growing stages

WANTED: Liberty entrepreneurs

Money is a dirty word in the liberty movement.  Ironic, for a pro-free-market and free trade ideology.  But when theory becomes reality, many recoil at the idea of bloggers doing sales or advertising.  Why?

Spending time to make content or technology means taking time away from other activities, whether business or leisure.  That time has to be compensated.  Yet some act like entitled socialists, expecting this work to be provided for free!

To be fair, some monetization strategies are obnoxious or spammy.  But all that means is we need better monetization options.  Better technologies.  Better feedback and suggestion from audiences of what works and what doesn’t.

For the liberty movement to survive, much less thrive and change the world, it must be economically self-sufficient.  If you can’t feed yourself, you can’t change the world.  If our activities in pursuit of liberty are not profitable, but only financial drains, we will never grow and advance.

We need more business models around advancing liberty.  We need more content, more media platforms, more technologies.  With the fake news media collapsing before our eyes, there has never been a better opportunity than now.  There is so much pent up demand and very little supply.

We need more liberty entrepreneurs.

Not just from an economic perspective, but from a psychological one as well.  It can get depressing focusing only on what the poweful are doing to us.  Who wants to be on a constantly losing team, with a victim mentality?  It’s time we recognize our own power, take responsibility, and become agents of change.

I am working on several media technology projects with a group of liberty-minded developers and creators.  Want to join the effort?  Email me at apollo at apolloslater dot com and let’s get to work!

Costs vs benefits of patents

Is intellectual property really property? (Part 3)

Continuing on part 1 and part 2 in our series on intellectual property, today we look at why the social value of patents is greatly overestimated.

Patents not necessary for innovation

Most patents are not litigated.  That would be insanely expensive.  What ends up is a policy of mutually-assured destruction, where big companies build up patent portfolios as a defensive measure.  But this could be accomplished with a voluntarist patent system, where you lose protection of your patents, if you violate anyone else’s.

Trade secretsMost intellectual property is not patented.  It is squirrelled away as trade secrets.  It lies in the particular operations and tradecraft of millions of businesses.  That means most of the innovative power of the economy is not dependent on the government-run patent system.  Then we have to question whether the patent system itself is necessary.

Huge costs of patents

The supposed benefits of patents to innovators are the justification for the system.  But the costs to innovators and startup businesses are overlooked.

patent_troll_chartPatent trolls build up massive patent portfolios and litigate against any startup in a particular field, even without merit, as the cost of defending is extremely high.  This creates huge uncertainty in entrepreneurship and requires a lot of capital to start up.  It is another example of government-mandated capital concentration.

Innovators are more likely to get hammered by a lawsuit, than to benefit from a patent that takes millions to grant and to defend.  This means patents are not necessary for innovation and they actively discourage it.  This obviates the very reason patents were created in the first place.

The costs greatly outweigh the benefits of the current patent system.  And it certainly is not any better than a voluntarist system, that does not rely on violence for enforcement, but only mutal respect of participants’ intellectual property.

 

South Park - La Resistance

“Fake news” hysteria is a huge opportunity

It is an auspicious time for independent media.  The Fake Media’s “fake news” hysteria has capped off this year’s apotheosis of undisguised propaganda.  Now we learn that the US government will directly fund domestic pro-government propaganda in the press and on social media, with $160 million.  Let me explain why this is amazing news for independent media.

The media world has supply and demand, just like any other market.  There is a demand out there for real information and it is up to the media to satisfy that demand.  The more the media avoid this, and publish lies and hoaxes instead, the more business opportunity there is to fill the void.  This is how Fox News became such a cable news powerhouse.  Due to the “fake news” hysteria, the big platforms Facebook, Google, and Twitter are censoring alternative voices.  This creates an opportunity for a Fox News of social media (perhaps many!).

The government’s funding of propaganda reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of media.  It is treating the internet as an “enemy weapons system“.  But media consumption is not a win-lose, zero-sum game.  All this does is crowd out existing journalism and reduces the supply of real information.  But the demand remains the same.  That means there is now an even greater business opportunity for free speech advocates than before.

