The Positive Side of So-Called Religious Freedom Laws

Now that I’ve spent a couple of posts explaining why libertarians shouldn’t actively support these so-called religious freedom laws it’s time for me to explain their upside. As with anything these laws are not black and white. There are pros and cons to them. One of the pros of these laws is that they encourage bigots to be open about their bigotry and therefore allow me to be a more informed consumer.

Let’s take the quintessential Christian baker asked to make a cake for a gay wedding. Under these so-called religious freedom laws the baker is able to turn down the request due to it violating their religious beliefs. Without these laws they are not able to do so without facing the wrath of the state.

I don’t like to support people who actively work against me or my beliefs. This is why I appreciate those “no guns allowed” signs. With a simple sign I know that the owner discriminates against people who would defend themselves from a violent attacker. As a person who believes self-defense is a right I don’t want to give money to anybody who is actively trying to interfere with people defending themselves. Those signs help me be a more informed consumer so I can take my business elsewhere.

These so-called religious freedom bills can give me more information as a consumer. If a baker refuses to bake a cake for a gay wedding then I know the owner(s) discriminate against homosexuals. Since I strongly oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation I can avoid doing business with that bakery.

Not only do I believe in the freedom of expression I also encourage people to express themselves loudly. This goes doubly so for business owners. I know, people often say they want business owners to shut their mouths. That is certainly the smart thing. But I really do want to know if a business owner is actively working against my goals so I can choose not to provide them with resources to do so. The more information I have at hand the better my decisions can be.

Ignorance of the Laws is Not an Excuse

As Murray Rothbard once said, “The state is a gang of thieves writ large.” The only purpose of the state is to forcibly transfer wealth from the general population to members of the state and its cronies. People like to argue others, probably because they suffer from Stockholm syndrome. But the United States government long ago lost any right to claim it was anything other than a gang of thieves. That’s because the state’s method of wealth transfer is the law and the law is so expansive that there’s no way of even knowing when you’re violating it:

If you walk down the sidewalk, pick up a pretty feather, and take it home, you could be a felon — if it happens to be a bald eagle feather. Bald eagles are plentiful now, and were taken off the endangered species list years ago, but the federal law making possession of them a crime for most people is still on the books, and federal agents are even infiltrating some Native-American powwows in order to find and arrest people. (And feathers from lesser-known birds, like the red-tailed hawk are also covered). Other examples abound, from getting lost in a storm and snowmobiling on the wrong bit of federal land, to diverting storm sewer water around a building.

“Regulatory crimes” of this sort are incredibly numerous and a category that is growing quickly. They are the ones likely to trap unwary individuals into being felons without knowing it. That is why Michael Cottone, in a just-published Tennessee Law Review article, suggests that maybe the old presumption that individuals know the law is outdated, unfair and maybe even unconstitutional. “Tellingly,” he writes, “no exact count of the number of federal statutes that impose criminal sanctions has ever been given, but estimates from the last 15 years range from 3,600 to approximately 4,500.” Meanwhile, according to recent congressional testimony, the number of federal regulations (enacted by administrative agencies under loose authority from Congress) carrying criminal penalties may be as many as 300,000.

That’s not all. The vast number of laws alone wouldn’t be so bad if you had to knowingly be violating them to be charged but that too as gone by the wayside:

And it gets worse. While the old-fashioned common law crimes typically required a culpable mental state — you had to realize you were doing something wrong — the regulatory crimes generally don’t require any knowledge that you’re breaking the law. This seems quite unfair. As Cottone asks, “How can people be expected to know all the laws governing their conduct when no one even knows exactly how many criminal laws exist?”

There might be some legitimacy to the claim that the state exists to preserve order if the common law practice of culpable mental state still existed. After all, if you unknowingly violate a law and are then informed of that law’s existence you can take action to avoid continuing to violate it and order would be preserved. But that’s not how the system works. Once you’ve violated a law, it doesn’t matter if you know of the laws existence, the state gets to transfer wealth from you to itself. And since there are so many laws on the books it’s impossible to not do something the state can use to justify a forcible wealth transfer.

Voluntary Association Versus Selective Discrimination

There seems to be some confusion amongst libertarian circles over the difference between voluntary association and selective discrimination. Don’t worry though, Padre Chris is here to clear things up.

