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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 364.

This is my Soho Forum debate held Nov. 15, 2021, in Manhattan, against professor Richard Epstein, moderated by Gene Epstein. I defended the resolution “all patent and copyright law should be abolished” and Professor Epstein opposed it. Oxford debate rules applied which meant that whoever changed the most minds won. My side went from about 20 to 29 percentage points, gaining about 9; Richard went from about 44 to 55%, gaining about 11, so he won by 1.7 percentage points.

My notes, and a Transcript, are below. Postmortem episode to follow.

Youtube:

[continue reading…]

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 363. I was interviewed by Caleb Brown on the topic of argumentation ethics and related matters. Recorded Oct. 29, 2021.

Note: I mangled my friend Bogdan Dabrowski’s name during the podcast, switching it around and Russifying it to Dobran Bogdanovitch or something like that. Mea culpa, Brother Bogdan! (some of his work is linked here: Bogdan DabrowskiMises’ Human Action & Hoppe’s Argumentation Ethics applied to PsychologyPhilosophy Europe Convention, Cryptoanarchy Institute, Prague (Sept. 12, 2015); and Praxeological Psychology, 27 February 2013)

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 362.

I was a guest on California Gold #6, with guest host Matthew Sands. From the shownotes:

Stephan and Matt covered a wide variety of libertarian themes, including property rights, self-ownership, the Non-Aggression Principle, intellectual property, Hoppean Argumentation Ethics, Georgism, Objectivism, utilitarianism, deontology and much more. Stephan was hosted by Matthew Sands of the Nation of Sanity project (http://www.nationsofsanity.com/), which aims to promote the Non-Aggression Principle as a universal peace agreement, hosting for California Gold for the first time.

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Libertarian Answer Man: Does It Matter How Law is Made?

From a libertarian colleague:

What do you think about this proposition:  “It doesn’t matter how the law is made or who enforces it.  What matters is simply that the law is reasonably and fairly enforced and it is compatible with a reasonable interpretation of our principle.”  Isn’t this what we want?

Walter Block was cc’d and—as usual, sigh—he complained that the only problem with my remarks is that only a small group would see them. In other words, as usual, he’s exhorting me to “publish” more. So … in response, here’s my informal, quick reply (lightly edited):

I’m not quite sure how to respond to these kinds of propositions. I think the law is the result of a process. Necessarily. Necessarily. Necessarily. This is important. I think it cannot be divorced from institutions. And normative analysis and theory plays its role in that process. My goal as a libertarian is primarily to understand liberty and in a political sphere, to understand what interpersonal norms should guide the development and evaluation of extant (positive) law. I think we can adjudge certain laws and state practices and policies as unjust to the extent they more or less obviously deviate from some incontrovertible norms, like the NAP or its propertarian concomitants,1 but I don’t think this leads to the idea that we are fine with any institution that enforces “law” “so long as” it complies with the non-aggression principle (NAP). [continue reading…]

  1. See related posts: on the distinction between abstract normative principles and concrete legal rules, see Fraud, Restitution, and Retaliation: The Libertarian Approach and KOL345 | Kinsella’s Libertarian “Constitution” or: State Constitutions vs. the Libertarian Private Law Code (PorcFest 2021); see also Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society; Legislation and Law in a Free Society; The Limits of Armchair Theorizing: The case of Threats. []
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KOL361 | Libertarian Answer Man: Oaths: With Kent Wellington

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 361.

A nice young man, self-described as “generally an anarchist? But also a statist (monarchist? ie ‘the kingdom of heaven’) in the spiritual sense” had some questions for me since he doesn’t have a lot of people to bounce his ideas off of. I agreed to do it if we could record it, in case anything interesting came out of it. You be the judge.

A variety of topics came up, primarily his interest in the problem of “oaths” as the root evil in the modern world, and related/other issues like the nature of contracts, usury as evil, Pournelle’s “iron law of bureaucracy,” Jesus, and the evils of the Uniform Commercial Code (something to do with Babylon), and Galambos.

Transcript below.

TRANSCRIPT

Libertarian Answer Man: Oaths: With Kent Wellington

Stephan Kinsella & Kent Wellington

Oct. 17, 2021

00:00:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay, hey, this is Stephan Kinsella, Kinsella on Liberty.  This is another one of my episodes where someone asked to talk to me about something.  And I said yes, if I can record it in case there’s anything of interest to listeners.  So this is Kent Wellington who briefly informed me he’s not exactly a libertarian but just has some questions.  I don’t really know what you want to talk about, but Kent, why don’t you introduce yourself, however you want to do it, and then we can start?

00:00:27

KENT WELLINGTON: Hey there.  My name is Kent Wellington, and I just have been very anti-IP since I was a child really.  And when I realized that Mr. Kinsella was the one who wrote one of my favorite books, Against IP, I was really taken aback.  And then I was like, wow, I should reach out to him and just try to have a conversation with him because I’ve sort of been in the – what do you say – I’ve just been up in the towers on these topics for a long time, like my whole life.

00:01:14

And I’ve never – I never really get to talk about these topics with anybody one on one, and I just saw his – that he puts his email out there, so I was like, I’ll just email him, see if he’ll – he’s willing to talk to me for even a minute.  So that’s what we’re doing right now, and I have some very different takes, I guess, what I think are some novel takes but maybe aren’t, and I’d love to be proven wrong, or I just wanted to throw some things at you regarding contracts, IP, anarchism, a few different things.  Mainly, I guess my main hypothesis is – so I’m very into the quotes from Jesus on oaths, and I believe that, without – so I think that oaths are the key social mechanism of the state.  Do you – what do you think about that?  Are oaths not the key social mechanism of the state?

00:02:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Oaths?  O-A-T-H?

00:02:44

KENT WELLINGTON: Yes, oaths, yeah.

00:02:46

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m not sure I know what that means.  What do you mean?

00:02:51

KENT WELLINGTON: So oaths are – if you want to become a doctor in the US, at least a professionally recognized doctor, you have to take the Hippocratic Oath.  Others are – so our whole professional society is filled with oaths, which are really these sort of mystical activities, and our secular world is filled with these oaths.  To become a lawyer, you need to take the bar oath.  To become a politician, you just swear in.  You need to take an oath of office.  There’s a bajillion oaths you need to take in modern society if you want to partake in modern society.