We have a real, tangible, action plan to dismantle the establishment’s hold on power: Start new media platforms and especially new media technologies.  Let us create independent media content, independent social networks, independent ad networks, independent video sharing, … independent everything!  The opportunities are boundless.  I myself am working with a group on such a project in the media tech space.  If you are interested in learning more about our effort, please email me at apollo at apolloslater dot com.

Vive la resistance!

Steemit logo

Steemit, a fresh breath of hot air

This post is an edited collection of my responses to James Corbett’s presentation on the social bookmarking site Steemit.

A new social bookmarking site, Steemit, has been taking off recently, in libertarian and anarchist circles, promising decentralized, uncontrolled publishing via blockchain technology.  However, on closer analysis, Steemit does not look decentralized at all. It looks like a standard social bookmarking site, with the added feature of paying for tokens to increase your post/comment ranking. It seems like interest groups with deep pockets could easily game the ranking system, moreso than other sites. In fact, this operation seems more like a scheme to sell digital currency than a publishing platform.

As for the blockchain, besides the nice buzzword, I’m not sure what it solves in terms of preventing censorship, besides providing a public cache. This function is performed now by image-hosting sites, private websites, archive.org, as well as the social network platforms themselves. The big problem is discovery and ranking, how people actually communicate and find out about stuff, which Steemit is still very vulnerable to.

It’s very odd that Steemit requires a Facebook or Reddit account to function, with plans to add SMS verification, but no stated plans to remove these restrictions. I’m not sure what permissions they ask for, since I haven’t signed up, but it certainly opens the possibility of those social networks reading your Steemit posts and punishing you on their platform. In any case, it’s a big hint that this is not a decentralized system and is doubly strange because most platforms do not have such a restrictive requirement. A truly decentralized system would not have a spam/fake account problem, except as DDoS, since it would not rely on a central index.

Steemit does not look like any better of a solution than Facebook or Twitter at this point, except to the extent that you trust the people running it more. The links to the User Agreement and Privacy Policy are broken and there is no ownership information about the company on their website. Caution!

Facebook groups by political group

Is Facebook censoring right-wing groups?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Facebook and Twitter censoring conservative and libertarian groups and personalities, such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Lauren Southern.  While this is undoubtedly true in many specific instances, how big of an issue is this overall?

One thing we can look at is the number of left- or right-leaning groups.  I did a quick search for Facebook groups containing popular political keywords.  It seems that the right-wing is much more active, at least measured by number of groups:

Republican 141 Democrat 108
Conservative 178 Progressive 112
Libertarian 103 Socialist 93

Caveats:

  • I used Facebook’s Graph API to conduct searches. You may get different results using the browser or app search.
  • These are only the most popular keywords, but there are many more specific keywords, with more groups.
  • These numbers do not reflect group membership counts or engagement levels. Perhaps that’s a future post!
bitcoin balloon

Bitcoin’s paper price bump

What’s behind Bitcoin’s recent price increase? I’ll tell you — and it’s not Bitcoin’s utility as a currency, or wonderful investment opportunity.
 
Bitfinex accounts for the largest share of BTC trading volume. Yet they stopped accepting USD deposits back in April. This inevitably spilled into restricting USD withdrawals.  After that, BTC price on their exchange went up. Why?
 
If you were an account holder, what would you do? I’m not able to withdraw my USD. Therefore, I’ll buy BTC so I can move it to another wallet. Hence, increased demand for BTC on their exchange, and increased price AND volume.
 
Other exchanges did the same; there are not many that allow USD deposits & withdrawals now.
 
This recent BTC price increase is caused by the fact that no one can withdraw USD!
What happens when this bottled-up demand to withdraw finally moves into USD, other fiat, or other crypto?
Updated on 10/20/2017 to reflect USD withdrawal restrictions and supporting link.
bitcoin unlocked

Alt-coins are vulnerable to attack

The strength of a cryptocurrency is the share of global processing power it can muster in service of its ledger.  An attack by a significant computational resource (botnet, mining pool, government supercomputer, etc.) could potentially reverse recent transactions or cause a fork of the currency.  The reason the global share matters is that computational power is fungible, and may be used in service of any cryptocurrency.

