Molinari Review I.2: What Lies Within?

The long-awaited second issue of the Molinari Review (the Molinari Institute’s interdisciplinary, open-access, libertarian academic journal) is here! Nearly twice the length of the first issue!

You can order a paper copy from Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon UK, or, I believe, any of the other regional incarnations of Amazon.

(A Kindle copy should be available later this month. In the meantime, the previous issue is available as a free PDF download here.)

So what’s in the new issue? Here’s a rundown: Continue reading

Anarchy in Philadelphia

The Molinari Society will be holding its mostly-annual Eastern Symposium in conjunction with the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in Philadelphia, 8-11 January 2020. Here’s the schedule info:

Molinari Society symposium:
New Work in Libertarian and Anarchist Thought

G5E. Thursday, 9 January 2020, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon, Philadelphia 201 Hotel, 201 N. 17th St., Philadelphia PA 19103, room TBA.


Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)


Zachary Woodman (Western Michigan University), “The Implications of Philosophical Anarchism for National Identity

Jason Lee Byas (University of Michigan), “What Is Violence?

William Nava (New York University), “The Causal Case Against Contributing to Public Goods

Roderick T. Long (Auburn University), “Ayn Rand’s ‘New’ (Posthumous) Critique of Anarchism: A Counter-Critique

Do We Need Government? No, But You Need This Anthology

A long-awaited anthology I’m scheduled to appear in (with a couple of pieces on the question “Do We Need Government?”) has now, I hear, been split into two – one volume on metaphysics and epistemology, and the other on ethics, æsthetics, and politics – and in that form (and with a bunch of historical selections deleted) is/are finally slouching toward publication; see the tables of contents here and here. Some old friends are in it/them too, as you’ll see (if you know who my old friends are).

I’m told: “The eText will be coming out in February [2020], with hard copies soon to follow.”


The Dual Legacy of the Declaration of Independence

No one should raise the stars and stripes on the 4th. The proper flag to raise on the 4th of July is the black flag of anarchy.


The Fourth of July commemorates the anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, a document which the anarchist must view with mixed emotions.

The document’s stirring proclamation that “all men are created equal,” with inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that no government is entitled to infringe; its further insistence that all authority must depend on the “consent of the governed,” and that when such authority becomes abusive it is the “right of the people to alter or to abolish it” – all of these are welcome statements of a philosophical outlook which, if logically pursued, leads inexorably to a much wider liberation (an implication clearly grasped at the time by many of the Revolution’s critics).

Continue reading

1 Rule for Life

They started down the shallow trench behind the crest of the hill and in the dark Andre smelt the foulness the defenders of the hill crest had made all through the bracken on that slope. He did not like these people who were like dangerous children; dirty, foul, undisciplined, kind, loving, silly and ignorant but always dangerous because they were armed. He, Andres, was without politics except that he was for the Republic. He had heard these people talk many times and he thought what they said was often beautiful and fine to hear but he did not like them. It is not liberty not to bury the mess one makes, he thought. No animal has more liberty than the cat; but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist. Until they learn from the cat I cannot respect them.

–Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, ch. 36 (decades before Jordan Peterson)

Welcome to The New Normal (“You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated”) [Updated]

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been running a series of events on law enforcement issues at Felician. Here’s an event I didn’t run:

12:28 pm: Due to the receipt of an alleged, anonymous threat of a shooting on the Rutherford Campus Residence Halls have been secured. -more

12:29 pm: Police and extra security in place. Classes continue, buses run. We’ll keep you apprised. Carry your ID.

2:28 pm:  If you receive any calls from media sources, please refer them to me at my extension that is  listed below.  If you have additional questions or concerns please contact your dean or Vice President.

9:07 pm: Felician took immediate action in consultation with law enforcement. Classes are in session, campus is open.

Oh, but if we were all toting our Glocks to class, this would have worked out perfectly.

What’s that phrase again? “A hostile work environment”? And I thought I left that behind in Abu Dis! Continue reading

Blasphemy in Pakistan: If You Listen to Fools…

Breaking news of a series of arson attacks on Ahmadi Muslims in the city of Jhelum, Pakistan on grounds of “blasphemy.” From Pakistan’s Dawn:

JHELUM: An enraged mob set a Ahmadi place of worship on fire in Punjab’s Jhelum district on Saturday, following Friday night’s arson attack on a factory.

