Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Friday, October 11, 2019

Someone on the Internet is Wrong

Someone on the Internet is Wrong
©2019  Ross Williams

The problem with the internet is that eventually you run across someone smarter than you who won’t put up with your bullshit.  That’s what recently happened to Robert Pavlis, a Canuckian, a chemist by education, a designer of botanical gardens by hobby, and a self-styled expert on gardening who operates a few gardening blogs.  He ran across me.

Or, well, technically and specifically, I ran across him, but …

I have an infestation of spiny aramanth growing in my pasture that I wish to get rid of.  Spiny aramanth, aka spiny pigweed, is an herbaceous annual that drops a hundred thousand seeds at a go, and grows a half-inch thorn out of the junction of each leaf stem.  The sheep won’t eat it, even when it’s small and un-spiny.  Last year I tried Round-Upping it away, but that didn’t work.  This year I’ve been mowing it down with some success, but not as much as I’d like.  So I was looking for some other suggestions for killing it dead.

The obvious answer to today’s research needs is: the internet.  So I internetted.  One link led to another, and to another beyond that, and yet another on the other side, and I came across a reference to 20% vinegar.  Since I personally prefer natural methods to others − as long as the natural methods work [and many-to-most do not] − I investigated the 20% vinegar option.

Household vinegar, the type found in your cupboard, is between 5 and 6 percent.  At that concentration it is tart and tangy, and will preserve cucumbers from bacterial infestation for prolonged periods of time.  It won’t kill weeds, but when mixed with olive oil, powdered garlic, basil, oregano and salt and sprayed on weeds it might make a decent dressing for a live garden salad. 

Household vinegar will dissolve limestone, though, a fact Hannibal made use of when taking his elephants through the Alps to sack Rome in the Second Punic War.  The Alps had no roads, elephants need roads to travel through rough terrain, and Hannibal needed his war elephants to teach the upstart Romans a lesson.

Hannibal’s soldiers all got a ration of sour wine.  Wine becomes sour when the alcohol in it oxides into ascetic acid.  Ascetic acid is vinegar.  Carthaginian engineers pounded holes into the limestone face of an alpine pass, vinegary sour wine was poured into the holes, and the job of slicing roads through the Alps was made significantly easier.  Better warfare through chemistry!

Twenty percent vinegar, on the other hand, will burn skin.  Its fumes will burn your eyes, your nasal passages and lungs.  It will destroy the leaves and fleshy stems of all plants it touches, within an hour.  And in my tour of the internet, I ran across many references to the herbicidal properties − and cautions − of 20% vinegar.

One of these references was on Robert Pavlis’s gardening blog, from many years ago.  Several of his readers were extolling the virtues of vinegar herbicide, and how preferable it is to Round-Up.  Pavlis, the chemist, scoffed and claimed vinegar doesn’t work well on anything except annual weeds; if you want to kill weeds, he advised multiple times, use Round-Up.  Apparently, many of those readers then accused him of being a shill for Monsanto because conversation threads ended abruptly and fairly awkwardly.  Pavlis later mentioned elsewhere in this discussion that he deletes all comments that accuse him of being a shill for Round-Up.

…apparently this epiphany is not a new amongst his readers.

Other objections to his pro-Round-Up stance continued, mainly that Round-Up causes cancer … which he dismissed as alarmist nonsense without a shred of actual science behind it [he provided some links, which I did not follow; I was on another quest].  Other objections to his position asserted that vinegar is completely natural while Round-Up is not.

I tend to take the position that all chemicals are natural − or at least natural enough − since they are all made from different combinations of the same several dozen elements, even if some of those combinations will kill you in an instant and others will kill you slowly.  But Pavlis smirked at the vinegar is natural argument and claimed that it is not. ...just like a shill for Monsanto would do.  He then claimed that Round-Up is, itself, natural.  This hypocrisy is where I objected.

As a chemist, he knows better.  And I told him that.  I reminded him, in public, of what he already knows about the waste product of yeast, used deliberately if unknowingly for centuries to make a palatable yeast-waste libation, oxidizing into ascetic acid.  This is not even college chemistry he was denying all knowledge and understanding of; this is high school chemistry.  And there it should have ended.  He overstated his case and was caught doing so by a high school science geek and home-brewer.  Look sad and say “D’oh!” Homer.

But it didn’t end, and he didn’t come down from his unsupportable mount.  Several weeks later I got an email notice that he’d replied to me.  He informed me that he didn’t understand my point − now, apparently, he was feigning ignorance of the English language.  He replied to me, in the discussion about the ‘naturalness’ of vinegar versus Round-Up, where he asserts Round-Up is natural but vinegar is not, that while “vinegar exists in nature, a bootle [sic − a dead giveaway of his Canuckitude] of concentrated vinegar does not,” thus backtracking a bit … but only a bit … and completely ignoring the fact that neither does a jug of glyphosate.

That is all immaterial, though, because in the subject of these substances’ naturalness, pointing out the naturalness of vinegar in contradiction to his farcical assertion that even a freshman chem major would laugh at, my correction of his stupidity, according to him, “has nothing to do with this.”  Except that it does.

He then attempted to dodge the point he was checkmated upon, and he dived head first into a contradiction of his prior claims about 20% vinegar herbicide and disavowed all knowledge of botany − which is remarkable given that the boy is the designer of Aspen Grove Gardens in Guelph Ontario.  He claimed that vinegar “does not kill weeds.”

Yet in the earlier part of the discussion with several of his readers, he claimed that vinegar would kill weeds.  He said it would kill many annuals as well as perennials that were just sprouting.  But now, because I cornered him on his idiotic “vinegar is unnatural” rationalization, he is left saving face by further indefensible assertions.

Yet, what does vinegar in high concentrations do to plants?  It burns off their leaves.  Leaves are half of a plant’s mandatory systems.  The other is its roots.  Leaves exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide.  They use chlorophyll to convert sunlight, CO2 and mineral nutrients absorbed by roots into sugars and starches used by the rest of the plant to stay alive.  The roots absorb those mineral nutrients along with most of the plant’s water from the ground.

A failure in any one of those systems, if extended long enough, will kill the plant.  Nineteen years ago I planted privets along my driveway − ALL along the driveway.  My driveway is just over 300’ long before the ninety-degree bend leading to the garage.  The privet hedge was just about a hundred yards long.  I planted 300 privets.