00:03:42

And so Jesus – and I’m not necessarily getting religious here.  You can just say that in one of the most popular books in the world, which the Bible is, well, the biggest guy, the most important guy in the book, in the New Testament, Jesus, in his biggest speech, the Sermon on the Mount, he says take no oaths at all.  Instead, just say yes or no.  Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.  So my interpretation of that is that anything beyond you giving your word, like if I invite you to my birthday party, and I give you the – I say, hey, can you come to my birthday party, you can say yes or no, or you can say maybe too.  But anything beyond that, if I say, hey, well, will you swear on it, or hey, will you sign this contract, or hey, will you blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  To me, that’s opening the door.  That’s exactly what Jesus was saying.  It’s opening the door for bad things to happen.

00:04:49

And to me, it’s what is the root cause of – it’s the potential root cause of all the bad things that happen with the state because – so like Jesus says, anything beyond this, anything beyond a verbal yes or no, it basically invokes – as I mentioned to you in an email, I’m also – I – so have you heard of Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy?

00:05:25

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Vaguely, but I don’t really remember.

00:05:28

KENT WELLINGTON: So he – so the law states that in any organization, over time, the bureaucracy will overtake the main organizational mission.  So when you swear an oath or you have a contract or something, there’s always a third party that basically you’re acknowledging an elevated third party that is, at least on a long enough timespan, is going to corrupt things.  And so to me, IP – so if – so IP is a form of a contract.  I mean it’s a contract.  If I have in my – I mean I just see that whole entire concept of IP as BS.

00:06:32

But let’s say I have my little idea, whether it’s a drawing.  Let’s say it’s a drawing, and I just go to the government, and we have a contract.  You could call it an oath where they’re going to protect my work.  They’re going to monopolize my work.  So to me, Jesus – I’m like – when I realized that Jesus said this because I had never heard that in a – I grew up in church.  I’ve never heard that before, heard him say that.  To me, that’s like – Jesus is the ultimate – he’s an anarchist in a sense, but he’s also, of course, a total statist, monarchist because he advocates for the kingdom of heaven and all these things, royal terms and things.  But I was really blown away that he just prescribes so clearly this way to…

00:07:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, so I think we would need a definition of oath because you’re using it by examples, and you’re even including – I think it’s a stretch to include it – to call the IP grant an oath or even a contract with the government.  It seems to me what you’re getting at is – and I imagine there’s lots of analysis of Jesus’ comments there, which I’m unfamiliar with.  But I would assume he’s against oaths because oaths typically show allegiance to some kind of authority.  And that gets close to having a false god.  You should only worship God.  You shouldn’t worship the state or the king.  So I would imagine that the prohibition on oaths has something to do with that.  I don’t know.  It’s just a guess.

00:08:33

But I don’t really know the clear distinction between making an oath and just saying yes or no.  I mean yes or no could be a contract.  Contracts are different than oaths, I would think.  But I mean the standard libertarian idea is that the state exists, is criminal, but the reason it exists is because it’s the rule of the majority by the minority.  How does the minority get away with it?  They get away with it because they basically have the majority convinced of their authority and their legitimacy, and they do this from a variety of ways.  They bribe them.  They brainwash them.  They propagandize them.

00:09:11

And they get them to say the Pledge of Allegiance, which is like an oath, and lawyers have to take an oath, and everyone has to start treating the Constitution as this thing of – and then even the social contract idea is – a little bit sneaks this in because even if you’re not a congressman or a politician or a lawyer or a doctor, they say that you’ve taken an oath to the Constitution even though you never did because by living here you agreed to live under the Constitution.  And they make you say the Pledge of Allegiance, so they sort of ingrain in everyone this idea that we all have this obligation or duty to the Constitution and thus to the state.

00:09:49

KENT WELLINGTON: Totally.

00:09:50

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So I think that’s one way they – that the government or the state maintains control and keeps the population docile and following their orders.  I suppose you could bring in this idea of oaths as part of the description of what goes on there, and maybe Jesus had some wise things to say about the danger of oaths that you could build on in that analysis, but that’s all I know about that.

00:10:18

KENT WELLINGTON: Okay.  I also want to point out that later on in the book of James, so James is talking about what Jesus had said, and he says remember, brothers, above all, swear no oaths.  So this no-oaths commandment is so central.  To me, it’s basically like the number-one commandment of Jesus besides the – sort of the key sacraments or something.  At least the really concrete commandment of Jesus is to swear no oaths, and to me, that’s just so plain.

00:10:59

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I mean I suppose – I mean I think it seems at least compatible with the libertarian distrust of the state.  I mean we don’t think that people should be allegiant to the state, and we don’t have any allegiance to the state, and we shouldn’t treat the state like God, which they want us to do.  And maybe Jesus was giving something similar.  I mean there are decent libertarian arguments, like you said earlier, that Jesus was an anarchist.  There was a guy names James Redford who has an article, “Jesus is an Anarcho-Capitalist.”

00:11:28

And I think the fact that Jesus speaks in monarchist language and has a theological conception of this hierarchy of power in the spiritual realm doesn’t contradict the possibility that his secular thinking is compatible with private law and anarchy.  I mean even the idea of render unto Caesar would not mean taking an oath.  It just means hand your money over if it’s his money.  That’s like a yes-or-no thing, so that’s – that would be – so you comply with the state if you have to, but you don’t have to recognize it as having any authority.

00:12:05

KENT WELLINGTON: I have a novel take on the render unto Caesar.  I believe – like render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s basically means you weren’t supposed to have the money in the first place because it wasn’t yours, or it wasn’t – that’s just – it’s not really my only take, but this is just one take.  Have you ever heard of this guy called Daniel Suelo?

00:12:29

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No.

00:12:30

KENT WELLINGTON: He’s sort of called the man who lived without money.  There’s a book about him, but he still lives in Utah, and he lived most of his life without money.  But he lived very, as you like to say, abundantly, and he actually got me rolling on a lot of these ideas.  I’m sure you’re totally aware that – or I assume you’re aware that just from what I’ve been talking about that the vast majority of Christians do not—do not—interpret that passage the way I’m interpreting it.

