To Know the Truth

Woke up from a nightmare a few minutes ago. In my nightmare, something was discovered in the desert that was said to answer the question “is there a god?” to look at this thing causes instant death, but in the moment of death it is said that you will know the answer to this question.

Well respected leaders of various factions go to see this thing, only to die (pick your favorite names out of a hat in descending order) with the last words “it’s true” on their lips. Both groups, skeptics and believers alike, claiming that this thing confirms their belief. That there isn’t a god. That there is a god.

Do you go look? People are dying by the thousands on the belief that this thing answers the question. Does it matter?


This is what happens when you fall asleep watching Dylan Ratigan and Michael Shermer (The Believing Brain) discussing the latest doomsday predictions on MSNBC. To me, this is the essence of Heisenberg, and an example of Schrodinger. No, of course the world’s not going to end. But because you can’t know what will happen tomorrow until it becomes today, people will line up based on their tendency to believe either X or Y position on the subject of god.

I just don’t understand why it matters enough to spend money on the subject. If the world ends tomorrow, will god care that you gave money to the right organizations? Really? Of all of this, I find that assertion hardest to believe. This is bad news for the religious organizations hoping to part me from my money, when it comes to the subject of the (latest) predictions of doomsday.


When I woke up and watched the rest of the show, only to see Willie Geist pitching his book Loaded, I was reassured by the sarcasm that all was indeed right with the world.

(yawn) I think I can sleep again now…


I got a comment from a poster over at dancarlin.com suggesting that this sounded like a Twilight Zone episode; how would I complete it? Thinking I might engage in a creative writing experiment, and see how many endings could be spawned, I wrote this paragraph;

You choose to make the trek, to take the hajj. After weeks of travel, you find yourself in the remote location that your guide tells you the object can be found in (he smirks when you pay him his final fee. Why is that?) traveling the final few feet to the location seems to take as long as the journey up to this point has taken. In front of you is a mound of stinking corpses which conceals the mystical object; a tribute to the common man’s need. Apparently you must climb the pile. A final indignity to be suffered before gaining the knowledge you seek.

Apparently there aren’t any creative writing types on the Dan Carlin boards; or maybe they just don’t hang out on a thread titled Atheism is not a Belief System. In any case, I gave it a week or so, then completed the story in the fashion that came to me in the shower a few days after having the dream;

You climb the stinking pile of bodies. As you step on the face of what was once probably an attractive woman; someones cherished child, perhaps a loving wife and mother, before she became just anther corpse in a pile of tribute, you realize that you are mere inches from the top. Mere inches from the cherished knowledge, the answer to that most important of questions, is there a god?

For one last instant you pause. Even in the reeking atmosphere it feels so good to breath, to feel the pulse in your veins. But the knowledge. The knowledge will be worth the sacrifice. The task must be completed.

You struggle the last disgusting few inches, and your head crests the top of the pile. Suddenly you realize that the object is before you. Your first thought is “that’s it?” but the thought is erased by the agony of your heart convulsing in your chest. The pain is unbearable and you release your grisly handhold in the hair of the last person to gaze upon the object, but this causes you to loose your footing and you topple back down to the bottom of the pile.

The thought occurs to you that you are dying, and you still don’t have your answer. You rage at the injustice of it all, to come so far only to be robbed of the promise. The whispers all said that the answer would be given. Where was your answer. But your rage is impotent, the pain is flowing out of your body, and you vision begins to cloud.

Laying there gazing into the dimming distance, you see a figure approaching you. Could it be?

As the figure begins to form from the haze, you notice that it is crowned with horns, and is shaped as a satyr, but reddish in color. The demon chuckles softly to itself and speaks. “You were a fool to sacrifice the greatest gift in the universe, the gift of life, for such fleeting knowledge. Little good will it do you now” He reaches down for you.

Your last breath comes out as a whisper. “it’s true”


Editor’s note. This partial outline of a story is now a page on the blog named the Godstone. I’m still looking for feedback.

Voting Irregularities & Anarchist Newspeak

Voting Irregularities, as in ‘Errors’ Transposing Votes and Diebold Machines Removed Votes From Obama and Paul a link sent to me by a fellow Ron Paul supporter, outlining outright vote counting misconduct, and touching on the already well understood failings of the Diebold voting machines.

This is a major issue, unless of course you’re an Anarchist who just wants government to go away.