Well, I bought 300 privets, anyway, from the mail-order nursery.  Whether they sent 300 exactly, I do not know.  I didn’t count.  It was raining and dark when I planted them exactly 12 inches apart and wasn’t concerned with the nursery’s warehouse quality control issues.  Within a few years of planting the hedge I discovered that privets needed to be trimmed multiple times per year, and that a hedge roughly a football field long took six weeks, at 2-3 hours a day, to trim.  With a full time job and a surgically-repaired spine, that was more work than I could handle.  I couldn’t both trim the hedge and mow the yard.  As a result, I didn’t trim as often, nor as completely, as I needed to.

Within a decade the hedge was 6 or more feet tall, meaning that trimming the top required holding the hedge clippers over my head for 2-3 hours a day for six weeks at a time.  And while I rationalized the effort as makeshift pect and delt exercise, the bottom line was that it was not an option.  Three years ago, at about this time of the year, I took my pruning saw and started at one end of the hedge and sawed off the privet bushes at the ground.

Shortly after I started, I acquired a 40V battery-operated chain saw and within 8 months [with the intervening winter], I had all 500+ privet bushes lopped off at their knees. ...there were over 500 because they dropped berries which then took root themselves.

The following spring, a year and a half ago, I noticed that the roots of most of those 500 privets started sprouting leaves.  Eh, who cares?  I’ll just mow right over them.  By the end of last year, the roots still leafing were down to several dozen.  This past spring, there were only a dozen or so privet roots still desperately attempting to leaf out.  Last week on my last mowing pass, I didn’t see a single privet leaf.  Killing the top of the plant works.

Basic botany.  Without leaves, the roots cannot survive.  Twenty percent vinegar only kills leaves?  Big deal.  Use 20% vinegar to kill leaves often enough, the plant will die.  Burn the leaves off often enough with fire, the plant will die.  Cut the leaves off often enough with hedge trimmers − as I did to the white mulberry growing by the corner of my garage − the plant will die.  Might need to keep doing it for a few months, but it will die.

Without leaves, the plant will die.  It doesn’t matter why the plant doesn’t have leaves.  Vinegar, fire, clippers … lawn mower.  All will work.  This is the way plant life goes, and self-styled gardening experts with their own botanical gardens and degrees in chemistry know this very, very well.  Why they don’t want to acknowledge that they know this and promote, instead, a narrative that only Round-Up will kill weeds even though they are notNotNOT a shill for Monsanto, is anyone’s guess.

The reality is, though, Robert Pavlis is wrong.  I know it.  He knows it.  He overstated his case.  Period.  Vinegar is not natural.”

Yes it is.  It is created by the oxidation of a basic compound excreted by a basic biological organism.  It is the purest essence of natural, in fact.  But it doesn’t kill weeds.”

Maybe not immediately, but with repeated application it will.  That answer isn’t changing because an Agri-Chem booster has an axe to grind.

And now I’m going to mow down my spiny aramanth and spray Round-Up on those the mower can’t reach.  I’m not risking my eyes, sinuses and lungs for the sheep.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Diogenes the Libertarian Travels Muh Roads

Diogenes the Libertarian Travels Muh Roads
©2019  Ross Williams

One of the most perplexing positions taken by Not Quite Libertarians is their position on roads.  I have sometimes likened their position as one awaiting a chalk outline, for if they ever got their way it would kill virtually everything else their libertarianism claims to stand for.

Not Quite Libertarians want the government out of the road-making business.  Out of the road maintaining business.  Off the roads, period.  They mock anyone suggesting differently with the not-exactly clever but totally infantile “Muh roads” goad.  Sometimes they spell roads with a ‘z’ to appear especially childish.  They want all roads to be privately owned.  It’s better this way, they say.

Oh? many wonder.  What?” they sneer back; “You don’t think private individuals can contract out for paving?  You think only government knows how to make flat things??

That’s not really the issue, but sure, let’s start there.  I have five acres and a small farm.  I need to get my animals to the slaughter house periodically.  And let’s suppose that Voldemort had expelliarmused all American roads into oblivion before he went ditto.  How do I get my livestock the 22 miles to the butcher?

A road.  But this is now also, suddenly, not simply a libertarian subject, but an anarcho-libertarian subject where government has no recognizable role.  I must build my own road.  So I do.  …to the edge of my property, for that is all I have a right to.  The next 21.87 miles comes from where?  My neighbors.

I must now contact ALL of my neighbors, and ALL of the property owners between me and the slaughterhouse 22 miles away, in order to find a contiguous path which can be graveled, paved or cemented to connect me with the outlet for my farm product.  Many neighbors are also farmers and sympathetic to my plight.  Some of them sign up for it in principle − details notwithstanding.  But most of these farmers are crop farmers, and they don’t want a road to the slaughterhouse.  They need a road to the grain silo, which is 18 miles in another direction.  I’m trying to get a road 22 miles to the southeast, most of the rest want a road 18 miles to the west-southwest.

I am willing to accept a non-direct path to the slaughterhouse simply for the sake of compromise, but some of the others are not.  It’s either straight to the silo or it’s not happening.  And that’s not to include those who are not farmers at all and have other road priorities or who, for their own personal reasons, simply don’t like farmers and are unwilling to accede to their farmer neighbors’ requests to allow me to cross their property with a truck full of smelly animals going to meet the meat counter, nor allow the grain farmers to move corn and soybeans to the succotash silo.  A surprising number of well-fed people dislike those who feed them; meat is murder and crops are fed dicamba when they aren’t watered with glyphosate.

Finally, after months of emails − because personal meetings with those whose property does not abut mine cannot be accomplished when there is no rightful manner of shaking their hand, remember − we discover no agreed upon means of connecting the livestockers to the slaughterhouse nor the tillers to the silo.  Nor the non-farmers to the grocery store where their food won’t be found because we can’t move our product to it.  Universal agreement has never, ever, ever occurred.  Even the vote for war after Pearl Harbor had dissent.

So someone comes up with an idea: get a committee together with someone to represent the interests of the livestock farmers, one the grain farmers, two the non-agricultural property owners [two, because there’s significantly more of these types], and one the merchants, to hammer out a network of roads.  These roads would all be privately owned, of course, by those whose property it crosses, and would allow me to get my animals chopped up, my neighbors to get their wheat ground into flour, others to get to work, and businesses to conduct business.  Every property in the region must be connected to the road system.  That’s the charter.

…a-a-a-and we’ve just discovered government.  We’re right back to the condition the “muh roads” simpletons set out to avoid.

This government solution, though, can take a few forms.  The basic distinction between these forms of government whose purpose is to create a libertarian road system lies in the ability − or not − to compel a landowner to allow the road to cross his property.  If the grassroots government committee has this power [and let’s just call it eminent domain just for grins] then it would be effectively no different from the government we have making a road system now. …except that the resulting roads are owned in individual chunks by the landowners and not the government itself.

