Happy Thanksgiving

I’m thankful the Pilgrims’ realization that collectivism causes misery and creates poverty still resonates enough 400 years later that most of us continue to respect the ideas of freedom of conscience, individual liberty, and free markets.

Despite over 100 years of accelerating totalitarian attempts to destroy them from within.


Of Plymouth Plantation, … the colony’s longtime governor, William Bradford. … details how the Pilgrims “languish[ed] in misery” sharing their labor and its fruits. The collectivism “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment.” Two years into the experiment ironically forced upon them by their capitalist underwriters, Bradford parceled common land out to individual families to exploit for their own selfish benefit.

“This had very good success,” Bradford explained, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.” The Pilgrim Father’s two-paragraph rejection of collectivism is among the most enduring and persuasive arguments for private property in the English language.”

For a another treatment of this, see How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims.

Looting and Freedom

Whether political freedom or economic freedom is more important is a moot question.

The most basic property right is self-ownership. To the degree that right is compromised, so is freedom. A commenter at the linked article above noted this:

“I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor, and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means’.”

   – Franz Oppenheimer, The State. New York: Free Life
      Editions, 1908 (1975), pp. 24-25

Beyond the unabashed wealth redistributionism of a Bernie Sanders, ‘unrequited appropriation of the labor of others’ includes all forms of rent-seeking: Regulation favoring entrenched business (from tariffs to requiring hair braiders to take hundreds of hours of training, to subsidies for solar panels, movies, art, mortgages, etc., etc., etc.); union shops; civil asset forfeiture and eminent domain; and zoning laws.

We may agree politically to give some portion of some of those freedoms to the State, but we will, by definition, be less free; and bureaucracies will always take more than is granted.

Principled resistance to the looting is a requirement of freedom.

Trump and Oregon and property rights

I’m waiting with interest for what Donald Trump has to say about the Federal attempt to force ranchers in Oregon off their land. See: The Full Story about what’s going on in Oregon.

To summarize: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have harassed ranchers in Oregon’s Harney Basin since the 1970s, changing grazing rules, denying legal water rights and trying to buy up ranches to add to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Two of those ranchers, Dwight Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond, have been targets of this harassment. They were arrested in 2006 for lighting fires to burn grassland. The “Harney County District Attorney reviewed the accusation, evidence and charges, and determined that the accusations against Dwight & Steven Hammond did not warrant prosecution and dropped all the charges.”

There were also accusations of attempting to cover up poaching with the fires, but they were neither charged nor convicted of this.

In 2011 the Feds charged them as terrorists. Yes, terrorists. In 2012 they were convicted of setting the fires in Federal Court, but with that came a conviction for terrorism. They served 3 and 12 month sentences, respectively.

Unsatisfied, in 2014 the Feds appealed the sentences as not meeting a minumum sentencing requirement of 5 years. The Judge at the original trial had overruled the minimum terrorist sentence, commenting that if the full five years were required it would be a violation of the 8th amendment. The Fed’s appeal succeeded.

The Hammonds have said they will report tomorrow to begin serving the increased sentences. The father will be 79 when he finishes his new sentence, the son 54. They have already paid $200,000 to the BLM, and another $200,000 was to have been paid before the end of 2015. They will be forced to sell to the BLM if the fine has not been paid.

On Saturday there was a peaceful protest of these sentences in Burns, Oregon, composed of about 300.

Since then, 100-150 people associated the Cliven Bundy family have peacefully occupied a Federal building in the refuge. Some are armed. The left is going nuts. The Hammond’s have disassociated themselves from this group.

Now, to Trump.

I see no difference in principle here from what Donald Trump tried to do to Vera Coking, a old woman who owned a house near one of his Casinos where he wanted to build a parking lot.

Trump’s case could be considered worse. The government wasn’t taking Vera Coking’s land for itself, it was taking it in order to give it to Trump, a man who said he supported the abominable SCOTUS Kelo decision 100%.

