Posts by: "Guest Blog"
by Sunil060902/Wikipedia commons

by Sunil060902/Wikipedia commons

Below is a guestpost by Cory Massimino, left libertarian and friend to The Stag Blog. Since left vs. right, thick vs. thin, humanitarian vs. brutalist debates have been popular within libertarian circles lately, The Stag Blog decided to dive in. Have something to say? Comment below. Want to call Cory a filthy commie in more words than a comment? Email me (LucyStag@gmail.com) and add your voice to the debate! — LS

Recently the topic of left libertarianism has become a popular point of debate on certain social media. Despite there being more left libertarians than at any time in recent memory, a lot of libertarians (and other people) are still using the term incorrectly.

Left libertarianism has historically been used to refer to a wide spectrum of political (or apolitical to be more exact) ideologies. I would like to clarify what the label most accurately means in contemporary discourse and where the people who identify as such are drawing from. I would also like to outline the basic views of modern left libertarians — despite it still being an extremely broad spectrum — and to dispel some of the most common myths.

What Left Libertarianism Is

Left libertarianism is the distinct version of libertarianism that integrates traditionally leftist values with libertarian anti-state values.

Those leftist values include, but are not limited to:

Of course left libertarians are still libertarians, and historically libertarian values are also important. Those include, but aren’t limited to:

In this vein, left libertarians oppose all kinds of state taxation, regulation, subsidies, and embrace competition in all areas of the economy:

In this sense, left-libertarianism continues the tradition started by the 19th century individualist anarchists, such as Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Josiah Warren, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Voltairine de Cleyre, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Hodgskin, and others. This strain of libertarianism is seen today by the likes of the Center for a Stateless Society and in the work of Gary Chartier, Roderick Long, Kevin Carson, Sheldon Richman, James Tuttle, Samuel Edward Konkin, Anthony Gregory*, Chris Mathew Sciabarra, Karl Hess, Charles Johnson, and others.

Left libertarianism is ultimately about rejecting authoritarianism: whether it is via the direct use of coercion like when a politician extorts people every April 15th; or whether it is via economic subjugation like when a boss yells inane orders at his employee who has no other viable option; or whether it is via cultural oppression like when a husband mistreats his wife and gets away with it.

What Left Libertarianism Is Not

There is no shortage of confusion and mischaracterization about what left libertarianism actually is. Here are some of the most popular myths set straight:

1. Left libertarians are not communists. As stated above, left libertarians support robust property rights, whether in the form of Lockean/Rothbardian rights or in the Mutualist sense. Either way, left libertarians are staunch advocates of private property and markets because of their perceived moral foundations and/or their good social consequences.

2. Left libertarians are not corporate apologists. Despite supporting the complete abolition of economic intervention by the state, left libertarians are strongly anti-corporation. In fact, it is because of their anti-statism that they are anti-corporation. Left libertarians identity modern corporate domination as being strictly tied to the state and without government granted privileges, corporations would be much less powerful and possibly go away completely.

3. Left libertarians are not “bleeding heart libertarians.” Though some of the bloggers over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians identify as left libertarians, not all left libertarians are BHLers. Historically, left libertarianism has been associated with the libertarian anarchist tradition. It would be a broad view of left libertarianism that included non-anarchists (there are a few BHL anarchists, however). In short, bleeding heart libertarianism can be a kind of left libertarianism, but they are not synonymous.

4. Left libertarians can be Austrian. There are many left libertarians, such as Roderick Long, that identify as Austrian school. There is nothing contradictory about embracing praxeology, the subjective theory of value, Austrian business cycle theory, etc. in addition to left libertarianism. They are not mutually exclusive.

5. Left libertarians are not statists. While left libertarians oppose certain cultural and social practices, that doesn’t mean they want to combat them with force. Despite aligning with radical feminism, left libertarians don’t want to use the state to combat patriarchy. In fact, they often view state power and patriarchy as reinforcing structures. Left libertarians are still ultimately anti-statist and embrace the non-aggression principle. Supporting something doesn’t mean advocating the state doing it. Left libertarians see lots of room for voluntary social pressure, protests, boycotts, mutual aid, and other forms of direct action in a free society.