But since we’re trying to create a road system with meaningful distinction from the current model, let’s propose that this ad hoc government road committee does not have the power of eminent domain.  Private property may be used for roads only to the degree the landowner agrees to allow it.  In instances where a large chunk of land is owned by Andy Smith, who operates a 10,000 acre tilled farm, and it would make sense to virtually everyone else to have a road go north to south through his land, he only agrees to a road east to west, because that points in the direction of the grain silo which is critical to his individual purposes.  This grassroots committee must comply with his demand.  It has no choice.

The resulting road system is a series of switchbacks and odd angles accommodating the myriad demands of the thousands of individual property owners in the region.  Straight lines between anywhere and anywhere else are rare to the degree of being included under the Endangered Species Act.

In order to get two miles east, one must travel twelve miles by road. …a condition still visible in many rural areas today where the road system is simply the government annexed private roads dating back to the 19th century, the exact sort of area I live in.  A number of years ago, a thoroughbred ranch exactly four-tenths of a mile to the west of me lost a horse in the middle of the night, during a bitterly cold winter storm.  Wind snapped a fencepost, the horse panicked and bolted through, and ran around the neighborhood, scaring − literally − women, children and domesticated animals.

It landed one field to the north at my neighbor who had horses, and circled his pasture getting his horses worked up.  Rick, my neighbor with the horses, caught the thoroughbred, but his horses were too excited to have company.  He called me about 1AM and asked if he could bring it to me and stick it in with my horse.  Sure, I said.  So we bundled up the kids to await the arrival of an actual thoroughbred.  We stuck it in the barn and gave it a bucket of water and a whole bale of hay for itself.  It towered over my Tennessee Walker, who took one look at his barn buddy and quickly headed outside to stand ass against the wind.

After the sun came up calls were made and we discovered that it came from the place exactly four-tenths of a mile to the west of me.  It was one of the horses we would see grazing over the intervening hay field.

The owner came with his horse trailer to pick it up, thanked me and Rick profusely, then drove it four-tenths of a mile west. … by way of a quarter mile east, almost one mile north, a half mile east, eight-tenths of a mile north, over a mile west, a half mile south, a quarter mile west, a half mile south and a quarter mile east.  Exactly as the private roads carved 180 years ago and annexed, but not improved, by the government would dictate.

Because it’s better this way.

But the issue with libertarian roads is not in the acquisition of them − building them, creating them from nothing − as frustrating and convoluted as it may be.  Nor is it really with the maintenance of them, as so many “muh roads” nincompoops wish to reduce it to, and thereupon strawman all rational objections.  The issue is with the consequences of the libertarianism of libertarian roads.  ALL the consequences, not merely the inefficient land use of spaghetti maps, nor the haphazard maintenance.  Libertarian roads jeopardize virtually every other aspect of libertarianism, and means − effectively − you can either have private roads or any other form of liberty, but not both.

Simplistically, liberty means freedom.  To the degree that liberty does not mean “freedom to do whatever the fuck I want and the hell with the rest of you”, it means freedom from inappropriate and excessive government imposition on what I want to do.  And what is “inappropriate and excessive government imposition”?  It depends greatly.  In most nations, it means whatever the government says it means.  In our nation, it means what the constitutional limitations on government power says it means.

If we are to have the actual, by-god, libertarian governance our constitution foisted upon us, then the liberty in libertarianism means something fairly specific.  Let’s just stroll through those specifics as they relate to private, libertarian roads.

For me to get my animals to the slaughterhouse 22 miles away, I now have to drive 26 miles to do it.  It is entirely likely that I’d have to drive 60 miles or more to get there on libertarian roads, and have to use a few hundred individually-owned scraps of road to do it.  Road-use creates wear and tear on that road, a fact that I am painfully aware of living on such a private road already and which I must maintain because the owner of the road − a crop farmer who uses it only to get his tractor to the field on the far side of it − doesn’t feel the need to because he doesn’t care about its condition.  He only cares that it exists.  A landowner cannot legitimately be expected to maintain his private road for general use all on his own, so the logical, practical, necessary thing to do would be to make those who use the road pay for their usage. […which I am effectively doing already, to the limits and priorities of my finances.]

This means, in its simplest form: toll booths.  There’d be a toll booth at every property line.  In densely-populated areas this would be every 40 or 50 feet. …and wouldn’t that be convenient!  They’d either be automated − at fairly significant expense, which would then be added into the toll − or manually operated, which would require the landowner have no other life apart from collecting the toll.  If automated, you’d better have exact change.  Driving ten miles to work in the morning may cost $25 [more, if you don’t have exact change] and take 45 minutes.

Forgoing the myriad technical options in the middle, let’s just skip right on to the Nth-degree solution and implant every vehicle with an RFTag and every property owner with a scanner which can then be used to automate billing.  Let’s skip over the tech giant who makes this automated billing possible − for a hefty fee − and the practical result that a great many individual private road owners cannot pay for the billing services on their private road AND acquire enough revenue to maintain the road in a usable condition.  If you think the highly variable maintenance of government roads from one township to another, one county to another, one state to another is appalling, just wait until the maintenance responsibility of roads changes multiple times per mile.

Let’s also skip over the very great likelihood that large numbers of road users will detour around the scanners to avoid being billed, thus creating greater expense for the landowner in constructing barriers, and thus greater tolls to recoup those expenses, thus increasing the likelihood that their section of road cannot remain both profitable and maintained.

Next, let’s skip over those chunks of road owned by CPAs, who understand the costs involved in maintenance, how to meaningfully calculate the rates of usage, and how to divide one into the other to determine the cost, per vehicle per ton driven, needing to be extracted from each in order to have a practically useful road.  These roads will be prohibitively expensive to most, and you can add another quarter hour to your ten mile drive to work to use an alternate route.

And let’s finally skip over the even greater likelihood that many individual road owners simply cannot or do not participate in the RFTag [or other tech] scheme [libertarianism is all about voluntary, after all], and those who participate but who use the revenues for other libertarian things … like drugs or cable TV.  Or food.  Their patches of road will be unmaintained and crossing them will be time-consuming vehicular torture.  Or it will be a five mile detour.  Either way, add another half hour to the 10 mile drive to work.

And let’s completely ignore the maps necessary to navigate this mess, containing not merely the directions and road names, but also the monetary cost for each individual section.

Shortly after this shiny, new, libertarian road system becomes operational, someone decides he’s going to move.  And because he’s devious, he decides he’s going to retain “access rights”.  He’ll sell the property, but the road access − like mineral rights before it − are retained by the previous owner.  All tolls are earned by the seller.  Whether or not the original owner also takes the maintenance duties with him will depend on how devious he is.