00:13:10

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Oh sure, sure, but some libertarians interpret it similarly to what you’ve said from what I have heard.  As for this guy that lived without money, look.  Either he is living like a hermit, self-sufficient, which – in which – I mean money is only applicable in an advanced beyond-post-barter society.  So I don’t see how you can live abundantly if you live a hand-to-mouth existence on your own.  So my guess is he was doing what the Soviet Union did in the height of the Cold War where they were – they had fake prices, but they could copy the prices of the West to have some semblance of rational economic calculations.

00:13:50

So this guy probably was trading and bartering with people from the outside world, which had an abundance of goods to trade with him because of the money system.  So it’s probably a little hypocritical to run around – it’s like these guys that did – I lived on Bitcoin only for a year.  So all that means was they just converted dollars to Bitcoin every time they were going to make a purchase, so it’s not really…

00:14:15

KENT WELLINGTON: No, he – yeah, well, he actually never touched money for the time while he was living like that.

00:14:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, did he trade with anyone?  Did he use…

00:14:26

KENT WELLINGTON: No, he also – he is also against all forms of barter.  He says that.

00:14:32

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So it’s not about money.  It’s just a hermit, like I said.  He’s just living hand to mouth on his own reserve somewhere.

00:14:39

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, he mostly lives in caves and stuff.

00:14:44

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You don’t live in – that’s not abundance, man.  Come on.

00:14:46

KENT WELLINGTON: He calls it a spiritual abundance, so I mean.

00:14:51

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, you can call a horse a chicken, but you can’t…

00:14:57

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  Yeah.

00:14:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You can call things whatever you want, but if we’re speaking in a language that has meaning, abundance usually has a meaning.  So it’s just – it’s a way of saying I don’t have material abundance, but I have spiritual abundance.  Congratulations, but – then that’s equivocation because you’re trying to tell people they can have abundance, but you’re appealing to their common-sense understanding of it.  And then you do a bait and switch on them and say, well, then – they’re poor and starving.  You say, well, but you have material abundance.  It’s like – I mean spiritual abundance.  I don’t know.  I don’t know the story.  I’m just guessing.

00:15:28

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, some interesting takes there but.

00:15:33

STEPHAN KINSELLA: If Jesus is really that smart, he wouldn’t be against money.  Put it that way.  I mean the idiots in Start Trek universe might say they don’t need money, but Jesus would know that we need money in a world of scarcity.

00:15:45

KENT WELLINGTON: I’m very anti-money.  So Suelo – he has all these writings.  He says that basically all the world religions agree on one thing, and it’s that they’re against usury.  And to him, money is inherently usurious, and so, therefore, money is – because money is like math beyond what is in the natural world.  And anything beyond the natural equation is usurious, any kind of interest.

00:16:24

STEPHAN KINSELLA: That could be, but there’s nothing wrong with usury.  I mean the problem there is it’s just basically some kind of proto-Marxian confused economics.  I mean this guy seems like he’s consistent.  He’s not trading at all because if you’re against money, you should be against all social interaction whatsoever because you should be against all trade.  You should be against barter as well as money.  I mean money doesn’t get anything – money just makes trade more efficient.

00:16:52

KENT WELLINGTON: He advocates for what’s called gift economy, whereas you only gave away freely and receive freely.  I don’t want to talk – I don’t want to get into him too much, but he inspired me on a lot of these topics, and I think he has a lot of good content if you ever want to look at it—Daniel Suelo.  He’s like – he’s one of the links that schizo people like to link up on 4chan.  He’s really out there, but I think a lot of it at its core is super good.

00:17:31

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But, I mean, how are you going to read this guy?  Are you going to read a book he wrote, read his writing on the internet? All these things that came about because of the capitalist monetary system.  So if he had his way, no one would read him, and no one would know what he’s talking about, so it’s hypocritical to…

00:17:46

KENT WELLINGTON: He only uses…

00:17:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: … criticize the…

00:17:48

KENT WELLINGTON: He only uses freely given things, so he only uses computers at libraries, and I mean he really has his whole ideology worked out.

00:18:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Sounds like it will spread like wildfire among the youth.

00:18:07

KENT WELLINGTON: So I guess – so here’s my sort of main question to you is – so I – so you identify as a libertarian.  I more so, at least on this Earth, consider myself an anarchist.

00:18:27

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I think consistent libertarians are anarchists, so I think that – and a consistent anarchist is libertarian, so I mean to me, libertarian just means the opposition to aggression.  And if you take that consistently, then you have to recognize that all states are criminal, so you oppose all states.

00:18:48

KENT WELLINGTON: So okay, so to me…

00:18:49

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Libertarian means anarchist.

00:18:52

KENT WELLINGTON: Okay.  Sorry.  I wasn’t – I’m not totally familiar with all of your work, so you may have…

00:18:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, it’s not just me.  This is – so libertarianism – libertarians include people that are for radically small government.  We call those guys minarchists.  They believe in the minimal state.  And people that think there should be no state, like anarchists, and we – I’m an anarchist.  And the anarchist libertarians think that the minarchist libertarians are inconsistent and not quite fully perfect libertarians, but they’re close enough that we include them in the label.  And they would say the opposite.  The minarchists would say that anarchists really don’t support liberty because their system of liberty would be destroyed.  So they don’t count us as libertarians, so we’re kind of fighting with the term.

00:19:40

KENT WELLINGTON: So are you – so to me, what – I’m assuming – so you’re cool with contracts, right?

00:19:52

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Understood in the Rothbardian sense, yes, which is that contracts are not agreements or binding agreements.  They are simply transfers of title of transfers of owned property from one person to another by his expressed consent.

00:20:09

KENT WELLINGTON: So…

00:20:11

STEPHAN KINSELLA: A contract is the transfer of ownership from – it’s basically a trade or the change of ownership from one thing to another.  It’s not a binding promise or binding agreement, which is how the law classifies it.  But the Rothbardian, the libertarian conception it, the Austrian-libertarian conception of it is as I just said.  It’s a title-transfer theory.

00:20:32

KENT WELLINGTON: Okay, so…

00:20:35

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And it’s just – by the way, and that’s just the – that’s because libertarianism essentially is a property theory.  It believes that there are private property rights.  Every human being is the owner of certain things determined by the homesteading rule like who had it first, and contract, like who transferred it.  Did you get it from a previous owner?  So contract is just the exercise of ownership by an owner of a thing. It’s the decision to transfer it to someone else.  So if you own something, you could let someone use it, or you can deny them the use of it, like your home or your car or your body.

