Monday, February 26, 2007

Amazing Change

You can be an abolitionist now. You can start by signing a petition. A year ago I read the book Understanding Global Slavery by Kevin Bales, President of Free the Slaves, a partner in this effort.

I can't wait to see the movie Amazing Grace, just released.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Imagery of a Free Pirate

This is a Free Pirate.

It represents a liberal who opposes intellectual monopoly.

It represents a liberal who opposes monopoly grants in general.

It represents a liberal who believes in the Declaration of Independence.

The use of the pirate motif is ironic.

Supporters of intellectual monopoly dismiss liberals' critiques by calling them "pirates", putting a pirate hat on them with all that connotes, a lack of respect for rights, a lack of respect for property, a lack of due process, anarchy, etc. Following the lead of the Swedish Pirate Party, a free pirate takes this term of opprobrium and adopts it. And so there is the juxtaposition of that symbol of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, carrying the Declaration of Independence, with a pirate hat.

So actually... paraphrasing René Magritte,

Ceci n'est pas un pirate libre.
This is not a Free Pirate.

It is a caricature of a liberal, meant to discredit her.

As did the Levellers in 1647[1], a free pirate ingeniously confesses to be a pirate, though the true and real pirates are those who hijack liberalism[2], be they socialists, conservatives, or anarchists, marauding the rule of law, replacing it with the rule of men.

Whoa! Let's back up. Way too serious...

Part of this pirate thing is just meant to be fun. Think Johnny Depp and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Let's examine some of the symbols.

First, there's the pirate hat. A free pirate supports natural and constitutional rights passionately, as in the Bill of Rights. Despite her love of life, the grandees throw a pirate hat on her head, painting a caricature for others to see, with a skull and crossbones. What does she do? In a fit of irony, she dons the hat herself. She adopts it. She revels in the disarticulation of their disparagement.

Then there's the hook. It symbolizes the disabilities Lady Liberty suffers these days, as she seemingly effortlessly holds up the torch of The Enlightenment.

Finally and most importantly, there's the sea of rights a free pirate sails. Its color is sea green in honor of the Levellers, who inspired the Declaration of Independence and wrote in 1649,
That we are for Government and against Popular Confusion, we conceive all our actions declare, when rightly considered, our aim having bin all along to reduce it as near as might be to perfection, and certainly we know very well the pravity and corruption of mans heart is such that there could be no living without it; and that though Tyranny is so excessively bad, yet of the two extreames, Confusion is the worst: Tis somewhat a strange consequence to infer that because we have laboured so earnestly for a good Government, therefore we would have none at all, Because we would have the dead and exorbitant Branches pruned, and better sciens grafted, therefore we would pluck the Tree up by the roots.

Yet thus have we been misconceived, and misrepresented to the world, under which we must suffer, till God sees it fitting in his good time to cleer such harsh mistakes, by which many, even good men keep a distance from us.[3]


This artwork was created by chengan800, expressly for this website. I added the sea green.

For more sketches by the artist, please visit the Frenetic Pen Project.

  1. Anonymous (1647) A Whip for the present House of Lords, or the Levellers Levelled, pp. 2-3.

  2. Alain Laurent (2006) Le libéralisme américain : Histoire d'un détournement

  3. John Lilburn, William Walwyn, Thomas Prince, and Richard Overton (1649) A Manifestation. Reprinted by A.L. Morton (1976, editor) Freedom in Arms: A Selection of Leveller Writings, p. 253.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Open-Source Software - article by Boldrin and Levine

Michele Boldrin and David Levine have written an excellent article for The Freeman, entitled Open-Source Software: Who Needs Intellectual Property?. They write,

The market for open-source software—uncopyrighted, freely reproducible computer programs—is not well understood by economists. A central source of surprise is that innovation can thrive in a market without traditional intellectual property (IP). But as we argued in a 2005 unpublished paper, “Perfectly Competitive Innovation,” as a matter of theory there is no reason to believe that monopoly power through IP is needed for innovation. The market for open-source software is the poster child for this perspective.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Hey hipsters, liberty is the new left

It was bound to happen. Libertarian is the new left.

Decentralization defines this new spectrum. Decentralization and liberalization are our best defense against those who would take us down the road to serfdom. Isn't that the great lesson of the 20th century? Yes, yes, in so many ways, but ...

Wait! Just one question.

Looking at this diagram, wouldn't anarchy be on the left?

No, I'd say... it's somewhere on the right.

Constitutional law, grounded in the American Declaration of Independence, with its presumption of liberty, with its limited powers, with its mixed republic, with its elections and juries, with its federalism, with its measured taxation, would stand to the left. True progress comes from the respect each of us has for a certain sphere of innocence and independent action that attaches to every person in his or her individual life and social interactions. The rights in this sphere are equal, innumerable, and inalienable. They do not conflict. They are natural. They are neutral. Creative people thrive in this freedom and build the world without having to ask permission. The Declaration of Independence is far left. It calls for a revolution in our thinking, in our culture, of which we have barely scratched the surface. The Constitution, in its art, merely tries to measure up.

As for the rest of the spectrum, amid the legal anarchy, you might find semblances of law. Perfunctory law would lie somewhere in the middle, going through the motions. Zombie law would patrol on the right, dead yet walking, and arbitrary.

Liberty and anarchy are distinct and opposed, as are liberty and collectivism. If you think libertarianism means anarchism and no taxes, then you can call me a liberal.

Whatever you call it when someone says, "Hey, liberty's deck," that thingamajig is the new left. Liberalization defines the new spectrum. Yes, then I'd agree.

Liberty is the new left.

Source for diagram: A political spectrum that makes sense by Jim Ostrowski.

UPDATE: Little Venice, as it slides towards legal anarchy and little dictatorship, takes its rightful place on this spectrum.

According to Venezuela's 1999 Bolivarian Constitution,
Artículo 114. El ilícito económico, la especulación, el acaparamiento, ... y otros delitos conexos, serán penados severamente de acuerdo con la ley.
According to an unofficial translation available at the website for the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the United States of America, this translates to,
Article 114: Economic crime, speculation, hoarding, ... and other related offenses, shall be punished severely in accordance with law.

Here we have some conflicted commentary on PBS's Chavez report, by a team caught up in the old political spectrum.
So last century.

Update (Dec 6, 2007): Reality starts to hit, according to this report on Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

Solonian Journal - On Rights