People v. State

fairly undermining public confidence in the administration of justice

A Jury of My Peers

December 08, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

Norm Pattis asks you to “imagine how you’d react if you walked into a courtroom to face a jury of 12 souls with skins as dark as my client’s. Some part of you would feel betrayed, I am sure of it.” (You are presumably white.)

I’m white. Back in law school at the University of Wisconsin I participated in a moot court competition. The topic was the constitutionality of affirmative action in law school admissions. We had to argue both the “pro” side in front of one panel of three of our fellow law students and the “con” side in front of another panel of three of our fellow law students. Personally, after examining both sides, I had arrived at the opinion that if state-funded law school had a legitimate purpose it was not primarily to provide an education for people who wanted to be lawyers but to provide lawyers for the people, and that therefore affirmative action in law school admissions was constitutional, for the same reason that affirmative action in hiring correctional officers, to better reflect the racial diversity of the people being “corrected,” made all kinds of sense and was constitutional.

But imagine my surprise when I walked into the appointed classroom to argue the “con” side and was confronted by an all-black panel of my law school peers. (The law school had affirmative action but few black students.) Part of “my” argument (it didn’t originate with me) was that affirmative action “stigmatized” minorities who are accepted to law school, tarring all of them with the suspicion that they are not really qualified and were only admitted because of their race.

Maybe it was just me, but this argument didn’t seem to go over well with the panel.

Some part of me did feel betrayed.

But hats off to the martyrs: Ernst Juenger’s On the Marble Cliffs

November 12, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

I just finished reading Juenger’s novella On the Marble Cliffs (1939) yesterday. Published when he was 44 or so, it’s a great book, although unsurprisingly not as great as Eumeswil (1977), which was published when he was about 82. (He died more than 20 years later, in 1998, at the age of 102.) Next I plan to read the work for which he is still most famous, Storm of Steel (1920), published when he was about 25.

The copy of On the Marble Cliffs I read (which I bought from the seller in “fair condition,” for a more-than-fair price, compared to the alternatives) was published by Penguin Modern Classics in 1970, with an Introduction written by a George Steiner in 1969, the year of my birth. Assuming this Wikipedia article is about the same George Steiner, Steiner wrote the Introduction when he was about 40, and is 83 today. He would have been about 10 when On the Marble Cliffs was first published in Nazi Germany in 1939. According to Wikipedia:

Steiner’s first formal education took place at the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly in Paris. In 1940, during World War II, Steiner’s father once again relocated his family, this time to New York City. Within a month of their move, the Nazis occupied Paris, and of the many Jewish children in Steiner’s class at school, he was one of only two who survived the war.

According to another article in Wikipedia:

[Jünger] served in World War II as an army captain. Assigned to an administrative position in Paris, he socialized with prominent artists of the day such as Picasso and Jean Cocteau. His early time in France is described in his diary Gärten und Straßen (1942, Gardens and Streets).

Jünger appears on the fringes of the Stauffenberg bomb plot. He was clearly an inspiration to anti-Nazi conservatives in the German Army, and while in Paris he was close to the old, mostly Prussian officers who carried out the assassination attempt against Hitler. He was only peripherally involved in the events however, and in the aftermath suffered only dismissal from the army in the summer of 1944, rather than execution.

His elder son Ernst Jr., then a Kriegsmarinecadet, was imprisoned that year for engaging in “subversive discussions” in his Wilhelmshaven Naval Academy. Transferred to Penal Unit999, he was killed near Carrara in occupied Italy on 29 November.

Steiner’s Introduction, borrowing from Jünger’s journals, is not flattering. He writes:

Admirers of Ernst Jünger, apologists for the right-wing elitism and nationalist mystique he advocated in the 1920s and 30s, have hailed [On the Marble Cliffs] as anti-Nazi. It has been widely asserted that this arcane fable is the only major act of resistance, of inner sabotage, carried out by German literature under Hitler. Jünger himself has been more circumspect, and rightly so. . . . Even the bestial image of the Flayer’s Copse is less trenchant or unambiguous than might appear. The analogy with the concentration camps about which Jünger had heard and intimated a good deal as early as 1939, but against which he never raised a public cry, is evident and graphic. . . .

. . . At the nadir of the Reich, Jünger still joined other Knights of the Order of Pour le merite in commemorative ceremonies in Berlin. . . .

. . . Watching a raid on the Renault works in March 1942, the chevalier of the marble cliffs comments that several hundred are reported slain and over a thousand gravely hurt: ‘but seen from my quarter, the affair looked rather like stage-lighting in a shadow-theatre.’ This is the focus of the dandy. I mean the word in its strong, condottiere sense, as comprehending asceticism and cool courage. The dandy confronts the sum of life but keeps it at gauntlet’s length. Like his counterparts in the dramas of Montherlant, there is one temptation only which Jünger finds it really difficult to resist: . . . the temptation to despise human beings. . . .

A ‘twentieth-century classic’? Perhaps so. And in an almost mathematical sense. On the Marble Cliffs is a theorem of limitation. It enacts the precise incommensurability between a certain cast of abstract humanism or high civilization and the realities of modern terror. In its ritual tranquillity, in its candid suggestion that flight into archaic utopia (the domain of privacy, of aesthetic and antiquarian cultivation) is the only way out, Jünger’s legend embodies a tragic failure of nerve. . . .

Steiner concludes:

The incapacity to feel lest feeling grow corrupt and banal is perhaps the paralyzing dilemma of a classic, necessarily elitist culture. [On the Marble Cliffs] has importance as a statement of this dilemma. The nocturnal word which Jünger himself applies to this condition is tristia. Through it blow the coldest winds from Limbo. Robbed of his only child, seeing Germany collapse into hideous abjection, Ernst Jünger attends a final, absurd meeting of local Nazi officials. He watches Hitler’s thugs scheming their last act of murder or getting ready to scurry for cover. Yet no cry, no leap of rage escapes him. He notes in his diary: ‘I lack the capacity for hatred’. There have been too many moments in our savage time when the absence of hatred is the same as the absence of love.

Thus Steiner’s Introduction is an indictment of both the book and the man. I know not how one can judge the man. The following excerpt will suffice to defend the book:

At the sight I felt tears start to my eyes, but they were such tears as fill us with wonderful exultation together with their sorrow. On this pale mask from which the scalped flesh hung in ribbons and which looked on the fires from the elevation of the torturer’s pike there played the shadow of a smile intensely sweet and joyful, and I knew that on this day the weaknesses had fallen from this noble man with each step of his martyrdom, like the rags of a king disguised in beggar’s weeds. Then a shudder ran through my inmost heart, for I realized that he had been worthy of his forefathers, the tamers of monsters; he had slain the dragon fear in his own breast. Then I was certain of something which I had often doubted — there were still noble beings amongst us in whose hearts lived unshakeable knowledge of a lofty ordered life. And since a high example leads us in its train, I took an oath before this head that from that day forth I would rather fall with the free men than go in triumph among the slaves.

Final Thoughts on “Eumeswil” by Ernst Juenger

November 07, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

The following thoughts are “final” not in the sense that I’m promising not to write anything else about this great novel by an extraordinary man, but in the sense that they relate to a couple interesting things Juenger did in its closing pages. So, ​Spoiler Alert!, although this is the kind of novel that I don’t think is spoiled by knowing in advance how it turns out.

