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Book review: The Market for Liberty, by Linda Tannehill & Morris Tannehill

5 May

The Market for Liberty

In the comic book legend of Superman, an occasional ingredient in the story is the caped one’s ice cave, the Fortress of Solitude, usually located somewhere up near the North Pole. In the movie series, Christopher Reeve created this via a dense Kryptonian crystal, possibly a sun-stone sent to Earth with the escaping infant child by Superman’s father, Jar-El, as played by Marlon Brando.

This super-concentrated nano-crystal contained all the knowledge and memories of the Kryptonian race, to enable Superman to reach his full potential.

And in many ways, The Market for Liberty, by Linda and Morris Tannehill,  originally published in 1970 and now re-published by Laissez Faire Books, is a similar kind of nano-crystal sun-stone, containing virtually all the light required to form a complete global society free from the parasitical and metastasizing carcinoma virus of peace-destroying, wealth-destroying, and liberty-destroying government.

To provide a solid roadway into freedom I would normally recommend that a bolstering literary canon should include Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Bruce Benson, Ayn Rand, George Orwell, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe. If, however, you want the whole freedom rush in one hit, this book could provide that super-dense Cuban cigar.

Take a look at this typical quote from the book.

“All that is required for the defeat of evil is that good men stop their unwitting support of it.”

If that seems a little simplistic, some firm meat backs it up.

“The majority of people firmly believe that we must have a government to protect us from domestic and foreign aggression. But government is a coercive monopoly which must demand sacrifices from its citizens. It is a repository of power without external check and cannot be permanently restrained. It attracts the worst kind of men to its ranks, shackles progress, forces its citizens to act against their own judgment, and causes recurring internal and external strife by its coercive existence.”

The first part of the book, labelled The Great Conflict, consists of a kind of Rothbardian-Randian soup, all compressed into a handy travelling cube, with plenty of motivational herbal notes along the way, such as this one.

“The free-market way of doing things is always superior to the only method government can use — coercion, as freedom is always superior to slavery.”

This first part is the best section of the book, flowing along beautifully like a wild canyon ride. After this poetry, we then towel ourselves down for some serious prose by progressing into part II, labelled A Laissez-Faire Society. Here, the authors dissect the Benson-Hoppe areas of competitive security production. We begin with straightforward fare.

“The belief that society couldn’t be defended without a government also assumes that government does, indeed, protect the society over which it rules. But when it is realized that government really has nothing except what it takes by force from its citizens, it becomes obvious that the government can’t possibly protect the people, because it doesn’t have the resources to do so.”

However, virtually every question a devil’s advocate minarchist could think of is tackled by the Tannehills in their quest to prove the unnecessity of the state. However, as others have noted before me, the ‘Randian’ nature of the book does lead to what I would consider a slip-up on the ‘intellectual property’ front. This perhaps marks the book’s first slight Achilles Heel.

Another distraction might appear to those already initiated with the Bensonian and Hoppeian ideas proclaimed – the justifications on how a truly free society will solve its security problems  start to become relentless. In wave after wave the book prescribes how the free market will solve the problems the state claims to solve now, mostly related to justice, peace, and security (all three of which the modern state lamentably and quite clearly fails to solve). However, although this forensic detail provides great ammunition for those who might occasionally find themselves trapped inside otherwise intractable arguments with minarchists – when perhaps they could be relaxing with a glass of pinot noir instead – we actually lack any real detailed clarity on how a free society will work once we take our freedom back from the state.

Could you predict from the outset how undirected biological evolution would progress in a complex free environment in the light of continual and unpredictable environmental change? Farmers try to tame, control, and direct evolution to satisfy their own personal needs, just as tax farmers do the same with society. But the minute a farming whip hand gets removed, nature and society quickly re-assert themselves into axiomatically-ordered chaos.

