Its been a long time since I wanted to ask Scott Horton about his political ideas. I have to confess that ever since I discovered his fantastic radio show and his blog I have been listening to it on a daily basis. Never before had I heard a radio show with such a more interesting list of experts invited or with a more knowledgable and free thinking host. Scott, whom I now consider being a friend (even though we never met personally) interviewed me for his show already three times and now I can finally “retaliate”.
While there are many current issues that I could have asked Scott about, I decided to center my questions on his political beliefs. I have to admit here that before discovering his show I had never been exposed to US libertarian ideas. Being a European myself I do not agree with a wholesale rejection of any form of government, nor do I agree with the idea that government regulations are inherently bad (I personally consider the existence of a government regulated economy essential to protect the people from the power of the corporations and I believe that the main purpose of a government is to protect the poor, the weak, the unemployed and the sick from destitution). Nevertheless, I have come to respect and admire American libertarians for their total rejection of violence and wars (except in self-defense) and their uncompromising commitment to civil rights and freedoms.
Following my interview with Joel S. Hirschhorn, it was also timely to get the point of view of a person who believed that voting still makes sense, at least voting for a person like Ron Paul. As I have written before, short of a miracle the USA will have an openly fascist president in 2008 and Ron Paul is the best, if not only, chance for the USA to remain a republic, however imperfect, and not turn into a Neocon Fascist Empire. Whether having a libertarian president would be good or bad for the USA is for Americans to decide, not for foreigners like me. But one thing is certain, having a president like Ron Paul would be incomparably better than any other option for the rest of the planet.
I can only recommend to all my readers to listen to Scott’s show (streaming daily on radio KAOS and whose archives are posted on his blog) to judge the man and his ideas for themselves. Also – check out his excellent stickers.
Lastly, anyone interested in understanding the Ron Paul phenomenon should check out the Ron Paul library which features a large collection of his speeches, articles and book (including several in PDF format for free download)
Q: first, tell us something about yourself: how did you end up hosting what is, in my opinion, the best radio talk show in the USA? What is the link between you, Radio KAOS and antiwar.com? What did you do before you became a talk show host?
A: Well, I’ve done pirate radio in Austin since the end of 1998. First was Say it Ain’t So on Free Radio Austin 97.1 FM (Thanks Reckless, etc.!) which was raided twice by the FCC. The second time was the day of the election in 2000. That was it for FRA.
Then Shauna Kaye started KAOS 95.9 to be the place for punk and metal in town. Since I’m lucky, she let me do a politics show. It was called The Way Shit Is, The Best I Can Tell with Col. Edward Mandell House. KAOS was started in December 2001 and I guess my show got going pretty soon after that. Probably January or February, 2002. Then on the eve of the war at the beginning of 2003, Shauna suggested I start getting interviews and my friend Jon gave me a computer if I would promise to use it. So I started the Weekend Interview Show and PhilipDru.com for a place to post the archives.
Of course, I interviewed the Antiwar.com guys all the time, since they are the best, and they started posting the mp3s. In 2004-2005 I took the show over to the 9/11 kook network RBN, and in the meantime started and sold LibertyStickers.com. I had a few months worth of living money so I started writing articles for AWC to go along with the interviews. From there I was hired as assistant editor. After leaving RBN, I came back home to KAOS and eventually set up the daily interview show as it exists now.
To be clear, there is no link whatever between KAOS and Antiwar.com, other than that Antiwar.com runs the archives of my KAOS interviews.
Q: while most Americans have a pretty good idea what libertarian ideas are in the US context, most Europeans do not. Could you please summarize the basic ideas and values of libertarians ideals and please tell us what the core reading list should be for somebody wanting to understand US libertarian ideas?
A: I’m not sure that most Americans get it, but a libertarian is what I understand is still referred to as a liberal by Europeans. Here in America, the socialists weren’t brave enough to call themselves what they were and stole the name liberal. So Rothbard refashioned the old right classical liberals as the libertarians to distinguish the genuine classical liberals from the socialists on the left and nationalist war mongers and conservatives on the right.
Specifically, libertarianism is belief in the non-aggression principle. It is not okay to initiate force against another person. Most people believe this, parents, Yoda, karate class, old west hero, etc., but the libertarian applies it to politics as well. If it’s wrong for me to steal from you, it’s wrong for me to hire a cop to steal from you. Once you recognize that government simply means the people who are allowed to commit all the crimes that we are not allowed to commit and that the same moral laws ought to apply to them, things begin to seem a bit different. Lysander Spooner said government was like a highway man only the highway man has the decency to leave you alone after he mugs you, the state follows you home, bosses you around, steals more of your stuff everyday and then tells you he’s your security guard there to protect you from the highwayman.
