A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for August, 2020

They’re Not Real Anarchists

with one comment

Facebook performed another purge. Amongst the disappeared were a number of anarchist groups:

Today Facebook deleted a variety of far-Right militia and Qanon accounts along with anarchist and antifascist pages, including It’s Going Down and CrimethInc. The following is a joint statement in response.

This follows on the heels of Biden saying anarchists should be prosecuted and Trump taking a swipe at anarchists.

There’s nothing surprising about these events. Anarchists are a threat to the very system that Biden and Trump depend on for power and Facebook is usually quick to demonstrate its loyalties to the political class by banning whatever they’re criticizing at the moment. What is more fascinating to me are the anarchists who start going down the those aren’t real anarchists wormhole. Shortly after Facebook finished its purge I started seeing a number of anarchists, mostly those who identify as voluntaryists, posts memes saying, “Real anarchy is,” followed by any number of nonviolent but illegal or quasi-legal activities such as buying raw milk, homeschooling children, and dodging taxes. This is the same reaction I see whenever violence is attributed to anarchists by the mainstream media.

I take umbrage with this response for two reasons. My first reason is that it ignores a huge part of anarchist history. Anarchists have participated in revolutions, political assassinations, bombings, and other acts of violence. There is even a term amongst anarchists for such actions: propaganda of the deed. Anarchism shouldn’t be treated as a single unified philosophy, but as a number of different philosophies that share the common cause of opposing statism.

The second reason I don’t like this response is because it strikes me as pleading. Trump, Biden, and Facebook are not friends or allies to anarchists. Anarchists shouldn’t give two shits what any of them say about anarchists. Anarchists should setup and use their own social media platforms if for no other reason than to avoid having all of their personal information handed over to law enforcers by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media household names. Instead of telling them to go pound sand, the anarchists making these statements are effectively saying, “Your criticisms are fair, but I want you to know that my friends and I are not like that. We’re real anarchists! Please like us!”

When politicians or Silicon Valley companies say something disparaging about anarchists, I’d rather give them the finger than people who at least agree with me on a foundational level about the need to abolish government. I understand that an anarcho-communist is unlikely to agree with a vast majority of my individualist anarchist views, but I certainly have more common cause with them than I do with the likes of Trump, Biden, or Facebook.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 22nd, 2020 at 6:07 pm

Educating People in Order to Argue with Them

without comments

Long ago I was taken aback when a friend of mind who was a prolific online debater told me he swore off online debates. I was curious and asked him why. He said, “I’m tired of educating people just so I can debate them.”

After that conversation I started to pay attention to my online debates and quickly realized that most of what I thought was debating was actually educating. Since I hold views that are outside of the zeitgeist, most people I encounter have little, if any, understanding of them. In a majority of online debates the people with whom I’m debating make arguments that have no meaning within the context of what I’m saying. I then have to spent time educating them about what I mean just so they can actually debate me.

I’m certainly not unique in this. Consider Marxists for a moment. It’s pretty easy for them to have a very rudimentary debate about workers’ rights because that issue is part of the zeitgeist. However, if they want to make an argument based on historical materialism, they usually have to invest time in educating the other individual(s) on the subject so they have enough of an understanding to intelligently debate the issue. Libertarians have the same issue. It’s pretty easy for a libertarian to debate somebody about decriminalizing cannabis because that issue is part of the zeitgeist. But when a libertarian wants to debate monetary theory, they have to first teach their opponent(s) about the Austrian tradition of economics.

This problem runs even deeper. Few in what I will refer to as the masses appear to be educated on the topics of rhetoric and formal debate. Rhetoric is the skill of speaking convincingly. Formal debate is a framework which establishes ground rules for debates. A lot of people tend to conflate the two. They will try to argue against rhetoric by citing logical fallacies and make statements in a formal debate that contain logical fallacies. For example, consider the phrase “All cops are bastards.” The statement is valid rhetoric, but would not fly in a formal debate because the proposition is made with insufficient data (namely that every single individual who works in law enforcement is a bastard even though the debater is likely basing their argument on a small sample size of law enforcers).

I’m going to create two sides to further illustrate this issue: pro-cop and anti-cop. An anti-cop individual may say, “All cops are bastards,” as a form of rhetoric. They may not have meant the statement literally nor were they taking part in a formal debate. They’re merely trying to convince people to join their cause. But a pro-cop individual may rebut with, “That’s a hasty generalization fallacy!” The pro-cop individual is citing a rule that doesn’t apply to the situation. Now I’ll change the scenario. The two individuals have agreed to participate in a formal debate. When the anti-cop individual says, “All cops are bastards,” it would be proper for the pro-cop individual to say, “That’s a generalization fallacy,” because they both agreed to operate under the rules of formal debate.