First, the “tyrant” who rules Eumeswil, the Condor, is revealed in the final pages to be himself a “forest fleer,” deciding to go on a Great Hunt “beyond the desert and into the woods,” along with his right-hand man (the Domo, who feels uneasy about the whole thing) and a retinue including the narrator. As the narrator had explained earlier in the novel, the anarch lurks in everyone, including the monarch, and power is burdensome for the anarch. “[E]veryone is anarchic; this is precisely what is normal about us.”

Second, we learn from an epilogue to the narrator’s “notebooks” written by his brother years later that no one who went on the Great Hunt was ever heard from again. We know from these notebooks that this brother is a “typical liberal,” and that the narrator when he was alive gave the phrase “capital punishment,” as well as “freedom of the press,” a wide berth at the family table, for if he had voiced even the slightest criticism he would have laid hands on his brother’s “most hallowed treasure.” But the brother in his epilogue writes:

Reading these pages has thrown me into an inner conflict — between the private man and the historian. My brother did not love his family. Such was his peculiar character. But we loved him. His presentation is larded with judgments and, in my opinion, misjudgments that would justify my burning it as a private person; I have thought about it. Burnings take place with every legacy, perhaps to purge the deceased’s image in our memories, perhaps for the sake of his family.

I, however, am a historian and come from a family of historians. My dear brother — one of the titles he loved was “historian by blood.”

Eumeswil is widely and justifiably regarded as spiritual autobiography, but with this epilogue, written in a different voice than the one we have heard throughout, Juenger reminds us again that what we have read is a novel, and that its fictional narrator should not necessarily be identified with Juenger himself. Thus, it was misleading of me to title some of my recent posts which quoted from Eumeswil “Ernst Juenger on Capital Punishment,” or “Ernst Juenger on Benjamin Tucker.” Thus, it would also be a mistake to regard the narrator of Eumeswil as intended by Juenger as a model for how a person should live his life.

The literary figure of the “anarch” as expounded by the fictional narrator of Eumeswil is striking, but is put in perspective and in its place, as a figure among other figures, by the epilogue. It can be cut down to definitional size as follows: Anarchy is rulerlessness. Rulers are human beings who have the right to make laws for others. The anarch understands that there are no rulers, and sees that society is rulerless.

The anarchist, by contrast, according to the narrator of Eumeswil, emphasizes the will at the expense of the substance. (What exactly then the anarchist wills can be guessed at and stated by individual self-described anarchists, but does not appear to lend itself to precise definition, since the anarchist’s presumed goal — Anarchy — is the presently existing reality.)

The narrator arguably makes too much of this distinction between the anarch and the anarchist, or makes it too dogmatically. Would the pure anarch lift a finger to help or make others see what he sees, as Juenger himself did with Eumeswil and other novels? Would he say aloud, at the family table or elsewhere, that unnecessary killing is morally murder?

The reader of Eumeswil will have to judge for himself, and I think this is precisely what Juenger intended.

Ernst Juenger on Capital Punishment

October 30, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

From Eumeswil:

There are jurists and even theologians who advocate capital punishment as the last resort of justice. Others reject it as immoral. Both sides have good reasons. Both call upon statistics, which, as usual, can be exploited every which way. Numbers should be kept aloof.

This controversy passes the anarch by. For him, the linking of death and punishment is absurd. In this respect, he is closer to the wrongdoer than to the judge, for the high-ranking culprit who is condemned to death is not prepared to acknowledge his sentence as atonement; rather, he sees his guilt in his own inadequacy. Thus, he recognizes himself not as a moral but as a tragic person.

. . .

With the spread of atheism, death grows more horrible, since annihilation is total and irrevocable. Death is overrated, both by the person suffering it and by the person inflicting it. Repentance, too, is secularized. It no longer relates to the evildoer’s salvation before he passes away into the cosmic order; now it signifies his obeisance to society and its legislation.

. . .

The anarch knows the fundamental law. He also knows its falsifications. He realizes that atonement is his due for misdeeds against it. The state has tricked him out of the right to pass this judgment; it is obligated to carry it out on his behalf.

Instead, one sees eunuchs convening in order to disempower the populace in whose name they presume to speak. This is logical, since the eunuch’s most heartfelt goal is to castrate the free man. The results are laws demanding that “you should run to the district attorney while your mother is being raped.”

They cheat a man out of the blood that expiates murder, just as they rob him of the gold attesting to his share of the sun, and spoil the salt that, as the spirit of the earth, unites all free men.


Ernst Juenger on Benjamin Tucker

October 25, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

In reply to a comment here by the owner of the blog Ernst Juenger – Anarch, I wrote [links added]:

While the distinction between the anarchist and the anarch is critical, I don’t necessarily think it’s that stark. I see similarities between Juenger’s concept of the anarch and the concept of the Remnant set forth by Albert Jay Nock (in his essay Isaiah’s Job and in the last few paragraphs of Our Enemy, the State), who did describe himself as an “anarchist” and who along with Lysander Spooner was already far and away my favorite “political” thinker until I came across Juenger. Juenger for example in Eumeswil had good things to say about Benjamin Tucker, citing approvingly his expression “Anarchy is Order” (which actually predated Tucker and is often attributed to Proudhon), which is the basis for the red circled-A in the right sidebar of this blog. I expect I will now be using the word “anarchic” and “anarchy” more often and the word “anarchist” less often or not at all. There is a tension and arguable contradiction in an anarch PUBLISHING a book like On the Marble Cliffs, or Eumeswil for that matter. Such books have an EFFECT, and are not written only for the author. They are benevolent and generous with their insight. They blow the cover of the “master spy” to whom Juenger compared the anarch. They are not without risk to the author, especially in the case of On the Marble Cliffs. I think Stirner really hit the nail on the head with his concept of the insurgent and insurrection, and his relation of these concepts to Jesus and the first Christians.

Here is the passage in ​Eumeswil ​about Tucker I was referring to:

It is especially difficult to tell the essential from that which is similar to and indeed seems identical with it. This also applies to the anarch’s relation to the anarchist. The latter resembles the man who has heard the alarm but charges off in the wrong direction.

However, the anarch lurks in the anarchist, as in anyone else, and so, in the wasteland of their writings, they often score a hit that confirms that statement. At the luminar, I plucked out utterances that could have been signed by Stirner.

Take Benjamin Tucker, a true don Quixote, who, in his Liberty, one of the small anarchist journals, tilts at the windmills of the “riffraff of future governments”:

“Whatever the state socialists may claim or deny, if their system is accepted, it is doomed to lead to a state religion whose expenses must be borne by everyone and at whose altar everyone must kneel; a state medical school by whose practitioners everyone must be treated; a state system of hygiene that prescribes what everyone must eat and drink, what everyone must wear, and what everyone may or may not do; a state code of ethics that, not satisfied with punishing crime, will suppress everything that the majority may describe as vice; a state system of education that will outlaw all private schools, academies, and universities; a state elementary school, where all children are educated collectively at public expense; and finally, a state family, with an attempt to introduce scientific eugenics. Thus, authority will reach its peak, and monopoly the supreme display of its power.”