If evolution holds a combined nature of spontaneous chaotic unprediction based upon an axiomatic scientific framework of nucleic acid replication, then why would societal freedom be any different? The purpose of Austrian economics lies in mapping the axiomatic nucleic acid of society. Alas, how any isolated society will evolve once free of criminal restriction will never resolve itself entirely from the entrepreneurial fog of speculation.

Yes, some entrepreneurs such as Doug Casey achieve greater fog-guessing success than others, perhaps because they hear the helical chimes of crystalline nucleic acid patterns better than the rest of us, though none of these entrepreneurs ever sail in clear blue waters without the need for a fog horn, even when pressed by troublesome podcast hosts to ‘tell us what might happen next?’

That’s the beauty of both freedom and evolution, an intimate pair of development strands twisted together as related, spontaneous, and complex-chaotic processes. Both perform optimally to produce the greatest order when free to go whichever way they perform best given the changing and tangled environment in which they exist from moment to moment. Yes, the underlying frameworks of Austrian economics and nucleic acid replication ultimately provide ever-evolving order in both systems, but mapping out the future too closely can harm the reputation of both successful entrepreneurs and successful evolutionary scientists.

Having said all that, if you are a reluctant minarchist and you need some help, persuasion, and plausible ideas, to come to over the light side, this may just be the ideal book to bring you over a possible Stockholm-syndrome chasm of a vestigial emotional connection to a gang of bandits called government which has preyed upon your life’s energy output from birth.

Think Matrix. Think red pill.

The metaphorical call to man the barricade then comes in part III, labelled How Do We Get There?, which says what you might expect about privatisation, taking ownership of your life, and rejecting government wherever you can. One interesting trumpet note here leads the Tannehill charge, going beyond Rand or even Murray Rothbard, which is a call for the U.S. dollar’s replacement by something private people can transact safely and securely. Although they detail the importance of gold and silver as money, they believe it may take a while for these precious metals to fill any void left by the dollar’s ultimate and probably sudden collapse. I was particularly struck by the end of this line, first written and published 43 years ago.

‘…if it comes as a result of people deserting the dollar for a truly valuable medium of exchange than if the dollar collapses from hyper-inflation, leaving them no money commodity at all.’

Shades of Bitcoin anyone? It truly is a remarkable book, decades ahead of its time, and still highly useful today.

Once you’ve swallowed the Tannehill pill, prepare to throw away your Union Jack cufflinks, your Swedish flag backpack, and your Tricolour underwear. See why this book helped convert Doug Casey to the reality of true freedom. At least, that’s what it says on Wikipedia, and as that wonderful Internet source of information drew its inspiration directly from the ideas of Hayekian spontaneous order, who are we to argue?

You may also learn to feel the aspiration – no matter how long it takes to arrive – of a totally voluntary society, whether this society discovers itself on Earth, which I personally consider unlikely, or whether it first materializes out there on the upcoming frontier of space.

This may be a territory, an island, an asteroid, a moon, or a planet of super men and super women who have risen above the tax farming propaganda of criminal gang states via the inspiration of books like The Market For Liberty.

Perhaps we should therefore call this first free place Krypton? Or as our Bitcoin-supporting friends might spell it, Crypton. Though I would be happy for it to be called ‘Virgin Gulch’ or ‘Red Bull Field’, or named after whichever other private organisation first founds this magical place to reboot human progress after the disastrous 10,000 year experiment of the state.

After all, who am I to predict which company of free men and women will get there first and what they’ll call it? Though it would be really good if this first free city were named ‘Euro Vigilante Haven’.

That really would be quite a place.

Book Review: Totally Incorrect, by Doug Casey

20 Apr

Doug Casey Totally Incorrect

The problem with reading academic Austrians, such as Mises and Rothbard, was once related by Ludwig von Mises himself, to his intended wife Margit von Mises before she accepted his proposal for marriage.

You must understand, he said, that although I am an expert on money, I will never have any.

And so it goes for most academic Austrians.