I have tried to clarify and briefly explain the core components of the modern left libertarian ideology. I hope readers have found my summation useful and recognize the myths when they see them. For a more comprehensive, and much better written, essay on left libertarianism, see here.

Cory Massimino studies economics at Seminole State University and blogs for Students For Liberty. He spends his time ranting about the government and educating people on basic economics. Follow him on Twitter

* Not if I keep arguing with Gregory, damn it! — LS

258c9a567fba3fc64abf3573d93b0db1Okay maybe guest blogger Todd Seavey didn’t stick to the Tuesday Apocalypse theme, but if we can’t go off theme at a libertarian/anarchist blog, what good is having an anarchist/libertarian blog? Seavey is a great writer, so we let him go on a nerd journey about some of the new X-Men films. The Stag Blog welcomes submissions on any and all subjects — including delicious nerdery. Check out below for links to some of Seavey’s other works. — LS

Word is that 2016 will bring the film X-Men: Apocalypse, set in the 1980s and featuring the centuries-old, conflict-creating, villainous, Egyptian mutant named Apocalypse (and perhaps a teenage version of X-Men team member Storm, back in her days as a street thief in Cairo?). This is just one of several reasons I can confidently predict that this year, in the film X-Men: Days of Future Past, the X-Men timeline will be rebooted (a la J.J. Abrams’ relaunch of Star Trek). Every X-Men film you’ve seen except for 2011’s X-Men: First Class will be erased from the fictional timeline at a theatre near you one month from now, mark my words.

But why? Well, when Star Trek, Star Wars, and Tolkien all went the prequel-film route, those franchises got worse. X-Men, by contrast, arguably gave us the best entry in the whole series with the swingin’, James Bond-influenced X-Men: First Class, directed by Matthew Vaughn. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbinder were as engaging, in their own way, portraying the 1960s versions of heroic Professor X and anti-heroic Magneto as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen had been in portraying the aged, present-day versions of the characters in the other ensemble X-Men films. More important: McAvoy and Fassbinder’s contracts weren’t about to expire, as are the contracts of many of the Stewart/McKellen ensemble.

Rumor has it that Fox had long had its doubts about whether the unwieldy, megastar-filled cast of the main trilogy of X-Men film was worth the trouble of paying and scheduling, especially given what a small portion of the general film-going audience can keep track of all those mutant characters. The tortured one-on-one relationship of McAvoy and Fassbinder is easier to do — and Mystique, the shapeshifter mutant for whose loyalty they’ve battled, is played by Jennifer Lawrence, suddenly a big star in her own right. Why not focus on these three?

But first: this year brings X-Men: Days of Future Past, with a great built-in excuse for starting from scratch at film’s end. The whole plot (which was not conjured up just for the strategic purposes I’m describing here but was genuinely derived from a classic story in the original comic books) revolves around the Stewart/McKellen versions of the characters using time travel to prevent an apocalyptic war between mutants and humans circa 2023 — by teaching their younger selves (McAvoy and Fassbinder) to be peacemakers instead of warriors. Clearly, it’s easiest to end this film with a clean slate, back in the 1970s, and just proceed with McAvoy, Fassbinder, Lawrence, and whatever fresh, young actors we choose, leaving Halle Berry and other potentially-pricey old cast members to exit with dignity.

The fact that 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse takes place in the 1980s, then, strongly suggests that from here on out we’ll just keep moving forward from the newly-improved 1970s. That means Stewart et al — and the five films in which those actors appeared — will no longer be the foregone conclusion to which the franchise is leading. From here, it’s just First Class (which took place in the ’60s, remember) and forward. New viewers looking to save time can skip all the rest. It makes everything so easy! (Though admittedly having a major film franchise stuck in the fictional 1980s is a bit odd — not that you’ll hear any complaints from this Duran Duran fan).

The fresh start would also make it easy to ignore/erase the multiple continuity errors that the series has accumulated by skipping around to different eras (even before the time travel-themed film comes out on May 23), nitpickily cataloged by io9 here (though I don’t think any of those are impossible to reconcile). To avoid creating new continuity errors, though, let us just hope they remember in X-Men: Days of Future Past to show the 1960s Wolverine with bone claws, since he didn’t get laced with metallic adamantium until 1979 (as depicted in mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine).

 That’s a cold, hard fact, and you can’t just go changing facts willy-nilly.