How does this relate the the need to educate people in order to argue with them? More often than not I run into individuals who know nothing about rhetoric or formal debate. Their counterarguments will often involve pointing out logical fallacies in my rhetoric and making logical fallacies of their own. They know just enough about logical fallacies to recognize and call out a few of them, but not enough to avoid making the rest (which is usually the majority) of them or to know when they are appropriate to cite. They unknowingly (or knowingly, but I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here) attempt to establish an environment where I have to abide by the rules of formal debate while they operate by the rules of rhetoric. I then need to explain the difference between the two and convince them to pick one or the other. By the time that’s done the thread has digressed so far that everybody has lost interest.

This is where I reminisce about the good old days of the Internet when I could participate in online debates without having to spend a lot of time educating my opponents just so they could intelligibly argue with me. At one time I blamed the change on the diminishing state of education in the United States. However, when I was reminded of the term Eternal September, I started to blame two related issues: everybody and their grandmother is now online and Internet forums are more centralized. The early Internet was broken up into a large number of small Usenet groups, forums, and chatrooms. Most of those were topical so the people who joined usually already had an interest and at least a basic understanding of the group’s, forum’s, or chatroom’s topic. Today it’s not uncommon for a random user to find a Facebook group because it appeared on their Timeline when one of their friends made a comment in it. That random user may have no understanding of the group’s topic, but they end up posting a comment to the thread because they saw it on their Timeline and disagreed with something another user posted.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 19th, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Why Ideological Systems Fail

without comments

In my last post I explained that the source of an ideological system’s failure is never individuals acting in their self-interest. However, I did note that a source of failure can be individuals whose causes of unease aren’t proper for the system.

Consider the Soviet Union. Many self-proclaimed communists point to Stalin’s rise to power as the point where the country transitioned from a communist system to a corruption of communism. When Stalin came to power he eliminated anybody he perceived to be a challenge to his power. One of his sources of unease was obviously the thought of losing power. A communist system cannot succeed if the individuals in power are made uneasy by losing power because the goal of communism according to Marx is the transition to a stateless society.

Consider the United States of America. Many self-proclaimed capitalists point to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency as the point where the country transitioned from a capitalist system to a corruption of capitalism. Roosevelt came into power during the Great Depression and implemented a number of socialist programs in an apparent attempt to right the economy. A source of his unease was the continuation of the economic conditions of the Great Depression, which he felt could be corrected by a move away from capitalism. A capitalist system cannot succeed if the individuals in power are made uneasy by economic downturns because those downturns are a necessary response to resources being misallocated.

As I noted in my previous post sources of unease are unique to each individual. This brings us to a major reason why ideological systems fail. No single ideological system can remove or alleviate the uneases of every individual. Communism cannot remove the unease felt by a capitalist when his business is taken and given to his employees. Capitalism cannot remove the unease felt by employees who are not being paid the full value of their labor by a employer. Most proponents of an ideological system recognize this, but fail to grasp the ramifications.

When an attempt to implement an ideological system on a massive scale is made, individuals who are somehow made uneasy by that system (at least in its pure ideological form) will strive to undermine it. Attempts to counteract those individuals will make other individuals uneasy. For example, trying to purge anti-communists after a communist revolution will likely make many of the friends and family members of those anti-communists uneasy. They may attempt to alleviate their unease by undermining the communist system. Attempts at repressing them will just continue the cycle. Eventually so many people are attempting to alleviate their uneasy by undermining the system that its failure can no longer be denied.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 9th, 2020 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Individualism

Tagged with

All Action is Self-Interested Action

with one comment

Most self-proclaimed communists refer to the economic system of the United States as capitalism. Most self-proclaimed capitalists point out that the economic system of the United States is actually cronyism. Meanwhile, most self-proclaimed capitalists refer to the economic system of China as communist and most self-proclaimed communists claim that what is implemented in China isn’t real communism.

This is how most arguments about ideological systems go. The critic points to a supposed implementation as proof that the system is trash and the advocate rebuts by claiming that the supposed implementation is a corrupted form of the system, not an actual implementation. If you then prod the advocate about the source of the corruption, they will almost always claim that the source is greedy individuals acting in their self-interest rather than the interests of all.

Is that true? Is the flaw in every ideological system individuals acting in their self-interest instead of the interests of all? Could humanity enjoy a utopian existence under communism if individuals would stop being greedy? Would capitalism not transition into cronyism if individuals worried about what is best for others instead of what is best for themselves? No. It’s not true because all individuals act in their self-interest. It is impossible to do otherwise.

