Saturday, 29 May 2021

How would libertarians deal with a pandemic?

Trevor Watkins 15/4/2020

As always, the greatest threat to individual freedom comes from the certainty of others, generally politicians. In the almost complete absence of verified information, many many politicians including our own have acted with complete certainty to force the population into a catastrophic lockdown. Allowing for alternatives is viewed as a sign of weakness and cannot be considered. If a lockdown was good for China then it's the only way to go for South Africans many thousands of kilometres away.

Thankfully some more independent-minded Nations have provided us with alternative scenarios. Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Israel have all taken different approaches and appear to have enjoyed reasonably successful results. But for a politician to question his absolute certainty is to appear weak and therefore unpopular.

How would a libertarian Society deal with the challenge of an imported pandemic? I would like to think it would have acted with a lot less certainty, a lot more introspection, and a much greater openness to alternatives.

In a libertarian Society there would be no central command structure, no overriding ministry of health, not even an enforcement structure capable of forcing people into their own homes.

What libertarians do well is communicate. In a libertarian Society the nature of the threat and all the data available would be quickly and transparently shared with the population. Some people would recommend one approach, others might recommend something completely different. They would be listened to in proportion to their reputation and standing in the community, and their record of being right on other matters.

If knowledgeable people recommend lockdown and isolation, then many libertarians might well self isolate voluntarily, particularly if they are persuaded that they are in a susceptible group such as the elderly. One can always assume that they will act in their own best self-interest. Other libertarians might be persuaded by the herd immunity approach, and would go out and deliberately attempt to become infected, as many do with their children during a mumps or measles season. I don't think any libertarians will deliberately force themselves upon others, putting them at risk of infection with any communicable disease. Social distancing is just good manners writ large.

“But we can't afford to take that risk”, shout the many statists and collectivists. They blithely ignore the fact that every contact with a fellow citizen is fraught with the risk of many different infections. “People will die!”, they weep. “If you won't do the right thing, then you must be forced to.” All this with the absolute certainty of non-experts who know precisely what the right thing is on the basis of inadequate data.

In a libertarian Society those who assess the risk on the basis of the data available to them, and decide that self-isolation is the best approach, will self isolate. Those who decide that their freedom of movement and their right to work is paramount, will go out in public. They should not encounter people who believe differently because they will all be self isolating. If you as an individual make the wrong judgement in this matter, then you will pay the price, either by getting sick or by becoming incredibly bored and poor.

As a libertarian you may not use the threat of some particular virus, amongst the many many millions out there, to forcibly deny me my Freedom.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Shishini Initiative


Trevor Watkins 13/4/21

Motivation

South Africa has more problems than you can throw a stick at. To solve these problems we have more plans, commissions and committees than you could spit on. But realistic solutions are few and far between.

The media hacks have run out of adjectives to describe how awful our situation is. The politicians cannot deal with fickle human nature and scarce resources. The wealthy whine and dine, and the poor slowly evaporate.

One of the most intractable problems facing South Africa is the huge lost generation of around 20 million individuals under the age of 25. They are uneducated, undernourished, unemployed, uninspired. They are the volatile tinder for future communist uprisings.

I have a simple criterion for evaluating any proposed solutions. Will this plan provide any immediate relief to a starving 7 year old girl living with an abusive parent in a squatter shack? If your plan can't even do this simple and necessary thing, what is the point? So in boldly proposing yet one more solution to the ills that plague us, I use this young girl as my benchmark.

I am a capitalist. I believe free market solutions can solve most economic problems. I believe there is a free market solution to the problem of South Africa's lost generation. All we have to do is convince 20 million young people that the hugely despised capitalism is better than the quite cool communism that they have been brought up on.

How? I propose we resort to the favourite trick of communist politicians throughout history. We bribe them.

If you want young people to learn about and adopt capitalism, give them some capital. Stop telling them about it, let them actually experience it.


The proposal

.Goal: To produce 1 million nascent capitalists in the 7 to 21 age group within 18 months.

Cost: R100 million

Method: a reverse Ponzi scheme as described below

The method

  1. Setup a new organisation called “Shishini”, which means “business project” in Xhosa.

  2. Invite youth in the age 6-21 group to join Shishini. Each member will receive the following:

    1. Registration of their name and other details on the Shishini app, see below.
    2. Registration of a Capitec account in their name.
    3. A deposit of R40 each month into their new Capitec account
    4. A Shishini cap.

  3. Initially invite 1000 prospects in the first month. Expect 50% membership growth in each subsequent month. After 18 months costs will be around R65 million, and membership should exceed 980,000.

  4. Setup new Shishini sub-projects to encourage entrepreneurs.

  5. Let members take charge of most activities such as recruitment, project starts, funding.

  6. Provide logistical support only when needed.

  7. Always remember it's about the kids, not the organisers.

Sub-project examples

  1. Shishini School
    1. Access to new and existing courses and training.
    2. Schedule teachers, venues, courses, materials in safe locations and register students. Offer completion certificates.
    3. Invite older members to organise training for younger members. Pay R50 for each training session completed and rated >60% by at least 10 attendees.

  2. Shishini Security
    1. Invite members to coordinate local security groups, using the app..
    2. Up to 10 members can join a security group, which is like a Whatsapp group.
    3. Each member undertakes to come to the assistance of any other member in need.
    4. The coordinator files a monthly security report via the app, for which the coordinator receives R10 extra per month.