The place of worship was located in the Kala Gujran area of Jhelum, which was under guard of local police forces.

The mob managed to break through the police cordon which was established to safeguard the Ahmadi places of worship, following Friday night’s unrest.

Police had to resort to baton charging and tear gassing the protesters in order to bring the situation under control, but were unable to do so. The mob resorted to pelting stones at the police personnel.

The incidents were a result of rumours circulated earlier in Jhelum district which levelled blasphemy allegations on the owner and workers of the factory.

According to Pakistan’s Express News (in Urdu), Jhelum is now under control, but it sure took awhile. If you want to see what anarchic mob violence looks like up close–a micro-level picture of the descent from Locke’s State of Nature to the State of War–have a look at this video.

No cops anywhere. No firefighters en route. Just an unbridled mob drunk on theological liquor, screaming their minds out in coarse Punjabi. I understand the language but most of what they’re saying is unintelligible, and even when I can make out the words, I have no idea what they’re talking about until 1:00, when they sound the “takbir,” the equivalent of a hallelujah. Almost two minutes into the video, and they’re still doggedly at it, committing arson in a leisurely fashion, with no fear whatsoever that anyone will stop them. They were right not to feel fear: no one did stop them. As the Dawn story makes clear, when the police came, they arrested the victims.

Last time I was in Pakistan, on my last night there, a bunch of us Khawajas had dinner at the home of a cousin of mine who’s a well known politician in Pakistan, and a qualified defender of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. It was a wonderful send-off for me, but we ended up having a riotous argument about the blasphemy law over biryani and shami kebabs, most of us arguing against the in-principle legitimacy of such a law, but a minority at the table defending it.  My politician cousin (and gracious host) agreed that the law had been tragically abused, but insisted that some such law had to be retained in Pakistan, albeit enforced in a narrower and more impartial way. The rest of us argued that the reformist gambit was a lost and pointless cause. I wonder if this event will induce Pakistanis (including Pakistani politicians, and particularly including the ones related to me) to rethink their naive, dogmatic attachment to that cause. Maybe it’s time for some push-back from Pakistan’s American sponsors as well. (While we’re on this subject, how about a little pressure on Pakistan to lift its legalized anathematization of Ahmadis?)

That said, the issue here isn’t just a matter of the blasphemy law but of the rule of law. As far as I’m concerned, the video above is a perfectly accurate depiction of a state of anarchy. I know that anarchists will object to that characterization, but though I’m familiar with the objections, I don’t accept them. The Jhelum attacks are a paradigmatic instance of life under a state that is too weak to uphold the rule of law. The remedy seems obvious: retain the state, but strengthen its commitment to the rule of law. The remedy is not to ratchet back the state and aim (or hope or pray) for some “market-based” solution, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Part of the problem is that it’s not clear what it means, much less how it’s supposed to work.

To complete the thought in the title…

Postscript. Just to give PoT readers a taste of the mentality involved, here’s an exchange in Urdu on YouTube between commentators discussing the YouTube video I inserted above.

Kabhi Quran parha hai ? Pata hai usme Kia likha hai
The first writer, Kamz Khan, writes: “What was done here is absolutely right; they should have burned the infidel owner in the very same flames.”
The second writer, Hasan Ahmad, responds: “Have you ever read the Qur’an? Do you have any idea what’s in it?”
Postscript, November 22, 2015: This is a useful backgrounder on the Pakistan Supreme Court’s position on the blasphemy law, taking roughly the sort of position I ascribed to my cousin in the original post (call it “theocratic reformism” or “theocratic constitutionalism”). The article was written a few weeks before the Jhelum incident. The Qur’anic verses cited in the article are 2.83, 2.94 (Surah Nisa’a), and 49.6 (Surah Hujuraat). Note the frightening ambiguity of this passage:
Thirdly, “any call for reform of the law regarding the offence of blasphemy ought not to be understood as a call for doing away with that law and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or misuse of that law”, is the Supreme Court’s clear answer to the flawed argument that criticising the manmade blasphemy law is blasphemy.
Contrary to the author’s apparent re-assurances, the claim he makes here at least leaves open the possibility that root and branch rejection of the blasphemy law is itself blasphemy. I find it unfortunate that a Visiting Fellow in Political Science at LSE could write such stuff. Shouldn’t it be legally actionable “blasphemy” to defend such a position in a secular-liberal country like Great Britain? Mercifully, it isn’t–not yet, anyway. (Here’s the Wikipedia entry on “Blasphemy Law in Pakistan.”)
It’s worth noting, incidentally, that Pakistani newspapers are (legally) obliged to refer to Ahmadi mosques as “places of worship” rather than as mosques or masjids. Since Ahmadis have been declared “non-Muslim” by Pakistani law, it’s against the law to refer to their “places of worship” in a manner that implies that those “places of worship” are Muslim places of worship. (Read the text in the preceding hyperlink to get a sense of the surreal, totalitarian character of the law, Ordinance XX.) I was gratified to see The New York Times refer to the place in question straightforwardly as a mosque.
Postscript, December 17, 2015: More useful background, care of The Friday Times blog (Lahore).