What’s going on in Oregon?

This is a must read: Full Story on What’s Going on In Oregon.

Take your blood pressure medication first.

What’s being done to the Hammonds demonstrates what happens when property rights are disregarded.

It’s worth pointing out that presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would both approve of this at-gun-point expropriation.

The Other Club noted the foundational nature of property rights just the other day: Property, morality and religion.

Property, morality and religion

Just read Larry Arnn’s (President of Hillsdale College) Imprimis piece Property Rights and Religious Liberty.  It’s excellent, but ultimately uncompelling as an argument that property rights are insufficient to secure religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Some rambling reactions…


[R]ecognizing that property is at the heart of the political argument we are having these days, [there] are those who say that all that is needed is to protect property rights. Get money right and get property right, these people think, and leave it at that—leave morality and religion out of the political equation. But that way of thinking too is foolish.

Not sure it’s foolish.  I’d like to try it somewhere and see what eventuates.  My prediction would be that such a lucky civilization would follow the arc of history of the United States up until Woodrow Wilson… and then keep going.  

Morality and religion are different things, though they are both your property. Property rights do imply a moral code, but I can’t see any particular philosophy of religion there.

I am inclined to think economic freedom is a prerequisite for “freedom of conscience and religious liberty.”  Arnn seems to agree: “If private property is going to be abolished, everything will have to be abolished.”  

I will agree that an ethical system like Judeo-Christianity is necessary, if not sufficient, to establish the fundamental principle that you are your own property. Not the church’s, not the State’s.

I do not agree that we must have a supernatural underpinning for that.


Yet Churchill went against the advice of all his advisors, including his wife, to make the point publicly that the socialists would never realize their ultimate aims without the use of “some form of Gestapo.” They did not intend this, at least the better of them did not, he said; but this is what it would take for their aims to be successful—this is what it would take to produce an equality of outcomes.

And Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom on precisely that theme.

Questions of “‘Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Whither are we going?’” are answered differently by different supernatural interpreters.  Which Diety can bring “comfort to the soul” is a matter of long extra- and intramural contention.

How do you reconcile the G_d who cares about every sparrow’s fall with your experience? A conversation between Yossarian and Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife in Catch-22 explores this question:

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued… “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else he’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about — a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

“Pain?” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife pounced upon the word victoriously. “Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.”

“And who created the dangers?” Yossarian demanded. He laughed caustically. “Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of his celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person’s forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn’t He?”

“People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon tubes in the middle of their foreheads.”

“They certainly look beautiful now writhing in agony or stupified with morphine, don’t they? What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He make of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It’s obvious He never met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler like Him as even a shipping clerk!”

Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife had turned ashen in disbelief and was ogling him with alarm. “You’d better not talk that way about Him, honey,” she warned him reprovingly in a low and hostile voice. “He might punish you.”

“Isn’t He punishing me enough?” Yossarian snorted resentfully. “You know, we certainly mustn’t let Him get away with it. Oh, no, we certainly mustn’t let Him get away scot free for all the sorrow He’s caused us. Someday I’m going to make him pay. I know when. On the Judgement Day. Yes, that’s the day I’ll be close enough to reach out and grab that little yokel by His neck and —”

“Stop it! Stop it!” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists. “Stop it!”

Yossarian ducked behind his arm for protection while she slammed away at him in feminine fury for a few seconds, and then he caught her determinedly by the wrists and forced her gently back down on the bed. “What the hell are you getting so upset about?” He asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”

“I don’t,” she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. “But the God I don’t believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He’s not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.”

Yossarian laughed and turned her arms loose. “Let’s have a little more religious freedom between us,” he proposed obligingly. “You don’t believe in the God you want to, and I won’t believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?”

Another interpretation might be that G_d is just uninvolved. That’s not much in the way of comfort, but does answer the problem of evil and maybe of free will.