And shortly after this, some enterprising entrepreneur will notice that individual property owners are not really all that interested in the day to day operation of their 40-foot or quarter-mile sections of road.  It’s too much work.  And bookkeeping.  And tracking down scofflaws.  Failure to pay tolls on a government-owned toll road is a crime, and ultimately the police will come looking for you.  Failure to pay tolls on a privately-owned toll road is a “personal injury”, and without the absence of a legal system, it is enforced only through tort law.  Each individual non-payor must be sued individually.  Pursuing such would be prohibitive, even if successful, for nearly all individual private road owners; people simply have too much real life to live.  Road access rights will start being sold to private road conglomerates − individual business ventures that consolidates road access in a region.  Such a conglomerate will have the time, money and on-staff loyyering to go after the free riders in court.

Of course, this presupposes that the “muh roads” drips are not completely anarchic in their privatization sentiments and are willing to concede a court system in their mistopian visions of a libertarian future.  If not, then we’ve just entered the world of Mad Max, with vigilante gangs and yet another proof that democracy is simply a polite term for mob rule.  But I’m going remain hopeful and simply say that the court system will be instantly choked with legal claims for nonpayment of road-use fees.  And at some point, likely very soon after these cases start coming up on the docket, a loyyer for the scofflaw will put up a legal challenge to private road usage based on hardship.  …which will be discussed later.

In any event, the myriad individual- and conglomerate-owned private roads will be a hodge-podge of petty fiefdoms.  Apart from Simon Bar Sinister operating his road conglomerate on this side of town, Snidely Whiplash having the roads downtown and on the west side, Dick Dastardly with his Southside range, C. Montgomery Burns’ control of the commercial and industrial section, and the financier Gary Gamel and his Gargamel Holding Company controlling almost everything else, there’s … well, me.  I’m keeping my road.

There are many neighbors of mine whom I would not allow to cross my property for any amount of money.  I do not like them.  More formally, road-use conglomerates would undoubtedly create Terms of Service agreements implicitly agreed upon by users simply by their use … in exactly the same way Facebook, YouTube, Google, Yahoo, Netflix, Hulu, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc have done.  Legally binding, full of indecipherable verbiage that cannot be digested on the spot nor without legal counsel.  The moment you cross paths with the RF scanner you will get a text on your smartphone indicating you are implicitly agreeing to the Terms of Service required by the operator of the road you’re on.  You either click ‘yes’ to continue your drive to work, or you click ‘no’ and are remotely photographed for use as evidence against you when you have your day in court for failure to meet your contractual requirements.

Because Terms of Service are what they are, and because libertarians are what they are, not many libertarians will have an ideological leg to stand on when one decides that a road conglomerate determines a given individual to be in violation and thus has his access reduced or denied altogether.  Certain of my neighbors and anyone who runs afoul of Snidely Whiplash ... go around.  In my neck of the woods, it would make the nearly six mile trip to go four-tenths of a mile into a fifteen mile trip.  If it can be made at all.

That’s the way libertarianism is.  My property; I can say who can use it.  And you can’t, so go around.

It is the exact situation as with the bakery in Colorado.  The bakery gets to decide who it does business with, and if the bakery doesn’t like gay weddings, he doesn’t have to bake the cake for it.  No reason is necessary; that’s what property rights are all about.  Similarly, if Facebook doesn’t like what an anti-socialist troublemaker has to say about their favorite philosophies, they can interpret one of the many vague codicils in their Terms of Service to throttle or ban the troublemaker.  Just as similarly, if YouTube doesn’t like the video shorts that have been loaded onto their site, they can remove them citing another interpretation of vague implicit user agreement.

When we apply these principles to private roads it would, in some cases, result in property owners being veritably imprisoned within the confines of their property lines.  The only road out is privately owned by a guy like me, or a faceless entity run by Dick Dastardly, who does not like that individual, and has denied that individual the use of the road leading to other parts of the world.  Such as the office, where he works for a living.  Such as the grocery store, where he gets his food.  Such as the school his children attend.  This would undoubtedly happen millions of times over, throughout the country.  We’ve now reconstructed feudalism, even if in a limited and confusing manner, and are pleased to call it liberty.

With liberty like that, who needs authoritarian dictatorship?

Of course, that breed of theory-heavy libertarian who sees nothing wrong with the foregoing will shout out a solution from the comfy confines of the navel he gazes into: “Competition!

Yes.  The answer is competition.  Roadway competition.  Because new real estate upon which to build those alternate roads is created over and on top of the existing real estate, which explains why the value of property keeps going down: vast increase in supply.

So … roads on stilts, then? with access ramps?  Running all the way to another road system operated by a more amenable operator.  A nice, cheap, workable option, that.


Let’s be honest: idiotic is the most polite way of describing “competition”.  Back we go to the courts.

One of the legal arguments to be put up by someone confined within his property lines by road owners denying him road access will be some form or other of hardship.  Setting aside the loyyerly minutiae, these cases will be decided in a patchwork of predictable rulings, and ultimately settled by the Supreme Court choosing one of them.

The first is the thoroughly libertarian way: the courts rule that the road on my property is my property; I get to decide who can use it and who can’t.  If that means a few of my neighbors are imprisoned on their own land, so be it.  And the courts have validated a libertarian feudalism.  Only those approved of by the road operators are permitted to participate in the Free Market.  Everyone else is a vassal, tied to his land.  One is rendered into a vassal by running afoul of the owner of the road leading away from that land.

The second is the socialist way: the courts rule that the roads are properly accessible by all as a “public accommodation” with user fees waived under a [growing] list of reasons − completely ignoring the fact that in a constitutional republic the only true “public accommodation” is one operated by the government.  Anything that is privately owned is, by definition, a private accommodation.  This ruling, though, is keeping in line with many other legal rulings of our courts, deciding
, e.g., that all privately-owned businesses be accessible to the handicapped, even if the business doesn’t want the business of the handicapped.  This would effectively nationalize the roads, putting us right back where we started by having government-controlled roads, only with private maintenance at private cost but without usage-fee funding, and with convoluted 6-mile trips to go a half mile.

The third is a hybrid of the two − and is also a common landing spot for court rulings − in which the courts declare that the roads may be operated for private profit by their owners, but that everyone must still have access, and fees are set by the courts, or a court-appointed entity.  Roads become, effectively, a public utility and road operators are rendered into a franchise of the government and may be profitable only to the limits of government allowance.  Rate hikes must be approved by the government, and will take years.

