Thoughts on a Traffic Stop (1): Backstory

I got stopped the other day in Raritan, New Jersey by the local police department, my first traffic stop in awhile. I regard every interaction with the police as a learning experience, and this one was no exception, so I thought I’d write up what happened, and what I learned from it.

Until recently, I owned two cars, call them Silver and Blue, both insured by Geico, an insurance company for your car and other associated headaches. I generally tended to drive Silver rather than Blue. In July, Blue was driven to Canada by another driver and, in August, was totaled by that driver in an accident in Toronto; it was then towed from the accident scene and taken to a Geico-affiliated inspection site near Toronto, where it sits to this day, awaiting judgment from Geico as to an insurance payout. Recall that the Canadian border is closed due to the pandemic,* so I couldn’t have retrieved the car even if it was drivable, and even if I could have afforded the time and expense of the trip. At any rate, the car isn’t drivable, and I can’t afford the trip. So there we go–three strikes against driving up there, putting the car in my backpack, and bringing it home. Continue reading

The Strastnoy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand’s Red Pawn, written in the 1930s, takes place on the imaginary Strastnoy (“Passion,” in the Christian theological sense) Island, in “the Arctic waters off the Siberian coast,” where a Christian monastery has been converted into a Soviet prison camp.

In real life there actually was, during the 1920s and 30s, a Christian monastery that had been converted into a Soviet prison camp, on a remote island in Arctic waters – though on the western side of Russia, not the eastern, Siberian side – namely Solovki Prison on Solovetzky Island, which was actually the nucleus of the entire Gulag system. (Appropriately enough, the Gulag Archipelago began on a literal archipelago.)

Solovki Prison is not as forbidding-looking as the one described in Rand’s story (Rand’s version has a bit more the flavour of the Château d’If), but I still suspect it influenced the tale. (During World War II, Solovki became a military base. Today it is a monastery again.) (There was also a Strastnoy monastery in Moscow that was demolished by the Soviets, and might have influenced Rand’s choice of name.)

Would Rand have been aware of Solovki Prison? I think likely yes, since two books had been published on it in the west during the 1920s, by former inmates – S. A. Malsagoff’s An Island Hell: A Soviet Prison in the Far North, and Youri Bezsonov’s Mes vingt-six prisons et mon évasion de Solovki.

Bookhouses and Batmobiles

Two more Agoric Café videos!

In the first, continuing the San Diego bookstores series, I chat with Craig Maxwell of Maxwell’s House of Books (good to the last drop of ink!) in La Mesa, featuring titles in philosophy, history, science, law, literature, poetry, drama, literary criticism, science fiction, mystery, and more.

In the second, I share a totally authentic song from the mean streets of Gotham City (and below).

Thanks to Alicia Homer for introducing me to the Wellerman song!

Apologies for the change of key and tempo toward the end. If you’re looking for musical competence, you’ve chosen the wrong YouTube channel.

Liberty Isn’t Free

This is to think, that men are so foolish, that they take care to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by pole-cats, or foxes; but are content, nay, think it safety, to be devoured by lions.

Locke, Second Treatise, para. 93. 

A case from Ohio making the rounds:

Cops Arrest Mom Working Evening Shift at Pizza Place for Leaving Kids, Ages 10 and 2, Alone

An Ohio mom has been arrested for leaving her kids, a 10-year-old and a 2-year-old, in a motel room while she worked her shift at a pizza shop.

A tip to the police led officers to a Motel Six in Youngstown at about 6:15 p.m. on Thursday night. The 10-year-old explained that her mom was working and would be home at 10:00 p.m.

The officers went to the pizza shop where the mom, Shaina Bell, 24, told them she usually has someone look in on the kids every hour. She was booked into jail on two counts of child endangerment and the kids were sent to their father. She got out on bail.

There may be more to the story, but as reported, this is a sad excuse for law enforcement. Continue reading

CFP: “Rethinking College”

Reason Papers (now edited by Shawn Klein, Arizona State University) has just issued a Call for Papers on the topic, “Rethinking College.” Here’s the blurb:

For years, we have heard about the coming bursting of the higher education bubble. Cancellation of college debt is an active political issue. Free speech on campus (or lack thereof) is a perennial issue. Criticisms of higher education from across the ideological spectrum continue to grow. The Covid-19 pandemic brought many of these issues to a head and has many people rethinking college. This symposium is interested in papers engaging these or other normative questions and issues about higher education.

Here’s a link with more information. Manuscript due date is July 15, 2021.