You can catch guest blogger Todd Seavey talking about similarly nerdy things on this YouTube channel, his personal blog, the libertarian pop culture site LibertyIsland, and, on April 18, 2014, live and in person onstage in New York City as part of a comedic panel discussion (details of which will be announced on the aforementioned blog shortly).

04_top10postapocalypticbooks1Welcome to The Stag Blog’s series dealing with portrayals of the end times through movies, novels, docudramas, documentaries, instructional pamphlets and films, songs, and memories. The focus will mainly be on nuclear fears during the Cold War, but we may branch out into some asteroids, aliens, or plagues. Let’s keep it loose.

Guest posts are particularly welcome on this subject — give me your best nuke movies, your memories of hiding under desks, or your childhood (or adult) worries over alien invasion.

This week, we have a guest post written by Brian Martinez! His topic is the completely wonderful, eerie, horrible, stayed-up-until-dawn-to-finish-it novel A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Martinez advises that those who wish to remain unspoiled might want to stop here.

The Cold War was still a thing when I came of age in the 1980s, but by then it had taken on a slick Hollywoodized gleam, captured in movies like WarGames and Red Dawn and even (God help us) Rocky IV. The closest I came to a nuclear holocaust was losing my last city in Missile Command. It never felt as palpably close as it must have in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when Joe McCarthy looked for Communists under every rock and typewriter, and schoolkids practiced “duck and cover” drills in case the Russkies unleashed the Big One. That was the Cold War observed by Walter M. Miller, Jr., who went on to write a series of novellas, first published in science fiction magazines, that became A Canticle for Leibowitz. Published in 1960, and a winner of the Hugo Award, it is one of the definitive novels about a post-nuclear apocalypse. I first read Canticle in high school and have re-read it several times since, and it has not lost its power to evoke both laughter at humanity’s foibles and sadness at its prolific and horrifying talent for self-destruction.

Miller himself participated in some of that destruction, serving on a bomber crew in World War II, and taking part in the bombing of an ancient monastery allegedly being used by the Germans for strategic purposes during the battle of Monte Cassino. The experience helped shape the focus of his novel: a monastery established in the aftermath of a major nuclear war, dedicated to preserving what scientific knowledge remained after the so-called “Flame Deluge” had destroyed most of it. The monastery’s founder is Leibowitz, a Jewish engineer who, like Miller did following World War II, converted to Catholicism, and made it his mission to save any books and documents he could find, which became the “Memorabilia” and the monastic order’s raison d’être.

The central theme of Canticle is the cyclical nature of human history — its birth, rise, eventual destruction, and rebirth. It starts a few hundred years after an event common to many religious mythologies: a creator-deity, pissed off at its creation, triggers some type of calamity (usually a flood, or “deluge”) to wipe the known world away, aiming to rebuild it better than before. In Miller’s novel, it’s humankind who sets off the Flame Deluge to scrub the world clean. It leaves behind few survivors, many of whose descendants suffer from horrible genetic mutations due to radioactive fallout. Others, blaming advanced technology for allowing nuclear weapons to proliferate, begin the “Simplification”, a mass destruction of books and other stores of knowledge, hence Leibowitz’ desire to protect as much of these materials as possible. He is eventually martyred for his cause.

Canticle is told in three acts, each separated by about 600 years; the first, “Fiat Homo” (Let There Be Man), is analogous to the beginning of a new Dark Age, where the church is the main cultivator of knowledge, and guards access to it jealously; much of the population remains uneducated, focused on daily survival. Life is a Hobbesian experience, brutish and short. The second section, “Fiat Lux” (Let There Be Light), is a renaissance period, as the church slowly opens its Memorabilia to the outside world, inevitably bringing it into conflict with the rise of increasingly secular city-states (in particular, Texarkana, ruled by the ambitious Hannegan). After Hannegan proclaims that his city is no longer subject to rule from New Rome, the church excommunicates him, declaring he no longer possesses the moral authority to rule. Finally in “Fiat Voluntas Tua” (Let Thy Will Be Done), civilization has reached 20th-century levels of technology and beyond, with starships and human colonization of space — and again, nuclear weapons. The Flame Deluge ultimately has not changed the course of human history; it just set the mile marker to zero.