  3. Shishini market
    1. Members can advertise goods and services for sale to other members.

  4. Shishini recycling
    1. Members will be given assistance to set up local recycling projects, in cooperation with local waste management operations.
    2. The recycling project manager (who is a Shishini member) must set up the necessary systems, such as date and venue, measurement, waste company coordination, pricing, payment, etc.
    3. The project manager keeps the profits from the operation.

  5. Shishini management

    1. Members who show promise can be promoted within the project to ultimately take over the running of the system.

  6. Shishini manufacturing
    1. There are many opportunities for local township manufacturing, such as tourist items, windmills, toys, etc.
    2. Assist members with ideas for manufacturing (see Youtube videos), advise on methods.

  7. Shishini services
    1. There are many opportunities for local township services, such as hair braiding, beauty services, babysitting services, cleaning services, cooking, etc.

  8. Shishini sports
    1. Sport is popular and provides many opportunities for entrepreneur development.
    2. Club setup, venue location, coaching, team setup, facilities rental.
    3. Sponsored tournament setup, fund raising, event management.

  9. Coordinate
    1. Coordinate and cooperate with other NGOs, charities, etc. Use app to advertise these services.

Justification

  1. The cost, while considerable, is no more than a large corporate would spend on a new marketing campaign.

  2. Much of the cost may be directly recoverable from new customer sources in the target community.

  3. Youth will obtain direct experience in banking, earning, money handling.

  4. Businesses like Capitec can lock in a generation of new customers.

  5. Businesses like retail chains can market to a new demographic, who are poor but not penniless.

  6. Youth will enjoy a sense of respect and self esteem enhanced by individual responsibility.

  7. Teaches entrepreneurial skills, savings and capital formation, business management.

  8. Useful community services such as mutual protection, communication, literacy, sports development, cleanup programs will arise.

  9. The Shishini app will allow direct communication to many thousands of members, and massive communication between members.

Challenges

  1. The program may attract more members than the current financing can afford. Nothing fails like success.

  2. If the program is not self-sustaining after 18 months, there might be considerable anger in the target community if payments cease.

  3. The program creates a sense of entitlement (monthly payments with no quid pro quo). Almost all charitable and government programs create a sense of entitlement.

  4. The initiative will require considerable expert support during setup. The app must be designed and built. Finance must be arranged. Coordination with banks, retailers, etc established.

  5. The state will almost certainly have an opinion on this initiative and will no doubt place the usual obstacles in its path. This may require legal expertise.

Conclusion

This initiative will need to be sold to a sponsor with deep pockets. This document is just the first round in what may be either a very short-lived Thought experiment, or a more challenging Project. As its author, I will be happy to remain involved with whatever future developments arise.


Shishini app

This app will be purpose developed for this project. The app will have the following features:

  1. Unique registration for each member

  2. Facility to register new members. Each new member registered earns R10 in Capitec account.

  3. Whatsapp like communication facilities with other Shishini members.

  4. Facebook like social media posting facilities.

  5. Access to Shishini project facilities and learning materials.

  6. Registration of new projects and project members.

  7. Emergency SOS feature

  8. Free streaming access to music channels.

  9. Access to member discounts on food, clothes, goods, training, etc

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

The Individualist Proposition

Trevor Watkins 30/6/20


I am often asked “ What is a libertarian individualist?”.  The very short answer is “One who believes in individual liberty”.  But that answers almost nothing, means almost nothing, to most people. 


I am an individualist and a libertarian. Here is my shortest, quickest, clearest, most concise definition of what it means to me to be an individualist, a libertarian.  This is what I believe individualists should approve, and what they should oppose. This is the “social contract” by which individualists agree to live with their fellows.


An individualist accepts the proposition that 


No one should act against an innocent person or their property without their consent.


Although these are all short words of 3 syllables or less,  some explanation will be required.

no one 

no individual, or group, or community, or government, or corporation.

should

Ought to, in order to be consistent with this proposition

act

To “act” is to cause a real-world, observable, physical event, as opposed to a non-physical event such as the use of words or gestures. “Preventing an action” is synonymous with “taking an action” .
For example, striking someone, taking their property, confining them, are examples of real-world events.  Being rude, shouting, threatening, are not actions with real, physical consequences.

innocent

an innocent person has not acted against anyone without their consent. Acting without consent  is called a consent violation. A person guilty of a consent violation is not protected by this proposition.

person

any individual (without qualification, of race, gender, creed,etc) capable of giving informed consent. This excludes those who cannot give informed consent, such as young children, the unconscious, the mentally disabled. In this case, consent devolves to their guardian. 

their property

goods belonging to a person, lawfully acquired through effort, exchange, inheritance, restitution or gift.

consent

giving permission, allowing. The decision to give or deny consent will be based on the best information available to the person involved. However, the future is unpredictable, so it must be accepted that the consequences of consent  may be unexpected.
Nevertheless, consent should be explicit, freely given, preferably before witnesses, without fraud or falsehood.

Notes

  1. To live freely and in peace, individuals who gather together by mutual consent should accept certain propositions which all agree to respect.