My argument is seldom put forth because many, if not most, people make the mistake of believing self-interest is synonymous with acquisition of power and/or material wealth. But that’s a gross misunderstanding of self-interest. As Ludwig von Mises points out:

Acting man is eager to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness1. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things. He would have neither wishes nor desires; he would be perfectly [p. 14] happy. He would not act; he would simply live free from care.

But to make a man act, uneasiness and the image of a more satisfactory state alone are not sufficient. A third condition is required: the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness. In the absence of this condition no action is feasible. Man must yield to the inevitable. He must submit to destiny.

When an individual acts, they seek to remove or alleviate a felt uneasiness. Unease is unique to the individual. What makes one individual uneasy may make another content. Consider a hypothetical love triangle where one individual, who I will call Julius, desires the murder of another, who I will call Gnaeus, because he won the affection of a mutual love interest, who I will call Scribonia. Gnaeus would be made content by the murder of Julius, but Scribonia would be made uneasy by the murder (Julius would probably be uneasy between the time the act or murder began and his death).

People often assume an act isn’t self-interested when they don’t know the source of unease that preceded the action. For example, one might mistake the act of an fire fighter running into a burning building to rescue somebody as an act against the fire fighter’s self-interest because it a cursory examination makes it seem that the fire fighter is causing themselves unease for the sake of another. But the sight or thought of another person suffering can (and probably for most people does) cause unease. The fire fighter may have gone into the burning building because they sought to remove or alleviate their unease of the thought of another individual burning to death. Or they may have instead gone into the burning building because they knew failing to do so would result in their termination from the job and the thought of losing their job caused them unease. Either way the act was in the fire fighter’s self-interest.

I’m sure one clever reader is saying to themselves, “Chris, you said acting against my self-interest is impossible, but I’m going to prove you wrong by stabbing myself in the gut!” Following through with the action would not prove me wrong because the action would be taken to remove or alleviate the unease caused by the thought of me being correct.

Thus the flaw in an ideological system cannot be a failure of individuals to act against their own self-interest. An argument could certainly be made that the primary flaw in an ideological system is individuals whose causes of unease aren’t proper for the system. That, however, is a different argument entirely.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 9th, 2020 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Individualism

Tagged with

The Exodus

without comments

When COVID-19 started making headlines, I didn’t think much of it. A new virus makes the headlines every few years. But when governments started using COVID-19 as a justification to implement severe restrictions, I started to wonder if we were on the cusp of a major shift in the status quo. Now that we’re several months into the restrictions put into place to “flatten the curve,” I’m all but certain that we’re in the midst of major changes.

One major shift that has come of government COVID-19 policies is the worker migration from offices to home. Before the lock downs were implemented a lot of companies were still skeptical of the work from home model. At the beginning of the lock downs those companies were forced to either shutdown or transition to a work from home model. Now that those businesses have been operating on a work from home model for several months many of them are starting to question the old model. Consider the cost of maintaining a large office in a central hub for your employees. There’s the cost of the building itself. It’s either owned; in which case the costs of the building, upkeep, and property taxes are incurred; or it’s rented; in which case the monthly rent is incurred. Then you have the cost of municipal services such as electrical power, water, and sewer. Most offices offer employees some amenities such as coffee, snacks, etc. Often forgotten are the costs of added risks such as employees being injured or killed during their commute, employees coming in late or being unable to come in at all due to weather, and business being disrupted by power outages, civil unrest, etc. And then there are future costs to consider such as likely tax hikes as various levels of government scramble to make up for lost revenue.

It should come as no surprise that businesses are looking at the current landscape and questioning whether they should flee their expensive central hubs now that many of their employees are working from home:

A new survey by the Downtown Council shows 45 business owners say they are considering leaving downtown – citing the lack of people working or socializing downtown – and the idea that the police department could be dismantled.

[…]

“We are seeing business owners wanting to eliminate the overhead, especially in a world where it looks like there’s going to be a more hybrid approach happening – and people are going to be working from home – business owners and companies are looking to downsize,” he said.

Keep in mind that these are 45 business owners that bothered to participate in a survey. The overall number is almost certainly higher.

This exodus would cause a domino effect. If major companies begin to flee a city, supporting companies usually follow. What’s the point of operating a restaurant or a bar in a city if nobody is eating or drinking there? Likewise, employees that moved to the city because they wanted a short commute may begin looking for a place that’s cheaper and/or nicer. Minnesota is already seeing this as people working from home ask themselves why they shouldn’t work from lakefront property (or in my case, why not work from the woods).