Mostly achieving extra income through book sales, where a mega-seller means anything over 10,000 units, a few manage to combine academia with other outside interests to magnify their usual professorial salaries. However, even if you love their work, most will squirm and shirk when confronted by three important investment questions; “when will the next government-induced bubble arrive?”, “what should I invest in when it does?”, and the culminating sixty-four trillion dollar challenge, “at what point should I exit from that bubble to gain the greatest financial advantage?”

So if you want Austrian investment advice, you should avoid seeking enlightenment from academics and follow one of the major Austrian-influenced über-gurus instead, most of whom can be counted on the fingers of a three-fingered man named Slim, who’s often out of town.

One of these inspirational gurus – a man who I’ve been lucky enough to get to know personally – is Doug Casey, Chairman of Casey Research, gun owner, polo player, cigar smoker, whisky drinker, and an all-round true American, which in this Hamiltonianesque age has become an unfortunately rare and endangered breed.

In the finest tradition of his writing, Doug Casey’s latest unmissable book, Totally Incorrect, isn’t merely politically incorrect, it is precisely and exactly the opposite of everything that the Gramscian leftists – with their Orwellian obsession on the power of language – want you to read.

Where Gramscians and their benighted ilk broadcast lies, propaganda, environmetalism, socialism, and fascism, Casey broadcasts nothing but the pure gold of truth, unalloyed with tungsten, though perhaps delivered inside a cold steel jacket spinning behind a diamond-tipped nosecone.

The book consists of a faithfully unedited collection of the best Conversations with Casey, gathered over the years and transcribed by his regular conversational partner, Louis James, the editor of International Speculator. Although it’s true that there is a little repetition when you read all of these penetrating conversations in one hit – as I did on a six-hour flight from Kuwait City to London – it is all the better to get the flavour of these conversations in the raw, as they happened.

Along the way, instead of being told by an Austrian professor about what’s going to happen, as we wanted to discover at the start of this review, you learn something far more lucrative and valuable instead. That is, how to answer such questions yourself, from inside the heart of your own mental, intellectual, and experiential resources.

So if, as defined in the book, the word education arose from ancient Rome with its meaning “to lead by drawing out”, this makes Totally Incorrect the most educational book I have read in quite some time.

And if learning about the guts of investment fails to raise your Millenium Falcon, the sheer entertainment power of a politically incorrect raconteur describing Fidel Castro in the flesh, the pain of a polo ball hitting your foot at a hundred and twenty miles per hour, or what it’s like to watch a car crash from inside a tumbling Ferrari, ensures that this collection of conversations is a great rollercoaster read in its own right.

Just to make his book ultra-perfect, perhaps the author might also have toted a pump action shotgun on the front cover, along with the whisky and the cigar. Although this might have broken the contemplative mood, it would certainly have been visually descriptive of many of the passages inside.

However, aside from that minor quibble, this book made my flight from Kuwait pass by in a flash. And when I got a sarcastic response from the passport-checking drone at the other end, at Heathrow, when I refused to thank her for checking my papers, or indeed when I refused to speak to her or to visibly acknowledge her existence at all, my inward smile over this tiny personal victory over the state really did make my day.

So thank you Doug for reminding me who is in control of my life and for encouraging me to dream of the day when all the passport checkers are made by the free market to go and do something useful instead.

GoldMoney podcast: Matthew McCaffrey: Austro Marxists – who are they

27 Mar

Matthew McCaffrey GoldMoney

Short & sweet, I speak to the charming and highly intelligent Matthew McCaffrey, a phD student of Professor Guido Hülsmann at the University of Angers, about their new book, A Theory of Money and Fiduciary Media, a centennial book to celebrate the 1912 publication of Von Mises’s A Theory of Money and Credit, a pivotal book of the Austrian School, which marked the public beginnings of Professor Mises’s brilliance…

Episode 113: From the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, on behalf of the GoldMoney Foundation, Andy Duncan speaks with Matthew McCaffrey, editor of Libertarian Papers, and a pHD student at the University of Angers in France.