  2. This is a proposition, a way of thinking,  a recommendation for a better way of life. It does not specify an enforcement mechanism,  it does not guarantee compliance. It simply tells you how people who describe themselves as individualists might be expected to behave. 

  3. I believe that the consent proposition listed above covers the vast majority of cases of human interaction. It extends the non-aggression principle to include cases where a person consents to acts of aggression, such as in contact sports like boxing  or satisfying unusual preferences.

  4. The amateur lawyers can have a field day identifying grey areas and exceptions to this principle. Of course such grey areas do exist, and are normally resolved through arbitration between affected parties within a community. The question remains, do these objectors have a better, briefer and more inclusive model?

  5. What gives me the right to speak on behalf of libertarians, or individualists, or any one else? As an individualist, I speak only on my own behalf. However, I do believe that what I have to say may be of interest and value to others. Otherwise, what is the point of communication?

Issues

1. Assault

The initiation of all physical acts of assault are forbidden except where explicitly consented to, or when acting in self-defence.  This includes assault by individuals, groups and governments. 

2. Defence
 

Individuals may defend themselves vigorously against assault by others, matching violence with violence, like for like.

3. Personal choices 

This proposition has nothing to say about an individual's personal choices, such as religion,  sexuality,  or lifestyle. 

4. Conflict

Conflicts always arise.  This proposition implies that any conflict resolution mechanism must also be consented to by all  the individuals involved.  Conflicts are normally resolved through arbitration between affected parties within a community. When conflict is resolved through external agencies such as police and courts, individual control and choices tend to be ignored.

5. Harm to others

Many people believe that some individual behaviours must be restricted for the overall good of the community,  forcibly if necessary.  This belief is used to justify a vast range of coercive measures against individuals,  from taxation to immunization.  The consent proposition requires that conclusive proof of physical harm to another innocent person must be conclusively proven,  and may then become the subject of a conflict resolution procedure.


6. Competition  

Individuals and organisations can take competitive actions which negatively affect others. For example, an organisation may injure its competitors by lowering its price for goods, or by refusing to supply a competitor, by poaching staff, or through aggressive advertising. None of these actions require the consent of the injured party. My view is that these actions do not use force or fraud and do not conflict with the Individualist Proposition. They must be seen as a normal part of the risks of doing business.

7. Informed consent

Denial of consent is normally straight forward and uncontested. No means no.

 However, giving consent is much more complicated. The terms of the consent may need to be spelled out, limits made clear, exceptions described. Issues such as age of consent arise. How clear are the consequences, have these been fully understood by all parties, can consent be revoked? When consent is given, an explicit (preferably) or implicit contract is in force. Disputes arising from a consent contract will be arbitrated by the parties to the contract within the community of their peers. Thus, local community standards will apply to an issue such as the age of consent, or abortion.

8. Penalties

In the absence of an enforcement mechanism, what penalties can be imposed on individuals committing consent violations? An individual may retaliate against the violator in his personal capacity, or with the assistance of family and friends. He may retain the services of a defence agency. He may demand restitution. He may refuse further association with the consent violator. He may lobby for them to be shunned, or evicted from the community.

9. Morality

Morality is an individual issue. One person cannot impose their morality upon another, in terms of this consent proposition.

Examples

  1. All forms of speech, writing and expression are allowed, where no physical action occurs.
    A comedian may make outrageous statements for humorous effect, without violating the consent proposition. Persons offended by this speech should avoid hearing it.
    Likewise, a demagogue may exercise freedom of speech to call for violence, but only those actually committing violence are guilty of a crime.

  2. All forms of personal behaviour, and behaviour between consenting adults, is allowed. 

  3. An individual can do anything with his or her own body that they choose.

  4. No one is entitled to the property or services of another, without their consent.

  5. No one may take the life of another without their consent.

  6. You do not have the right to forcibly prevent what you merely see or hear.

  7. If you do not consent, you have no obligation to assist anyone else.

  8. Property may be exchanged through the consent of all parties.



Saturday, 9 January 2021

 Love and harm

Trevor Watkins 9/1/2021

Everybody has an opinion.  Almost every opinion differs.  Are all opinions equally valid? Must we give everyone an opportunity to voice their opinion, no matter how devoid of sense and truth? How are we to decide which opinions are important and useful,  and which are simply frivolous. Is there some combination of words on which we can mostly agree,  rather like the Ten Commandments. Is there a magic sentence who's internal logic is so indisputable that all thinking person's must accept it, whose truths are self evident?  How would we persuade non-thinking persons to accept the truth of our magic statement?  Can such a concept be reduced to mere words?

Can we improve on “Love your neighbour”, as a rule for peaceful co-existence? The problem is that this is an active rule, it requires you to act in ways you may not choose. It is instruction, rather than advice. 



“Don't harm your neighbour”  is much better advice.  This is a passive rule.  It does not require you to do anything,  just to refrain from doing some things. 

I believe the gap between these two rules summarises the gap in western society between left and right,  between Democrats and Republicans,  between the kindly, caring,  sharing, socialists  and the individualistic, thinking, independent, self-reliant capitalists. Both sides passionately believe that their rule is the better one. Religions, governments, economic systems are based on one or the other approach, and sometimes an uneasy mix of the two.

Many would say that these two statements are perfectly compatible,  that you can love your neighbour and not harm him or her.  But this is to deny the meaning of these words.