Besides work the other major attraction of large cities has traditionally been big events. Concerts, sports, festivals, etc. usually happen in large cities. But those also vanished when the lock downs were implemented. Downtown Minneapolis is currently a ghost town compared to a few months ago and the same is probably true of other major cities.

We may be witnesses the beginning of the end of a system that really took off with the Industrial Revolution: population centralization. The Industrial Revolution brought factories and factories needed a lot of manpower so they tended to be built in existing population centers. Those factory jobs tended to pay better than farm work so laborers started to migrate from rural areas to those population centers. There was a cycle where factories went to where laborers could be found en masse and laborers started migrating to where factories could be found en masse.

A lot of labor is no longer physical and the Internet provides a mechanism for nonphysical labor to be done remotely. Thus the groundwork exists for the Industrial Revolution cycle to be broken. Employees can live in the boonies and work for a company whose nearest office is several hundred miles away or even across the globe. Many other city attractions also disappeared or went remote.

I think we may be at the beginning of an exodus away from cities. If it occurs, this could end up being another epoch like the Industrial Revolution.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 6th, 2020 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Side Notes

Tagged with ,

Anti-Society

without comments

I’ve recently started reading the works of Renzo Novatore, and Italian individualist anarchist. His writings on anarchism can almost be seen as a sequel to the writings of Max Stirner. One of his more famous quotes struck a chord with me.

Anarchy is not a social form, but a method of individualization. No society will concede to me more than a limited freedom and a well-being that it grants to each of its members. But I am not content with this and want more. I want all that I have the power to conquer. Every society seeks to confine me to the august limits of the permitted and the prohibited. But I do not acknowledge these limits, for nothing is forbidden and all is permitted to those who have the force and the valor. Consequently, anarchy, which is the natural liberty of the individual freed from the odious yoke of spiritual and material rulers, is not the construction of a new and suffocating society. It is a decisive fight against all societies-christian, democratic, socialist, communist, etc, etc. Anarchism is the eternal struggle of a small minority of aristocratic outsiders against all societies which follow one another on the stage of history.

When I started entertaining the idea of a stateless society, I spent a lot of time imagining what such a society would look like. I did this in part because I wanted to understand if anarchism could work and in part because the first question a statist asks an anarchist is how could [insert any state provided good or service] exist without government? The statist usually pats themselves on the back because they think that their question is both creative and unanswerable, but in reality the question merely demonstrates their lack of creativity.

However, as I traveled the path of individual anarchism I encountered increasingly radical authors. Friedrich Nietzsche introduced me to the concept of master and slave morality and the idea that those who follow a slave morality aren’t interested in making slaves into masters, but in making masters into slaves. I began to notice this phenomenon everywhere, especially amongst those who say that they want absolute equality for all. The equality they strive for isn’t one where all individuals hold absolute power, but one where all individuals are subjected to the whims of others.

After Nietzsche I came across Max Stirner. Stirner introduced me to the concept of spooks: imaginaries mistakenly treated as real. These imaginaries are most commonly used to restrain the individual. Whenever somebody claims that we live in a society or refers to a social contract, they’re arguing that the existence of the society and its accompanying contract are greater than any individual and thus every individual must subject themselves to them. But the concepts of society and social contracts are make-believe. They cannot think, reason, or act. As Ludwig von Mises said, “All rational action is in the first place individual action. Only the individual thinks. Only the individual reasons. Only the individual acts.”

If society is a spook, then imaging an anarchist society is an exercise in creating fiction. If the goal of anarchism isn’t the creation of a society, then what is it? Now I want to return to Novatore, because his quote about anarchism explains what I’ve had a difficult time explaining. Anarchism by his definition can almost be thought of as anti-society. Whereas the concept of society attempts to restrain the individual, anarchism attempts to empower the individual.

As Novatore notes, the concept of society always offers a limited freedom. Whenever one imagines a society, they imagine prohibitions. The monarchist imagines a benevolent and just ruler establishing sensible restrictions that benefit all. The constitutionalist imagines a document written by wise men explaining methods for justly creating new restrictions. The communist imagines worker collectives deciding new restrictions by majority votes.

Anarchism viewed as anti-society can be thought of as a refutation of restrictions placed upon the individual by coming to the realization that society doesn’t exist. Just as society is an imaginary, so are its laws. George W. Bush was accused of referring to the Constitution of the United States as just a “goddamn piece of paper.” This accusation lead to a great deal of outrage, but the statement he was accused of uttering is correct. The Constitution is just a piece of paper. It has no power to think, reason, or act and it cannot restrain an individual from thinking, reasoning, or acting. This is true of all laws. Laws cannot stop an individual from murdering, raping, or stealing anymore than the boogeyman.