I would be willing to bet that the courts would not allow libertarian roads to stand.

In the absence of courts, however, private roads result in post-apocalyptic Mad Maxianism.  In the presence of courts, private roads result in cultural devolution into feudalism, or outright socialism, or semi-socialism … which is still socialism.  And just to be clear, socialism is the government control of economic activities.  Private roads operated for profit are an economic activity.   When the government confiscates roads without also confiscating the responsibility for them, or when the government sets economic caps on their operation, it is government control, and therefore socialism.  On the other hand, public roads operated for public use and the responsibility of the government are a public service and not a direct economic activity.

Let’s simply acknowledge that the Constitution which ushered in our libertarian system of governance was written by those who understood that in order to effect the greatest liberty for the greatest number, the government needed to provide for communication and transportation.  Communication in the late 18th century consisted of mail; transportation consisted of the roads to carry it on.  Trade, and the Free Market which relies upon trade, cannot occur otherwise.  Mail and roads are constitutionally defined government powers.  For libertarians, that must be enough.

The primary Not Quite Libertarian argument against government roads is that the government is inherently inefficient and corrupt − which is not even marginally disputed.  And we may thank god that non-government entities like Facebook and YouTube are not.  So address the government’s inefficiency and corruption.  Either take part in your governance and be an involved libertarian, or ignore it as an inevitable consequence of any government and be a cynical libertarian.

But be a libertarian.  Stop trying to play off cultural retrograde as a social benefit.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

The Vice of Extremism in the Defense of Inarticulately Understood Liberty

The Vice of Extremism in the Defense of Inarticulately Understood Liberty
©2019  Ross Williams

This just in, maybe: President Donnie Combover today signed an Executive Order prohibiting garishly-colored iPhone cases.  Included in this ban are any iPhone cases which have a pattern, repeating or random, or having more than one color, or which give the appearance of being multi-colored.  The only iPhone cases allowed under this will be various shades of gray.  The ACLU has vowed to seek an injunction based on 1stAM free speech grounds.

…insert an interceding paragraph solely for the purpose of allowing the foregoing to sink in…

Any libertarian who employs intellect over emotion can tell you this is not a First Amendment issue.  An iPhone case is not free speech.  It being disallowed does not materially interfere with one’s exercise of Free Speech, even if an iPhone is the only means by which one can think to exercise it.  The libertarian would argue that the ACLU doesn’t understand the Constitution as well as they like to think they do.

But that same libertarian would also argue that the federal government still has no legitimate authority to regulate iPhone cases even if it isn’t a 1stAM free speech issue.  The body of the Constitution gives the government zero authority to do this, therefore the government may not − no matter how it tries to: ExOrd, Act of Congress, judicial decree… anything.

iPhone cases are not the government’s purview.  Period.  A libertarian would argue that the Constitution, legitimately enforced and upheld, would disallow this imposition despite it having nothing to do with the 1stAM.

This also just in [sorta]: President Cheeto announced a new federal regulation banning bump stocks and any other device which harnesses the energy of a long-barrel recoil to activate the trigger faster.  The NRA vows legal action over its 2ndAM implications.

…another interceding paragraph solely for the purpose of allowing the foregoing to sink in…

…let’s make it two, because for some reason this is not something that sinks in very quickly among certain people…

The libertarian who employs intellect over emotion can tell you this is not a Second Amendment issue any more than banning iPhone cases is a First Amendment thing.  A bump stock is not a gun, nor is it any other ‘arm’.  It is an accessory to an ‘arm’, just as a gorilla-hide shoulder strap would be, or a rhino-horn pistol grip, … or as a tiger-stripe iPhone case is an accessory to an iPhone.

A bump stock being banned does not materially interfere with one’s exercise of the 2ndAM, even if a long-barrel semi-auto is the only means by which one can think of to exercise the 2ndAM.  The libertarian would argue that the NRA − and all “libertarians” bawling about the 2ndAM − do not understand the Constitution as well as they like to think they do.

This thought-over-feelz libertarian would nevertheless argue, instead, just as with the iPhone case ban, that the federal government has no legitimate authority to regulate bump stocks even if it doesn’t fall under the 2ndAM.  It is also a body-of-the-Constitution matter.  Bump stock are not the government’s purview, and the Constitution, legitimately enforced and upheld, would disallow this imposition despite it having nothing to do with the 2ndAM.

But where does that leave us?

Anyone arguing that banning rainbow-colored iPhone cases is a 1stAM free speech matter and not that it exceeds baseline government authority makes a mockery of Constitutional Law.   Proponents of iPhonse case bans will be quick to point it out.  If free speech is the only constitutional argument made against the ban, it would surely lose.  For two reasons:
1] one branch of government is rarely likely to interfere with another branch of government’s attempt to hoover more power for itself despite limitations on those powers, because it will want quid pro quo in the future, and
2] courts are even more rarely likely to offer alternative [and proper] Constitutional argument on their own and in place of the moronic Constitutional argument because doing so would interfere with power-hoovering [see #1 immediately above].

This is the nature of government.  Of all government.

It is incumbent to make proper and appropriate Constitutional argument against the government seizing power it wasn’t given.  Inept constitutional argument gets dismissed by all but issue-driven acolytes as the inarticulate, anti-intellectual flailing it is. 

Do we not realize that equivocating a firearm accessory into a firearm itself is an inept constitutional argument demanding to be dismissed by everyone else as idiotic rationalization?  Those who would deny Americans their 2ndAM gun rights do.

The real issue is that the government − because of the nature of government − seeks to increase its own power irrespective of limitations on that power, or the rules it must follow.  Our government ignores the body-of-the-Constitution limitations on its power just as easily as it does the inviolable Bill of Rights assertion of peoples’ rights.  Why make it easier by arguing the wrong thing when the government exceeds its power?

The government was not given the authority to ban iPhone cases.  If and when it does, it’s not a 1stAM matter.  It’s a body-of-the-Constitution matter; argue it as such.  Arguing it as a 1stAM free speech issue is begging to have your ass be laughed out of court.

The government was not given the authority to ban bump stocks.  When it did, it was not a 2ndAM issue.  It was a body-of-the-Constitution matter; it needs to be argued as such.  Arguing it as a gun rights issue is demanding to be dismissed as one-dimensional crackpottery.

Dig it: banning an item tangential to guns can be anti-constitutional for reasons other than the 2ndAM.  Let’s pretend we’ve read the whole Constitution.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Skinning a Dead Retiree

There’s More Than One Way to Skim
©2019  Ross Williams

Illinois just embarked on a cynical Master Plan to collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually − in 30 to 50 years − to cover its longstanding and notorious pension shortfall.  This will end up hurting, mostly, low-wage workers.  Illinois is doing this in the form of, nominally, a quasi-mandatory state-operated IRA for employees of IL businesses who do not have an employer-provided retirement fund option − a 401(k) or 403(b).  This program is purportedly to help those low-wage workers.