The less computational power dedicated to mining a crypto, the more vulnerable it is to attack.  Alt-coins that do not command as much hash power as Bitcoin would be first in line.

Processing power over time is governed by the price per computational unit and by the price of electricity.  For example, a spike in electricity prices or transistor prices would increase mining costs, and therefore transaction fees, possibly disrupting the usability of the currency.  A sudden drop in electricity prices or transistor prices would reduce mining costs, increasing the chance of attacks on a currency’s ledger.

Such attacks could be orchestrated, not necessarily to steal the underlying wealth of currency holders, but to accomplish secondary effects beneficial to the attacker.  For example:

  • A large investor in a particular crypto may attack a competing (smaller) crypto intruding in the space.  This implies a first-mover advantage in the cryptocurrency space and stratification of crypto, with one per defensible economic niche.  Eventually, the market may consolidate into one global crypto.
  • Momentarily disrupt the functioning of a crypto at a critical moment in its development, for maximum PR effect, to spread fear & uncertainty to potential investors and adopters.
  • Momentarily disrupt recent transactions to create uncertainty for retailers accepting the currency & consumers using it.
  • Permanently disrupt or fork a smaller currency.

You would only need to bid on computing power for a short time to cause a major disruption.  Miners are very sensitive to transaction fees, so would quickly respond to any change in market demand.  Furthermore, cloud mining operations, and cloud computing in general, provide an easy way to quickly spool up computing power for a short time, disrupt the target crypto, and spool down, thus minimizing costs.

Alt-coins based on a permissionless, global blockchain are very vulnerable to this type of attack. Eventually, even Bitcoin itself may come under attack should there be a revolutionary development in computational hardware, exploited by a group of early adopters, or a government willing to throw massive fiat to kill it once and for all.

Bitcoin broken

Bitcoin is a ponzi scheme

All “cryptocurrencies” based on artificial limits are inherently pump-and-dump schemes.  If they were true free market currencies, the money supply would grow with demand. Instead, they are artificially restricted.  Why?  To create the illusion of limited supply and therefore expectation of future scarcity and speculative profit.

Bitcoin price chart 2017They are fiat currencies, based on nothing but this speculation.  The Bitcoin price chart shows this.  Bitcoin fanboys point to the skyrocketing price as a badge of honor, but all it shows is that it is a speculation, not a store of value.  It has no price stability, and cannot be considered a “currency”.

In the short term, the price will keep going up for various reasons.  Mining is getting more expensive and less profitable, driving out miners and restricting supply.  Use as a pseudo-anonymous money transfer scheme is increasing on the dark web.  A method of circumventing Chinese capital controls.  An investment vehicle for Chinese with not enough local investment options.

But eventually, people will realize NOTHING holds up the value of Bitcoin.  No petrodollar, no USG taxation.  And it will collapse, as will the rest of the currencies that will inevitably fork off this one.  This is even ignoring the major security and regulatory issues that plague Bitcoin.

Currency is a form of social credit.  It’s an implied debt, that someone will pay off with goods & services in the future.  This should be the basis of any cryptocurrency, not arbitrary and artificial limits on supply, and fancy math for its issuance.

South Park - La Resistance

“Fake news” hysteria is a huge opportunity

It is an auspicious time for independent media.  The Fake Media’s “fake news” hysteria has capped off this year’s apotheosis of undisguised propaganda.  Now we learn that the US government will directly fund domestic pro-government propaganda in the press and on social media, with $160 million.  Let me explain why this is amazing news for independent media.