James Stacey Taylor on local government

I highly recommend reading this blog post by James Stacey Taylor at BHL on local government. I couldn’t agree more with Taylor’s central claim–that local government matters, and that anyone interested in politics should spend some time observing or participating in it. But I think I disagree with the specifically libertarian inference Taylor draws from the experience he describes with the Hopewell, New Jersey Planning Board. (I spent a decade living in the same general vicinity as Taylor, and like him, used to teach at The College of New Jersey. So I have a first-hand sense of the issue he’s describing.)

Taylor seems to infer from his experience that we ought to have less local government rather than more. I agree that when it comes to Planning Boards, we ought to limit their powers. I also agree that local government ought to be more evidence-based and transparent. But I don’t think the general lesson–less government–is the right one.

For one thing, I don’t think Taylor’s experience is really unique to local government. You find the same sort of behavior everywhere, including in the “organic, voluntary” activity he favors. Just imagine that the patch of land he describes was handed over to private developers without the intermediate step of having to pass through the Planning Board. Is there any reason to believe that developers wouldn’t have wanted to create a mini-city in the middle of what is now an open field? If there’s money to be made, they’d do it, and as for unintended consequences, if they could shift the costs to someone else, they’d ignore them and insist on the privacy of their non-existent data.

You might say, “They shouldn’t be allowed to shift the costs to someone else.” Correct. But that requires extensive government enforcement of laws that demand the internalization of externalities. Put it this way: would Taylor advocate the outright abolition of local Planning Boards? Having spent a fair bit of time observing them (in New Jersey), I would say “no.” They need to be put in their place, not abolished.

Second, I wonder whether Taylor would agree that in many cases, the unregulated parts of our lives could use more regulation. Regional differences may be at work here. Taylor lives in west-central New Jersey. I live in northeastern New Jersey. Patterns of life are quite different in the two places. But consider aspects of life that a northeastern Jerseyite would want regulated more tightly by government.

My first pick is traffic. I’ll just assert the proposition: we need more, and stricter, enforcement of traffic laws. We need to force people to slow down, to get off their cell phones while driving, to yield at yield signs, to stop at stop signs (or lights),  to use their turn signals before they turn, to pay tolls, and not to honk their horns for purely expressive reasons.

Second pick: noise ordinances. Most towns have noise ordinances on the books, but many towns treat their noise ordinance as though enforcement of it were a frill or luxury. I see violation of a noise ordinance as a rights-violation fully on par with battery. Just imagine living next to a construction site and being woken up every damn morning by construction activity that’s begun before it’s legally permitted to begin (or that continues well into the night). Or imagine living next to a golf course where the landscapers habitually start work–with mowers and blowers–at 4:45 am, three hours before it’s legally allowed. You call the police and they act as though they have better things to do than enforce the law. My inference: we need more government.

Incidentally, it’s an interesting thing how one is to enforce noise-related violations within a private contract. Right now, my upstairs neighbors are making enough noise to wake the dead. That violates the lease agreement we’ve all signed with the landlord, which involves a promise to one another to keep the noise down. But how do I get that “legally enforceable” promise legally enforced? I could go to the landlord. He’ll ignore me. I don’t have standing to take my neighbors to landlord-tenant court. I’m not a landlord. But the lease’s being violated is a clear-cut rights violation. It’s a breach of contract. What’s happens to rights violations like this? The answer is that in the name of less intrusive government, they go unenforced. But the result is a diminution in some people’s quality of life. (Lovers of quiet are, to paraphrase Ayn Rand, America’s most persecuted minority.)