Newspeak (the language of engsoc in 1984) is a language that is crafted in such a way as to make it impossible to think wrong thoughts, because the words will no longer exist to express them. Anarchists are engaged in crafting their own version of Newspeak these days, redefining words like Power and Government to meet specific goals.

Don’t believe me? Here’s an example:

power and liberty are opposites; wherever the former appears, the latter disappears.

Power is, in fact, the only way to secure liberty. Individual will, inalienable rights, individual’s power. Not recognizing power unless it’s power relegated to state authority is redefining what power is.

Government exists, and will always exist, because self-government is still government. Unless, of course, you are an anarchist; in which case, state and government are interchangeable concepts, and all government must be abolished (and yet somehow this won’t result in chaos, even though governing oneself would presumably also be a no-no) as the evil that it is.

Another Quote:

Libertarians engaging in a political campaign to have someone elected have from my point of view given up their claim on liberty; they are no longer striving for liberty as number one, but are working to give someone power to liberate them.

More Newspeak. The elections will take place whether libertarians participate in them or not (what about the LP? They exist only to participate politically. I guess none of them are libertarian at all in this anarchist’s opinion) Taking part in politics is the only way to secure one’s liberty (politics, after all, being nothing more than the art and science of government) and any candidate with a proven track record like Ron Paul’s is going to be an improvement over any of the other candidates who might get the nomination.

There is this mistaken belief amongst many of the Voluntaryists and Anarchists out there that the state will simply cease to exist once enough of the population refuses to participate. I have no idea why they hold this belief. It’s quite apparent through simple observation that the average world state requires nothing of it’s citizens except tribute…

…which it will take by force, whether force is required or not. Given that, I’ll work to limit government in any way that I can personally, including supporting a candidate in a party that I do not claim as my own.

It’s better than the alternative. Doing nothing.

The Immediate Mortal Danger of Attacking Iran

While our buffoons in Washington are distracted by the scarecrow of Ahmadinejad and his antics, They have failed to notice the very real offers coming from those who control the Iranian gov’t:

  • The Iranian government has repeatedly said that the main thing it wants from the U.S. is respect
  • The Iranians have offered to defund Hezbollah as part of a broader settlement with the U.S.
  • The Iranians have offered to help us against the Taliban in Afghanistan, which they also dislike
  • The Afghanistan government favors Iranian aid against the Taliban, but we have blocked it
DownsizeDC, Mortal Danger

I predicted this 4 years ago, when President Bush commanded the invasion of Iraq, that this was simply the first step in the eventual pacification of the entire Middle East. Never have I wished I was more wrong than I am today, hearing the rumors that this loose cannon that we call President is planning on starting a war over Iran’s purported development of nuclear weapons.

Starting a war with Iran is the last thing we need to be doing right now. We need to be engaging Iran in direct talks, not alienating the entire population by attempting a revisit of the 1953 coup that we instigated.

The warmongering and empire building needs to be stopped now. You must act to stop it, or our children and grandchildren will grow up knowing of the failure of representatives to act when the need was greatest; failed to stop a President who clearly has no understanding of the constitutional limits placed on his office.

Immigration Take 3

I was reading Thomas Sowell’s column ‘Immigration Evasion‘ and thought to myself “here I go again” someone else that I just have to say “hold it” to, and ask a few questions.

Questions like “Granted, Americans might do the jobs immigrants do now, at higher wages; but, would anyone be interested in paying the higher prices necessary to cover those higher wages?” When it comes to house construction and the months of time involved, we aren’t talking about small numbers.

Also, we may not need the immigrants to get the work done, but considering the number of fast food and convenience stores that I’ve seen with permanent jobs available signs out front, I don’t think the workplace is glutted with them, either. Nor do I relish the (once again) steep rise in prices that will result in a wage war over the dwindling pool of applicants.

I don’t know when he last looked for a job, either. The last time I went to apply for work, I most definitely had to show ‘papers’ to prove that I could work in the US. So the phrase ‘undocumented workers’ is an accurate description of them. The Amerca that Mr. Sowell refers to was one that I remember fondly, but it doesn’t exist anymore and barring the ‘illegal’ immigrants isn’t going to bring it back.

Ideally There Would Be No Idealists

So I get a response from Mr. Bylund the other day to my Blog entry, and I keep meaning to write up my own reply, and just never get around to it. I am a man of many passions (as this blog should quite readily show) I once spent an (in hindsight) inordinate amount of time on politics and political thought, but those days are quickly receding into the past. Much like the message he sent me.