McCaffery recently contributed to the new book, Theory of Money and Fiduciary Media in which he expresses an historical appreciation of Ludwig van Mises and the role that some British schools of thought may have had on influencing his work.

Other chapters of the book, which was published in 2012 to commemorate the centennial of Mises’ Theory of Money and Credit, are discussed, paying tribute to the economic themes that Mises´ contributed to.

To get your own GoldMoney account, with the Euro Vigilante as your referring affiliate, click on the picture below to visit the GoldMoney.com website, then click on their ‘Free Sign Up’ button, once you’re on their home page…

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Book Review: Street Smarts, by Jim Rogers

22 Feb

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In China, eight is the lucky number. The Mandarin symbol for eight is a pictogram representing a side of meat being sliced in two, in infinite progression. This forms the symbolism of multiplication and increase, in the same mythological way that the biblical story of Noah represents multiplication and increase, two by two by two, giving us this same powerful, capitalistic, and mystical number of eight.

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For where chapters one to seven of Jim Rogers’s new book, Street Smarts, are a wonderful how-to-get-rich and rags-to-riches story of his life so far – including a description of his wedding in Henley-on-Thames, a town where I also got married – he really pulls out the economic meat cleaver in Chapter Eight. He begins to lay it, at first, into Alan Greenspan, and then rolls up his sleeves before setting to work with Ben Bernanke, Timothy Geithner, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, with a fiendish delight which had your author calling for more Pinot Noir to appreciate the greater subtleties of the author’s carefully-crafted words.

Chapter Eight is thus a joyous chapter to read as this maestro of real-world global investment lifts the withered fools-gold slab of Keynesianism and exposes the insectoid Krugmanite creatures below to a well-deserved blow-torch of common sense, slaking them in a coruscating fire of simple concise words, well chosen, and written in the flowing liquid style of a master wordsmith craftsman.

For Jim Rogers is far more than than meets the eye on financial news interviews. Wherever he’s been, in whichever geological strata of life he has found himself, he has risen inexorably, like a molten volcanic stream of gold, improbably filled with diamonds, to the very surface of that strata. And that includes the rare earth mineral layer of superlative writers and teachers.

Fortunately, even by the close of his pivotal Chapter Eight, Rogers is far from finished. For the wonderful and refreshing pummeling continues apace in Chapter Nine, which ends with the Frank Borman quote, “Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell,” a hearty tagline I’m sure the illustrious Joseph Schumpeter would have appreciated.

And so the unwinding story of Jim Rogers and the entertaining dance of his thoughts continues onward towards distant future prospects, until the unwanted end of the book in which I was left pleading with the author for more. Alas, for the world’s hard-core band of dedicated Misesians, the horse-frightening words of ’Rothbard’ and ’Mises’ fail to show up in any part of the book. However, you can still feel their willing paired ghosts standing in the shadows throughout the entire manuscript, urging Rogers forwards in his clinical evisceration of America’s supine political class, which has sleepwalked Paine’s and Jefferson’s America into the socialised, regimented, and bureaucratised United States of George Walker Bush and Barack Hussein Obama.

One especially feels this Misesian support with Rothbard’s bow-tied ghost, willing on the bow-tied Rogers to land yet another skewering blow into the heart of the Washingtonian beast, which is strong-arming the United States into the same destructive chasm as the draconian Athenian empire, whose hated and once-almighty Delian league was eventually wiped from the ancient classical map by the lowly and simplistic Sparta (metaphorically, read China).

Bring the troops home, let bankrupt companies fail, shrink the state, bring back liberty. These are the heartfelt messages of Rogers. Truth, wealth, and freedom thus abound in the pages of this wonderful book.

And these are messages Austrians everywhere can believe in and subscribe to, as we march on the eternal road towards knowledge, harmony, and peace.

And if you’d like some excellent investment tips too, then this really is the book for you.

Buy, sell, hold?

Buy.