Voluntary association is the principle that everybody is free to choose who they want to associate with and who they don’t want to associate with. Period. This means a bigoted asshole can choose not to associate with Muslims and decent human beings can choose to not associate with that bigoted asshole. Selective discrimination differs in that individuals can only choose to disassociate with somebody if their reason is on an approved list. In this case the bigoted asshole can only choose to not associate with Muslims if the people who create the list of criteria put “being Muslim” as an approved reason to discriminate. Other people may also only choose to not associate with a bigoted asshole if the list contains “being a bigoted asshole”.

Libertarianism, due to the non-aggression principle (the only way you can prevent somebody from voluntarily associating with another is to put a gun to their heads and make them associate), mandates voluntary association. However many libertarians mistakenly believe that cases of selective discrimination are forms of voluntary association. That’s what happened with libertarians who supported Indiana’s SB 101. They heralded the law as a good piece of legislation because it allows businesses to not associate with people based on religious reasons. But the legislation contains a clause that lets the state decide whether or not to prosecute somebody for discriminating even if it’s based on religious reasons.

Herein lies the problem. Under the state there can only be selective discrimination. Nobody, for example, is free to not associate with state agents. Furthermore the state periodically either prohibits or mandates certain types of discrimination. In the South many states mandated racial discrimination under Jim Crow laws. Today racial discrimination is mostly prohibited for non-state actors but many states are enabling, and sometimes mandating through marriage and bathroom usage laws, discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals. The only thing that has really changed between then and now is that race has been removed from the list of acceptable reasons to discriminate and religion has been moved up the list (I would say added but it’s almost always been there).

Libertarianism, at least the anarchist branch of it, advocates equality under the law. Nobody can have privileges others do not enjoy. In the case of discrimination equality under the law would require that everybody be free to voluntary associate or disassociate with anybody else or nobody be free to do so. None of these “religious freedom” laws accomplish that. They merely grant people of certain religions privileges that others do not enjoy. Libertarians shouldn’t involve themselves in the political discrimination battle unless the result would create equality under the law. In the case of religious freedom a libertarian should only involve themselves if the bill would allow anybody of any religion, or lack of religion in the case of atheists, the freedom to discriminate based on their beliefs and left not exception for the state to intervene.

People should be free to choose who they want to associate and disassociate with. That freedom can only exist under anarchy. But we currently suffer under a state so libertarians must not get suckered into supporting legislation that appears to enable voluntary association but really only allows discrimination in a manner approved by the state.

Privacy Policies Mean Nothing

You know those privacy statements websites post? Some people actually read them! And they’re sometimes convinced to do business with companies that have decent privacy polices. While this isn’t a bad idea since decent privacy policies are nice they’re also useless when it comes to protecting your privacy. Why that? Because your personal information is a valuable asset so if the company goes out of business they will auction it off to somebody else who isn’t bound by the privacy agreement:

RadioShack is trying to auction off its customer data on some 117 million customers as part of its court-supervised bankruptcy.

The data in question, according to a legal challenge (PDF) launched by Texas regulators on Friday and joined by the state of Tennessee on Monday, includes “consumer names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, and, where allowed, activity data.”

The states say the sale breaches the 94-year-old chain’s promises to its in-store and online customers that it would not sell their personal identifying information (PII) data.

“The Debtors have affirmatively stated in multiple privacy policies currently in effect that consumer PII will never be sold. Yet the Debtors come before this Court with a Motion which seeks to do precisely that,” according to the challenge.

It would be nice to see this lawsuit stop the sale of the data but I’m doubting that will be the case as other companies have gotten away with doing this in the past. But the moral of this story is that protecting your privacy cannot be accomplished by a simple privacy agreement. At any point the company can go under and then it is no longer bound to the agreement but it still has your data and creditors will demand it gets sold off.

The key to privacy is only giving out personal information you’re willing to have go public. Otherwise you need to maintain your anonymity. It’s up to you to protect your privacy.

Focus Your Wrath on the Politicians of Indiana Not the People

A lot of dust has been kicked up after Indiana passed a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate based on the owner’s religious beliefs. As the bill was written by Republicans it’s no surprise the bill was aimed at enabling business to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals (LGBT).