Then, lo and behold, I notice he’s added comments to the blog entry itself.

Hello Mr. Bylund! I’m not ignoring you, I just think that achieving the anarchist ideal ranks somewhere behind science fiction fandom and humor (and living in the here and now) on the importance list. I establish my own values, just like I know and uphold my own rights. I don’t look to government to maintain them for me, but to abstain from violating them in the process of doing its legitimate work.

I read your comments through several times. This is the paragraph which I feel the need to specifically address:

To minarchists, the anarchist position is utterly utopian, perhaps even idealistic, and they conclude it would not work. Such a society could quickly degenerate into chaos and misery since there is no final arbiter in conflicts and no power to leash or control the evils unavoidably existent in society. The reasoning is that there needs to be something larger, but external to the market, setting the basic rules and enforcing them. Without the enforcement of rights, there are no rights.

The key phrase here is final arbiter. Government is legitimate, in my estimation, when it:

  1. Violates no rights in maintaining its existence.
  2. Acts only as the final arbiter in a conflict.

While I don’t know of any government that meets this criteria that is currently in existence, I believe that it is possible to attain (I would refer to Nozick’s state as government because that is the word that fits the purpose being served) What I do hear from Anarchists that argue with me on the necessity of government is that they have a plan to substitute the structure that is government for another structure which does essentially the same job, but isn’t government. My counter argument will always be a rose by any other name. It is still government no matter what it’s called.

When I point out to them that anarchy is chaos by definition and that political anarchy, to be true to its definition, would require that there is no structure (which I will always call government) in order for it to be called anarchy,that the resultant society would be chaotic and prone to instability, which most likely would lead (and has lead in the past) to more repressive forms of government taking root, I’m told that I just don’t get it.

But I do get it. The anarchists want to use the word anarchy to serve as a figurehead for something that isn’t anarchy but will be different from the current government structure, a tactic which has and most likely will backfire again when acted upon. Which is why I bother to argue about this in the first place.

Utopian and idealist visions have lead to some of the worst hell holes on the planet. During the time of the Russian revolution, Anarchists and Socialists were brothers in the same cause; fighting to bring change to a Russian society that desperately needed it. The idealist Anarchists of the time thought that if they could just get rid of the Czar, the social utopia of Communism (which is a governmentless form of society, an anarchy; at least as Marx envisioned it) would soon follow. I think history will show it turned out differently.

No, I’m not saying that Anarchists are Communists. The Wiki entry should plainly show, if nothing else, that Anarchists don’t even know what Anarchists are. Which is fitting, considering the definition of the word anarchy. Chaos is its own definition.

Every time I find myself butting heads with someone politically, I discover that the someone in question has some ideal vision in his head concerning what should be the way things work. A Utopia for which they just won’t accept any substitutions. Unfortunately reality doesn’t consult with us concerning it’s inner workings. In an ideal world, there would be no idealists. That’s my idea of utopia. You can thank your lucky stars that I don’t believe in utopias.

If we want structures to serve the purposes we intend for them, then we have to look at the constraints that reality places on us and design them to fit. Self-funding support bodies for essential government functions (i.e. the cost of police and fire departments being funded by the insurance companies and land owners that profit from their existence) is just one vein of thought on the subject. Government structures that don’t violate rights simply by existing in the first place.

Suffice it to say I’ve put some thought into this, and I doubt that there is much that can be said that will sway me from my opinion.

Smoking, Smoking, I Feel Alright Mamma, I’m Not Joking

First round: Just Say NO! to Compromise

The city of Austin proposed a smoking ordinance in 2003 that would have banned smoking in public places. It passed. They then went on to offer to sell smoking permits to businesses that wanted to allow smoking. In other words, they could pay to get a permit to do something that they should have been able to do anyway, but now have to pay for because the city government felt pressured to act. Then they realized they’d created a massive cash cow that they could suck funds out of. It’s a beautiful world, isn’t it? There was a chance that other alternatives to the original ban might be entertained alongside the permits idea.

Rock Howard proposed the following in response to the suggestion that any form of compromise would be an abandonment of our principles as libertarians. This is a compromise on the smoking ordinance that would simply clarify business practices that already exist, allowing the customer to then make an informed choice.