Dom Zerchi, the abbot of the Order of Saint Leibowitz in the final act, comments on this apparent futility, after a retaliatory nuclear strike (“Lucifer has fallen” in the vernacular of the time) has wiped out Texarkana:

“What’s to be believed? Or does it matter at all? When mass murder’s been answered with mass murder, rape with rape, hate with hate, there’s no longer much meaning in asking whose ax is the bloodier. Evil, on evil, piled on evil….And Christ breathed the same carrion air with us; how meek the Majesty of our Almighty God! What an Infinite Sense of Humor–for Him to become one of us!–King of the Universe, nailed on a cross as a Yiddish Schlemiel by the likes of us. They say Lucifer was cast down for refusing to adore the Incarnate Word; the Foul One must totally lack a sense of humor! God of Jacob, God even of Cain! Why do they do it all again?”

Zerchi is my favorite character in the book. Bold, acerbic, and world-weary, he gamely stands on the foundation of his church’s doctrine even as the world literally explodes into chaos around him. Of the abbots chronicled in the novel, he is the most at odds with the state. When a doctor employed by the “Green Star” relief agency (the book’s analogue to the Red Cross) arrives at the abbey to assess victims of the nuclear attack, Zerchi enjoins him not to recommend voluntary euthanasia for any of his patients, no matter how grim their prognosis. He has some choice words for the government’s approach to dealing with nuclear disaster instead of preventing it in the first place:

“The very existence of the Radiation Disaster Act, and like laws in other countries, is the plainest possible evidence that governments were fully aware of the consequences of another war, but instead of trying to make the crime impossible, they tried to provide in advance for the consequences of the crime. Are the implications of that fact meaningless to you, Doctor?”

Eventually the doctor does break his promise, recommending that a young woman and her child, both suffering from severe radiation poisoning, visit the euthanasia camp down the road from the abbey. This sets up yet another confrontation between Zerchi and his novices and the state agents protecting the “mercy camp.” It is clear the Church can no longer reconcile the natural laws which “bind men to Christ” and the laws of man, who allow nuclear holocaust and then sanction death for those unlucky enough to survive. But as the Church views itself as eternal, by then it has already made plans to continue its existence off-world, if need be.

If this sounds like an exigesis more than a review, perhaps it’s because Catholic doctrine and imagery permeate Canticle. As an atheist I will not pretend to have any deep understanding of Roman Catholic teachings, but I still find Miller’s exploration of them fascinating. The Church of Canticle is an eternal force in the world, changing little from one age to the next. Miller liberally uses Latin throughout the story, even though the real Catholic Church had begun to abandon its use in everyday liturgy shortly after the novel’s publication. It gives a strong impression of traditionalism which helps ground the dynamic rise and predictable fall of civilization. Miller leavens it all with humor and sharply witty dialogue. Even though the technology of Miller’s future world seems overly mechanical and unimaginative by today’s science fiction standards, it readily fades into the background, bringing into focus what really matters in the book: its ideas.

In each era of the story, the monks of Saint Leibowitz and their leader struggle with the temptations of the world while maintaining their devotion to Christ and the mission of their order. Miller confronts them with some tough questions — What is the nature of humanity? How does one recognize the inherent dignity of other humans? What moral authority grants states the power to govern? Will science and technology ultimately set humankind free, or enslave it and eventually, condemn it to destruction?

To his credit — and the reason why A Canticle for Leibowitz remains such a powerful and affecting novel more than a half-century later — Miller never answers these questions definitively, save perhaps the last. The nuclear explosions which light up the horizon at the end of the novel is Miller’s affirmation that humankind is doomed to self-destruction. It proved a sad foreboding of the author’s own life. According to author Terry Bisson, Miller faded from the science fiction scene following the release of Canticle, and had alienated himself from fans and fellow writers, as well as his own family. Suffering from depression following his wife’s death and his own health issues, Miller committed suicide in 1996 (a grim irony given the passionate opposition to suicide in Canticle’s third act). He left behind an unfinished novel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman, which was completed by Bisson and published the year after Miller’s death. There was no happy ending for Miller, nor for humankind in Canticle — but its story may yet begin again.