Virtual Molinari Society Panel on Rights

The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Eastern Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association via Zoom (7-9 and 14-16 January). Only those who cough up the hefty registration fee will be able to access the session, so no chance of free-riding this time around (the APA’s decision, definitely not ours; the APA is both pragmatically and morally confused about the costs and benefits of allowing free-riding at its conferences, but that’s another story). But there’s a substantial student discount, verb. sap. Anyway, here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium:
Radical Rights Theory

[Two timeslots back to back; we haven’t yet sorted the order of speakers or who’ll be in which timeslot – it depends on some logistical details that remain to be worked out (check back here for updates).]

12K. Thursday, 14 January 2021, 9:00-10:50 a.m. E
13K. Thursday, 14 January 2021, 11:00 a.m.-12:50 p.m. E

chair:
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)

presenters:
Jesse Spafford (The Graduate Center, CUNY), “When ‘Enough and as Good’ Is Not Good Enough
Daniel Layman (Davidson College), “Keeping the Proviso in Its Place
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University), “How to Have Your No-Proviso Lockeanism and Eat It Too
Jason Lee Byas (University of Michigan), “Alienation, Forfeiture, and Two Concepts of Natural Rights
Cory Massimino (Center for a Stateless Society), “Two Cheers for Rothbardianism

See the full schedule here.

Were it not for the pandemic, I’d be heading to Manhattan for this event, preparing to dine with my co-panelists, to see friends in the NYC area, to catch up with colleagues in the profession, to visit some new museums, etc. But alas!

Adventures in Space and Time

Three Agoric Café videos this week! What have you done to deserve such a superfluity of Agoric content? Nothing good, I’ll warrant.

In the main event, I chat with economist and legal scholar David Friedman on free-market anarchism; the Society for Creative Anachronism; tectonic geology; the quasi-anarchic legal systems of medieval Iceland and 18th-century England; being converted to anarchism by Robert Heinlein; how getting a Ph.D. in physics led to being an economist at a law school; the joys of fomenting war and exploiting one’s students; how he repeatedly achieved promotion through violence against his predecessors; how to make medieval armor both for humans and for turnips; how innovations in fireplace design facilitated adultery; and the perils of central planning for wizards.

The Friedman interview is bookended by two other videos of lesser import – this one, in which I show you around my childhood neighbourhood in San Diego (Sunset Cliffs and Ocean Beach, in Point Loma):

and finally this one, in which I share a special message for the New Year:

Galactic Mysteries, Birdheaded Humans, and Mona Lisa’s Mustache

Behold, a new series on indie bookstores in the San Diego area (my hometown)!

In the first episode, I chat with Matthew Berger, new co-owner of Mysterious Galaxy (website; facebook page), a bookstore featuring titles in science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, etc., as well as merchandise, podcasts, author events, etc.

In the second episode, I chat with Sean Christopher, founder of LHOOQ Books / Exrealism, a unique bookstore with a once and future San Diego location (though currently located in a renovated armory in Astoria, Oregon). This episode in particular should appeal to anyone with an interest in bookstores, art, literature, etc., even if they have no special interest in San Diego (or Astoria).

By the way, I stripped out the soundtrack from the five-minute video at the end (on renovating the Astoria Armory), in order to avoid a musical copyright claim – but still got hit by a copyright claim for the background music on the 15-second clip at the beginning. So that soundtrack is muted now too.

Value for Value: Helping Out Roderick Long

I’m a little late to the party with this, but better late than never. My friend and fellow PoT blogger Roderick Long has set up a GoFundMe for help with expenses during a particularly difficult time. I’ve cut and pasted the blurb for his GoFundMe page below, and cut and pasted a comment I wrote responding to it in the combox below. I’m elated to see that Roderick  has exceeded his initial $8,000 goal, but see no reason to stop simply for that reason. I was also extremely pleased to see some of my Felician colleagues, like Sherida Yoder, who know Roderick only through PoT or my Facebook posts, kicking in to help. By the by, I’d love to overhear a literary conversation between Roderick and Sherida. Some day, we should all get together and party like it’s 2099.

But for now. please just give what you can. We’ll set up a separate GoFundMe for the Blowout Party for Friends of Roderick Long at a later date, when we’re all rich and famous. Continue reading

Carol Welsh: Redefining “Heroic”

My long-time friend Carol Welsh is re-defining the concept of “heroic” later today (I’m writing at 1 am) as she fights a brain tumor growing into her spine. I’ve visited for just three of Carol’s surgeries (the three brain surgeries), but could not be there for the gamma knife surgery, the chemo, the radiation, the respiratory arrests, or the spinal surgeries. Her sisters, her mom, her nearby friends, her health care providers, and her brain tumor support system have been there for everything. They’re re-defining the concept of “heroic,” too, and many other things besides.

Continue reading