In response to this news Salesfore has cancelled all events in Indiana, Gen Con has threatened to pull out of the state, and more people than I care to count have said they will no longer do any business in Indiana. I feel that it’s necessary for me to point out something that seems to be getting missed. The bill in question was passed by a handful of suit-clad individuals in a marble building. Most of the state had no say in the matter. All they could do is sit idly by while their overlords passed the legislation. Some may claim that the people of Indiana should be held accountable because they voted in these overlords but I will point you to the state’s 2014 election turnout that notes only 30% of registered votes were stupid enough to show up to the polls [PDF]. So 70% of registered votes didn’t have anything to do with the current rulers getting elected.

The bottom line is that punishing everybody in a state for the actions of a handful of fuckwits is not an appropriate response. A far better response would be to create a database of businesses that choose to discriminate against LGBT individuals and boycott them specifically. It would also be appropriate to boycott the politicians themselves but that’s always appropriate because they’re a bunch of sick fuckers who rule us at the point of a gun.

For my libertarian friends that claim this legislation better allows business to freely choose who they will and will not do business with I will point you to the text of the bill. It has some wonderful weasel language:

(b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

It seems to me that this bill gives the state the option of not prosecuting a business for discriminating based on the owner’s religious beliefs but keeps the door open if the state choose to prosecute. Namely if the state can claim prosecuting a business is in its interest and no other means of forwarding its interests would be less restrictive then it can prosecute. This would open the door for a lot of abuse. For example, the state could decide to prosecute a business owned by a Muslim under the guise of forwarding the state’s interest and having no less restrictive way of proceeding.

Opening the door for the state to pick and choose who it prosecutes is not the same as allowing a business to pick and choose who it does business with. One gives the state the power to decide how businesses can discriminate and the other doesn’t. This bill, based on my layman’s reading (shocker, for those who don’t know, I’m not a lawyer), is a case of the former and not the latter.

Killing is the Only Thing the State Excels At

European manufactures of drugs used in lethal injection have been holding out on the United States. This has many states very concerned because they’re running out of the drugs but not people to kill. To solve this problem Virginia has been looking into bringing a classing killing instrument back. Utah, not wanting to be outdone, is bringing back the firing squad:

Utah became the only state that allows firing squads for executions when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law Monday approving the method for use when no lethal injection drugs are available, even though he has called it “a little bit gruesome.”

The Republican governor has said Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a backup execution method in case a shortage of the drugs persists.

Do you know what else Utah could do if it ran out of lethal injection drugs? Stop killing people. Numerous people sentenced to death have later been exonerated. That means those sentenced to death are not guaranteed to actually be guilty. Since guilt can’t be guaranteed the death sentence should be entirely unacceptable as a person should have the right to continue fighting their case as they very well may be innocent.

But the state is only good at one thing and that’s killing people. It’s not going to let anything interfere with that, especially pesky people who think prisoners have rights and shouldn’t be executed.

The DEA’s Hookers and Blow Parties

What kind of parties does the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) throw on our dime? Hookers and blow parties, what else?

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department on Thursday.

In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report states. Ten DEA agents later admitted attending the parties, and some of the agents received suspensions of two to 10 days.

Isn’t it funny how these agencies always get caught up in scandals related to what they’re trying to stop? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was caught providing firearms to drug cartels, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) creates terrorists, and the National Security Agency (NSA) purposely tries to break Internet security for everybody.

The only thing that surprises me is that people still trust government agencies in any way. Every single one seems to eventually get caught up in a scandal where it provides resources to the criminals it’s supposed to be fighting. This shouldn’t surprise anybody since criminal gangs like to work together but it should erode any trust the public has in these agencies.

More State Manipulation of Statistics

I have another example of the state manipulating statistics to create a desired narrative but this time it’s domestic. It turns out that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has manipulated the statistics on the number of mass shootings:

FBI figures released last September appear to show so-called “mass shooter” attacks and deaths have dramatically increased since 2000. The report asserted there were a total 160 such incidents in public places between 2000 and 2013, with attacks dramatically increased to 17 in 2013 from just one in 2000. The statistics also showed murders jumping to 86 from just seven over the span.

But Lott’s group said a major flaw is the fact that the data was gleaned from news reports, and noted recent accounts were more accessible, and thus over-represented. Recent cases of the far more common “active shooting incidents” were added to legitimate cases of mass shooting incidents, making the more recent years covered by the report appear to have a large increase in both mass shootings and deaths from them.