The media world has supply and demand, just like any other market.  There is a demand out there for real information and it is up to the media to satisfy that demand.  The more the media avoid this, and publish lies and hoaxes instead, the more business opportunity there is to fill the void.  This is how Fox News became such a cable news powerhouse.  Due to the “fake news” hysteria, the big platforms Facebook, Google, and Twitter are censoring alternative voices.  This creates an opportunity for a Fox News of social media (perhaps many!).

The government’s funding of propaganda reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of media.  It is treating the internet as an “enemy weapons system“.  But media consumption is not a win-lose, zero-sum game.  All this does is crowd out existing journalism and reduces the supply of real information.  But the demand remains the same.  That means there is now an even greater business opportunity for free speech advocates than before.

We have a real, tangible, action plan to dismantle the establishment’s hold on power: Start new media platforms and especially new media technologies.  Let us create independent media content, independent social networks, independent ad networks, independent video sharing, … independent everything!  The opportunities are boundless.  I myself am working with a group on such a project in the media tech space.  If you are interested in learning more about our effort, please email me at apollo at apolloslater dot com.

Vive la resistance!

extortion and secession

Secession misses the point

Secession, as a means to anarchy, misses the point.
 
Peaceful secession is simply a rearrangement of the political structure to one that is more convenient for the ruling regime, either because it is more economically efficient, or reduces political tensions and makes it easier to rule. Either way, any temporary increase in liberty is allowed only because it ultimately results in more control for the elite.
 
Real secession, creation of a sovereign state, necessarily means war. It is the rejection of the existing authority.
 
Anarchy cannot be achieved by peaceful secession. It is the rejection of all authority. Leftists are power-mad and do not care about economic efficiency, other people’s views, or tolerance. They believe they are right and want to kill their evil enemies. They will not “live and let live”, because that is precisely their attitude in the existing regime. Peaceful secession from a leftist regime is a performative contradiction.
 
The only way we will achieve liberty is by removing the tools of power from leftists and any other power-hungry psychopaths. This potentially could be achieved by many means, such as getting a majority of people on the side of liberty, to remove democratic power from the elite. But no leftist state will tolerate an independent anarchist regime anywhere in their sphere of control (they won’t even leave Iraq alone!).
 
The only way to achieve separation is by war.
Liberty pioneers, showing the way through the economic wilderness

Liberty pioneers: showing the world how to live without government

Libertarians living off tax money is unethical, but it’s an even bigger practical problem. It shows that living without the government teat is impossible, that living on theft is the only way. It is philosophically damaging to the idea of a voluntary society. It is also bad marketing to people who ask questions like “who will build the roads?”

There will never be a day when we simply “get rid of government”, such that everything is perfectly free. This is because no one wants to be the first to give up their government goodies. Just as unilateral free trade is better than mutual protectionism, unilateral voluntarism is better than mutual theft. We can only ever get rid of government by showing, in practical terms, how to make a living without it.

Is it difficult? Extremely! Will it mean less money and fewer opportunities than working for the government? Yes! That is the price of advancing liberty. Many people are not up to the task. But then don’t blow hot air about liberty, if you are unwilling to do what is required to bring it about. It reeks of hypocrisy. The pioneers of liberty are the ones who show how to make a living, or even be rich, without stolen tax money. If they show the way, others will follow, simply because it’s in their self-interest. And isn’t that what we say motivates people, rather than abstract principles that contradict their daily reality?

Receiving tax money is theft

Ethics of receiving government money

I had a couple of objections to my argument that living off the government is unethical.

First, if accepting a government wage is unethical, then using the roads must also be unethical.

But this is not the case if one uses the net tax payer vs. net tax taker standard.  Using the roads is simply redeeming what was stolen from me.  Earning a government wage is 100% theft.

What about using the roads without having paid any taxes?  Should the government compel this person to pay taxes in order to justify using the roads?

If one looks at the road as just a pile of stolen money, the ethical way to remedy a theft is to split the money proportionally to what was stolen, and return the money to the victims.  Since the road cannot be split physically, its use may be split, effectively as usage vouchers, for the expected lifetime of the road that was built from that theft.  In other words, privatized.