 To love someone is to care  strongly for their best interests,  to put their well-being above your own,  to ensure their happiness and survival.  This is how we love our children, our parents and our spouses.  And we are now instructed to behave the same towards our neighbours, who are not our family, who may have completely different world views and cultures, who may wish us harm. We may end up betraying the interests of our own family for these strangers. This is not an instruction which most people can honestly fulfill.

To not harm someone is a much easier proposition. It requires no direct action, but rather calls for inaction. We go through life not harming the vast majority of those around us, our neighbours, our competitors, even our enemies. But, like love, the definition of harm can be difficult. Do we harm someone if we offend them? Is mental harm as bad as physical harm? If I fail to wear a mask in a pandemic, do I harm my neighbours? Does my mere existence harm the existence of others as we compete for scarce resources?

Do you have to choose? No. Most people spend their lives in a state of blissful cognitive dissonance. Go to church on Sunday. Ignore the needs of your neighbours the rest of the week. Believe in coercive, harmful policies like taxation, minimum wage, rent control on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Respect the gender and lifestyle choices of others for the rest of the week. Ever wonder why life seems so confusing all the time.

Think about and then actively choose the principles you aim to live by. Avoid compromising.  When faced with a difficult decision, revert to your principles, even when inconvenient. Respect the right of others to do the same.

Afterthoughts

Then there are the independent thinkers who are able to rise above their culture and able to recognize evil and escape its clutches. If one can think for oneself, if one can make the effort to think independently and evaluate things from an ethical standard, one can overcome the cultural biases that prevail. One can learn to recognize and reject evil. 

Marco den Ouden, The Jolly Libertarian.

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill


Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Looking for balance

 Are the woke really that bad? 

In these surreal times, it is time for another reality check.


It is easy to demonise the left as violent and stupid, but they once were liberals, like us.

Did our (classical) liberal and libertarian policies once look as stupid to conservatives as modern woke policies now look to us? Libertarians have always believed that individuals should be free to make their own choices about gender identity, sexuality, and consenting sexual behaviour. Has that changed? 


Many so-called libertarians do not believe fully in freedom of speech, where you can say anything that does not result in real-world actual harm, as opposed to disagreeable or unpopular or insightful language. They would seek to silence or cancel some forms of speech which they believe is excessive. 


Libertarians cannot agree on the subject of abortion, although the rights of a woman to make her own choices about the body she owns should be paramount. At least the wokerati are consistent here.

The woke left seeks to invoke the power of the government to enforce their ideas, which is wrong. So do the vast majority of libertarians.


Most libertarians would agree that the police have frequently exercised their powers with excessive force, in the USA and in SA. Most Libertarians believe that the police should be held to the same standard of accountability as ordinary citizens.  Most libertarians believe that rogue cops should be prosecuted and imprisoned if necessary.  Most libertarians would believe that citizens have the right to resist  the use of force by the police  with equal force.  How does that make us different from Antifa? When Antifa  initiate violence in the form of a riot then most libertarians would reject that. 


When large corporations collude with government to undercut the rights of individual citizens, most libertarians would object.  This is cronyism, not capitalism, they would say.  they might even come out on the streets and protest against this abuse of power by large corporations.

The individual freedom of choice that capitalism represents is never wrong. 


Empathy is important, despite that woke people think so too.  All people, including selfish libertarians,  must feel an obligation to care for children, the sick, the elderly, even when they are strangers. We cannot ignore this obligation to the tribe and the possible costs it might incur. 


Immigrants are individuals with rights too. Individual rights do not only apply in  certain geographic locations.  Libertarians reject governments, states, nations, public borders. Like the woke left, we should welcome all individuals,  of whatever current nationality, to share in the wealth we believe we can generate,  while always respecting individual property rights.


Unity is not strength.  Progress is not dependent on us all working together towards some common goal.  The idea of a common goal is anathema to most individualists. Progress is dependent upon the spontaneous actions of individuals free to choose within a market. Working together substitutes the retarded mind of the mob for the brilliance of the individual.


Democracy is a resounding failure. It is an inherently collectivist concept that substitutes rule by beauty queens chosen by the mob for individual responsibility. It appeals to the inherent laziness and gullibility of the masses. It is a useful way for six people to decide what  flavour of pizza to buy, but it is an awful way for 60 million people to decide what economic system they must all pursue. 

In the future we should all live in enclaves of approximately 300 people where we make our own governance rules as we go along,  and coexist with our neighbouring enclaves in a confederation of tiny States. 


In South Africa there is an endless whine about how stupid the ANC is. Yet they are smart enough to be the ones in charge, and get to do pretty much as they please. Their policies are exactly right for them,  otherwise they would have different policies.


There is a constant complaint that Cyril Ramaphosa is a weak and indecisive leader.  There are endless calls for a stronger leader to tell us what to do.   Thank your lucky stars for a weak leader, because the alternative is a strong one, like Bheki Cele. The only thing worse than incompetent government is competent government, 


The response to covid19 demonstrates that the vast majority of society are mindless drones, doing whatever the loudest voice tells them to do. Why is everyone trying to save these surplus-to-requirements people?


In the immortal words of Ayn Rand, “ Check your assumptions”.