To me an example of a workable compromise would be:

a) If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained smoking registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “Smoking Permitted”.) or

b) If they wish, an establishment can sign up on a city maintained “smoke free” registry, but doing so is not necessary if the owner puts up a sign near the entrance(s) of the establishment to the effect detailing their smoking policy. (Minimal signage would be: “No Smoking” or “Smoke Free”.)

This compromise would hopefully placate those who consider cigarette smoke as an assault on their personages. (For some people it actually is an assault) As far as abridging rights goes, it is simply coupling the right of the property owner to the equal and legitimate responsibility to make their smoking policy clear to prospective patrons either through signage or by the public process of signing up on a registry.

As far as the permit idea goes, let’s see if we can dig up actual examples where a permitting process for smoking turned into a ban. If we can do that, then that would be helpful as it might give the business owners more intestinal fortitude about defending their rights. At this point many are seeing this as a life and death issue for their businesses and that makes more susceptible to a slippery slope compromise.

When further objections were offered, he then posted the following.

It is possible to stay with our principle but also get involved with the current process too. If we refuse to get involved for the sake of principle, then we abandon our constituents to their fate (which likely entails a slippery slope compromise that dooms them in the future) The only other avenue is the courts, but we have no friends or power their either.

I have seen this fight in other cities and with the current political mindset of the voters, as long as it remains a political battle, we are doomed. If we can be smart and lucky we might be able to help craft a compromise that staves off the rights-snatchers for a while and, more importantly, helps preserve the livelihoods of our core constituents for the time being. If we do, then we will have bought ourselves some time as well as additional support for the long term project of opening up the minds of the people to the larger issue (i.e., the critical importance of personal property rights.) This will take time and money and, without it, we are just kidding ourselves about our ability to win this battle.

The only reason that I used the word compromise in the first place is that there are only two possibilities right now: 1) no compromise happens and the current harsh Smoking Ordinance goes into effect; or 2) a compromise occurs to stave off the most harsh effects of the ordinance for some time. I do not accept that there is a third option (as much as we would all prefer it) in the near future. I suggest that to get to the preferred outcome that we all want, it makes sense to be involved in the current process as the outcome of “no compromise” will simply kill off many of the small businesses that we are supposedly trying to support.

In point of fact, if the local [LP] works against some sort of compromise, then we are, in effect, working to enact the Smoking Ordinance. Go ahead and do so if that is what you want, but in my considered opinion that approach is counterproductive in the short, medium and long run.

Then the argument really started.

If we try to mediate a compromise in this case, we are saying that government taking away just some of our rights is ok verses taking all of them. If we need to take this to court to fight this injustice we should, it would really make a name for ourselves. We should stand up for what’s right, not for what we feel is acceptable for the moment.

Smoker

What about the rights of the non-smokers to do business in a smoke-free environment? What about the real health issues involved in breathing smoky air? I assure you that the solid majority of Austinites are 4-square behind an outright ban based on those two arguments alone.

I don’t agree with them, but they are our audience.

A requirement to sign the exterior of your business is no different than putting ingredients on the outside of packages, or spelling out the details of a contract in advance. It’s not a compromise it’s collaboration, an acknowledgement that there are telling arguments for those who support a ban, but that a ban is not necessary or even desirable.

IMO, signing the exterior of your business IS what is right. Some of us would prefer to do without the smoke. Thank you, Rock, for the level headed suggestion.

Afterword

The outcome of the vote on the smoking permits was a landslide in favor of it, the council couldn’t resist that cash cow. The local LP candidates (except for the exceptional Rock Howard) opposed all compromises and sunk any chance of sidestepping what happened then, and what happened next. At the suggestion of the moderator at TCLPactive, I then moved the resultant discussion to my Liberty List

Second round: Smoke lies are 50 (dead link)

Getting in your car and driving will lead to serious health consequences, to the same degree that lighting a single cigarette will lead to serious health consequences.

Smoker

It has nothing to do with the number of trips. I can get in my car right now and drive, and while I stand a statistical chance of harm, the mere act of driving the car does not increase the chance in and of itself.

My wife and I were test car drivers for quite awhile. She has driven more than a million miles. She’s still breathing.