The person who infringes on the use of the road without having had anything stolen in the first place, is infringing on the usage of the people who were stolen from.  He would be responsible for compensating those privatized owners, not for paying new taxes, i.e. new thefts committed against him.

This standard is consistent with not accepting any of the government’s stolen loot, unless, and only in the amount that, one was stolen from.

A corollary objection is, doesn’t this imply a need for government borders, since illegals use roads without having paid taxes?

Punishing people collectively is not justified, just because they are foreigners.  Furthermore, no one has commited any violations prior to crossing the border, so no a priori punishment is justified.  Many end up working and having money stolen from them.  However, any who do receive more from the government than was stolen from, are also stealing, the same as Americans who do so.  So, there is no categorical difference between Americans and foreigners.  No national border is justified, any more than any arbitrary border within the country.

The second objection is, while it may be unethical to provide services to the government in exchange for stolen money, it is okay to simply receive the money, as in Social Security payments.

If someone steals your car, you can justly recover your car, since you hold the rightful title.  If they steal your car and give it to a friend, you can also justly recover your car from their friend, since they do not have any rightful claim on it.  It is unethical for the robber’s friend to receive the stolen car.

Similarly, it is unethical to accept stolen money, since the victims have a right to have their money returned, from the money handed out by the government.

Birds flying to freedom

Human nature: liberty or tyranny?

If liberty is human nature, then we should see humanity in a state of liberty.  It is not in a state of liberty, but one of tyranny, or one of mixed liberty and tyranny.  Either tyranny must be an aberration or human nature is not purely suited to liberty.

If tyranny is an aberration, a result of historical circumstance, or a particular person or institution, then eliminating the aberrant factor should let humanity resume liberty.  History has shown eliminating the source of tyranny usually leads to a replacement tyranny, oftentimes greater than the original.

Any state, or center of power, gravitates towards greater tyranny over time, until a crisis, and rearrangement of affairs.

Outside the scope of the state, humans gravitate towards liberty, by the pursuit of their desires, by the creation of new forms and methods, by the discovery of new places and avenues.

As groups, humans vacillate between tyranny and liberty, often advancing both at once.

As individuals, humans pursue their own liberty, yet accept tyranny over others, and over themselves, as a price of liberty.

Lowering the price of liberty, easing the pursuit of one’s own ends, makes the individual less accepting of tyranny.

Increasing the price of tyranny makes the individual want to escape, and accept liberty, even if costly.

Liberty is the pursuit of one’s own ends.  Tyranny is opposing another’s pursuit of their own ends.

Liberty and tyranny are attitudes.  The more one is concerned with their own pursuits, the less they are likely to tyrannize.  The more one is concerned with others’ pursuits, the more likely they are to tyrannize.

The key to pursuing liberty as an end in itself is to shift people’s focus to themselves rather than others.

Humans look to control others for some end they value.  Their own end, or that of another’s: a god, a king, a state.

If all humans wanted to control others for their own ends, no control would be possible, since it would be nullified in its symmetric pursuit among all humans.  Tyranny can only arise by the desire to control for the sake of another.

The mysteries of existence and creation are fashioned into religion.  Human virtue and honor are fashioned into a king.  Organization and security are fashioned into a state.

The very things that humans value are fashioned into the means of their enslavement.  Tyranny is the pursuit of goodness by evil means.

Liberty is the pursuit of one’s ends by one’s own means.

Blood and Soil

“Blood and Soil” Libertarianism: A Response to Jeff Deist

Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute, gave a talk this week, pushing libertarians into alt-right nationalism.  His talk is a confused mess and is a reminder that statism will always threaten to infect the liberty movement.

First, he sets up the necessity for political action by attacking technology development as a means of liberation.  He says technology doesn’t advance liberty on balance.  According to Jeff, only political power can result in libertarianism.  Peaceful development of technology, and its voluntary adoption, is politically useless, because it will end up being used by governments to oppress people.