Sunday, 24 May 2020

Authenticity

By Trevor Watkins 24/5/2020
Some of what I have to say here is derived from a Wikipedia article entitled “Authenticity”.


What is real? In a world flooded with fake information peddled by phony people, how do you as a thinking individual arrive at any conclusion? How do you establish what information advances your life and what retards it? Is the truth knowable?

Are truth and authenticity the same? I think many people authentically promote the version of the truth they happen to believe. You cannot accuse them of bad faith, just ignorance of your version of the truth.

I have come to the conclusion that one can only strive to be authentic. This is not an original idea. Many great people throughout history from Marcus Aurelius to Kierkegaard have come to much the same conclusion. The best advice that the Oracle of Delphi could offer was “know thyself”. I would add that you must not only know yourself, but you must be yourself, You must act authentically.

To be authentic you must constantly examine your actions and your motivations for these actions. Did you quote Kierkegaard because he was relevant, or because it makes you seem intellectual? Did you choose a controversial title because it advances the authenticity of what you say, or because it might get you more clicks. The greatest test of authenticity, in the written word, is the answer to the question, “How much are you being paid, and in what currency, to say this?”

An authentic person has a responsibility to develop and shape their beliefs to the best of their ability using the resources at hand. These resources are not always reason and logic. A bushman who comes to the conclusion that existence is the dream of a praying mantis, based on his experience of the world, is more authentic than a zealot who bases his beliefs on the writings of an unknown third party in a book of uncertain origin. Even a scientist who pretends to know the unknowable is not authentic.

To fulfill the potential of one's humanity and existence, one must take an active part in the shaping of one's beliefs, and then be willing to act on those beliefs. Too many people simply accept the norms of the society in which they live, swallow whole the beliefs of others, even when contrary to their own good sense.

Actively shaping one's own belief and then acting upon that belief is a laborious task. But, as Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Most humans possess an ill-defined sense called a conscience. This seems to be a good place to start in developing an internal set of beliefs. Most individuals seem to have an innate sense of right and wrong, of good and bad, almost independent of the surrounding world and its norms. If you lack this sense you may end up an authentic Nazi, which would be a pity.

Not all beliefs are valid or equal. I favour beliefs that are rational, consistent, and explainable, otherwise any form of conversation is difficult. If you believe that life is paramount, then you cannot also believe in taking life. If you believe that you own the fruits of your labour, then you cannot also be comfortable with theft. If you believe in reason you cannot also believe in magic.

Here are the attributes which form the basis of my set of beliefs. Life is better than death, You own the fruits of your labour. Honesty is important. . The individual takes precedence over the community. Freedom is a virtue. Consent is a necessity. Choice is fundamental. Violence should be discouraged.. Comfort is better than pain. Kindness is better than cruelty. Courage is better than cowardice If I am to be authentic, then what I say and write and do must be consistent with these attributes.

Other people may base their beliefs on a different set of attributes. The community is more important than the individual. Safety and security are more important than individual rights. There is a divine being who controls my life. Faith is more important than reason. The end justifies the means. Many people authentically hold these beliefs.

The problem arises when you hold beliefs that are mutually contradictory, a condition known as cognitive dissonance. If you believe that the interests of the collective outweighs the interests of the individual, then you cannot prioritise the health or safety of your child or your family over the health of the rest of the community. If there is inequality within your community, if some people are poorer than others, then as a true communitarian you must sacrifice your individual resources to the greater good of the community. If you believe that faith is more important than reason, then you should always rely on prayer rather than a science-and-reason based medical expert. If your beliefs and actions are mutually contradictory you are no longer authentic.

Why is authenticity important? It is the basis of communication between humans. If I cannot trust what you say, what is the point in listening to you? If you do not trust what I say, why am I even speaking? A reputation for authenticity, for honesty, is established over time and must be carefully nurtured. It is destroyed by just one failure. Whole classes of people in society lack authenticity, such as politicians, lawyers, used car salesmen, many biased news sources. Some organisations have a hard-earned reputation for authenticity such as The Times of London, or Nature journal. No one is always right, but some try harder than most. Walter Cronkite, a United States news anchor, had an admirable reputation for honesty. Maggie Thatcher had a reputation for being brutally honest. (Surprisingly, it is very hard to find a list of authentic people on Google, although there are lists of rich people, stupid people, etc.)

Nature is authentic. Animals are authentic. The universe is authentic, although mysterious. Maths is authentic. Death is authentic. Children are usually authentic.

Religions are rarely authentic. Politicians are rarely authentic. Salesmen are rarely authentic. News organisations are rarely authentic. Advocacy groups are rarely authentic. Governments are rarely authentic. Do-gooders are rarely authentic.

