Notes Book


It upsets my wife when I call government and corporate leaders criminals, so I went looking for a more neutral term, or euphemism, if you will.

But that leads to connotative drift. A rose by any other name would smell the same is another way of saying that connotation follows function. If I change the name of something unpleasant to a new name with a better connotation, the connotation of the new name will eventually become the same as the connotation of the old name.

Linguistic inflation is as futile as monetary inflation. The market always wins, much to the chagrin of Government officials and others who would like to provide a rosy picture of the reality they are trying to sell. A perfect example of this was when President Obama declared that the Obomacare mandate was not a tax. Now the word mandate has taken on some of the negative connotations of the word tax. Not that it started out with a great connotation. Language that does not reflect reality is useless for communication purposes, and will not be used in general conversation. Such stilted utterances are too easily to defeat by humor to gain a lot of general traction, other than being the subject of jokes.

But perhaps there is some utility in the word coercive. There are some coercive acts that are not crimes, and there are some crimes that do not involve coercion.

If you commit a lessor crime to prevent a greater crime, then you have a positive balance in the scales of justice. This is not a trivial consideration, and occupies a great deal of the discussion in criminal courtrooms, and it may be that we don't have any other kinds of courtrooms except for criminal courtrooms. I'm not in a position to say, but I have my suspicions.

In theory, a society might also have a crime balance. If the members of the society contribute more in goods and services than they waste committing crimes, the society has a positive balance with respect to crime, and most probably a positive balance economically as well.

In the nineteenth century, Americans led a life remarkably free of government coercion. There was no income tax, no DMV, no TSA, no FBI, no NSA, no AMA, no ARPA, no sales tax, and few or no building codes, and yet the country functioned quite well. Now almost every commercial transaction is monitored and taxed by the government. Coercive transactions have skyrocketed and non-coercive transactions are harder and harder to find, and the economy is not functioning well. I don't think our society has a positive crime balance any longer, and our international balance of payments reflects that.

We go around the world killing large groups of people in order to secure cheap natural resources. With policies like that, we would have to be doing a lot of good to achieve a positive crime balance, but it seems that our society is leaning more and more to the dark side.

We put people in jail for smoking pot. Putting a person in jail is functionally kidnapping. Everyone agrees that kidnapping is a serious crime. There is no such consensus about the use of cannabis.

A society based on coercion is not sustainable, and change is coming. We need to be thinking about how to bring about the needed change with the least amount of pain for everyone.

We really, really need to stop using violent means for punishing people who we disapprove of, but who have not committed violence themselves. If you don't initiate force against someone, then the society should have no reason to initiate force against you. We shouldn't be putting people in jail for smoking pot, but we also shouldn't be putting people in jail for fraud and theft. I am not condoning fraud or theft. I am not advocating letting criminal bankers continue their actions, but they shouldn't face the threat of jail if they didn't personally commit a violent act, but they surely have not much right to complain if fraud or theft is used against them after they have used fraudulent means to achieve great wealth.

The punishment should not be greater than the crime. Harsh punishments provide evil incentives for operators of the criminal justice system. Penalties that cover just a little less than the total cost of the crime provide both disincentives for criminal acts and incentives for victims to avoid situations that make them vulnerable.

The twentieth century was largely devoted to a violent struggle to determine what kind of coercive ideology would rule the world. Communism, Fascism, and Democracy were the leading contenders. Perhaps the discussion for the twenty-first century is whether we'd be better of with a non-coercive plan, or at least a minimally coercion plan.

Some people think that a government-free society is harder to sell than a limited government society. I don't accept the premise.

A statist has to defend all the actions of government. A minarchist, has to defend all the actions of government carried out by departments she doesn't want to eliminate. All the anarchist has to defend is the actions of ordinary citizens. It's true that ordinary citizens commit crimes, but the state outshines all others in the field of criminal, rude, and boorish behavior.

If you are arguing for minarchy with a statist, you basically are arguing with yourself. I think nearly all statists would like to cut some government programs. The republicans famously want to cut welfare, and the democrats want to cut defense. There are a lot of subdivisions of interest groups that have different visions of what a government should be. In the modern world, total statists like Mussolini and Mao either don't exist, or have very few followers.

Statism is morally and economically bankrupt. We have done a dance of reducing statism to absurdity, and the result is truly frightening. The state is an existential threat to the human race.