That was penned in the Christian year 1888, way before a like-minded Irishman sketched the horrific image of such a future. Poor Tucker — he died very long in the tooth, during the first year of World War II; he had lived to see the triumph of the authoritarian state in Russia, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Throughout his writings, I stumbled upon statements that were unusual for an anarchist, such as “Anarchy is order” or “Attend to your own affairs; this is the only moral law.” That is why he regards all efforts at “suppressing vice as intrinsically criminal.” Here, an anarch smashes through the anarchist system. By comparison, individualist anarchists like Most, who rejoices whenever a ruler is blown up, are mindless firecrackers.


A Jesuite in Eumeswil

October 24, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

In the past I’ve said that what makes a Christian a Christian is not believing that Jesus rose from the dead and/or is the Son of God, but rather adhering to what Jesus himself said was the greatest commandment: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul; and your neighbor as yourself. It recently occurred to me however that the word Christian itself already implies more than this. In response to a tweg for a word better expressing my position @landfillpoet suggested Jesuit. The confusion calling myself a Jesuit would engender initially appealed to me, but I eventually modified his suggestion and settled on Jesuite, defining this word as follows:

One who adheres to the ethical and spiritual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but who does not profess to know or “believe” as Christians do that Jesus was the Christ or uniquely God Incarnate. Cf. Jesuism. See also William Law and Leo Tolstoy. However, like Thomas the Apostle, the Jesuite while skeptical is open to future revelations and correction, and so may be called a doubting Thomist. The Jesuite like the Jesuit is partial to casuistry, though not to the moral laxity it has been reputed to excuse.

But what is the heart of Jesus’ spiritual teachings? I find it in these words: “Before Abraham was, I am.” Now, these words almost got Jesus stoned, and inter alia are why Christians profess to believe that Jesus was the Christ and uniquely God Incarnate, but they can be interpreted differently.

This passage from Ernst Juenger’s Eumeswil, which I just finished reading and which is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read (a good Amazon review is here), gets at what I’m getting at:

There is no doubt that I owe my father my existence — assuming
that existence actually deserves gratitude. The tremendous wastefulness in the universe gives one pause to think. After all, aside from me some ten thousand others were awaiting their turn in the map room.

My father could give me existence, but not Being. I was in the
latter before my birth, nay, my conception, and I will “be” in it
after my death. Being comes into being through Creation, existence through procreation. The father “provides” existence by procreating. In procreating the son, he demonstrates Creation symbolically. He is given a priestly office; a great appeal is propagated through time, echo by echo.

An obligation to the father cannot be denied. It is normal for the father to sacrifice the son; this establishes the basis for myth, religion, history. It is normal — but it is not my job to decide whether it is right; such questions lead away from the main path. As a historian, I have to deal with the order of facts. They abide — what is right and legal changes. In this regard, I benefit from freeing myself from moral and religious bonds. Even Moses, when I summon him to the luminar, must answer to me.

And here is another passage illustrating the Jesuite:

That was my mood in the construction, and I became even more joyful when the first nuts were falling — with thuds that I could distinguish from all other sounds. It was a knocking, a heralding. That is my favorite kind of prophecy. Not an empty promise, but a phenomenon, a small handsel, something material. I am like Saint Thomas: Show thy wounds! Then I stand firm.

And this:

I am an anarch — not because I despise authority, but because I need it. Likewise, I am not a nonbeliever, but a man who demands something worth believing in. On this point, I am like a bride in her chamber: she listens for the softest step.


Ernst Juenger on Max Stirner

October 18, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized


From Eumeswil:

I can see him sitting there and smoking, a delicate profile. The sketch that Friedrich Engels drew from memory in London captures only the middle part of the face: the straight nose and the fine mouth. It was revised by the media service in the luminar. The new version also had the high, though less receding, forehead, which is Stirn in German. And indeed, he, Johann Kaspar Schmidt, had been nicknamed Stirner by one of his fellow students at the University of Königsberg; later on, he used the pseudonym “Max Stirner.”

His signatures are likewise delicate; one notices that the final stroke sinks with the years. Incidentally, he died not by his own hand but from a fly sting that became infected. A banal life: misspent in profession and business, a failed marriage, debts, a regular tavern table with the standard blabber preceding the German revolution, a high-level philistine – the usual stuff.

His literary output – essays and critiques in newspapers and journals – is equally unimportant; it was already forgotten during Stirner’s lifetime and would have been consumed by the firestorms had it not been preserved by the luminar. Yet these little leaves, which, in times of crisis, sprout like mushrooms from the humus and then perish, are invaluable for the historian who wishes to study ideas in statu nascendi. They are covered by the rubble of revolutions.

And the Marx-Engels pamphlet attacking Stirner – Saint Max, a folio manuscript of several hundred pages – also very nearly disappeared. By the time it was excavated, it was already well gnawed by the mice. Engels had entrusted it to a cabinetmaker named Bebel. The luminar restored the text.

The manuscript was begun in 1845 of the Christian era, the year when Stirner’s magnum opus, The Only One and His Own, was published. This study is the exception I mentioned above. Thus, the polemics must have sprung from an immediate impression.

. . .

The characteristic feature of the great saints – of whom there are very few – is that they get at the very heart of the matter. The most obvious things are invisible because they are concealed in human beings; no thing is harder to evince than what is self-evident. Once it is uncovered or rediscovered, it develops explosive strength. Saint Anthony recognized the power of the solitary man, Saint Francis that of the poor man, Stirner that of the only man. “At bottom,” everyone is solitary, poor, and “only” in the world.

It takes no genius to make such discoveries, only intuition. They can be granted to a trivial existence, they are as clear as day. That is why they cannot be studied like systems; they are revealed through meditation. To get back to the art of archery: it is not certain that the most skillful archer has the truest aim. A dreamer, a child, a crackpot may be the one who pulls it off. Even the bull’s-eye has a midpoint: the center of the world. It is not spatial, it is hit not in time but in the timeless interval. One of Stirner’s benign critics (he had few of these; but lots of enemies) called him the “metaphysician of anarchism.”

. . .

Stirner, incidentally, is no solipsist. He is the Only One, like Tom, Dick, or Harry. His special trait is simply that he recognizes himself as such. . . .

. . .

Now just what are the cardinal points or the axioms of Stirner’s system, if one cares to call it that? They are only two, but they suffice for thorough reflection:
I. That is not My business.
2. Nothing is more important than I.

. . .

The rebukes against him concentrated – nor could it be otherwise – in the reproach of egoism, a concept with which Stirner himself never fully came to terms. Still, he annexed it, often replacing Einziger (Only One) with Eigner (owner, proprietor). The owner does not fight for power, he recognizes it as his own, his property. He owns up to it, appropriates it, makes it his own. This process can be nonviolent, especially as a strengthening of the self-awareness.

. . .

What had touched me so deeply? Stirner’s arrow grazed the point at which I suspected the presence of the anarch. The dissimilarity presupposes a very subtle distinction, and, I believe, Vigo is the only person in Eumeswil who could make it. After all, he instantly caught the difference between owner and egoist. It is the same as the difference between anarch and anarchist. These concepts appear to be identical, but are radically different.

. . .

To draw an important demarcation, we had envisaged a comparison between the Only One and the Superman. It would make little difference whether, as Mackay assumes, Nietzsche, Old Gunpowderhead, was acquainted with Stirner’s work – ideas float in the air. Originality lies in rendering them – in the strength of the tackling and shaping.