00:21:12

KENT WELLINGTON: So within your conception of contracts or your ideal contract system, are there elevated third parties, or however you want to call them?  Is there a state?  Is there an enforcer?

00:21:30

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Oh.  Well, you can’t have a libertarian system unless the libertarian norms are widely agreed upon in society and respected, which means property rules.  So basically, to achieve the society, you have to have wide agreement on the just basis of ownership, and so of course, you could have institutional assistance in enforcing your property rights if you need it, which we do now.

00:22:01

I mean I think of today – the western societies as quasi-libertarian because the private law that exists and is enforced that evolved from the Roman law and the English common law, is roughly libertarian because it roughly recognizes property based upon those principles, like first use in contract.  There’s lots of exceptions because the state has mangled it, and we’ve had bad economics informing judges.  But roughly, they’re roughly libertarian.  They’re just not perfectly consistent.  But yeah, you can have people – like if you have a contract and the contract specifies that you own this thing as opposed to someone else, and then they refuse to hand over the money they owe you or the thing or whatever, and they refuse to cooperate, then you could have dispute resolution.  That could be an arbitral tribunal or a court or an insurance company, something like that.

00:22:56

KENT WELLINGTON: So to me, your – since there’s any kind of elevation, you’re recreating the state, and then, according to Pournelle’s law, over a long enough timeline, basically that bureaucratic mechanism will overtake the entire society.

00:23:21

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I don’t think so, but even if that was true, the alternative would be to have just no law, and everyone always engage in self-help and then get rid of, obliterate the idea of ownership and property rules and norms.  And everything just comes down to possession, and the strong win, and might makes right.  And that’s a world of not – that’s not a world of humanity.  That’s a world of how animals live.  In fact, even animals have some norms.  If one dog is eating at its bowl, he growls if you approach it.  He knows it’s his bowl.  So I think that – and I don’t think it is like the state because the state is specifically – that’s why definitions are important like this oath term.  You can’t just throw it around there.  You have to be precise and rigorous about it if you want to include in an analysis.

00:24:06

KENT WELLINGTON: Oath – like he says, oath is anything above binary yes or no.

00:24:12

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I don’t know what above means, and I don’t know what a yes or no means.  Do you mean yes or no means consent?  A prediction?  An agreement?  What does that even – that’s just not rigorous is all I’m saying.  I mean maybe you could make it rigorous, but it doesn’t seem rigorous to me as you stated it.  And the state is an institution or an agency that claims a monopoly on the provision of justice in a given region.  That’s what the state is.

00:24:41

That’s where all its evils come from, from that characteristic of having this monopoly.  How it gets the monopoly is an interesting and a different question.  It gets it because it emerges over time, and people get to use to it, and then the state successfully uses some of its resources to propagandize people, nowadays by public schooling and manipulation or control of the airwaves through the FCC.  But its nature is that it has a monopoly.  Once it has a monopoly, it’s going to be inefficient, and it’s going to make decisions in its own favor.  That’s just natural.  That means it will become large and powerful and unjust and inefficient.

00:25:22

But that doesn’t – that logic doesn’t apply to a decentralized arbitral tribunal that we – two parties to a dispute voluntarily call upon.  It would be like if I go to a doctor because I have a broken arm, it doesn’t mean that I’ve caused the state to emerge because I’ve given a doctor, a specialist, the role of helping me on a narrow area of my life.  He’s a specialist.  It’s a division of labor.  And likewise, if two people have a dispute and they want to solve things peacefully and they can’t come to an agreement on their own, they would go to a mediator, a third party.  Just like if a husband and wife have a problem, they might go to a marriage counselor.  If a husband and wife go to a marriage counselor, I don’t see how that creates a state and sets the Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy in motion.

00:26:11

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, if he is an oath-based – in an oath-based position potentially.

00:26:18

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But again, that’s why it’s – I don’t know what it means that he’s in an oath-based position, but in any case, I don’t see how going to an arbitrator is an oath-based position.  It’s simply we both agree to abide by the decision of a neutral third party, and when he makes his decision, then either we agree with it, or we don’t.  And if we don’t, either there’s an enforcement mechanism to make us comply with it, or there’s not, and I think there might not be.  It might just be a totally reputational thing.  Someone who is known to disregard the edicts of a neutral third-party dispute resolution system will tend to find people won’t deal with him because they know that he’s not trustworthy.

00:27:04

So I tend to think ostracism and reputational effects and the inability to get insurance coverage will tend to drive out people that are recalcitrant and stubborn and not cooperative, and people that don’t have a tendency to seek – to compromise and try to find resolution of disputes.  But this is the natural way of things, and of course, in a more – in a richer and a more advanced society, you could expect that to be done more and more efficiently.  With a larger society, more wealth, more specialization like more lawyers, more dispute tribunals, more reputational agencies and systems, all this would get better and better.

00:27:47

KENT WELLINGTON: Okay.  Well, we’re past the 30 minutes.  Would you be willing to talk a little bit more?

00:27:57

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’ve got a little bit more time.  Go ahead.

00:27:59

KENT WELLINGTON: Great.  So I have a couple questions that I wrote, but they’re not necessarily – they don’t necessarily follow exactly with where we were.  But – so would your ideal system necessarily be able to interface with Uniform Commercial Code?

00:28:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I detect something there, but let me guess at that.  Do you have some kind of a – do you have some kind of idiosyncratic problem with the UCC?

00:28:37

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.

00:28:39

STEPHAN KINSELLA: That’s what I thought.  I’ve seen this before.  First of all, I don’t have a – I’m an anarchist, so I don’t have an ideal system.  Anarchists are not for – this is the problem statists.  They’ll say like, well, I don’t think your system would work, like as if I’m proposing a system.  I’m not proposing a system.  I’m simply opposed to aggression in human affairs, and I recognize that the state that we have now and any state that could possibly exist because of its nature would commit aggression, and therefore, it’s unjust and it’s wrong.  That’s all.

00:29:15

And I would be – I would prefer people not to engage in aggression, and if people didn’t engage in aggression, we would have a society where there was no aggression, or at least there was no institutionalized aggression.  You still might have occasional, random, private acts of crime or aggression, and they would be dealt with in the predictable ways, by self-defense and by justice, sometimes vigilante justice, sometimes institutional.