Am I authentic? Is this article authentic? The best judge of authenticity is history.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Explaining Covid-19 to a 5 year old

by Trevor Watkins 26/4/2020

Dad, can I go and play with Johnny?
No son, the government won't allow you to because you might get sick.
But Dad, I get sick all the time and so does Johnny. We both had the flu last winter. It didn’t stop us from playing with each other.
It is different this time, son. There is this thing called covid-19 which is a virus like the flu. Millions of people might get sick and die if everyone doesn't stay inside and alone.
Wow! Do we know anyone who has died?
No. It is mostly old people who get sick and die.
So, if young people don't get sick, can I go play with Johnny?
No! I told you the government doesn't allow anybody to go and play with anybody else.
Ok, so how long are they gonna stop us from playing?
Until nobody is dying anymore from Covid 19. Nobody knows how long that will take. It's better to be safe than sorry.
How many people are dying right now of covid-19? Is it thousands and thousands?
Actually, no. In South Africa it's a bit less than 100.
I have seen that lots of people die in car accidents. Must we also stay inside until no one dies of car accidents?
No. That's different.
And James says lots of people die from crime in South Africa. Must we stay inside until there is no more crime?
No, that's different.
If I can't play with Johnny can I take Muffin for a walk in the park?
That's not allowed either.
Is the government worried about Muffin getting sick too?
No they don't care if Muffin gets sick, But you still can't take him for a walk
That's just stupid. Ok, so why are you home all the time now?
I'm not allowed to go to work because of covid-19. Actually I don't think I have a job anymore.
How are you going to pay for food and toys and stuff if you don't have a job?
I don't know.
So, can we go to the shops and buy something?
Yes, I can go to the shops, but you must stay in the car.
So it's OK for you to go shopping with hundreds of people, but I can't go play with Johnny?
Yes, I don't understand it either.
So what if we just don't listen to them and I go play with Johnny?
Then the police will come and they will beat you and possibly put you in prison.
Aren’t the police supposed to protect you and me?
This is different
Is it like this all over the world?
Mostly, but some countries have taken a different path. If you lived in Sweden you could go play with Johnny.
And have they all died?
No, actually. They seem to be doing about the same as everyone else.
So we go to all this fuss and it seems to make no difference?
Yep
And you think I'm the child here.







Sunday, 5 April 2020

3.2 million years

Cyril Ramaphosa and his fellow travellers in the ANC have stolen 3.2 million years from the lives of ordinary South Africans that they will never get back. 21 days for 57 million people equals 3,279,452 years. Plus who knows how many billions of rand their ill-thought out plans will cost.

Perhaps a few middle-class lives will be saved from covid19. Just as a few middle-class lives will be saved from the flu, from the motor accidents, from the criminal violence that might otherwise have occurred. But this lockdown will not have worked for the vast majority of the poor living cheek-by-jowl in our townships. It will not have worked for the millions who congregated in supermarkets and pharmacies and taxis. But magically all this will be forgotten when the number of fatalities withers away, as they surely must.

Ever wondered how they persuaded all those Jews to walk into the ovens? Fear of violence, desire to live, ignorance, uncertainty, doubt. Unthinking obedience to their rulers in government. Sound familiar?

Today, 5th of April 2020, is a fascinating moment in the history of both South Africa and the world. It is a nexus. It may be a turning point for our western civilization. Let's consider where we find ourselves.

We are halfway through the South African lock down. So far there have been nine deaths and somewhat less than 2000 recorded infections. The rate of infection has been going down for the last 4 days. It looks as though the Covid19 infection rate has peaked. The 10,000 tests backlog may be hiding some real and horrific information. Possibly the number of infections will zoom up in the next two weeks. But the only really important measure will be the number of deaths directly related to the Covid19 illness. This will become clear in the course of the next two weeks.

If the number of deaths exceed the annual flu total, then we have some real cause for concern. If they don't, how will government respond? Will they say “Oops, sorry, my bad”, and attempt to carry on as if nothing had happened? Or will they bluster and fume and invoke evermore outrageous powers to cover their confusion, and save their skins. How will we as a society respond to this atrocious attack on our liberties? Probably with a meek “Oh well, at least they tried”.

If the Swedish and South Korean experiments succeed, will major western governments fall? If these experiments fail, will the West stay in lockdown for months? Will we have an economy to come back to?

I look forward to the next 2 weeks with a sort of grim delight.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Jurisdiction

Trevor Watkins 1/2/2020

Mindful chatter

I am saturated with intelligent and sincere hand-wringing articles on:
  • how bad government is
  • how stupid the ANC and all their voters are
  • how this or that thoughtful free market solution will fix everything
  • these are all words filled with sound reasoning and furious argument, signifying nothing to the powers that be.
We are just so many crickets chirping in the undergrowth as the lions amble by.

Actual power

If you want actual power, join the ANC and work your way up through the branch structures. (You may have to kill some people, but don't worry your cause is just.) After you have defrauded the state of billions you can afford to pay various factions to support your crazy ideas.

These days even making billions doesn't seem to give you any real power, if you are white.

Solution

Why on earth should we respect the jurisdiction of a state that has no respect for its own founding principles? The constitution is no longer a hallowed document, it is a hollow document, perverted at the whim of the occupying powers.

The solution is to treat the ANC state as though it wasn't there. Most of the time they won't even notice. If you have something to sell, just sell it. Just like everyone else in the townships. If you want to buy something, be careful who you trust and how you spend your money, just like you should always do. If someone cheats you, do you really think the police will help in any meaningful timeframe?

On those rare occasions when the organs of the state do actually react and take you to court, you can go with the Stalingrad defence. This starts by refusing to recognise the court's jurisdiction. When the judge asks you what jurisdiction you do recognise, there comes the rub.

While you know that you hate the current dispensation and the current jurisdiction, the vast majority of us have no idea of any useful alternatives. It would be nice if you could claim to be the 53rd state of the United States of America, but the Americans are probably not keen. Tiny disaffected groups in Africa are two-a-penny and hardly worth the trouble of investigating.