First of all: The Superman recognizes the world as the will to power; “there is nothing else.” Even art is a will to power. The Superman joins in the rivalries of the world while the Only One is content to watch the spectacle. He does not strive for power; he dashes neither after nor ahead of it, because he possesses it and enjoys it in his self-awareness. This recalls Far Eastern empires of images.

Naturally, because of external circumstances, power can fall into the hands of the Only One as well as the anarch. But power is burdensome for the Only One. Periander, tyrant of Corinth, “inherited it like a disease” from his father. Incidentally, it strikes me that certain features of Periander and also Tiberius, especially in their good times, are to be found in our Condor, though in the effete and ahistorical framework of Eumeswil. I have already said that the anarch and the monarch have a polar resemblance; basically, each contains both.

Secondly: the famous “God is dead.” By then, Old Gunpowderhead was forcing an open door. A universal awareness was unveiled. That explains the sensation he caused. The Only One, on the other hand: “God … is none of my business.” That leaves all doors open: the Only One can depose or impose God or let the matter rest – whichever he likes. He can show him the door or “form an association” with him. As with the Silesian mystic, “God cannot be without me.” Like the Biblical Jacob, the Only One can wrestle for power until dawn. That alone is the message in the history of God’s redemption plan.


Was Ernst Juenger Right-Wing?

October 17, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

(Keep in mind my definitions of Left and Right, or rather Karl Hess’, from my Definitions page.) Some would say yes, but the main reason for this estimation seems to be that Adolf Hitler respected Juenger for being a stone-cold bad-ass in WWI and then writing about it unapologetically in Storm of Steel (1920), and for hating the Treaty of Versailles. In fact, Hitler respected Juenger so much that he restrained members of his inner Nazi circle who wanted to visit harm on Juenger for writing On the Marble Cliffs (1939), which was widely interpreted at the time of its publication as a pointed allegorical attack on Nazism and the Fuhrer himself, from doing so. A related reason for this estimation of Juenger as a right-winger seems to be that he survived WWII without suffering martyrdom, despite eventually serving in Hitler’s German army in occupied France, and then refused to submit to the de-Nazification procedures imposed after the Allied victory on the grounds that he had never been a member of the Nazi Party. Never mind, among other things, that his own son did suffer martyrdom on the battlefield, after being assigned to a penal battalion for subversive conversations at his naval academy, or that placed in charge of monitoring the mail Juenger at great risk to himself destroyed letters that would have gotten their writers killed.

Granted, in his novel Eumeswil (1977) Juenger through his narrator creates a sympathetic portrait of the so-called “tyrant” of Eumeswil, the Condor, who overthrew by military force the previously-reigning “tribunes,” but I interpret this not as an endorsement of “tyranny” or monarchy per se, but as an indifference towards forms of government combined with an entirely justified contempt for modern “liberal” “democracy.” Here is a representative passage:

While I was shaving, the tub filled up. I prefer seawater. Pumped from a great depth, it is significantly cooler than at the beach. The Domo has its chemical and biological quality tested; it is intact. Since all rivers flow into the sea, its water must have more curative power than any wellspring. In addition, there are the tiny organisms on which others feed, all the way up to the whales, and which shine in the breakers with phosphorescent power. No physician knows what they also mean to us-in any case, I break my fast with a hearty swig of seawater and I gargle. Nothing, in fact, is better for the teeth; I once heard that from the fishermen and simple people who dwell by the shore. Their life-style is the old thrifty one that is pleasing to the anarch. They also harvest their salt from the ocean by scraping it from the cracks and hollows in the rocks where it crystallizes. This was prohibited under the tribunes; they regulated everything down to the last detail. Salt, at the hundredfold price, had to be bought in their government stores. They also mixed in additives that their chemists praised as useful, even though they were injurious. The fact that men with such minds consider themselves thinkers is forgivable; but they also claim to be benefactors.

The beach was patrolled by customs officials, who ambushed the poor. This measure was particularly odious, for gold and salt ought to be every man’s untaxed due as the pure equivalent of his labor, just as he pans gold from the riverbeds or scrapes salt from the cliff. The Condor made both legal, and this was one of the first measures that established his popularity.

A little generosity is worth more than a lot of administration. The tribunes were redistributors; they raised the prices of bread for the poor in order to make them happy with their ideas-say, by building extravagant universities whose jobless graduates became a burden to the state (hence once again to the poor) and never touched another hammer.

The pauper, so long as he does not think parasitically, wishes to see as little government as possible, no matter what pretexts the state may use. He does not want to be schooled, vaccinated, or conscripted; all these things have senselessly increased the numbers of the poor, and with them, poverty.

“[T]here is just nothing wrong with telling the American people the truth.”

October 15, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

Allen v. United States, 588 F. Supp. 247, 404 (D. Utah 1984), rev’d on other grounds, 816 F.2d 1417 (10th Cir. 1987).

I’ve changed the tag-line of this blog from “Fairly Undermining Public Confidence in the Administration of Justice” to the title of this post, which was also the tag-line for my Comment in the Wisconsin Law Review way back in 1999.



October 15, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

Who says Twitter is a waste of time? First, I owe to it and Jeremy Weiland @jeremy6d my discovery of Ernst Juenger, whose work has led me to no longer describe myself as an “anarchist.” Then, in response to an appeal I broadcasted for a definition of socialism that is both authoritative and sympathetic, fellow anarchic Midwestern lawyer David S. D’Amato @dsdamato answered the call with exactly what I was looking for, the following definition from Benjamin Tucker:

Socialism is the belief that the next important step in progress is a change in man’s environment of an economic character that shall include the abolition of every privilege whereby the holder of wealth acquires an anti-social power to compel tribute.

I’ve added this definition to my Definitions page. Of course, there are other definitions of this word, such as this one from Single Taxer Max Hirsch, which is both more comprehensive and narrower than Tucker’s.

I registered to vote.

October 11, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

I don’t intend to vote for anyone on the ballot. Here’s why. The vote in Logan, a case I handled, as described in this article, which incidentally explains why I’ll also be voting in the next election, is another reason. Finally, the author of this opinion is also up for retention this election.

“the baker, whose chief concern is to bake good bread”

October 11, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

Thanks to a pointer from Jeremy Weiland @jeremy6d, I’ve lately been enthralled by the work of Ernst Juenger, one of the most extraordinary men of the 20th Century. Indeed, Juenger’s life almost literally straddled the 20th Century, with its beginning in 1895 and its end in 1998 at the age of 102. Here is an interview with the man towards the very end of that long life:

I’ve been reading Eumeswil, which he wrote in 1977. It is unfortunately a difficult book to find in English for less than a few hundred dollars, but it can be found here quite cheaply. It is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. I’ve also started Storm of Steel (1920), and On the Marble Cliffs (1939) is in the mail.

I’ll have more to say about these books in the near future.

Definitions II

October 02, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

I’ve slightly amended and supplemented with a couple of additional words my previously posted Definitions, and put them on their own blog page.


September 30, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

Prompted by the example of Bad Quaker Dot Com and the suggestion of @landfillpoet, I present below a list of my own sometimes peculiar definitions of words commonly used on this site, which I intend to elaborate upon in the near future and occasionally revise:

AGORIST: One who participates in the underground economy and thereby undermines the State, whether or not he does so with the revolutionary goals of Agorism in mind.