00:29:43

But – so the society I – the system I’m in favor of is just a system where there’s no institutional aggression, and there’s no institutional aggression because most people recognize that it’s wrong.  They don’t recognize that now because, although they oppose aggression more or less, they’re confused about the nature of the state.  They bought into the myth that the state is necessary, and the state is good, and the state is essential, and although it’s imperfect, it’s better than the alternative, which is anarchy.  That’s what they’ve been told, and they believe that, so they’re sort of confused.

00:30:15

So I think in that kind of system, private law would emerge naturally, and there would be a role for codes because, over time, people are going to want to know in this region what is the law.  And so some lawyer or some company might publish a book.  This is the private marriage law or family law or contract law or commercial law or property law or criminal law or evidence law or procedural law in this region.  And people would buy the book because they want to know what the law is.  And then, over time, different advances in the law would happen because of custom and tradition and practices and contracts, and law would finally keep developing.

00:31:06

And there would be need for treatises and codes.  Now the Uniform Commercial Code is one of those types of hybrid codes that we have in society now.  But it’s not exactly the type of code I’m talking about.  The type of code I’m talking about would be a compilation of existing law.  And hopefully that law would be mostly libertarian and just, so you just codify and compile it so people could understand it.  That’s what legal scholars would do.

00:31:34

The UCC was really a draft at sort of summarizing the existing common law but then putting it in the form of a statute so the legislature could enact it as a statute.  In my system, there’s no such thing as a statute or legislation for two reasons.  Number one, there’s no state, so there’s no legislature, so it’s impossible to have statutes and legislation, which is a good thing because legislation is not a way to make law.  Legislation is just a way to implement the will of the ruling authority by making it pass under the banner of law and pretend like it’s law.

00:32:11

Just like in the US, in the federal court system, all these guys that they call judges, the federal judges, the Supreme Court judges, they’re not really judges.  They’re just state agents whose job is to interpret the words written down on paper by other state agents.  That’s it.  Their job is not to do justice, which is what a real judge does.  A real judge tries to resolve a dispute between two parties based upon principles of justness and fairness.  These federal judges can’t do that because their job is to interpret the Constitution and federal law, which are just positive enactments written down on paper by a bunch of elected bureaucrats and members of the state.  So I don’t think they’re actual judges.  They’re not actually doing law.  What they’re interpreting is not law.

00:32:58

And so the UCC is just another example of legislation, although it was based in part on codified commonwealth principles, so in substance it’s not completely horrible.  It’s actually kind of beautiful.  Now, tell me what your concern with the UCC is.  A Roman Catholic Church conspiracy?  Lizards or what?

00:33:19

KENT WELLINGTON: No.  I just have sort of a basic – so from what I understand, it came from Babylon.  So basically, I’m into this thing of – so the Jews.  They went to Babylon.  They were exiled, and then they got all these bad habits like essentially the commercial – the rules of the UCC, and basically, it’s like an oath-based…

00:33:56

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Again, with the oath-based thing.  I don’t know what you – you need to – what do you mean by oath?  What is an oath?

00:34:02

KENT WELLINGTON: So an oath…

00:34:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Is it like a solemn commitment, pledging allegiance to someone?  What is an oath?

00:34:08

KENT WELLINGTON: So an oath is an elevation of your word beyond where it – I’m not that good at legalese but…

00:34:19

STEPHAN KINSELLA: It’s not legalese.  This is just – it’s not legalese.  This is – I think the problem you’re having is this is all metaphorical stuff, and it’s just not rigorous and crisp and – when you say it’s an elevation of a word beyond something, I think you’re thinking in mystical terms because you’re imaging words have power probably with a capital P, right?

00:34:42

KENT WELLINGTON: Sort of.  I mean I’m trying to reconcile what I see here in the Bible, and apparently this big, important guy called Jesus said something that sounds super anarchic to me, whereas 99.9% of pastors and church people, they will not acknowledge – they’ll actually go the opposite on this verse.  They’ll say, actually, it means take oaths and take them seriously.  Literally everyone thinks that even though he says take no oaths at all.

00:35:17

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, because they do.  I mean I think some people – look.  Common sensically, I think what it is, is most people – there’s probably a mystical religious element to it.  But most people, even religious people, believe that honesty is important, and your word is important just because of your reputation.  So if the government asks you to swear to something, you shouldn’t lie.  And so if it is a lie, you shouldn’t do it.  And I believe, if I understand, in some courts – they don’t make you swear on the Bible like to be a witness.  They give you an alternative.  Like instead of a swear, you can affirm.  You can affirm or something.  So they do tend to make an exception because apparently some people have a problem with that.

00:36:01

But I always thought it was just because it’s against people’s religious idea where they hold God as their highest authority, to put something else above that, and I appreciate that.  I think religion although I think is, in a sense, nonsense, is a useful institutional hedge against state power.  I mean – but let’s take your – take a typical marriage between a man and a woman.  I view that as a commitment, a committed relationship.  Now, if you have a loose-goosey, vague concept of oath, you could call that an oath.  I took an oath to my wife.  But that’s because people just use the word as a synonym for promise.

00:36:46

KENT WELLINGTON: No.  I love this – I love how weddings work into this because it’s not an oath, at least the traditional ceremony.  The oath is when you go to the courthouse afterwards, but at the actual wedding ceremony, they ask you: Do you, blah-blah-blah take blah-blah-blah?  And you just say yes or no.  It’s within the binary [indiscernible_00:37:07].

00:37:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah, but you’re saying – you’re making a promise.  You’re making a commitment.  You’re promising to be committed to this person until the end of your life.  That’s what you’re promising.  You’re making a commitment.

00:37:19

KENT WELLINGTON: I – it depends on the wording of the…

00:37:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But that’s what a marriage – I don’t care about the wording.  It’s what a marriage is.  A marriage is a committed relationship.

00:37:28

KENT WELLINGTON: No, because there’s a difference…

00:37:30

STEPHAN KINSELLA: A woman doesn’t want to have babies with a man that she thinks is going to run off.  She needs to have someone who promises to stick with her, and she believes it.

