“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
Two news items stress the necessity of hoarding and of doing it now.
A Nov. 5 headline on NBC Connecticut announced “N.Y. Man Charged in Gas Hoarding Case” and addressed an incident from the flood zone. “According to investigators, Yunus Latif… collected money from his neighbors, bought gas at a Valero station almost 80 miles away… and planned to bring it back to his neighborhood, where they had no power and gas.” In short, people were taking care of their own needs with their own money and effort — something a free society applauds. Instead, both Latif and the owner of the gas station were arrested for violating regulations concerning flammable liquids. The real reason was an authoritarian “horror” at the very whiff of hoarding. Meanwhile, the gas was reportedly returned to underground tanks.
A Nov. 7 headline on Click Orlando (Florida) stated, “College Park Man Fights to Keep Vegetable Garden in Front Yard.” Why? Property owner Jason Helvingston is in violation of a city code requiring gardens to be planted in a “finished” manner that keeps up property values. The city ordered him to dig out the garden in a week.
In both stories, government refuses to allow people to use their own property to provide for their own needs. The situational dynamics differ.
A breakdown of the dynamics in the flood zone story:
1. A crisis interrupts the flow of necessities. The government assures people that it can supply their needs. After all, that’s what government is for.
2. It fails.
3. People provide for themselves. The private sector demonstrates that it can do what the public sector cannot. This not only slaps authority in the face, but also constitutes an argument against the need for government.
4. To mask their own incompetence and to deflect public anger, government blames shortages and other hardships on those who “hoard” or otherwise disregard government rules.
5. Government re-establishes its own necessity in the public mind by becoming the authority capable of cracking down on anti-social criminals. Government also establishes an air of competence because cracking down is something it does well.
A breakdown of the dynamics in the garden story:
1. Government regulates the minutia of people’s lives and property.
2. People who use their lives and property as they see fit are denying authority to government. In some cases, they may be denying the need for government itself.
3. Government reasserts its authority and its existence by quashing the rebellion.
The stories differ in that one occurs in a crisis while the second occurs in everyday life. But both situations shout out the same message: You need to hoard as quickly and quietly as possible.
The crisis scenario reflects the need to hoard nonperishable essentials right now, before there is a disruption that makes them scarce or otherwise difficult to purchase, for example by tripling in price overnight. Hoard quickly and now, because in a crisis, even if you manage to acquire what your family or neighborhood need, you risk being arrested as a criminal for doing so.
Historically, government has frowned upon hoarding. In an economic collapse or disaster, that frown turns into a scowl in a flash. Anti-hoarding laws are passed or miscreants are arrested under frivolous laws like transporting gasoline in unapproved containers. Again, government criminalizes hoarders not merely in order to assert its control, but also to deflect blame from the policies and inefficiencies actually responsible for empty shelves. By stirring up public resentment toward those who own one more can of peas than their neighbors, politicians avoid the full and just brunt of the anger.
The garden scenario reflects the need to hoard essentials in a quiet and private manner. Government is watching the minutia of people’s behavior down to the type and arrangement of vegetables grown in their gardens. In a time of crisis, private stockpiles of food known to exist will be confiscated for “the general good.”
There is ample historical precedent. Consider the Food and Fuel Control Act, which became law in 1917. Its official name was An Act to Provide Further for the National Security and Defense by Encouraging the Production, Conserving the Supply, and Controlling the Distribution of Food Products and Fuel. Anyone possessing more than a 30-day supply of food could have been arrested.
The May 30, 1918, New York Times carried the headline, “Navy Man Indicted for Food Hoarding.” The man had invested his wife’s inheritance in a year’s worth of food that was stored in the family home. He was arrested on $3,000 bail, which was an extraordinary sum at the time. The food was confiscated.
The Navy man’s fate is a cautionary tale about hoarding quietly. The store of food was discovered because a grocer and neighbors informed upon him. Thus, the need to hoard quietly is a sad fact. It is sad because people in a community naturally wish to assist those in need around them. Measures like the Food and Fuel Control Act, however, mean that sharing food with a neighbor’s hungry children is no longer simply a gesture of compassion; it becomes a danger to the well-being of your own children.
If you are private about hoarding and then become convinced that your neighbors are trustworthy, nothing prevents you from sharing with them. Some people may be fortunate enough to have neighbors like those of Yunus Latif, with whom they can cooperate openly. I have wondered more than once, however, even about Latif’s neighbors. What would have happened if Latif had stockpiled gas in his basement but was unwilling to share? Would the neighbors have bothered to drive 80 miles to fill their generators? Privacy would be Latif’s best and, perhaps, only defense against their need.
There is still time to hoard the items upon which your family depends. Hoard quickly, which means starting right now. The full force of inflation and the prospect of shortages are still in the future. Hoard quietly, which means not buying too much of anything at one place. It means being discreet.