According to the state of Illinois, this will affect 1.2 million [current] Illinoisans.  And because the employment nature of these workers is highly fluid with extremely high turnover, the number of workers who will be affected by this will number in the hundreds of millions within a generation.  The way it works is this.

As an employee of an Illinois business which does not provide a retirement program, you may either:
1] set up your state-run retirement account
2] declaratively opt out of the state-run retirement account, or
3] do nothing.

If you do nothing, you will automatically be enrolled in the state-run retirement account − without your explicit permission or, likely, your knowledge.

Whether you set up your retirement account or do nothing, 5% of your pay will be extracted from your paycheck and invested in one of a very slim set of investment options typically offered by employer-provided 401(k)s.  The investment options available in the Illinois program are a glorified CD with a miniscule APY; an S&P Index Fund; a ‘conservative’ Bond Fund; and a “Target” Fund for your estimated retirement cohort.

Remember that most of the employees who do not have access to employer-provided retirement plans are low-wage workers of the minimum and near-minimum wage variety who work varying or seasonal hours.  They are also of the not terribly worldly and aware variety.  As such, they are very likely to ignore emails from the state of Illinois with their account “credentials” and never formally opt out of the program.  Because of the variable nature of their employment, they’ll never notice 5% of their pay missing from their fluctuating wages.

Their retirement accounts will continue to collect wages for as long as the worker is working in Illinois, and the worker will be none the wiser.

Or the worker will graduate from college, quit their part-time job making pizzas, get hired by some company in another state and forget all about that paltry little IRA the state of Illinois started for them.

Or the worker will get a job due to an ultimatum from the parents in whose basement he lives, work until he gets fired, and leave his state-held IRA to collect dust.  Rinse and repeat.

Or the worker will refuse to enroll or opt out because he doesn’t want to make his presence known to immigration officials, and will view 5% more being pulled from his paycheck as just another cost inherent to living the dreamer dream.

Or any of a thousand other scenarios all resulting in dust-covered retirement accounts earning value for decades.

In any event, there’s very likely to be hundreds of millions of IRAs held by the state of Illinois in thirty to fifty years, each holding between several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.  It is also highly probable that the vast majority of these accounts will ultimately be classified as abandoned property under state law.

Current state law
 allows the state of Illinois to steal [the technical term is “escheat”, which adequately describes the process, even with the extra “es” on the front to be confusing] a person’s bank account, or insurance settlement, or inheritance, or bitcoin vault, or gift card [etc] after three years of dormancy.  This time limit was reduced in 2017 from five years.  Illinois apparently needed a lot more cash all of a sudden.  …for some reason.  …probably having nothing to do with idiot democrat policies.  ...perish the thought.

The escheatment rules for IRAs allow the state − currently − to steal the retirement accounts within three years of the statutory age of required minimum distribution … the age that the IRS says you are required to start collecting from your personal retirement fund.  The IRS has set this age to 70 and a half.  As with everything else socialist, and as a perfect bookend to the quasi-mandatory “from each according to ability”, these limitations can be altered according to Illinois’ needs.

What we end up with is a state government that’s been doing the slow toilet swirl typical of all socialist governance in desperate need for money because of its short-sighted policies.  They have created what is, for them, possibly the first long-term solution to their idiocies, albeit a thoroughly socialist solution.

Inspire the working poor to send you even more of their paychecks on the pretense of helping them save for retirement, even if they don’t want to.  Place the money in an actual investment fund, and not the T-bills that “excess” social security revenues are “invested” in.  Watch the money grow at 6-10% annually for a generation or two.  Wait for the working poor to move out of state, or get old and forgetful.  Then take their money when they aren’t looking and give it to the surly assholes who retired from the DMV because you ran out of the traditional sources of Other Peoples’ Money.

And don’t forget to turn on the Virtue Signal.  That will justify the socialist pilfery.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Doctor Government

Doctor Government
©2019  Ross Williams

New York has proposed a law, or has just passed a law, requiring measles vaccines be forced upon all people who don’t have a medical excuse.  This would impose the measles vaccination upon religious groups such as the Amish and Mennonites, the Christian Scientists, and Hassidic Jews.  Religious exemption, nationwide, is about 1% of the population, though it is likely significantly more in certain parts of New York affected by this law.  Anti-vaxxers who actually refuse to vax are an even smaller group.

All because there’s almost a thousand cases of measles currently popping up.  Four years ago there were 8.000 cases of measles in southern California and Arizona arriving in the luggage of a foreigner visiting Disneyland.  One death was reported from the 2015 epidemic.

I mentioned at the time that the transmission rate of measles among the vaccinated population in the US was virtually identical to the transmission rate among the never-vaccinated populations from which such measles outbreaks start.  CDC and NIH data bears this out, both talking about “waning immunity” by 10-15 years post-inoculation, and an extremely conservative “at least 5%” vaccine failure rate, that is much closer to 10%.

Almost one-tenth of those vaccinated will have no immunity, even temporarily, after vaccination.  Within five years another 25% will have lost any immunity they had, and in the next decade four-in-five will have lost immunity.  Simply put, measles vaccine is not as effective as medical propagandists and politicians are trying to convince everyone it is, nor is the disease − in the United States − as dangerous.  It is exceptionally rare to die from measles when in the presence of modern medicine.

Epidemiologists talk about exposure, transmission rate, and morbidity/mortality rate of disease.  Exposure is how many times a person comes into contact with the disease over a period of time; the transmission rate is the likelihood that the exposure will lead to infection, and the morbidity/mortality rate is the likelihood that the disease will kill or permanently damage the one who is ill.

Prior to measles vaccine, three to four million Americans got the disease each year, and 3,000 died from it, with another thousand developing encephalitis. That’s a low transmission rate and relatively low morbidity/mortality rate.

Because of vaccination, the exposure to measles in the United States is vanishingly rare.  We usually require a foreigner to bring it to us.  That’s commonly how it happens.   Because of the nature of our immigration system, those foreign carriers are nearly always “undocumented”.  But because the vaccine is largely ineffective after a very short time, the transmission rate of the disease, once established in the US, is the same as it is anywhere else on the planet.  And because our medical system is superb, despite Obamacare boosters’ claims to the contrary and despite Obamacare attempting to make it less so, almost no one dies or suffers permanent injury from measles in the US.