Establish a jurisdiction

So you must establish your own jurisdiction. There are good precedents for this in the many independence movements both here in South Africa and around the world. But very few of them offer a well-defined and articulated jurisprudential system that you could offer as your alternative jurisdiction.

For about 10 centuries commercial interests in Europe have used the law merchant as their jurisdiction in Commercial disputes. this has now evolved to become the TransLex Principles collected and formulated by Klaus Peter Berger (University of Cologne) and his Center for Transnational Law.

This would be a fine solution for commercial disputes, but what about disputes with the state within which you reside, of a political or criminal nature. The most obvious one is a refusal to pay tax to the state. Most existing governments get very excited by this refusal and are quick to take offenders to court.

Generally, existing nation states require that claimants to alternative jurisdictions have their own nation state consisting of physical land bounded by accepted borders and confirmed by other nation states and organisations such as the United Nations. Are you, as a citizen of the world, obliged to abide by these rather stringent requirements?

What about claiming your own private property (within some nation-state) as your jurisdiction, no matter how small?

What about claiming a virtual jurisdiction in some cyberstate such as Bitnation?

Estonia offers e-Residency, a program which allows non-Estonians access to Estonian services such as company formation, banking, payment processing, and taxation. The program gives the e-resident a smart card which they can use to sign documents.

What about claiming to be a citizen of a tiny jurisdiction like Liberland and applying their laws? 

What about becoming a citizen of a country like Mauritius or Lichtenstein and claiming their jurisdiction as your own.

All of these possibilities are worthless if you do not have the power and authority to enforce them against your own overbearing nation state. It is highly unlikely that Liechtenstein will send troops or even lawyers to help fight your case in South Africa.

When enforcing your claim to be bound by an alternative jurisdiction you are pretty much on your own.

What is needed is an independent and private jurisdiction enforcement agency consisting of soldiers of fortune of the worst sort who would strike fear into any opposing legal process, while always acting within the bounds and statutes of the jurisdiction that you claim. So, for example, any attempt to violently detain or incarcerate you would trigger an equally violent response to the detriment of the enforcers in the opposing state. Rather like the American response when American citizens are taken into custody by some two-bit third world fleabag country. Generally just the mere threat of response is sufficient to concentrate the minds of tin-pot dictators in distant lands.

Of course an effective response does not always have to be violent. If one has the means one can normally resolve virtually any legal difficulty with a payment to the right set of individuals. In many cases a little research into the backgrounds of these corrupt figures plus a threat to make the details public will result in an acquittal for any particular individual.

Define a constitution

In order not to appear like a lawless mob, your preferred jurisdiction should have a well-defined and widely accepted constitution. For most libertarians this is a short and succinct statement of principle. The Individualist Manifesto is a good example. What better way to popularise the principles of individual freedom than to insist that they be applied to you when arraigned in a court whose jurisdiction you do not recognise.

The best strategy when dealing with a bully is to walk away. The worst strategy is to accept the bully’s terms, to appease and cower. In the words of Ayn Rand, the “sanction of the victim” is the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of the evil, to accept the role of sacrificial victim for the “sin” of creating values.  

Demand that the state recognises YOUR jurisdiction!

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Meerkats and Weavers

Trevor Watkins 15/12/2019
 


There is a small valley somewhere in Africa where a colony of meerkats live close to a large nest of social weavers. Each group has been quietly filling their destiny in the way nature intended, for many generations. The meerkats do not particularly like the weavers, regarding them as noisy, untidy and annoying, while the weavers think the meerkats are weird, anti-social and disapproving. Nevertheless they have got along side-by-side for generations, mostly by avoiding each other.

The meerkats often scatter seed around their colonies, which the weavers eat and enjoy. The meerkats also keep the area clear of snakes, which are the weavers' worst enemy. In turn, the large weavers nest provides welcome shade on the hot days, and the birds do provide early warning of approaching predators.

But times change, and a new and unsettling cloud of meaning drifted over the valley, driven by the winds of change blowing throughout the world. Phrases like “the majority shall govern” and “the poor and oppressed must rise” were heard in dark corners from odd folk who did not live in the valley. With their aristocratic bearing and independent lifestyle, the meerkats were quickly regarded as the enemy of the working classes, who were best represented by the weavers who worked long hours to erect great nests for the general good. After a few unpleasant incidents, a meeting of all the valley residents was called to discuss the “emergency”. The weavers liked the idea because they constituted the majority in the valley by far, while the meerkats were perfectly happy with the way things had worked in the past and saw no need for change. After days of talking and twittering, and several walkouts by the meerkats, it was decided to hold an election to elect a parliament and leaders for the valley.

Since the weavers outnumbered the meerkats 10 to 1, it was not surprising that they won the election hands down, and the majority of the seats in the new parliament. The meerkats were mildly horrified but did not know what to do - it all seemed reasonable and fair and democratic. What's the worst that could happen, they asked themselves.