The pursuit of anti-society is the pursuit of exorcising spooks from your mind. It is the pursuit of breaking the chains which you’ve placed upon yourself by allowing yourself to believe that imaginary concepts can control your actions. It is the pursuits of the realization that those imaginary concepts aren’t real and therefore have no power over you.

Based on what I’ve written so far you probably assume that anti-society is a synonym for social Darwinism, a world where the strong prey upon the weak. It’s a fair assumption for one who has spent their entire life being taught and subsequently believes that societal restrictions prevent the strong from preying on the weak. In practice the opposite is true. Societal restrictions are established by the strong. Those who are called kings, representatives, and the majority are the conquerors. Those who are called subjects, citizens, and the minority are the conquered. The idea of society is the idea of the strong establishing restrictions for the weak to follow.

Anti-society has only been pursued by a minority of individuals. If pursued on a massive scale, anti-society might do a better job of preventing murder, rape, theft, and other activities you likely associate with unlimited individual freedom. A world where everybody has a nuclear weapon might be less predatory than a world where only a handful of individuals do. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction did dissuade the United States and the Soviet Union from entering a direct war with one another. Or it might not. It’s impossible to know and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care.

What I know for certain is that I’m no longer interested in a limited freedom. I want to break the chains I’ve placed upon myself. I want unlimited freedom. Perhaps you do too. If so, I welcome you to join me on my journey towards anti-society. If not, I respect your choice and will not insist that you follow me. But I’m going and nothing you say or do will stop me.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 4th, 2020 at 8:47 pm

Posted in Individualism

Tagged with

Error Indicators of Limited Value

without comments

When I moved into this house, I decided to use UniFi gear for my entire network because I wanted to centrally manage it (I, like most people who work in the technology field, am lazy by nature). This house doesn’t have Ethernet running through the walls so I (again, being lazy) opted to rely on a mesh network for most of my networking needs. My mesh network consists of three UAP-AC-M access points.

Like most other people working in the technology field, I’ve been working from home since COVID-19 started making headlines. This means my in-person meetings have mostly been done via remote video conferences. My setup ran smoothly until a few weeks ago when I started experiencing a strange issue where I’d periodically lose my video conference feeds for 10 to 30 seconds. Since I first setup my mesh network my UniFi Controller has reported a large number (as in several hundred per 24-hour period) of DHCP Timeout errors along with a handful of WPA Authentication Timeout errors. It also reported long access point association times for my two mesh nodes (the other node is wired to my switch). Searching Ubiquiti’s online support forum returned a lot of results for individuals experiencing these errors without any resolution. In fact several comments made by Ubiquiti employees stated that the DHCP Timeout errors can be ignored so long as the network is performing well. I ended up ignoring the errors because at the time my network was performing well and nobody seemed to have a resolution to the errors.

I began looking into the problem again when the video conferencing problems I mentioned started to manifest. To make a long story short, I finally figured out my problem. UAP-AC-M access points use the 5Ghz spectrum for mesh communications so they all operate on the same 5Ghz channel, but it’s expected that they utilize different 2.4Ghz channels. My mesh nodes were setup to automatically select their 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz channels during boot up. I assumed this was safe because I boot them up in stages one after the other. That should have caused them to see each other when they booted up and select a different 2.4Ghz channel. According to my UniFi controller, all three 2.4Ghz channels (one, six, and 11 are the only channels that don’t overlap with other channels) were being utilized so I assumed the access points were operating as I expected. After trying to few different settings I decided to manually select the 2.4Ghz channels for my access points. I put one access point on channel one, one on channel six, and one on channel 11.

Since doing that I haven’t experienced any video conferencing problems. Moreover, my DHCP Timeout errors have dropped to almost nothing (I now experience between two and four per 24-hour period), the WPA Authentication Timeout errors have remained at one or two per 24-hour period, and I no longer see any errors about access points taking longer than expected to associate.

If you’re one of the many people experiencing a massive number of DHCP Timeout errors with UniFi access points and you haven’t already manually selected non-overlapping 2.4Ghz channels for your access points, give it a try. I will note that since I live in the country and there are no other visible Wi-Fi networks anywhere on my property, your experience may differ if you’re in an environment with a lot of competing Wi-Fi networks.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 3rd, 2020 at 6:00 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with