A relative of mine has smoked 3 packs of filterless cigarettes a day for 30 years. He’s had cancer twice, (thankfully not lung cancer) cancer that is statistically related to smoking, and he still insists that the smoking isn’t the problem, all the while smoking like a chimney. He may still be breathing now, the latest radiation treatments won’t start for a few more weeks. The man could have lived in good health to the age of 100 or more, without the cigarettes. I personally don’t think he’ll see 70 because of them.

There are three kinds of men: The ones that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

Will Rogers Said That. Except He Didn’t.
– Ben Yagoda – February 12, 2017

Your rights are not being transgressed when someone smokes in your presence, because you are free to leave, or not to breathe the smoke, or to wear a mask. Your rights are being transgressed when someone forces you to do something that harms you or others, or when they harm you directly.

Smoker

When I am engaged in commerce, dining out for instance, I and the parties I am doing business with have entered into an informal contract. Part of that contract involves a smoke-free environment if you are doing business with me. During the process of commerce, while I’m eating for example, someone decides to engage in their particular form of self-destruction and lights a cigarette.

How am I free to leave? I daresay that the owner of the establishment would take exception to my departure before contracts are satisfied, before I paid, in this example. As someone who is known to demand a smoke-free environment, why should I be expected to leave? Since non-smoking is something that I demand up front, should not the smoker be ejected if he refuses to leave?

…”wear a mask”. Why doesn’t the reverse apply? Since smoking carries no negative impacts, let the smokers wear a mask and not waste a single breath of their precious nicotine.

…”not to breathe the smoke”. Not breathing as a choice. No, I don’t think so.

The truth is, when someone lights up in my presence, they are in fact forcing me to engage in their habits. It’s a cop-out for libertarians to say “you’re free to leave” or “it’s a (property) rights issue”, because that is just the surface. The reality is much more complex than that.

Your usage of “informal” is as a euphemism for implied. A contract not discussed and not agreed to is a contract which does not exist.

Smoker

Informal does not equal implied. The words have different meanings. Walk on a check at a restaurant and see if the restaurateur doesn’t think you have a contract. That you are expected to pay for services rendered and food consumed is an informal contract; informal because you did not agree to the contract in writing, in advance.

When people complain about an aspect of free-wheeling liberty (such as people lighting up whenever they please whenever the owner of the property they’re standing on doesn’t mind), it is my reflexive assumption that the person making the argument would turn a blind eye toward government force should it be stamping down on that aspect of liberty…

Smoker

I have the right to object to harm and I will exercise that right vehemently. To put the shoe on the other foot; do you put tags on your car? carry a driver’s license? pay income taxes? If you answer yes to any of those questions, then by your definition you can apply the label to yourself, because government force is used to mandate things which are infringements on our liberty as we define them.

Austin banned smoking recently, and no, I’m not going to spend time fighting that battle now. The alternative wording (see above) that I agreed with was deemed a compromise by the local activists, and they decided to stand on principle and go down with the ship. Well, the property rights ship sank, and smoking is banned here now, unless the business owner agrees to pay the city for the privilege of allowing smoking. As Austin is “the liberal island in the conservative sea of Texas”, this is probably the way it’s going to be for awhile.

The net effect is positive for me personally, since health issues are deemed too touchy-feely to be taken seriously by hard-core types. My choices were reduced to either choke on the smoke of the free-wheeling, or breath the socialist air. So my fellow libertarians (who love to talk about choice) forced me to pick the lesser of two weevils. Not a position I relish, I assure you.

That’s also an assertion. I don’t know what study it’s based on but I’ve enough smoking and second hand smoking studies demolished by examining their statistical methods that I don’t put any stock in them. Cato has plenty of these. The claim that 400,000 Americans die every year from tobacco is an outright fabrication from the American Cancer Society, for example.

Back to the original question, the only acceptable smoking ordinance IMO is having establishments clearly post their smoking policy at the entrance so you can make your decision before entering, as was suggested by Rock Howard previously

Smoker

Back at the beginning I endorsed Rock Howards proposal, so I think we’ve come full circle here. As another aside, The CATO Regulation article that is being alluded to was addressed in ACSH – Environmental Tobacco Smoke: Health Risk Or Health Hype? Needless to say that I think the scientists at ACSH are pretty sure of their numbers.

Third round: A non-smoker clears the air on smokers’ rights

About the only thing that the writer got right was that it’s not an issue of smoker’s rights.