00:37:37

KENT WELLINGTON: So like I consider myself a Christian, so in terms of Jesus’ words there, I do not want to make any promises because – and so anything beyond a binary is – you could call it a promise, but to me it’s not a promise, like if I say, yes, I’ll go to your…

00:37:57

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Even the word promise to me – promise is – so people use the word promise to mean a contract, and like I said, I don’t agree contracts should be viewed as binding promises.  They might come from a promise.  Like I might say I promise to deliver these goods to you tomorrow, and we take the underlying meaning of that to mean I’m transferring these goods to you tomorrow.  But it’s not really a binding promise.  It’s just the way we interpret language.  Likewise, are you saying you have never told your significant other, look, I promise I’ll never do that again?  You’ve never said the word promise before?  Is the word promise now anathema?

00:38:35

KENT WELLINGTON: Right.  Totally.  Once I realized what these passages say I…

00:38:42

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you view promising as an oath.

00:38:46

KENT WELLINGTON: Absolutely.  Exactly.

00:38:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So if your wife says, do you promise not to do the following, and you say yes, that’s okay because you just said yes.  I mean, you see, it’s a cheat because you’re saying yes to the question about a promise.

00:39:02

KENT WELLINGTON: No.  I don’t promise, but I’ll give my word because see, word…

00:39:06

STEPHAN KINSELLA: What’s the difference between word and promise?  It’s semantics.

00:39:08

KENT WELLINGTON: Word – I mean in the Bible it says in the beginning there was the word, and the word was God, and the word was with God.

00:39:15

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, that’s God.  The word means the Holy Spirit.  That means the logos of God.  It means some supernatural spiritual thing.  You’re not comparing your utterances to your wife to the holy divinity of God, are you?

00:39:29

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, our words are, in a sense, divine.  So going beyond our word – it’s like…

00:39:35

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Beyond your promise, you mean.  See, you mean your promise.  Are you just saying be honest?  Is that what you mean?

00:39:43

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  I mean absolutely be honest.

00:39:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay.  So it means be honest about your intention.  So if you say, honey, I have not cheated on you and I don’t intend to and I don’t think I ever will, and I give you my oath to never – I mean it’s like you’re trying to skirt around, by semantics, saying some magic bad words.

00:40:08

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  You just don’t elevate beyond your word, just yes or no.  I mean just…

00:40:15

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So if your wife says, will you ever cheat on me, what would you say?

00:40:19

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, I mean it depends on if I’m going to say yes or no, I guess.  But I’m just going to say yes or no.  I mean – what do you mean?

00:40:28

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Let’s say you say no and then – say you say no, and then you cheat on her the next month.  What does that mean?  What does that mean?  What have you violated?

00:40:35

KENT WELLINGTON: My word.

00:40:37

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But your word was just a prediction because you don’t want to make a promise.  If it’s not a promise, then you didn’t violate it.

00:40:47

KENT WELLINGTON: It’s about congruence, which also I find is a very mystical concept.  Like the alpha needs to be congruent.

00:41:00

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Have you ever seen – do you know much about math?

00:41:02

KENT WELLINGTON: No.  I’m not a math guy.

00:41:05

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, what do you get if you divide 1 by 0 in your calculator?  Have you ever tried that?

00:41:10

KENT WELLINGTON: It explodes.

00:41:11

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah.  And do you know why?

00:41:13

KENT WELLINGTON: Why?

00:41:14

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Because it’s undefined, and do you know why?  Because you can’t divide by 0.

00:41:19

KENT WELLINGTON: Right, right, right.

00:41:20

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And you have an equation with a bunch of X’s and Y’s.  There might be – like if you have X + Y at the bottom, and if X and Y are the same, that’s 0, but you might not know it.  You might not notice it, right?  So you’re doing this equation.  All of a sudden, you get these crazy results.  And if you trace it back, you find out, oh, the reason I’m getting this crazy result is because I made a mistake, and the mistake was I did a divide by 0 on accident because at this point in the equation, the X and the Y were actually the same.  That meant the denominator was 0 so – and I didn’t realize it, whatever.

00:41:51

Well, I see an analogy to that to speaking in vague, slippery, metaphorical, mystical language.  Like if you don’t – if you’re not rigorous and careful and precise with your language and have clear definitions and make sure you’re not using things in multiple ways, which leads to equivocation, then you can prove anything.  I mean you could say that, well, the word is this, and therefore – it’s just not – it’s not rational, rigorous analysis.  You basically can use that kind of mumbo jumbo – now this is my…

00:42:26

KENT WELLINGTON: No.

00:42:27

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m not being critical of you.  I’m just – I’m giving you my kind of anti – my own prejudice against…

00:42:36

KENT WELLINGTON: Slippery language?

00:42:37

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Against language that is not clear and solid and rigorous, yes, because it just leads to…

00:42:44

KENT WELLINGTON: It’s the opposite.  The legalese language is slippery, and there are so many ways you could look at it, whereas the word-based, just simple…

00:42:53

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, I’m talking more philosophy and rigorous thought than legalese.  I mean I’m not – I’m talking about just when you have rational discourse, you need to – especially when the terms matter a lot, like when you start talking about this oath, a lot of your theory hinges upon whether something is an oath or not.  So it’s important to be clear about what you mean by it.  And I guess my original assumption was right.  You do mean a broad thing by it.  So you mean promises too.

00:43:20

KENT WELLINGTON: Totally.

00:43:21

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So I don’t see how that makes you hate the UCC but except this has something to do with Babylon, but I mean the original code was the Code of Hammurabi.  It’s one of the oldest ones that we know of.  And then you had the 12 tables, and you had the decalogue, the Ten Commandments.  You’ve had lots of codes.  Then you had the Corpus Juris Civilis.  You had the Institutes of Justinian, Roman law, Blackstone’s codes.  I mean I think that my – I’ll put it this way.  The Rothbard-Kinsella—whatever you want to call it—theory of contract is probably compatible with your hostility to oaths and promising because it doesn’t involve promising.  It’s only a yes or a no.  It’s like, do you transfer ownership of this thing that you own to someone else?  Yes.  That’s basically what contracts are in my view.

00:44:19

KENT WELLINGTON: I like it.

00:44:22

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But I don’t see what you would have against codes in general because it’s just a way of setting down, in an organized form, a body of principles.