ANARCH: “The anarchist is the antagonist of the monarch, whom he dreams of wiping out. He gets the man and consolidates the succession. The -ism suffix has a restrictive meaning; it emphasizes the will at the expense of the substance. . . . The positive counterpart of the anarchist is the anarch. The latter is not the adversary of the monarch, but his antipode, untouched by him though also dangerous. . . . After all, the monarch wants to rule many, nay, all people; the anarch, only himself.” (Ernst Juenger)

ANARCHY: ​Rulerlessness. See, e.g., John Hasnas, The Depoliticization of Law.

CAPITALISM: ​”That economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists, roughly recognizable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage.” (G.K. Chesterton)

CONSERVATISM: “a habit of mind which does not generalize beyond the facts of the case in point. It considers those facts carefully, makes sure that as far as possible it has them all in hand, and the course of action which the balance of fact in that case indicates as necessary will be the one it follows; and the course indicated as unnecessary it not only will not follow, but will oppose without compromise or concession.” (Albert Jay Nock)

COMMUNALISM: “a theory or system of government in which virtually autonomous local communities are loosely bound in a federation.” (Murray Bookchin)

GOVERNMENT: The art and process of securing unalienable rights. Governing is therefore the antipode of politicking / law-making / legislating / ruling. Government is force, and therefore derives its powers from the consent of the governing rather than the governed. An equal right to land is among the unalienable rights with which all people are endowed, and therefore securing this right by means of a Single “Tax” on the unimproved value of land is a just power of government.

JESUITE: One who adheres to the ethical and spiritual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but who does not profess to know or “believe” as Christians do that Jesus was the Christ or uniquely God Incarnate. Cf. Jesuism. See also William Law and Leo Tolstoy. However, like Thomas the Apostle, the Jesuite while skeptical is open to future revelations and correction, and so may be called a Doubting Thomist. The Jesuite like the Jesuit is partial to casuistry, though not to the moral laxity it has been reputed to excuse.

JUSTICE: ​The absence of crime. Vices are not crimes. “Crimes are those acts by which one man harms [and intends to harm] the person or property of another.” (Lysander Spooner) Punishments are objectively crimes and are only just insofar as they prevent or somehow undo crimes.

LEFT: ​”[T]he side of politics and economics that opposes the concentration of power and wealth and, instead, advocates and works toward the distribution of power into the maximum number of hands.” ​(Karl Hess)

LIBERTARIANISM: The limitation of governing to the necessary; implemented procedurally by the Presumption of Liberty, the Presumption of Innocence, and the Rule of Lenity.

RADICAL: Preferring a root-account of things. The antithesis of superficial. (Albert Jay Nock)

RIGHT: ​The side of politics and economics that supports the concentration of power. ​(Karl Hess)

STATE: “the name of the coldest of all cold monsters.” (Nietzsche, The New Idol) As war is the extension of politics by other means, the State is the continuation of conquest by other means. While government’s defining purpose is to secure unalienable rights, the State’s defining purpose is to violate them to benefit the ruler and/or the ruling class. In fact, the State is nothing more than a fraud perpetrated by the rulers to convince the ruled that the rulers have the right to rule. In fact, ruling is itself the greatest of crimes, and defines the State.

Where I Was on 9-11

September 11, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

From Wikipedia, regarding what some unnamed contributor calls “[o]ne example of the politicization of science”:

The case was originally scheduled for 11 September 2001, but was delayed as a result of the terrorist attacks.

Wikipedia notes:

In the appeal, Ms. Kjolsrud “concedes she had not read the brochures before filing her action.”

My involvement in this case came about as a result of being contacted by a representative of a pro-life organization in Fargo who had become aware of the brochures. At the time I was living in the Chicago area, but in preparation for the lawsuit went to Fargo, at which time I met, among other people, the eventual plaintiff, who was associated with this organization. The organization originally intended to be the plaintiff in the lawsuit, pursuant to North Dakota’s false advertising statute, which, like a similar statute in California, allowed “any person” to bring suit on behalf of the general public to enjoin false advertising. I did not want the case to be about pro-life vs. pro-choice, and therefore suggested that the pro-life organization would not be the optimal plaintiff for the suit, which “any person” could bring. The eventual plaintiff knew exactly what the complained of paragraph in the brochures said before filing her action, because I told her in a phone conversation when I had returned to Chicago. This was explained to the North Dakota Supreme Court at oral argument. Pursuant to the plain language of North Dakota’s false advertising statute, a blind person could have brought on behalf of the general public a suit to enjoin false advertising. In California, a blind person still could.

I did my part.

September 09, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

A jury has awarded a woman over $5 mill based on the defendants’ failure to adequately disclose the evidence linking Hormone Replacement Therapy with increased breast cancer risk. Those interested can compare the issues and evidence in this case with the case I’ve made for medical malpractice lawsuits against abortion providers who fail to disclose the evidence linking induced abortion with increased breast cancer risk.

Ken at Popehat recently explained that his current hiatus from blogging has to do not only with blessed busyness on behalf of clients but also with the real life reactions of a menagerie of nut jobs that some of his blog posts and pro bono work have provoked. Similarly, I have been distracted by practical matters but also have good reasons to believe that some of my posts here have persuaded some who probably think of themselves as fine upstanding pillars of the community that I am a nut job. This latter observation does not dissuade me from speaking the truth as I see it but has convinced me that in the short term I need to stop taking cases in a particular county and especially certain types of cases in that county, and in the longer term I need to retire altogether from this whole law business at a younger age than is customary. (Hence the “practical matters” I’ve been preoccupied with.)

My efforts at the inception of my legal career to stop the lies being told to women by the State and by the abortion industry about the evidence linking abortion with increased breast cancer risk really fucked me up. They led me in the first instance to turn down several job opportunities most lawyers would give their left nut for, opportunities which would have taught me indispensable skills law school ignores, and after the debacle these efforts resulted in led to alcohol abuse, which led to flirtation with drug abuse, a life detour that was particularly toxic when combined with a series of jobs I regarded as beneath me. Granted, a better man would have recovered and picked himself up immediately after this soul-crushing blow.

Still, I regret nothing, while recognizing that I am a deeply flawed human being who aspires to get his act together before he dies. Those who would judge me should first read my crazy Comment published by the Wisconsin Law Review and distributed to every member of Congress by a Congressman / M.D., and my briefs filed in the North Dakota Supreme Court for the Red River Women’s Clinic false advertising case. Such a judge might still conclude, as apparently did all the judges on the North Dakota Supreme Court, that I’m nuts. But by our judgments we are judged, and all these judges will answer to God for their judgments, as will I.

The Book of Ecclesiastes turned me towards Jesus when I first read it at the age of eighteen while serving aboard the dry docked USS Kitty Hawk, and in recent days I’ve returned to it. “How dieth the wise man? as the fool.” We are all rapidly heading back to the same place. But to the extent it matters, at the end of the day, whether at the end of my life or at the forthcoming end of my legal “career,” I will proudly set that career, despite all my mistakes, and there have been several grievous ones, against that of all the “fine upstanding pillars of the community” any day.

I will blog again, in another month or so if not sooner.