Shoot. Just check LewRockwell.com for the politics and Mises.org for the economics. The Mises Institute has an incredible amount of literature online. And bibliographies galore.
Q: what exactly is anarcho-capitalism and how is it different from libertarianism? What is the “Austrian School” you often mention in your shows?
A: Anarcho-capitalism is what a libertarian believes in when he stops being a hypocrite and recognizes that a tax funded monopoly on security and litigation issues is as immoral and unworkable, and for the same reasons, as a monopoly on anything else. See, left anarchists think that private property only exists due to the (socialist) state protecting it with everyone’s taxes and monopoly force, but they got it all wrong. If you get rid of the state and it’s control over “public” property, what’s left? Private property. Which happens to be the basis of civilization.
There are many, many people much, much more qualified than myself to discuss Austrian economics, but what I know is that Ludwig Von Mises posited that man is an individual and that individual man acts. From there he deduced a great many things such as all the Keynesian charts, algebra, and whathaveyou is a bunch of crap. As Alan Greenspan told Jon Stewart, he hasn’t learned a thing or improved at all in his “forcasting” in 50 years on the job. People are free they do what they want for reasons that can’t be computer modeled; That whenever government introduces force into the market – always on behalf of capitalism-hating millionaires – it produces dislocations, bad investments, and lost liberty. He explained that the boom and bust cycle was not the natural result of capitalism, but the result of the central banks creating new money out of nothing in the name of smoothing out the booms and busts. Mises also explained way back in the 20’s – I think – that socialism can’t work because it was based on Adam Smith and Marx’s flawed labor theory of value and showed that value comes from the customer’s view, and since the socialists were trying to be the rationer and the rationee at the same time, they would have no way to accurately determine prices and therefore no way to accurately determine which resources should go where or when.
This, I think, was a big part of why Rothbard and them rejected the Cold War. They looked at the USSR and said “Threat? Where? These jokers are doomed.” They were right. Time was on our side, not theirs.
Q: the US political system has turned into a tragic farce in which when people vote for the “liberal” Clinton they get a wholesale dismantlement of the social security and when they vote for the “conservative” George W. Bush they get a huge deficit, imperial wars, and a huge deficit. As a result, some, such as Joel S. Hirshhorn conclude that the only solution is to refuse to vote (check his excellent article on this subject here). You, on the other hand, call for voting for Ron Paul even though you once created a sticker with the words “voting is for suckers” but you are now calling to vote for Ron Paul. What made you change your mind?
A: Ron Paul is the greatest congressman in American history. I’ve been reading much of what he’s written for about 10 years now, had the honor of meeting him a few times, and I think he’s one of the best teachers of liberty around. The whole point is that the only time anyone pays attention to politics is when people are running for president. Dr. Paul is teaching them about liberty in numbers unheard of in all history. In a world where Republicans aren’t evil and stupid, which we don’t live in, they would all rally around him, since he’s the only one who could possibly beat Hillary in the fall of ’08, and in that case, there is no one I would trust more than him to hold that power, to restore the Bill of Rights and bring this empire home in a soft landing instead of catastrophe.
Also, I am ashamed that my last vote on earth was not for Harry Browne. Now I will be proud to cast my last for the good doctor. Lysander Spooner makes a decent case for anarchists voting in self defense in No Treason, but, no, ultimately it’s important for people to understand that Alexander Hamilton was a fascist who led an evil counter-revolution against the results of the Great Secession from Britain, that his Constitution has been a disaster and that the state should be abolished – yesterday.
Q: Do you really believe that Ron Paul could get elected and, even more importantly, that if elected the political elites who run this country would let him change anything? It not the real problem the fact that the USA is no more a democracy but that it is in fact a country ruled by an elite which has turned any real democracy into a sham? In your opinion, does the current political process have any legitimacy left and do you believe that this system can still be reformed?
A: Democracy sucks. It is based on the collectivist myth of popular sovereignty and majority rule. We do have a democracy. That’s why our system sucks so bad. The minority with the power can always manipulate a majority into thinking whatever they want them to think. Even when the majority disagrees with the elite, they’re usually wrong then too.
I think that if Paul were elected president that he could do a great many things to restore the structures of the law which somewhat serve to protect our liberties. He could immediately rescind hundreds of executive orders, order torturers brought up on charges, repudiate the unitary executive theory, bring the army and navy home, unsign treaties, ask Congress to pass an omnibus restore the Bill of Rights Act, veto any budget he wished, and he could teach people that the president ain’t liberty, liberty is where the president ain’t.