00:44:34

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  I’m actually not – I mean I’m not against it itself.  I’m against adhering to it in the form of – in the way that you must conform with it for other people to be able to conform to it with you.  So if you want to do business with another country, like Nigeria, that conforms to UCC, you need to do all these – you need to sign all these things.  I mean signing something, to me, is an oath.  It’s a beyond a – it’s beyond a yes or a no.  Actually, I’m not totally sure on – I’m not totally sure yet on simple signings, whether I consider that beyond.

00:45:11

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, yeah, because signing is just a way of documenting things and getting proof later.  So it’s proof of people’s consent.  Consent is not always an oath.  Let’s say you’re going to have surgery, and the doctor is going to knock you out and cut you open.  He doesn’t want you to wake up and sue him for assault and battery, right?  But you could say, oh, you cut me open.  You’re a butcher.  And his defense would be, no, you consented to it.  And you say, I didn’t consent.  So how is he going to prove that you consented? He says, oh, well, you signed on a piece of paper right before I put you to sleep that says I consent, so I have evidence.

00:45:57

KENT WELLINGTON: So see, you’re – so I think it’s all – you shouldn’t have entered into the oath-based system at all.  I mean you’re probably dealing with an oath-based doctor, a doctor who is taking an oath who’s submitting himself to this bureaucracy.  And this bureaucracy changes like crazy.  I mean…

00:46:17

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah, but nothing in my hypothetical requires the doctor to be.  This could be a private free-market doctor where there’s no such thing as the AMA, no such thing as medical licensing.  I mean in an anarchist private society, you would still have doctors, and they don’t want to get sued.

00:46:31

KENT WELLINGTON: Ah, sued assumed that there’s a system that allows for such a thing.

00:46:43

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, it’s not – there would be.  But even if there wasn’t, the doctor doesn’t want to get a reputation for running around butchering people and operating on them without their consent.  He wants to have a good reputation, so he doesn’t want someone to be able to make an unsubstantiated claim that he performed a surgery without consent of the patient.  So it would be natural for him to get them to sign on the dotted line giving him permission to do the operation.  I mean surely God can’t be against using ink to put markings on paper.

00:47:14

KENT WELLINGTON: No.

00:47:18

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I mean the Bible itself is written down, wasn’t it?

00:47:20

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.

00:47:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you can put information on paper.  That’s all…

00:47:26

KENT WELLINGTON: For sure.

00:47:27

STEPHAN KINSELLA: A signature is information.  The information is that I read this, and I was aware of what it says, and here’s proof of that.

00:47:35

KENT WELLINGTON: I’m trying to figure out.  I mean for the past, like, fucking – or like 5, 10 years, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what is an oath and what’s beyond the yes or the no.  And it’s tricky, and I’m having a tough time, as you can understand.

00:47:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, you could be doing what I did when I tried to prove intellectual property or when I tried to prove that there was a god.  I mean you could be butting your head against a wall because it’s just – I mean you chose a battle that’s just – basically, you think Jesus had some deep words about oaths in one of his brief statements.  And you think you need to unpack it and apply it to life in general or something.

00:48:25

KENT WELLINGTON: Because I realized – because my life was not – is not – as a millennial, my life in many ways is not as good as it was portrayed to me that it was going to be.  And I’m like holy shit.  Every – holy shit.  The book that they gave me, that they were like, okay, well, whatever you do, follow this guy and what he says.  And I looked at what that guy said, and he said no oaths.  And then I realized the whole world is totally replete with oaths.  There’s oaths everywhere, every day.

00:48:56

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah, but don’t you think – I mean if you really want to put so much importance on the word oath in the English version of some protestant translation of an ancient text that you would actually want to study what were the actual words in the original Aramaic or Greek or whatever it was in in that actual chapter.  What was the – maybe it’s not even the word oath.  Maybe it’s the word – I don’t know.  Maybe it’s some other word.  Maybe that’s just the way the translator translated it.  Have you looked at other translations and they all use the word oath?

00:49:27

KENT WELLINGTON: Yes.  Yes.  I look at – I’ve read quite a lot on this subject.  I mean not everything but quite a bit.  And also, I mean getting more into crazy stuff, I realized that, wait.  All my family members, or the male ones, they were all Free Masons, and that’s an oath-based system.  It’s an oath-based system, right?

00:49:53

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah.

00:49:53

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  So why the heck – all these people who I feel [indiscernible_00:49:58], people – they’re all like oath nuts.  They fucking love oaths.  They’ll take any oath you give them—oath, oath, oath.  And then I’m like, well, this guy says – Jesus says no oaths.  And I’m like, okay.  There’s something to this, and then I’ve like – my brain has been stuck on it for years now.

00:50:14

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So Oath Keepers drives you insane.

00:50:17

KENT WELLINGTON: In a sense, but I mean Stewart Rhodes apparently was an FBI informant, so I don’t know how real that organization even was.  But they shouldn’t have taken the oath in the first place is my argument, right now at least.

00:50:36

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So one of your favorite songs would be that one, I beg your pardon/I never promised you a rose garden.

00:50:43

KENT WELLINGTON: I don’t know the song but…

00:50:47

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Really?

00:50:48

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.

00:50:50

STEPHAN KINSELLA: [sings] I beg your pardon.  A little country music there.  So your whole thesis would be stop making promises.

00:51:03

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  Just stop making…

00:51:06

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Everyone, stop making promises.

00:51:07

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, stop making these elevated – let’s just keep things simple on our word and – so I think the Amish interpret it this way, the way I do.  They think that he literally says no oaths, but here’s the weird thing.  They have – in their whole society – so they don’t – so from what I understand – okay, I’m not sure if they sign simple contracts for things like building someone a building or something.  But I should know that.  But the main problem with the Amish is they swear an oath to their church, which I think is like – it’s where they mess up there.

00:51:56

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So what do you think – you know some of these libertarian groups like I think the Libertarian Party and maybe – well, let’s take the Libertarian Party.  I think that you have to agree to this nonaggression oath or principle, like you have to say something like, I hereby foreswear the use of aggression in human affairs or something like that to become a good member.  And kind of like in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged before you enter the building where his magic electricity machine was housed, it had a special electronics or password system where you had to state this oath to get in.  Like, I promise I will not live my life for someone else, or I expect – I guess you’re against all that too.

