was not. If a drug costs a few cents per dose, it’s not (very) profitable to try and get another customer interested in long term use of the drug.

Once the price goes up to dollars or tens of dollars per dose, the seller has a much greater motivation to seek out new customers. Thus the salesman, who formerly served existing customers becomes a “pusher” who gives away free samples and travels from schoolyard to schoolyard attempting to maximize his customer base.

The consequence of price increase that I want to focus on for this discussion is a far more primary effect. Whoever gains control over part of the market for an illegal substance has an artificially inflated source of wealth with which to grow and protect the operation. Again, the greater the effort put into prohibition, the greater the increase in price.

Over time, the interaction of these two factors leads to large, well armed, and ruthless organizations with a steady stream of tremendous wealth. This is what we see today on the us-mexican border, in columbia and afghanistan[2].

These changes have taken place over a period of decades and the misery will continue to escalate in response to further increases in the violence used for prohibition.

The aspect of this dynamic that I focus on in the bikecast is the hangover after the flow of energy to such a system is halted. If the war on drugs was to end tomorrow, the organizations that traffic drugs illegally aren’t going to go away. They will continue to search for ways to exploit their position as the best armed group of thugs in the region in ways that will plague the communities/regions they’ve claimed for years and decades to come.

The longer prohibition escalates, the more wealth and power accrue to the most ruthless of drug organizations, and the longer the period of “wind down” to normalcy will last.

This same phenomenon also occurs in foreign military occupations. In Vietnam, relatively diplomatic and scholarly nationalists seeking independence for French Indochina were imprisoned and suppressed. This left increasingly violent guerrilla leaders as the only opponents of western imperialism. After 30 years of continuous warfare, the peasant armies that carrying antiquated armaments in the 1940s were heavily armed, well trained, and lead by a ruthless political class.

What might have been a bloodless transfer of power to a nationalist government or a minor and short lived civil war in 1945 was instead a bloody internal conflict after the south fell. Violent, radical collectivization and centralized economic control in the hands of the revolutionary leadership lead to untold violence and generated millions of refugees. It’s remarkable, given the degree of brutality with which the vietnamese were treated that they recovered relative stability within a couple of decades.

Currently we’re watching a decade long windup in afghanistan and another in iraq, plus a 20 year windup in somalia and another underway in yemen. The flawed logic of increasing violence until stability is reached is killing not only the present well being, but the future chances of stability in the societies cursed by foreign occupation.

I go into more detail about the winding up of violence (along with a pained analogy) vis à vis foreign wars in a supplementary bikecast that I didn’t like enough to put into the general stream. It’s here if you’d like to listen. This is the intro paragraph for the podcast:

I want to apologize in advance for the analogy in this episode of the bikecast. Every now and then I have to indulge my inner dork. I flesh out the concept of the “winding up of violence” that we talked about in the last bikecast. Much as heat will tend to “even out” throughout a closed system, violence tends to dissipate when the resources energizing it are removed. Violence is expensive and unsustainable and, left in isolation, violent situations quickly flame out as the particpants exhaust themselves and are compelled to seek compromise and reconciliation.

Unfortunately, this winding down cannot begin until the “energy sources” fueling the conflict are removed. Thus on the U.S.-Mexican border, as well as around the world where the United States (and to a far lesser degree other large nation-states) provide weapons, wealth and motivation to violent conflicts, the distance between the current situations and “normalcy” grows larger every day. The longer the winding up of violence, the longer and more painful the winding down.

Download this supplementary bikecast (attached to the above paragraph)

Other excellent resources for recovering drug warriors (there are roughly ∞ of these online, I picked a semi-random handful).
Drug War, What Is It Good For?
Timeline of the Drugwar
America Should Decriminalize Drugs
The Drug War vs. American Civilization (Drug war and civil liberties)
The Eternal Drug War

  1. [1] The United States, obviously, chief among them
  2. [2] And any number of other narco states whose products are shipped to the west.

The Bikecast Episode #37: The Landscape of Modern Anarchism

Crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should ever again the Black and Red [and Gold] unite![1]” — Otto von Bismarck

For reasons I can’t clearly explain, I’m overly interested in the various flavors of anarchism, their origins, and their relationship to one another. I sometimes toy with the idea of sitting down and rigorously mapping out the terrain of the anti-state landscape–though I’m not certain what the value in that would be[2]. This episode of the bikecast is a series of thoughts along this line that I had after meeting up with a handful of anti-authoritarians. I’m intend to go light on the show notes, so check out the podcast if you are interested. I’ve got plenty more thoughts on the matter that I’m happy to express if there’s any interest.

Download this episode of the bikecast

In Texas, most people I’ve met with similar anti-political views as myself come from what I consider “right anarchism.” I’m not entirely sure of this, but I believe that this brand of anarchism comes from the philosophical, individualist tradition of 19th century american thinkers–Henry David Thoreau and Lysander Spooner, for example.

The desirability of statelessness, from this perspective, derives from the inviolable sovereignty of the individual. Nobody has any claim to another person nor to the results of that person’s labor. Since it is immoral to compel someone to act against their will or to seize their justly owned property, the state cannot be a moral institution.

In practice, this position seems to be most frequently achieved by “falling off” of the political spectrum by constitutionalist, small government, and/or minarchists who finally give up on their pet “the state needs to ______” issue.

The other side of the anarchist spectrum (the unsurprisingly named “left anarchists”) are the ideological descendants of the revolutionary movements of the 19th century. This tradition grew from the unrest of the factory worker, coal miner, and tenement dweller and has a more populist flavor to it. In 1872, the revolutionary parties that had been opposing the european aristocracy for 25+ years broke into two camps. The first, the Marxists, became the political socialism/communism that made the 20th century miserable for some several hundred million people (in addition to the millions it killed outright).

The second branch, the anarchists, faded from the political scene–at least compared with the Marxists. They exist today in the form of anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndacalism, and a number of schools organized around labor, feminism, environmentalism and other social justice issues.

The central point in the spectrum, it seems to me, are the libertarian left, the agorists, and the mutualists. From my limited experience, this is where the most constructive, civil dialog takes place and the most sustainable ideas end up.

In the time between my recording of the bikecast and the editing/writing up process, a couple related conversations/videos/posts have popped up, so I’ll close with them–they highlight nicely the points of overlap that, I think, are crucial for the eventual growing together of the black, red and gold.

From Center for a Stateless Society: A Libertarian in Solidarity with the Jimmy Johns Workers’ Union

Another C4SS writer, Kevin Carson lays out the mutualist case against corporatism in The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand

And Kevin Carson again, in what I think is a perfectly executed illumination of right anti-state blindspots with regard to the relationship between state and corporation. Robert Higgs responds in the comments and pan-secessionist Keith Preston (from the right-rightiest place on the anti-state spectrum without falling into race or religious supremecy-anarchism) has some great insights in the comments as well.

Lastly a video that’s been making the rounds of late, a call for political unity between libertarians and progressives. An identical case exists on the anti-state side as well:

  1. [1] addition mine. The red refers to the marxist/socialists, the black is the anarchists, and the gold to the modern right-anarchists
  2. [2] and I doubt I could do any better than wikipedia