This all points to measles currently being a whole lot of worry about almost nothing.  It is certainly not an issue that requires mandatory vaccination programs in excess of what already exists.

In comparison, the exposure rate to food poisoning in the US is astronomical, while the transmission rate is miniscule.  The mortality rate is − statistically − virtually zero.  With the exception of those who are still breastfeeding, every man, woman and child is exposed to the various bacteria that cause food poisoning − rebranded as “food-borne illness” because ‘food poisoning’ is too succinct for our modern taste in euphemism − every day of their lives.  That is 325 million exposures, 365 days a year.  Almost 120 billion exposures in the US. 

The CDC estimates that almost 50 million people actually get food poisoning; I would estimate it’s more than that.  The CDC estimates this because the only true statistical source they have is reports from doctors and hospitals about patients who seek treatment.

Because the symptoms of food poisoning are gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, most people self-medicate with over-the-counter remedies and wait it out.  These are also the same symptoms of a sudden change in diet from too much dairy, too much fiber, too much greasy food, too much spicy food, or too much alcohol.  Relatively few people actually seek treatment for these symptoms given the prevalence of them, and only 3,000 nationwide die from ingesting the bacteria of food poisoning each year. 

Those who die are almost entirely confined to the extremely old, the extremely young, and those whose immune systems have been compromised by other diseases.  Three thousand deaths out of 120 billion exposures is nothing to get all governmental about.  You don’t find a significant digit in the math until 6 or 8 places to the right of the decimal point.

Yet, as a nation, we spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually in the food inspection business, at all levels of government, to waylay food poisoning.  And for all that money, the transmission rate and mortality rate has not changed by a single decimal point, no matter how far to the right you wish to carry the calculation.

Food poisoning largely isn’t acquired through food in any event.  The most common source for ingesting the bacteria responsible for food poisoning is by putting your hands to your mouth after they’ve touched something germy and before you washed them.  The average person puts their hands to their mouth 5,000 times a day.  There’s a reason 80% of your immune system is in your gut; most of the reason for needing immunity is because of what goes in your mouth.

In further comparison, influenza is a disease which effectively exists only from November through April.  The exposure to it is all 330 million of us Americans, dozens of times during “cold and flu season”.  Let’s say 16 billion exposures.  Most people self-medicate the flu as well, thus causing the CDC to estimate that fifty to sixty million cases of flu occur during the half-year that it rampages.  And despite it only being seriously active for six months a year, thirty thousand people die from it, on average, each year in the US.  The 2017-18 flu season was particularly deadly, killing almost 80,000. 

Fun fact: The rate of morbidity from influenza today is the same rate of morbidity from measles prior to the measles vaccine.

Flu vaccines are largely quite effective, given the highly mutable nature of the influenza virus.  Yet despite influenza killing, on average, 30,000 people each year, the government has not mandated flu shots for all.  Vaccination is left as a completely voluntary medical choice.

Measles is a disease that, in the United States, has mandatory vaccination.  About 2% of the general population is exempted because of medical reasons, about 1% is exempted for religious reasons, and about 0.5% refuse vaccination out of sheer obstinacy.  It should be pointed out that undocumented aliens who likely imported the disease in the first place are not required to vaccinate because doing so would alert immigration officials to their presence, and thus prevent a clear Virtue Signal to be broadcast on their behalf.

The measles vaccine received by more than 95% of the population has a very high failure rate and a very low long-term efficacy.  Even so, when the disease is contracted it has almost no morbidity or mortality.  And this vaccine is being pushed on the religious objectors and the reluctant at the point of a sword.  It is simultaneously being unimposed on the carrier population.

Food poisoning exposure is rampant, but when contracted the disease is trivial in all but those with compromised immunity and it causes statistically few deaths.  Yet we annually spend approximately three-quarters of a trillion dollars nationwide to address it, but haven’t affected it one iota.

Influenza hits about one-fifth of us a year and kills tens of thousands.  Effective vaccines are available, but addressing the disease is left up to individual choice.  The government has, as it were, washed its hands of it.

om a purely public health perspective, the authoritarian sturm und drang pointed at measles is pointless; forcing another 1.5% of the population to get immunized and ignoring those who brought the disease here because it serves a “progressive” political agenda is not simply stupid, but fuckingly so.  The trillions of dollars devoted to food safety over the years has been more wasteful than simply mounding cash in a city park and setting fire to it.  At least a fire would cook the e Coli out of the burgers.

If government wants to defy their Constitutional limitations and keep their people healthy despite those peoples’ wishes, all the authoritarian energy devoted to measles fretting, and the trillions of dollars dumped into the futile effort to make a dent in food poisoning should be redirected at making influenza vaccination mandatory.  It would actually save lives. 

…that is, if the medical propagandists and politicians were actually concerned about saving the lives of their citizens.

If all they really want to do, though, is increase government power without making a difference, then they should stay the course.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Geopolitics for Libertarian Dummies

Geopolitics for Libertarian Dummies
©2019  Ross Williams

One of the most consistent criticisms I have about libertarians is their steadfast, pacifist, hypocritical refusal to apply their stated principles to international affairs.  As soon as the subject starts dealing with something farther afield than a zoning board ruling, or a property tax referendum for their local school district and I remind them of what they claim to stand for, they scoop up their children and their pets, lock the doors behind them, and peek furtively through their kitchen curtains until the scary man with the imperialist proclivities goes away.

If I’m what they think an imperialist is, then they’re in for a rude awakening when they emerge from their mother’s basement into the real world to encounter the assholes in any number of other nations.  Assholes who, by and large, without us behaving as I advise us to occasionally behave, would do their damnedest to imperialize as much as they could, to include [if possible] the basements of many libertarian’s mothers.

Not that these libertarians would acknowledge the assholery of certain foreigners, of course.  Many libertarians respond to reality with some combination of wishful thinking and theoretics.  “Well, I don’t like the thing that’s actually happening!  This is how it’s supposed to work, so therefore it does…”.

Yeah… no.  And geopolitics is arguably the biggest academic, intellectual stumbling block for libertarians to trip over.  Just consider how they filter personal interactions versus sovereign interactions through the philosophy of their sainted Non-Aggression Principle.

The libertarian’s Holy NAP states, simply enough: It is never permissible to initiate force; force may only be used in self-defense or the defense of others.  And the phrasing here is critical.  Force may be used.  It is not required to be used.

The Holy NAP is a truly fine, fine principle.  But libertarians commonly abandon it when presented with an international reality in which the principle would be useful.  Many times, they’ll deny that the principle allows for “defense of others”.  This, despite the position many libertarians have taken on abortion, where they advocate the government prohibit it.  Think of the children!!”  Not to mention the position so very many of them took when Rand Paul was clocked by his neighbor.