What most people who aren’t in the architecture field don’t realize is just how controlled building standards are in EVERY OTHER AREA except indoor air quality. The establishment of building codes that spell out minimum standards would go a long way toward addressing the problems of smoking vs. non-smoking, giving more choice to people in the long run rather than a strict smoking/smoke-free establishment.

Back in the good ol’ days the upper class spent the money to have smoking rooms, because it was ill-mannered to smoke in front of the ladies. Now we’re all slaving in a socialist paradise, chucking the niceties of proper etiquette and the class structure, dragging the unwilling along with us kicking and screaming in whichever direction the whim of the majority takes us. Soon we will all be trailer trash (what in math is referred to as a Lowest Common Denominator) and not even the trailer trash will be allowed to smoke. Ah, democracy.

Business owners want one thing over all others: profit. I say fine, but let’s get to the real cost and benefit of the systems that we create. restaurateurs and club owners will not take a hard stand for property rights. It doesn’t sell food and drink. Oh, they’ll cheer us on, but they’ll toe whatever line that a) causes the least trouble, and b) makes them the most cash in the system.

…and the system does not take long-term health effects into account.

So, you had business owners who were more than happy to crowd everyone together with sub-standard ventilation, breathing each other’s exhaust fumes, because it was cheap and the majority of the population smoked. Now the majority are non-smokers, don’t want to smell smoke, and are willing to subvert property rights (Just as it’s been done since the beginning of time) in order not to have to. Guess what? The business owners will make the just-enough-to-prove-a-point noise about it, and then roll over and comply. That’s how they ‘work the system’ to their advantage. They get to appear sympathetic to the ‘poor smoker’, but they can follow the majority and their dollars into a non-smoking paradise; best of all they get to keep their poorly ventilated, overly crowded buildings just the way they are, and look good in the process.

Best bang for the buck that there is.

This has been my point all along. Ya’ll can stay on the high horse of property rights, and loose. You will lose, mark my words. If it’s a choice of defending this myth that business ownership is some kind of grandiose last stand for property or defending my desire to breathe cleaner air, then I’m going to breath easier.

I could do that or we could establish that the system should take account of air quality, just as it does minimum structural standards, minimum exiting standards, minimum bathroom sizes, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Call it signage, call it minimum codes, call it defending my property, my body, from the negative health effects of your bad habits, even when I’m not physically on land that I own. I don’t care what you call it but it’s better than establishing smoking bans all over the nation, which is where we are headed right now. Then we can add tobacco to the list of black market drugs. How about ‘smoke-easy’ establishments? They probably already exist in New York.

Do you know what I would love to see? Smokers wearing space helmets to smoke in. With a HEPA filtration system on the helmet, no smoke would escape to annoy the non-smokers. Can you arrest him for smoking in his own private space? Would anyone bother? That would be an argument involving the rights of the smoker and no one else. Do you think we’d find a volunteer to test the theory? Or does even the most devout smoker balk at being cooped up in small space with too much smoke in it? If you really believe that it’s not a health hazard to smoke, then why would you not be willing to?

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Ayn Rand

I’m sure some of you out there dismissed my solution out of hand “Bah, more minimum standards. Just another there-oughta-be-a-law solution for problems that are none of the gov’ts business.”

Now, if I were talking about law, then I would agree with you. However, that wasn’t the subject. Building codes are not laws. Yes, I know, in most places they are adopted and enforced as laws; but they start out as guidelines drawn up by groups concerned about public safety. They are minimum standards for safe building, and are as necessary in the scheme of things as any written manual. Anyone interested in limiting their liability, and most businesses are interested in this, will attempt to follow some acceptable standard of practice. So the creation of minimum standards for building was inevitable and actually desirable.

The problem with building codes is that they become bound up in the bureaucracy of government. Wander down to the building department in nearly any city in the U.S. and you will see the stellar results we get from this approach. In Austin, the indecipherable rat’s maze of overlapping authorities has lead to the need to create an office – the Development Assistance Center – just to tell the newcomers where they should start in the maze. One size fits all – and you will comply with the standards.

Tying the codes to government has several other undesirable side effects. I want to focus on one of them: The negative effects that rigid standards imposes on innovation. Many of the new technologies face impediments placed in their way by codes that were drawn up before they existed. IMHO, minimum standards for indoor air quality is one of the areas that has been affected by this, which has lead to the panic over the negative effects of secondhand smoke.