Brian Martinez is a full-time software developer, part-time blogger, and donktastic poker player. He lives in Denver. He blogs at The Libertarian Standard and his own site, A Thousand Cuts. Follow him on Twitter as well.

potMarijuana possession of up to 28g for personal use was decriminalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative passed on November 4th, 2008.  I watched the returns sitting in a postpartum room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston—my first child had been born earlier that day. We had hired a courier to deliver my wife’s ballot to City Hall while she was in labor. Minor pot possession in Massachusetts is now punished by a $100 civil fine, arguably the one of the most libertarian state marijuana laws on the books prior to the 2012 legalization measures in Colorado and Washington.

In 2008, I also voted for the Libertarian ticket for President. In fact, I’ve voted for the Libertarian Party Presidential ticket in almost every election since I could legally vote, starting with Harry Browne in 1996. I’ve attended, as a Massachusetts voting delegate, every Libertarian Party National Convention since 2004. I’ve also backed many Libertarian and liberty-minded candidates for smaller offices locally and across the country. Needless to say, I became used to backing candidates that lost; I even came to accept this as part of the reality of taking radical, principled, libertarian political positions. The unfortunate reality is that Libertarians often get crushed on Election Day. After all, we’re not in anybody’s pocket, no special interests have anything to gain from electing us, and a litany of pork recipients have every reason to vote for other candidates (who will continue government’s culture of largess).

Marijuana policy has always been a key libertarian issue for me. In 2008, I made a substantial financial contribution to the Massachusetts marijuana decriminalization campaign. I donated this money under the same mentality I had for years backing Libertarian candidates: we’re probably going to lose, but we have to try. But, as Election Day got closer, the polling indicated that we were still in the lead, and I began to believe the campaign actually had a shot. Supporting a winning campaign was still a foreign experience for me, and I expected a long grind of returns on election night, with a narrow chance of winning. Instead, The Boston Globe called it for the pro-decriminalization side with only a few percent of precincts reporting. When the final results were in, we had won with a much larger percentage than most had expected (almost 63 percent of the vote). I was stunned and elated, but with a newborn baby, had no time to celebrate.

By 2012, I’d smelled the blood of marijuana prohibition in the water for four years, and I was hungry for another ballot initiative win. The main 2012 campaign that I was involved with—the Amendment 64 legalization campaign in Colorado—was the biggest prize to date. However, every prior marijuana legalization ballot initiative had gone down in defeat, and (private) doubts persisted about Amendment 64’s chances of success, even within the legalization movement. Some suggested the campaign didn’t have enough money for ads. Others argued the initiative was too generously written, for example allowing limited non-medical home growing (a freedom notably absent from the similar legalization initiative in Washington State, I-502, which I also supported and for which I have the utmost respect). And some even said (my personal favorite caveat) that Amendment 64 lacked enough endorsements from law enforcement!

However, despite the hand-wringing, the campaign’s polling data—which I obsessively analyzed on a daily basis over the weeks prior to Election Day—indicated that we were mostly likely going to win. In fact, the returns on Election Day 2012 in Colorado were very similar to the returns from 2008 in Massachusetts: major news networks called victory for our side early in the evening. We ended up winning with over 55 percent of the vote—a total that exceeded the predictions of myself and others closely involved with the campaign. I was gobsmacked to the point of tears. Years of work and tons of money had come to fruition. (I am extremely grateful to everyone who voted for, worked on, and supported the Amendment 64 campaign, especially the late Ashawna Hailey.)

It didn’t used to be this way. The history of marijuana reform is littered with philanthropists putting huge amounts of cash into losing campaigns. By 2012, numerous important marijuana reform donors (many of whom are not libertarians), disenchanted by past failures, were experiencing donor fatigue. But following major wins in Colorado and Washington, they should approach similar initiatives going forward with greater confidence, as it now appears that public sentiment has genuinely changed. Polling now heavily favors legalization in many states (even Texas!). The next major ballot initiative campaign I expect to participate in is the 2014 campaign to regulate marijuana in Alaska.

Barring a major shift in public opinion over a short time period, we are likely to see a steady drumbeat of states legalizing marijuana until the federal government is forced to abandon cannabis prohibition.

R. Antonio Ruiz is  is a major donor and volunteer with the Marijuana Policy Project.  The views expressed here are his own and do not represent MPP. Follow him on twitter: @annoyingcats