All in all, I think property rights protect, or at minimum provide the basis for, protection of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. As Arnn says, you can’t really separate these things: It’s not just a fight about property. But, without property rights, the fight is already lost.

Related: The foolish ‘theism’ of government enthusiasts

Whose property are you?

Trial lawyer extraordinaire John Edwards is going to force you to see a doctor. Ipso facto, he does not think you own your body.

Therefore, I’m sure he’s a big fan of removing other property rights, as described here: Earmarks & the Kelo Decision Rolled Into One

If the Founding Fathers had wanted local zoning decisions made by the federal government, they would have written the Constitution that way.

And if they’d wanted the Feds to regulate individual health care decisions, they wouldn’t have bothered with the Tenth Amendment.

Ellsworth Toohey is alive and well and living in Seattle

Maureen Martin, writing at TCS Daily, notes that

Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos [sic].

A ban was initiated at the Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle. According to an article in the winter 2006-07 issue of “Rethinking Schools” magazine, the teachers at the private school wanted their students to learn that private property ownership is evil.

…Legos returned to the classroom after the children agreed to several guiding principles framed by the teachers, including that “All structures are public structures” and “All structures will be standard sizes.”

What kind of parent sends their child to such a school? Ann Pelo, a teacher at Hilltop and co-author of the Lego re-education manifesto, gives us this portrait of Hilltop parents in a 2005 article:

Hilltop is located in an affluent Seattle neighborhood, and, with only a few exceptions, the staff and families are mainly white. They are also, for the most part, politically and socially liberal and highly educated. While many of the teachers live paycheck to paycheck, as most childcare workers do, the families at Hilltop are from upper-income brackets.

The article goes on to reveal much more than you want to know about how Hilltop is run. It appears to be more an experiment in statist psychological development than an educational venture. I can’t recommend the entire article, except as illustration of a mindset. It is aptly titled Playing with Gender, though just whose sexual identity is being toyed with is somewhat muddled:

I asked teachers to read and talk about each observation “not as teachers trying to understand the children’s points of view, but as who you are: a lesbian, or a person from a working-class background, or a Filipina, or a European American, or a woman.”

Heteronormatively speaking there is not a great deal to work with there, but the pursuit of such insights does not come cheaply. Hilltop charges $900 to $1200 per month to turn a capitalist ankle-biter into a proletarian intellectual-eunuch. This rate is substantially higher than that charged in the re-education camps of Mao or Stalin, but you do get to skip the slave-labor bits.

There’s only indoctrination-space for about 50 cribto-communists, but that still adds up to around 600,000 units of filthy capitalist lucre per annum. The school also promotes 20 minute long videotapes that sell for $60. Presumably, you can learn to distinguish a LEGO® from a Lenin Log in that time. (Lenin Logs, in turn, are distinguished from Lincoln Logs in three ways – 1) Lenin Logs only come in one length, 2) where the notches are cut is random, and 3) you have to stand in line an hour for each one you receive free of charge.)

Donations to the Hilltop 501-3(c) are encouraged. Probably, this helps parents cope with the guilt of having more money and better houses than the teachers, at least until everybody lives in the same public housing complex. Be careful what you advocate for.

If we could get a mailing list, I would fund a copy of The Fountainhead for each Hilltop family on the condition they read it to their children. Howard Roark would have known what to do with the LEGOs.

And now a word from a Hilltop sponsor.

History shows that the formation of a new culture which centers around a ruling class demands considerable time and reaches completion only at the period preceding the political decadence of that class…

The problem of a proletariat which has conquered power consists, first of all, in taking into its own hands the apparatus of culture – the industries, schools, publications, press, theatres, etc. – which did not serve it before, and thus to open up the path of culture for itself…

The proletariat cannot postpone socialist reconstruction until the time when its new scientists, many of whom are still running about in short trousers, will test and clean all the instruments and all the channels of knowledge