The solution to making the codes more responsive is to divorce the creation and enforcement of building codes from the government altogether. Much like independent Underwriters Laboratories creates minimum standards and tests assemblies and devices based on those standards, building codes should be based on logical, definable standards that can be tested, inspected and approved by any sufficiently educated third party. Allow the property owners and the professionals who design the facilities to decide what standards they wish to meet; and then hold them accountable for failures in design.

…and the solution to the smoking issue in the built environment is to create a minimum standard for indoor air quality that addresses the public’s concern.

It is not the strongest species that survivenor the most intelligentbut the most responsive to change

Charles Darwin
Editor’ note and Postscript

This is another historical argument from my file of archived messages. Austin passed several smoking bans. Passed and overturned and passed again. This back and forth of the issue of how to handle the hazards of smoking in the city of Austin lead to some interesting thoughts on mine and other’s parts. This is some of it.

Since Yahoo has shuttered its groups and removed the group archives from public access, this record and others like it scattered across blog sites on the internet are the only records available of the more than twenty years of conversations that happened in groups hosted by Yahoo unless Archive.org or some other group interested in preserving history gets ahold of those old group archives.

These conversations were a clusterfuck to edit together the first time, and it has been a clusterfuck every other time I have tried to re-edit them. Pulling quotation marks and semicolons left and right. Typing out full words for stupid abbreviations. I think it sort of makes sense now. This article remains a cautionary tale for trying to record conversations in a format that doesn’t permit real dialog. The question that should be asked before embarking on this task is this one: “is it really worth the trouble? Can I turn the dialog into a monologue that doesn’t sound insane?” If the answer to that question is no, then don’t even start the editing process in the first place.

There were arguments along the way through the conversation about smoking bans that suggested something to the effect that “the average person doesn’t care about smoking, and so the smoking ban will never pass if put to a vote.” Not too long after the Round 3 discussion, a referendum on banning smoking indoors in Austin was put before the voters, and it passed by a slim majority. This development put Case Closed on the subject of smoking here in Austin, and it reversed the council’s transparent attempt to milk cash out of business owners who wanted to cater to smoking clientele.

The battle went on in court over the new ban, but it never looked good and eventually was upheld. Personally, I don’t think the courts want to reverse a ban instituted by referendum. There is such a fear of the will of the majority that minority rights are ignored when the majority deems it necessary. This has been true since the day when democracy was invented.

So the dust up over the property rights of business owners comes to naught, except for those business owners who see a serious dent in their profit margin in complying with the new ordinance. Which is pretty much how I saw it shaping up in the beginning.

Immigration, Take 2

An Anarchist friend of mine suggested that I wouldn’t find anything to object to in The Libertarian Immigration Conundrum by Per Bylund. However, I didn’t get into the second paragraph without doing so.

On the one hand, it is not possible as a libertarian to support a regulated immigration policy, since government itself is never legitimate.

Mises.org

I don’t want to argue with anarchists, I really don’t. It’s counterproductive. I want government out of my life, they want government out of their lives, we shouldn’t have to argue about the little nit picky things like government legitimacy.

And then one of them goes and throws a bombshell like the above. For the record, there are two kinds (at least) of libertarians. One group freely calls themselves anarchist (technically anarcho-capitalist) and takes the above view. The other (far larger) group just wants less government interference in day to day life (Less government interference = more freedom) some of us freely use the label that Robert Nozick (that Per Bylund references in his piece) coined for us, Minarchist, which loosely translates into “The least amount of government needed.” Mr Bylund himself must therefore be aware that his sweeping generalization is in error, but he goes on with the article anyway based on this erroneous assessment of Libertarians.

The reason that open borders is the right way to look at immigration policy is pragmatic, not idealistic. Pragmatically, the cost to close borders is prohibitively high, just in monetary terms. The cost in lost privacy, freedom, etc. doesn’t even bear thinking about (which is why anyone that advocates closing the borders isn’t a libertarian) Realistically, we have never been able to close the borders, not even in a state of war.

Which is why we should just let ’em in. Get whatever information the control freaks think we have to have in order to track the new immigrants (fingerprints, DNA, retinal scans, whatever) and let them get to work. I don’t have time for fantastical arguments concerning natural rights and the ownership of the commons, those sorts of things can be saved for the day that the anarchists get rid of government. I doubt that I’ll be there for that.

Postscript

Wait a minute. What did I say in that last paragraph? I don’t have time to argue about rights? Who is this imposter?