Although the weavers liked the idea of being in charge now, they had no idea of what they were supposed to do next. Weavers weaved, meerkats burrowed, life went on. But soon the same odd folk who had suggested the election started suggesting some rules the weavers could pass. The meerkats could be obliged to put out more seed under the weavers nest, for the “good of the community” and to pay their share of the administration costs of the new government. When they passed this law, by a large majority, with only meerkats dissenting, pretty much nothing happened. This annoyed the bureaucrats amongst the weavers. At first they tried to get weaver birds to dive bomb the meerkats, but the meerkats just laughed this off. So the weavers made a deal with their arch enemies, the snakes, to enforce the weavers’ laws, in return for first pickings on any illegal meerkats. Pretty soon it was simpler for the meerkats to comply with the extra grain allowance than lose members to the snakes.

And so it carried on - the weaver parliament passing ever more intrusive laws, generally to the disadvantage of the meerkats. All entrances had to be entered from below - just like a weaver's nest, but insane for a ground dwelling meerkat. All nests were limited to a maximum size, which just happened to be the size of an individual weavers nest, but was hopelessly inadequate for a meerkat warren. When the meerkats appealed to the weavers to just leave things the way they had always been, the weavers told the meerkats they were anti-democratic, unprogressive, and worst of all, conservative. The peace and cooperation of the little valley was shattered, in the interests of the common good.

Of course, after a few months of this, the meerkats just abandoned their warren one night and moved away. The weavers were enraged and passed many resolutions condemning this selfish behaviour, to no avail. The weavers had become used to their extra ration of seed, which was no longer available. Worst of all, the snakes which had been kept busy enforcing the rules on the meerkats now had nothing to do, so they went back to their old ways of attacking the weavers nest. Soon, the weavers nest fell into disrepair and began to crumble.

And the moral of this story? A majority confers no moral authority, it is just a majority. Individuals do best when left alone to compete for themselves using tried and trusted approaches. What works for a weaver does not necessarily work for a meerkat, or anyone else. Individual choice is more important than collective good.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

New Principles for the DA

by Trevor Watkins 27/11/2019

After a long period of confusion the DA has finally agreed to adopt a principle-based policy going forward. This is great news, but do they really mean it?

A principle is a fundamental truth that serves as the foundation for a system of behaviour. It is a statement that is true at all times and in all places. It must be consistent. It is not subject to negotiation. It does not vary with polling numbers. It is not influenced by the current consensus.

So before adopting a principle you had better be sure that you agree with it and that you are prepared to die on a hillside defending it. You cannot choose which bits and pieces of the principle you wish to defend, and which to ignore. It really is all or nothing, or else the process is pointless.

The issue that has split the DA revolves around the principle of non-racialism. This appears to say that race will not be a factor in making decisions about people and policies. However the ANC proclaims a wildly different view of non-racialism, believing that demographic representivity in all spheres somehow represents a form of non-racialism. For awhile, the DA seemed to believe this too. Obviously a robust and consistent definition of non-racialism is required.

But mere non-racialism is a far too limited position. The real principle we must seek to extract is how we deal with each other as individuals, and the relationship between the individual and the state. The summary of the principle is that we respect each other's sovereignty, the right of each individual to make his or her own decisions completely free of the influence of others, except when those decisions may impact on the equal freedom of others.

Race is just one aspect of this wider principle. Freedom of speech, religion, sexual preference, preferred economic system, the right to life itself, are all intimately involved in the principle of freedom of choice. Freedom of choice means removing the stultifying hand of government from the lives of ordinary individuals. Instead of regulations prescribing every aspect of life, freedom of choice will allow individuals to make their own decisions. Government can offer solutions such as education, health, social grants, business development, etcetera but it cannot and should not force citizens to participate in, or fund, what they do not use.

Of course if individuals really are free to choose they should be entitled to choose the government programs they wish to support with their funds and attention. If something like unemployment is the biggest challenge of the day, then let them put their tax funds specifically towards relieving unemployment. If others think that education is the problem then likewise let their tax funds go to education. Ultimately in a free to choose state individuals should have complete control over the disposition of their personal funds. This is all a logical consequence of the idea of empowering citizens through personal choice. It would represent a sea change in DA policy but it might well resonate strongly with members of the public.

What about the issue of redress for past grievances? It suits the ANC very well to make this a cornerstone of their policy because of the pressure it places on whites in particular. Despite the outrage this would precipitate, I believe the DA should adopt as a principle that only the actual perpetrators of a crime are responsible for its consequences. The unborn should not have to pay for the crimes of the long dead. This can only result in a society held hostage to ghosts.

Of course past actions lead to current inequalities, differences in outcomes and wealth. This has always been true and is not unique to apartheid and South Africa. These differences must be resolved by current actions.

Direct government control of every aspect of society through myriad rules and regulations has become so entrenched in our Society that many will find it virtually impossible to imagine an alternative scenario.

Amusingly the free to choose (or user pays) principle is nevertheless the Foundation of Sanral's justification for its tolling system on Gauteng roads. Individuals should be free to choose which school they send their children to, which hospitals they prefer, what salary they choose to work for, what kind of house they choose to build and in what place. These are all reasonable concepts made fantastical by our current dictatorial state.

If the DA is looking for a change of principles that will surely reverberate through the country and quite possibly the world, then I suggest the principle of individual freedom of choice going forward.

How would libertarians deal with a pandemic?

Trevor Watkins 15/4/2020 As always, the greatest threat to individual freedom comes from the certainty of others, generally politicians. In ...