Mere Anarchy

July 31, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

A Tweeter said yesterday that beyond belief in the non-aggression principle (“NAP”) it was unwise and presumptuous to assert “anarchists think” anything, implying that the NAP is the essence of Anarchy. Now, I’ve said something similar myself, and personally happen to subscribe to the NAP, but pointed out in response that by definition the essence of Anarchy is not non-aggression but rulerlessness, and cited Georgetown professor John Hasnas’ essay “The Depoliticization of Law” as a good exposition of what “rulerlessness” means. I cited Max Stirner as an example of a famous and influential anarchist who did not subscribe to the NAP. Stirner wrote:

Whoever knows how to take, to defend, the thing, to him belongs property.

What I have in my power, that is my own. So long as I assert myself as holder, I am the proprietor of the thing.

I do not step shyly back from your property, but look upon it always as my property, in which I respect nothing. Pray do the like with what you call my property!

Stirner also wrote:

The time [in which Jesus lived] was politically so agitated that, as is said in the gospels, people thought they could not accuse the founder of Christianity more successfully than if they arraigned him for ‘political intrigue’, and yet the same gospels report that he was precisely the one who took the least part in these political doings. But why was he not a revolutionary, not a demagogue, as the Jews would gladly have seen him? […] Because he expected no salvation from a change of conditions, and this whole business was indifferent to him. He was not a revolutionary, like Caesar, but an insurgent: not a state-overturner, but one who straightened himself up. […] [Jesus] was not carrying on any liberal or political fight against the established authorities, but wanted to walk his own way, untroubled about, and undisturbed by, these authorities. […] But, even though not a ringleader of popular mutiny, not a demagogue or revolutionary, he (and every one of the ancient Christians) was so much the more an insurgent who lifted himself above everything that seemed so sublime to the government and its opponents, and absolved himself from everything that they remained bound to […]; precisely because he put from him the upsetting of the established, he was its deadly enemy and real annihilator….

“The term ‘Philosophic Anarchist,’ as Fred Schulder justly said, is merely a cloak for a great many who hate to be considered fools, and yet haven’t the courage to admit that they are opposed to present society.”

July 30, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

I came across the quote in the title of this post when I took it in to my head to Google “Single Tax Anarchist.” My idol Albert Jay Nock was one, as was Leo Tolstoy. So were Ralph Borsodi, lawyer Bolton Hall, and Fred Schulder. (Hall and Borsodi were originators of the back-to-the-land movement.) The quote in the title of this post is from a letter from Emma Goldman to Bolton Hall (in an exchange in which in my opinion Goldman gets the better of Hall). Schulder expressed [CORRECTION: Actually, he didn’t. See the first comment below.] a similar sentiment here:

But prudence is understood to be a virtue, and since the publication of Stirner’s book we are not supposed to care much for virtues. Jesus Christ, whose words I have been quoting, was not prudent. He cared no more whether intelligent public opinion respected him than he did whether it spared his life. He would sooner utter a word that would receive the contempt of thousands, and the indifference of other thousands more, and enlighten a few, than a word which would receive the respectful attention of all the wise owls and open-mouthed sparrows in Palestine and enlighten nobody at all. Hence his ultimate influence on the course of human life and thought was greater than Gamaliel’s. Those who care more for conveying an idea than for getting a respectful hearing may let his example encourage them to see if anything can be said for the more sweeping use of words.

“We . . . take no position on the constitutionality of sanctioning . . . a lawyer’s unmitigated expression of disrespect for the law . . . .”

July 27, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

“Nothing like that was going on in this case.”

Eighth Circuit Gets It Right On Abortion “Risk”

July 25, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

See here. Yet not even South Dakota mandates disclosure of the scientific evidence linking induced abortion with increased breast cancer risk.

News and Social Media Diet

July 13, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

10 days, starting today. See you then.

“Government” in “Anarchy”

July 11, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

In my last post I wrote: “Every act of force is an instance of ‘rule.’” Upon further consideration I’m not sure I think that’s right. The reason the question is important to me is that the standard dictionary definition of Anarchy is “without rulers,” and I’ve got a big red circled-A prominently displayed in the right side bar of this blog. I also follow Albert Jay Nock in thinking that “government” is not incompatible with Anarchy but is incompatible with the State. I understand a “government” to be a group of people who exercise force to secure rights, while States exist to violate rights and thereby benefit the ruler or the ruling class. Doesn’t a government, though, by exercising force to secure rights, necessarily “rule,” which would mean that where a government exists Anarchy doesn’t? On further reflection, I don’t think so. The distinction is subtle but real and significant. Discerning and enforcing a rule is not the same as making and enforcing a rule, i.e. ruling. Also, proposing a rule which only applies to those who willingly consent, as is typical in purely voluntary associations, is not ruling either. So a government which limits itself to discerning and enforcing rules which it does not itself make does not “rule.” From where then would such rules come from? Ultimately they could only come from the laws of natural justice, and customs to the extent they reflect those laws, the most important of which is the presumption against using force and violence. Now, of course a government can be corrupted into a State, by making rules, i.e. ruling, while pretending only to discern them in the laws of natural justice. But ideas nevertheless have consequences, and perhaps if these principles had been written into the Constitution, and more importantly enshrined in the hearts of Americans, we would today have governments instead of a State.

The Song of the Necessary

July 11, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized


There, where the state ends — there only begins the man who is not superfluous: there begins the song of the necessary, the single and irreplaceable melody.


Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.


“[W]hen it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”


Government will [settle disputes in an anarcho society], deriving its power from the consent of the governing. Every act of force is an instance of “rule.” Therefore pure anarchy cannot exist in this world. Anarchy is a truth that exists in the mind and in a society to the extent that truth is understood by its members. That truth is: Coercion is evil and should only be used when necessary and a group calling itself a “govt” has no more and no less right to use force than anyone else.

Anarchism isn’t pacifism. Force is evil but sometimes necessary, and therefore justified and not immoral.

I’m becoming persuaded that “Anarchy” amounts to limitation of force to the necessary + seeing that “authority” is illusion.



Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governing and from Justice.

July 09, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

So in the past week I’ve spent as much time “blogging” on Twitter as I ever have in a week “really” blogging here. That’s not necessarily a good thing, and Twitter has obvious limitations. This post is intended as a fuller response to some tweeters whom some of my tweets riled up.

Anarchy simply means “without rulers.” A society can have rules without rulers (and I suppose can have laws without lawyers). In fact, rulers are anathema to the Rule of Law. Anarchy also arguably means “without leaders,” and therefore I think favors, all others things being equal, the balancing and distribution and decentralization of political and economic power. (Ideally, no one “leads” others in political or economic power. Such “leadership” is a historically evident threat to the freedom of the led.)

There is no law other than natural law. There is no law other than Justice. There is no law other than the moral law of Right and Wrong, which applies equally to all, whether they purport to represent the People or the State or not, whether they join with a thousand or a million others to do some act or act alone. Anarchism is the rejection of the Divine Right of Kings. Even those who think we should obey the “laws” dictated by the U.S. government think we should do so because it is Right to do so. (Those who think this are of course Wrong, but this is what they think.)

Justice is the absence of crime. What is crime? Crime is aggression. It is the use of force and/or fraud to violate another’s rights. Now, force (e.g., imprisonment) and even fraud (e.g., income tax evasion) may be justly used to defend against or remedy past or imminent violations of rights. But it is important to remember that such uses of force or fraud only become arguably necessary because of force or fraud. It is fighting fire with fire. Force and fraud are inherently suspect. I would almost say they are “intrinsically evil,” except the Catholic Church uses that phrase to describe acts which are never justified. A perfectly Just world is a world without force or fraud of any kind. Therefore, the use of force (I will henceforth use “force” to stand for both force and fraud) should be reduced to the absolutely necessary. If “government” is a “necessary evil,” it should be limited to the truly necessary. A strong presumption of innocence and in favor of liberty should be its singular guiding principle. Even justified force has much of the ugliness of crime. Liberty is the absence of force.