Q: coming back to anarcho-capitalism, can you name a society in history which has ever implemented this kind of socio-political system or which came as close as can be to what you want?
A: These are questions best left for Roderick T. Long, I’m afraid, but I do know that Iceland had a system much like the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard and his successors. There were cops, but no territorial monopolies on their jurisdiction. It worked great for 350 years. A hell of a lot longer than Hamilton’s constitution, maybe even this society, will. Also, in Conceived In Liberty, Rothbard writes of anarcho-Pennsylvania which was out of the control of the crown for I guess about 100 years or so and worked things out in a very private property anarchy kinda way. And, of course, the old west had may examples of stateless people working things out themselves just fine. Though obviously that didn’t last very long with the national government set on dominating the whole continent.
Q: if I understood you correctly you believe that government regulations are a highly ineffective way of resolving differences in a society and that the best way would be to litigate differences in a court of law. Is this correct and, if yes, how would the courts force anyone to accept their jurisdiction and how would the courts enforce their rulings absent a police force? Also, in your society what kind of penalties could the courts impose of offenders? Would there be jails and who would be in charge of them? Would there be fines and who would collect them? Lastly, who would pay for the costs of creating and maintaining a judiciary?
A: Yes, the regulations exist to protect the the regulatees from the people. Always have. I’ll duck the how exactly would the anarcho-libertarian court system
might work and direct you to those much more qualified to answer, such
as http://mises.org and http://praxeology.net/molinari
Q: what is your analysis of who has the real power in the USA? The most often mentioned are the Oil Lobby, the Israel Lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex. Do you agree and, if yes, how would you rank them. Do you rather agree with Greg Palast who says that oil is the key force, or would you rather agree with James Petras who believes that the Israel Lobby has become the overwhelming force in US politics.
A: Don’t forget the money men, though it looks to me like the banking/oil establishment has been largely supplanted by the MIC-Neocon-Israel Lobby groups, though these things are fluid. They’re all still in there fighting it out. As Lew Rockwell once wrote: “It’s a heck of a note… to have to root for the Rockefellers.”
Q: the future looks very bleak and, barring some kind of miracle, Hillary will become the next US President. What do you think will happen if she is elected? Give us your sense of what 4 years of a Hillary Administration would bring?
A: Death. Pain. Tyranny. Blood. Just like when her husband was president. Just like now.
Scott, I thought Saker’s questions about the judiciary were good questions, ones that I have pondered. What’s your answer? The questions are pasted below.
Thanks Saker and Scott, MikeL
“Is this correct and, if yes, how would the courts force anyone to accept their jurisdiction and how would the courts enforce their rulings absent a police force? Also, in your society what kind of penalties could the courts impose of offenders? Would there be jails and who would be in charge of them? Would there be fines and who would collect them? Lastly, who would pay for the costs of creating and maintaining a judiciary?”
Awesome interview man, i am in the same camp as you. When i first heard scotts show, i was addicted. Also liked when he interviewed you. Awesome blog too saker!
Regarding anarcho-capitalism, see “Machinery of Freedom” by David Friedman. There are more important books, but this is a readable introduction.
But the important point is that an arbiter of last resort is worse than no arbiter at all, because in practice this arbiter always really only serves the politically influential. For example, NAFTA was never really about free trade. It was about accumulating and centralizing the political power to regulate international trade.
The absence of state doesn’t create a paradise as libertarians fantasize.Noam Chomsky pointed out that nobody wants to live in a society imagined by Rothbard. Libertarians donot have any problems with Inequality.One can easily imagine such inequality giving way to coalition of powerful players and establishing a state. Libertarians have no answer to such an eventuality.
The correct way is not to fantasize about Politics. Fantasies belong to sex, not politics.The correct way is to try to improve the things as they are, increase and deepen democracy, learn from mistakes.In other words, realising that fantasies of all kinds do more harm than good and be realistic.
Ajit: “The absence of state doesn’t create a paradise as libertarians fantasize.”
This is a straw man. As for equality, are we talking equality of wealth, health, talent, beauty, charm, luck, etc? Or are we talking equality under the law? If the former, that’s truly a fantasy. If the latter, then one will have to simply put up with a little bit of inequality in the former.
As for the State, again, in practice it is not the cure for privilege, but the institutionalization of it.
@reflux the chemist: thank you for your kind words. Sometimes I wonder if all the efforts are worth it, and your encouragements show me that somebody cares!
RBN’s a great channel, it’s a shame Scott feels it necessary to distance himself from them. I have little doubt that Scott’s hero Ron Paul is quite sure that 911 was a staged event.