Let’s walk through the libertarian geopolitical cognitive dissonance one step at a time. 

Scenario 1: A libertarian is sitting at home minding his own business, and someone breaks down his front door and ransacks the place.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian shooting the intruder dead.  If the intruder has cohorts out in the street, the libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit taking the fight to them as well.

Corollary: The libertarian’s nation is sitting at home minding its own business, when someone invades and ransacks the place.  The libertarian will usually, but not always, read the Holy NAP to permit shooting the intruder dead.  I’ve run across an odd libertarian or two who will make excuses for the invader, claiming that the invader was justified in his invasion because of something the libertarian’s nation did.  I’ve run across a significantly larger number of libertarians who will resist taking the fight to the invader’s cohorts and helpers.

For both: witness the collective libertarian responses to 9/11.  Panislamist yahoos in a shoestring paramilitary force under the sovereign protection of Afghanistan invaded the US, knocked down some really tall buildings and just generally made assholes of themselves.  A few libertarians excused this behavior, though most did not.  Many-to-most libertarians, though, denied the right of US sovereign self-defense in taking the fight to the invaders’ cohorts in the accessory nation of Afghanistan.

Scenario 2a: A libertarian is visiting the home of a friend or acquaintance across town when an intruder breaks down the door and attacks the libertarian.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian shooting dead the intruder of another’s home.  If the intruder has cohorts out in the street, the libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit taking the fight to them as well.

Corollary: The libertarian’s nation is visiting the nation of an ally or semi-friendly nation half-way around the globe when an invader barges in and attacks the libertarian’s nation.  Most libertarians, in my experience, will make excuses as to why the Holy NAP doesn’t apply, and usually culminating in “We have no business being there in the first place; it’s our fault.”

Witness the collective libertarian responses to the USS Cole and Khobar Towers.  Along with liberals and leftists, libertarians popularly decided that the US being attacked in these places at these times was the fault of the US…  in much the same way as women getting raped while in the wrong part of town was their own fault, or something.

Scenario 2b: A libertarian is on a sidewalk or some other patch of public territory he is permitted to use, even if it’s in a seedy neighborhood.  A mugger jumps out of the shadows and attacks the libertarian. The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian shooting the mugger dead.  If the mugger has cohorts nearby, the libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit taking the fight to them as well.

Corollary: The libertarian’s nation is sailing in International Waters or flying in International Airspace, or some other portion of the planet he is being permitted to use, even if it’s in a seedy part of the globe.  Another nation attacks the military warcraft of the libertarian’s nation.  Almost all libertarians, in my experience, will deny the Holy NAP applies and deny the sovereign right of self-defense, most going so far as to assert that any self-defense action taken is, astoundingly, an unprovoked use of force by the libertarian’s nation.

Witness the overwhelming collective libertarian responses to Iraqi attacks on US fighter jets patrolling the UN-created “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq between 1991 and 2002.  Witness also the common libertarian response to China downing a US spy plane flying in International Airspace off the coast of China in 2001.  Witness further the common libertarian response to Iran commandeering US patrol boats in the Persian Gulf in 2016.

Scenario 3a: A libertarian gets word that an intruder breaks down the door of his friend or acquaintance on the other side of town and attacks those residing in the home.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian rushing off to defend his friend or acquaintance, up to and including arming himself and chasing his attackers back to where ever it is they came from.

Corollary:  A libertarian’s nation gets word that a sovereign ally or semi-friendly nation gets attacked by another sovereign nation or a sovereign proxy.  Virtually all libertarians, in my experience, will deny the Holy NAP applies, and claim that any sovereign force used by the libertarian’s nation to defend an attacked nation would constitute a NAP-prohibited “initiation of force”.

Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to Arab State or Arab proxy attacks against Israel, ever.  Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to Iranian hegemonic militarism on the Arabian Peninsula. 

Scenario 3b: A libertarian happens across a random act of street violence against a random stranger.  The libertarian will, with 100% certainty, read the Holy NAP to permit the libertarian taking forceful action against the perpetrator of the street violence in defense of the victim, even though it is a stranger.

Corollary:  A libertarian’s nation happens across a random act of sovereign violence against a random group of dispossessed people singled out for obliteration by their own government.  Virtually all libertarians, in my experience, will deny the Holy NAP applies, and claim that any sovereign force used by the libertarian’s nation to defend the dispossessed people against their sovereign nation marking them for obliteration would constitute a NAP-prohibited “initiation of force”.

Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian treatment of their Kurdish minority populations.  Witness virtually every libertarian’s response to the socialist Venezuelan government’s treatment of their own pet-eating population.  And I’ll stop listing examples here, because to list just those occurring in the last decade would take a dozen pages.

The fact of the matter is, under the premises of liberty, each individual citizen is a cop.  It is the responsibility of the citizen in a society built upon liberty − individually and collectively − to police his own neighborhood.  That doesn’t mean we shoot the pizza delivery guy who steps on our begonias, or that we wage war on Cardinals fans who insult everyone who isn’t a Cardinals fan.  Discretion and wisdom are necessary tools.  Part of discretion and wisdom includes choosing which battles to fight yourself, which to leave to the professionals, and which − in the first place − don’t rise to the level of being fought by anyone.

It is further mandatory to guard against the impulse to gratuitous vigilantism.  But the existence of vigilantism does not obviate individual responsibility for personal and public protection.

Similarly, in a system of sovereignty that purports to have any claim to liberty, it is the responsibility of liberty-leaning nations to be a cop.  The World’s Policeman as so many spit in false, self-righteous invective.  As if it’s a bad thing.  That is our job.  Discretion and wisdom − and a substantial understanding of International Law and military doctrine − is necessary here, though, as well.  Part of that discretion and wisdom lies in knowing which battles to fight yourself, which battles to leave others to fight on their own, and which battles have no practical sovereign up-side even if they are worth fighting.

Please note, there are no separate and distinct “professionals” in sovereign libertying.  Each sovereign nation is, to the dismay of many including myself, as professional as it gets.

As with individual defense of liberty, it is mandatory to guard against sovereign vigilantism.  But wariness of vigilantism does not negate the reality that self-defense and defense of others takes place among and within sovereign states, and thus triggers the Holy NAP just as surely as a home invader does.  Pretending otherwise is outright craven pacifism, and is not principled use of force.  It is Grade-A hypocrisy.

…and that, as usual, when this topic is broached, seems to be where we came in.  Libertarians, practice what you preach.