One obvious way in which a “government” (which I define as simply a group of people who join forces to enforce rules) should limit itself to the truly necessary is to not fraudulently pretend to represent or speak for anyone other than the individuals who actually and explicitly and voluntarily make it up in the here and now. Among other things, this promotes transparency, accountability, and responsibility. Such a “government,” composed entirely of those who unanimously unite in support of the enforcement of this, that, or the other, will necessarily be quite small (probably no more than township-sized), although in the normal course of things it would be likely to confederate with other such “governments.”

An important thing to note about such a “government” is that, while it presupposes the consent of the governing, it doesn’t necessarily suppose the consent of the governed. In fact, if one “consents,” one isn’t “governed.” The very purpose of a government is to exert necessary force and compulsion, to secure rights. One can imagine a member of a community who unites with his neighbors in support of building a road and who the next day is discovered to have stolen money, and who will reap whatever consequences the rest of the community imposes whether he consents or not. As a practical matter, of course, such a government is likely to be more institutional and less ad hoc than this example suggests. But even if such a “government” adopts by-laws or customs whereby a vote of 51% or 90% in favor will decide the matter, it always remains for the minority to decide whether to “secede” and for the majority to decide whether to nevertheless attempt to impose their will on any who secede.

Do those who constitute such a “government,” no matter how small and how ad hoc, thus set themselves up as “rulers,” and thereby disturb Anarchy? After all, a lynch mob is a voluntary and unanimous association. A lynch mob indeed sets themselves up as rulers, as judge, jury, and executioner, and is therefore not Anarchic. The anarchic principle which led to the dissolution of government into small, unanimous “governments” — the presumption against force and violence, and against impressing the unwilling into a government — is diametrically opposed to the spirit animating a lynch mob. That is the fundamental Rule of a free, i.e. just, society. It is, again, a Rule which stands apart, and in fact in opposition to, would-be Rulers. It needs no Rulers to enact it. This Rule must pervade society. It will be the cause of the dissolution of governments into voluntary associations and at the same time the surest safeguard against lynch mobs. The fact that two or three or a hundred or a million are united in a common purpose does not of course justify their actions. The fifty who would join themselves in a lynch mob will find a thousand to stand united against them. The requirement of unanimity stands as a brake against violence, as the procedural embodiment of the presumption of innocence.

Finally, I should acknowledge that part of the reason I find it important to emphasize that governments do not derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, but rather from the consent of the governing and from Justice, is that I think that the most natural and just way for governments in Anarchy to secure land rights would be to enact and enforce the Single Tax on the unimproved value of land.

Follow Me on Twitter

July 02, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

I wrote my first tweet way back on December 31, 2008, but only lately have I really gotten the point and into it. It’s pretty “fun,” and frankly pretty easy, relative to blogging anyway. I’ve added a button on the side bar inviting you to “follow me” @johnkindley on Twitter. So that’s where I’ve been the last couple weeks. Another thing I’ve added to the side bar is a bitcoin donation box. Bitcoins are another thing I’ve gotten mildly interested in here lately, even going so far as to obtain my very own handful of bitcoins. Now, I understand that you probably don’t have any bitcoins, and probably don’t even know what they are. The donation box therefore is conceived of as more of a curiosity and an advertisement. (But seriously, if you’ve got an extra one lying around, send it my way.) Here are a couple things you can do with bitcoins:

Silk Road

Seals with Clubs

The Single Tax: Unrefuted

June 22, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

Check out these two posts by Wendy McElroy, a well-known anarchist with whom I usually agree, and especially the comments, among which are some by me, and especially the comments by Dan Sullivan:

What is Georgism? Followed by a Refutation. PART I

The Single Tax, A Refutation

career advice

June 22, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized


Thanks for your email. As you may have guessed from my blog, if I had it to do over again I don’t think I would have gone to law school. Even now I am actively looking at alternatives that would allow me to chuck the practice of law entirely. I was not nearly as libertarian as I am now when I began my legal career. My firsthand experience of the legal system and the legal profession as it actually exists made me the anarchist I am. So my best advice is for you to really make sure you want to be a lawyer before you go to law school. Or if you start law school and change your mind after the first semester or the first year don’t be afraid to quit. Frankly I can confirm what it appears you already suspect: I doubt that the goals you speak of are achievable, and if anything are less achievable from inside the system, and the desire to achieve them isn’t a very good reason to go to law school. As Albert Jay Nock said, it is enough to know and speak the truth, and as Thoreau said to minimize one’s cooperation with evil, and you don’t have to be a lawyer to do that. In fact, it’s difficult to be a practicing lawyer without feeling like you are cooperating with evil and participating in an evil system. Look at Lysander Spooner. He is in my opinion the greatest lawyer who ever lived, and yet he really never practiced much law. I try to do my best to defend and help people within the confines of the system. It’s nothing glamorous, and often heartbreaking.

Sent from my iPhone

R.I.P. Doc Watson

May 29, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

H/T Steve Martin

Hides, Tithings, Hundreds, Shires, . . . One World Government

May 28, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

In my last post I noted that after a lifetime of calling himself an anarchist Murray Bookchin a few years before his death rejected the label in favor of what he called “Communalism,” in part because he understood anarchism to insist on “consensus” rather than majority rule as the only legitimate basis for governance, and he believed such an insistence if carried out in practice would lead to the destruction of society itself. I also noted, however, that in an earlier essay Bookchin expressed his belief that consensus was achievable in small groups of people who were familiar with each other, and that consensus if achievable was obviously preferable to majority rule as a basis of governance.

A few observations: It always remains true that natural justice is necessarily the only law. All the black robes and star-spangled banners sewed by all the seamstresses in the world can’t change that. Put John Brown in a Hundred with 99 slave-owners and John Brown will still be right and all the slave-owners wrong. The only value of democracy, whether based on consensus or based on majority rule, is in its relative likelihood of enacting justice.

Contra the later Bookchin, consensus doesn’t put in the hands of any one individual in a society a veto power over whatever the rest of the society might want to do. If 80 want to take some course of action and 20 don’t, the 80 may of course still do what they like so long as they don’t try to compel the 20 to do likewise. And indeed, there is the heart of the matter, for the proper business of government is compulsion, by force if necessary. And therefore government necessarily precludes complete unanimity as a prerequisite for the exercise of its proper function. Government by “consensus” can’t require so much. Certainly the man caught in a crime, for example, will not ordinarily “consent” to the punishment the rest of society might visit upon him. Consensus therefore doesn’t entail universal consent.

It requires something close, however. There is no reason in the world that the vote of 51% should be deemed sufficient to justify forcibly compelling the other 49%. The ancient forms listed in the title of this post point the way to a government by consensus. A tithing was ten men, generally neighbors if not kin. A hundred was 10 tithings, or 100 men. (Incidentally, a hide was land sufficient for one family, and provided a basis for land value taxation.) Certainly a group of 10 would have been small enough to make consensus regularly achievable. One imagines that, given that the very nature and purpose of government is to compel when necessary, 9 out of 10 would have counted for all practical purposes as a consensus, as would by extension 90 out of a 100 in the Hundred.