The media most often took the numbers at face value, allowing for the perception of an increase in mass shootings and deaths from them, Lott said. A counter report by the CPRC shows that if the biases and errors were corrected, the Bureau’s data would show that the annual growth rate for homicides in mass shootings had been cut in half, Lott said.

Why would the FBI do this? In all likelihood it did this to create a narrative that violent crime is increasing so it can justify demanding more funding from Congress. It’s also possible that they are trying to help the state justify additional gun control measures since armed individuals pose a threat to the members of the violent FBI gang. But, in all honesty, I think it’s more the former than anything since the FBI has a history of creating phony crimes for it to solve so it can make a case for additional funding.

Finntroll Trolls

I’m not just a fan of metal, I’m also fan of the culture that surrounds metal. The culture surrounding metal tends to be very open, nonjudgmental, and chill. Think of it as the opposite of the culture surrounding the Republican Party. In addition to have a kickass culture metal also enjoys a long history of epic trolls, especially against those who would try to appropriate metal without being involved in metal. H&M recently licensed merchandise from Metallica and Slayer. Since H&M really isn’t involved in metal in any way it was almost guaranteed that it would be trolled. And it was. It was trolled hard:

Here’s what happened: H&M began selling heavy metal-themed items displaying band names like Mortus, Motmros, Blast, Grey, YVAEH, Lany, Crepuscular and more. The thing is, none of these bands actually exist, so a collective of metal fans decided to prank H&M (and in turn the rest of the world) by actually creating these bands.

They made a mock record label called Strong Scene Productions and devised biographies for the supposed bands. They even recorded some fake songs.

And just to make H&M look really bad, the pranksters made the fictional bands in question as distasteful as possible. For example, a fake bio for Lany is decorated with Nazi imagery, the cover of a supposed Motmros LP called Holocaust Tomb shows a priest being assaulted by a phallus-wielding demon, and a Crepuscular press photo shows a dude with a gun and bullets.

These bands even have some fake songs. Below, watch a trailer full of fake music, press photos and more. It’s part of a playlist with a number of fake songs, including one by YVAEH called “Vaginal’s Juice Driping into Cadaverous.”

One of the dudes who has claimed responsibility for this prank is Henri Sorvali of the Finnish bands Moonsorrow and Finntroll. He spoke with Noisey about the campaign.

Then the guy is in a band named Finntroll you have to expect some epic trolling. As a pervasive troll myself I find myself only able to tip my hat at this. It was fantastically executed.

Why Nobody But Republicans Like Republicans

Although the many Republican political victories in the off year election made many social conservatives feel absolutely chart-topping levels of euphoria the truth is most of the country hate the Republican Party. And there’s a reason for this. The party’s constant pursuit of social issues rubs most people who aren’t social conservatives (and many who are) the wrong way. It also rubs many small government advocates the wrong way because nothing says small government like paying bounties to people who identify transgender individuals:

State Senator CB Embry’s bill would have banned students across Kentucky from using facilities that did not correspond with their “biological sex”, offering rewards of $2,500 (£1,650) to anyone who reported people violating the law. Sen Embry believed trans students using the toilets of their gender would cause “embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students”.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate, but was stalled by the majority Democrat House of Representatives. Sen Embry then tried to force through his proposals by adding them to a separate, unrelated educational bill, intended to give students greater representation on certain decisions.

Fortunately the bill stalled out but this ended up being bad press for Republicans and great press for Democrats. This is just another bill on the massive pile of bills that Republicans have written and passed since winning seats in the last election. And it’s going to bite them in the ass come next election.

There were a lot of fiscal conservatives who gave the Republicans a chance by voting them in only to see no appreciable results. Government hasn’t shrunk and budgets are still creating massive amounts of debt. If they’re smart the fiscal conservatives will migrate elsewhere since voting Republican obviously hasn’t advanced their goals. Advocates of equality are also unhappy with the Republicans’ pursuit of social conservative issues and will be motivated to turn out to the polls during the election year that actually matters. Hell, many social conservatives are unhappy with these bills because even though they don’t particularly like many groups being attacked by Republican politicians they still believe interactions should be entirely voluntary.

In other words nobody besides diehard Republicans like Republicans. They’re insufferable jackasses when they get into power and don’t even deliver on their promises of balancing budgets and shrinking government. At least the other team is somewhat honest about its intentions to interfering in our personal lives, stealing our money, expand government, and piss away money like a drunken sailor on shore leave.