Of course, this is contradicted by hundreds of years of technological progress.  Capital markets didn’t arise from a political process.  They were a technological innovation, that promoted social liberty regardless of the understanding of the participants.  Jeff actually says that the printing press had no net liberating effect on humanity!  Do I really need to spell out the massive liberating effect from thousands of years of ignorance and lies, the massive new opportunities available to commoners?  But, because it didn’t eliminate government altogether, it doesn’t count.  Yet later he says “Better, not perfect, ought to be our motto.”  Confused!

This isn’t his only confusion.  He poo poos technological optimism as “historical determinism”.  Yet in the same paragraph he says technology is useless because globalism is inevitable!  Which is it Jeff?   Are we to believe we can thwart determinism with politics, but not technology?  Talk about naive.  Then he calls libertarians “utopian” – confused!

Let’s take a look at Jeff’s mess of confusion and translate it into plain English.

“libertarians have a bad tendency to fall into utopianism”
“[Libertarians want to] give up their outdated ethnic or nationalist or cultural alliances.”

Translation: Libertarians are so silly to believe freedom is the highest political ideal.  Actually, it is about “nationalist or cultural alliances”.

“liberty as a deeply pragmatic approach to organizing society”

Translation: Society needs to be “organized” (centrally planned).  We need to be “pragmatic”, not principled, meaning we should use state power to achieve our desired ends.

“Better, not perfect, ought to be our motto.”

Translation: Dump liberty principles in the trash so we can use the state to defend “muh culture”.

“Human beings want to be part of something larger than themselves. Why do libertarians fail to grasp this?”
“There is a word for people who believe in nothing: not government, family, God, society, morality, or civilization. And that word is nihilist, not libertarian.”

Translation: Libertarianism isn’t about freedom from coercion.  It’s about being part of a collective and believing specific things about society and theology.

“My final point is about the stubborn tendency of libertarians to advocate some of sort of universal political arrangement.”
“Universalism provides the philosophical underpinnings for globalism, but globalism is not liberty: instead it threatens to create whole new levels of government. And universalism is not natural law; in fact it is often directly at odds with human nature and (true) human diversity.”

Translation: Libertarianism doesn’t apply to all humans.  It isn’t derived from human nature.  It is only suited to white Europeans in the United States.

“Nationalism is on the rise throughout Europe,”
“We should seize on this.”

Translation: Nationalist collectivism is en vogue right now, let’s abandon libertarian principles to ride this momentary popularity.  [Wait, I thought the world is moving inevitably towards globalism??]

“Mecca is not Paris, an Irishman is not an Aboriginal, a Buddhist is not a Rastafarian, a soccer mom is not a Russian.”

Translation: Humans are defined by their birthplace and race, as units of a collective identity.  Humans are not self-interested individuals who strive to pursue their own happiness.

“self-determination is the ultimate political goal.”

Translation: Self-determination of a national collective, not of the individual.  Remember, libertarianism is not accessible to other races or cultures, only white European America.

Note: The breakup of large superstates can be cheered without resorting to national collectivism.  The bureaucratization and monopolization of these superstates act to diminish individual freedom.  We want competing tax rates and regulatory environments, to allow people alternatives.

But just as technology is not a panacea, neither are national governments.   A national breakaway state may impose protectionist tarrifs, whereas a superstate guarantees free trade.  A smaller state may also be more tyrannical than the superstate it broke away from, reducing its citizens’ liberty.  The sword cuts both ways.

“In other words, blood and soil and God and nation still matter to people. Libertarians ignore this at the risk of irrelevance.”

This one takes the cake.  Jeff goes with an unambiguous Nazi reference “Blood and Soil” (“Blut und Boden”) to describe his new libertarian values.  Not sure if he’s trolling, or just careless, but ultimately it means collectivism, whether based on genetics or the geography of one’s birth.  Apparently, libertarian ideas about individual freedom are not as important as we thought.  We should not strive to live and promote these values, no matter how difficult.  What matters is political “relevance” (power).  Sorry Jeff, I’m not interested in this version of “libertarianism”.