Third, idiosyncratic example: parking. For most of my adult life, I’ve lived in apartments where parking was tight. In one case, I rented a garage on the rental property so as to guarantee having a spot. In other cases, there was assigned parking. What do you do if someone parks his car in front of your garage (ignoring the NO PARKING sign as though it wasn’t there), or parks in your assigned spot (and you’re not willing to park in someone else’s)? If you complain to your landlord, you’ll be told, reasonably enough, to call the police. But if you call the police, the bizarre answer you will get in New Jersey is: “Sorry, we can’t do anything about it. You’re on private property.”

Pause on the absurdity of that answer. If someone were breaking in to your apartment, and you called 911, it would make no sense for the police to say, “Sorry, we can’t do anything about it. The break-in is taking place on private property.” But I’ve repeatedly had the “sorry, can’t help you” experience when I’ve called the police re parking. As it happens, the police’s “sorry, can’t help you” response involves a misstatement of state law (I’ll spare you the details*), but the fact remains that as written, state law is simply too weak on this issue. It puts too much of the onus on the victim of the rights violation to rectify the situation and not enough on the person who’s blocking one’s garage or parked in one’s assigned spot. Again, my inference: we need more, activist government in the name of rights enforcement.

I would defy any anarcho-capitalist to produce the non-governmental version of the resolution of disputes of the preceding variety. I had the opportunity to see what such attempts at “resolution” might look like when I spent time in the West Bank city of Bethany, which effectively lacks a government. (Officially, it is in Area B under the Oslo Accords, under joint Israel-Palestinian control. But de facto, it lacks a government.) Bethany is practically a controlled science experiment in anarchy. Suffice it to say that things really didn’t turn out the way anarcho-capitalists claim they will. Bethany is a case of “the Wild West” in the Near East–or maybe the Wild West in the Wild West Bank. (Incidentally, I don’t mean to be saddling Taylor with anarcho-capitalism. I have no idea what his views are on that. I just mean to be saddling anarcho-capitalists with Bethany. And yes, it’s that Bethany, the one where Jesus was buried. Burying him was one of the things that the Romans “did for us,” by the way. I’m not sure Jesus would have been buried under anarcho-capitalism.**)

Give me long enough, and I could extend this list pretty much indefinitely.

Anyway, I’m grateful to Taylor for a thoughtful post which broaches some interesting and important issues.

*Postscript, added later: The link in the text goes to the section of New Jersey’s state code governing private property and non-consensual towing. But here is the written response I got from the local Police Department after complaining about their refusal to tow vehicles that were blocking my egress from my garage.

The area of the garages at [name of apartment complex] are private property. The owners of the property basically give authority to building management to maintain the lands. If management feels a vehicle is parked on their property (that does not belong or parked improperly) [they] will call the Police. The Police will issue a summons (management will be called to court as a witness/complainant). The Police cannot tow the vehicle, because it is on private property. Management actually calls for the tow truck. The main road of the complex is considered quasi-public. In this area, the Police can summons and tow.

It’s worth wondering how any of this convoluted legal analysis is supposed to help someone whose garage is blocked but needs to get the car out of it to go to work. I ended up taking a taxi to and from work at a cost of over $100. That happened several times before I made my complaint to the police. In fairness to my local PD, they’ve been pretty responsive about other things, including my insistence that they paint a stop line at an ambiguous intersection so that it was crystal-clear where to stop. From an email to me from the local police chief: “Stop line placed on Watchung roadway. —Chief Goul.” Thanks, Chief.

**Postscript, added later: On second thought, the last two sentences before the asterisk are ridiculous assertions which I’ll leave in the text but now disown. Tradition has it that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimethea, who wasn’t in any relevant sense a Roman. I only wrote what I wrote as an excuse to throw Monty Python into the mix, but it’s totally inaccurate and potentially offensive–to Christians, anarcho-capitalists, and above all Christian anarcho-capitalists–so I hereby repent and take it back. I concede: Jesus might well have been buried (and for that matter, crucified) under anarcho-capitalism.