However these tithings and Hundreds might choose to operate, even if they adopted as part of their constitution and by laws some form of majority rule, their real value would be in providing a forum for what Bookchin called “face-to-face democracy,” bottom-up confederal governance, and relative ease of exit (i.e. voting with one’s feet).

Murray Bookchin’s “Rejection” of “Anarchism”

May 27, 2012 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

in a 2002 essay he called The Communalist Project:

By the same token, anarchism—which, I believe, represents in its authentic form a highly individualistic outlook that fosters a radically unfettered lifestyle, often as a substitute for mass action—is far better suited to articulate a Proudhonian single-family peasant and craft world than a modern urban and industrial environment. I myself once used this political label, but further thought has obliged me to conclude that, its often-refreshing aphorisms and insights notwithstanding, it is simply not a social theory. Its foremost theorists celebrate its seeming openness to eclecticism and the liberatory effects of “paradox” or even “contradiction,” to use Proudhonian hyperbole. Accordingly, and without prejudice to the earnestness of many anarchistic practices, a case can made that many of the ideas of social and economic reconstruction that in the past have been advanced in the name of “anarchy” were often drawn from Marxism (including my own concept of “post-scarcity,” which understandably infuriated many anarchists who read my essays on the subject). Regrettably, the use of socialistic terms has often prevented anarchists from telling us or even understanding clearly what they are: individualists whose concepts of autonomy originate in a strong commitment to personal liberty rather than to social freedom, or socialists committed to a structured, institutionalized, and responsible form of social organization. Anarchism’s idea of self-regulation (auto nomos) led to a radical celebration of Nietzsche’s all-absorbing will. Indeed the history of this “ideology” is peppered with idiosyncratic acts of defiance that verge on the eccentric, which not surprisingly have attracted many young people and aesthetes.

. . .

As for anarchism, Bakunin expressed the typical view of its adherents in 1871 when he wrote that the new social order could be created “only through the development and organization of the nonpolitical or antipolitical social power of the working class in city and country,” thereby rejecting with characteristic inconsistency the very municipal politics which he sanctioned in Italy around the same year. Accordingly, anarchists have long regarded every government as a state and condemned it accordingly—a view that is a recipe for the elimination of any organized social life whatever. While the state is the instrument by which an oppressive and exploitative class regulates and coercively controls the behavior of an exploited class by a ruling class, a government—or better still, a polity—is an ensemble of institutions designed to deal with the problems of consociational life in an orderly and hopefully fair manner. Every institutionalized association that constitutes a system for handling public affairs—with or without the presence of a state—is necessarily a government. By contrast, every state, although necessarily a form of government, is a force for class repression and control. Annoying as it must seem to Marxists and anarchist alike, the cry for a constitution, for a responsible and a responsive government, and even for law or nomos has been clearly articulated—and committed to print!—by the oppressed for centuries against the capricious rule exercised by monarchs, nobles, and bureaucrats. The libertarian opposition to law, not to speak of government as such, has been as silly as the image of a snake swallowing its tail. What remains in the end is nothing but a retinal afterimage that has no existential reality.

. . .

The choice of the term Communalism to encompass the philosophical, historical, political, and organizational components of a socialism for the twenty-first century has not been a flippant one. The word originated in the Paris Commune of 1871, when the armed people of the French capital raised barricades not only to defend the city council of Paris and its administrative substructures but also to create a nationwide confederation of cities and towns to replace the republican nation-state. Communalism as an ideology is not sullied by the individualism and the often explicit antirationalism of anarchism; nor does it carry the historical burden of Marxism’s authoritarianism as embodied in Bolshevism. It does not focus on the factory as its principal social arena or on the industrial proletariat as its main historical agent; and it does not reduce the free community of the future to a fanciful medieval village. Its most important goal is clearly spelled out in a conventional dictionary definition: Communalism, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, is ”a theory or system of government in which virtually autonomous local communities are loosely bound in a federation.”

. . .

Finally, Communalism, in contrast to anarchism, decidedly calls for decision-making by majority voting as the only equitable way for a large number of people to make decisions. Authentic anarchists claim that this principle—the “rule” of the minority by the majority—is authoritarian and propose instead to make decisions by consensus. Consensus, in which single individuals can veto majority decisions, threatens to abolish society as such. A free society is not one in which its members, like Homer’s lotus-eaters, live in a state of bliss without memory, temptation, or knowledge. Like it or not, humanity has eaten of the fruit of knowledge, and its memories are laden with history and experience. In a lived mode of freedom—contrary to mere café chatter—the rights of minorities to express their dissenting views will always be protected as fully as the rights of majorities. Any abridgements of those rights would be instantly corrected by the community—hopefully gently, but if unavoidable, forcefully—lest social life collapse into sheer chaos. Indeed, the views of a minority would be treasured as potential source of new insights and nascent truths that, if abridged, would deny society the sources of creativity and developmental advances—for new ideas generally emerge from inspired minorities that gradually gain the centrality they deserve at a given time and place—until, again, they too are challenged as the conventional wisdom of a period that is beginning to pass away and requires new (minority) views to replace frozen orthodoxies.

But compare Bookchin’s earlier essay titled What is Communalism? The Democratic Dimension of Anarchism, written when he still called himself an anarchist:

How, then, would society make dynamic collective decisions about public affairs, aside from mere individual contracts? The only collective alternative to majority voting as a means of decision-making that is commonly presented is the practice of consensus. Indeed, consensus has even been mystified by avowed "anarcho-primitivists," who consider Ice Age and contemporary "primitive" or "primal" peoples to constitute the apogee of human social and psychic attainment. I do not deny that consensus may be an appropriate form of decision-making in small groups of people who are thoroughly familiar with one another. But to examine consensus in practical terms, my own experience has shown me that when larger groups try to make decisions by consensus, it usually obliges them to arrive at the lowest common intellectual denominator in their decision-making: the least controversial or even the most mediocre decision that a sizable assembly of people can attain is adopted -- precisely because everyone must agree with it or else withdraw from voting on that issue. More disturbingly, I have found that it permits an insidious authoritarianism and gross manipulations -- even when used in the name of autonomy or freedom.

. . .

If consensus could be achieved without compulsion of dissenters, a process that is feasible in small groups, who could possibly oppose it as a decision-making process? But to reduce a libertarian ideal to the unconditional right of a minority -- let alone a "minority of one" -- to abort a decision by a "collection of individuals" is to stifle the dialectic of ideas that thrives on opposition, confrontation and, yes, decisions with which everyone need not agree and should not agree, lest society become an ideological cemetery. Which is not to deny dissenters every opportunity to reverse majority decisions by unimpaired discussion and advocacy.

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  • "[T]here is just nothing wrong with telling the American people the truth." - Allen v. United States

  • Lysander Spooner

    Henry George

    Harriet Tubman

    Sitting Bull

    Angelus Silesius

    Smedley Butler

    Rose Wilder Lane

    Albert Jay Nock

    Dora Marsden

    Leo Tolstoy

    Henry David Thoreau

    John Brown

    Karl Hess

    Levi Coffin

    Max Stirner

    Dorothy Day

    Ernst Jünger

    Thomas Paine