00:52:54

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, yeah.

00:52:57

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, what if you wanted to join the Libertarian Party, and they say, well, we only accept libertarians.  Are you a libertarian?  If it’s a yes or no, is that okay?

00:53:08

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  I mean – yeah, yes, but I don’t think it would be because all these organizations – they all want you – they don’t like the simple language, the yes or the no.  They all want things to be super official, and they all want things to conform with the UCC and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  And I just want to live simple – live a simple life, almost like Daniel Suelo.

00:53:46

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I can tell.  I mean so you’re for simplicity.  I don’t see why simplicity is per se a good thing.  By the way, we’re using Zoom right now.  I assume you had to sign the terms and conditions to get this software.

00:53:55

KENT WELLINGTON: As you may assume, I pay extra careful attention to things like that, and no, I didn’t.  I didn’t see it anywhere, but I’m sure it was tucked in somewhere, or it is tucked in somewhere.

00:54:12

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So I mean I understand being disillusioned with the world that the millennial generation is faced with in some ways.  But I just don’t – I mean unless you link it in closely with the theory of the state, I don’t see how oaths themselves are the root source of the problem, although I can see how it is like a widespread phenomenon of people being basically coerced or induced or forced to give some kind of allegiance to different institutions that are all linked up with the state.  I could agree with that to some extent.

00:54:52

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.

00:54:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But I don’t think it’s really the root cause of it.  I think that’s just – that’s the way that people’s – the way people are brainwashed to believe the state is good.  That’s the way it manifests itself.

00:55:07

00:55:12

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, and the oaths – they open the door for the bad things to happen.  Without that opening, then so much – basically you need oaths for things to scale.  You can’t – and the thing is, scaling naturally, I think, is fine.  Like if you’re Amish or whatever, Mormon, and you make a big family naturally, then that’s cool.  But what they want – what most people want to do is they want to commit usury in the sense that they want a – the curve.  What’s it called?  The curve that just goes straight up – hockey stick?  They want a hockey stick, and the way – the only way you get hockey sticks is if you include oaths in things, at least sustainably.

00:55:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, you know, there’s a – you might like this article.  It’s by Alfred Cuzan.  It’s called “Do We Ever Really Get Out of Anarchy?”  And his argument is that, even in today’s world, we still have anarchy of a type because even the state itself is internally in a type of anarchy because the leaders of that state, like the president, you don’t have direct control and coercive power over all your underlings.  They just obey your orders because it’s part of the hierarchy and part of the order, and maybe oaths play a role in that because they’re expected to do it.  It could be that you couldn’t get someone to go bomb innocent people in Cambodia on your orders if they didn’t have an oath that they felt they had to abide by.  Maybe you wouldn’t have the I-was-just-following-order defense.

00:56:52

KENT WELLINGTON: Exactly, exactly.  I think oaths are a powerful psychological mechanism that get people to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t.

00:57:01

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But this dislike of usury makes no sense to me, and it seems to be totally like it’s a society thing.

00:57:09

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, my…

00:57:09

STEPHAN KINSELLA: And the problem is that that’s used by states as an excuse to regulate commercial affairs, so it uses their authority to commit aggression.  Or it’s used as an excuse – it’s used for hostility towards an advanced commercial capitalist society like, oh, we can’t have a contract and enforcement system because they might enforce loan contracts, which have usury.  Let me guess.  You’re against bigness and capitalism too.

00:57:37

KENT WELLINGTON: No.  No, as long as it’s all – as long as it’s just word-based.  I mean you just – I can go catch a fish, and then I can go sell it to someone, and as long as I’m not signing a contract or taking some [indiscernible_00:57:54]

00:57:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: But I mean you’re not going to have your – you’re going to have your nice, simple, walled-in-style life in capitalism.  You’re going to be a cog in the wheel and division of labor, and buy your trout from the supermarket.

00:58:05

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  I’m – what I’m figure out is…

00:58:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: With money.

00:58:09

KENT WELLINGTON: What I’m figuring out is if I’m going to take this verse seriously and take the no-oath thing seriously, yeah, you basically are screwed in terms of having a comfy life, which is exactly what Jesus says is going to happen.  He says it’s the hard way.  It’s the narrow road, blah, blah, blah.  And I’m not saying I’m even going to necessarily do it.  I mean I still take oaths really.  In some – in interpersonal relationships like family and friends, that’s an area where I really have tried to practice this.

00:58:43

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Maybe you’ve got it backwards.  Maye the oaths you should try not to take are the ones with the state, but don’t be so uptight about oaths with your spouse or whatever or your family.

00:58:54

KENT WELLINGTON: Wait.  I should be uptight with oaths about my family?

00:58:58

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, the other way around, not be so uptight.  Like nothing wrong with telling your mom I’ll be there for you when you get on your deathbed, or I’ll be there for Thanksgiving and your wife I won’t cheat on you.

00:59:08

KENT WELLINGTON: Those are not promises.  Those are – to me, the way you phrase those is not above – I know we haven’t really worked on the definitions either.

00:59:18

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Well, sometimes people want promises.  They want to say, will you be here for Christmas?  Yes.  Are you just making a prediction, or are you going to – you promise that you’ll be here for Christmas?  I promise, okay.  That’s what they want to hear.

00:59:33

KENT WELLINGTON: I guess when you elevate, you’re putting something on the line beyond just your…

00:59:40

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah, that’s why people know they can count on you.  That’s so people want to be able to count on others.  There’s a utility.  I mean what if you go to your lawyer and you tell him all your secrets, and – but you want him to have an oath – you want him to have a duty of confidentiality.  You don’t want him to reveal your secrets to the world, right?  That’s one good thing about going to a psychiatrist or your doctor or a lawyer.

01:00:11

KENT WELLINGTON: You just named all oath-based people, and I wouldn’t be…

01:00:16

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Or a priest.  When you confess to a priest, you don’t want the priest to tell people what your sins were.

01:00:21

KENT WELLINGTON: So I think…

01:00:22

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you want a society where no one can trust anyone, and you can’t – you’re just – if you have a problem, you have to deal with it all on your own, which, I guess…

01:00:29

KENT WELLINGTON: No, no, no.  So yeah, you wouldn’t be able to trust necessarily people because the society wouldn’t scale.  It just doesn’t…

01:00:39

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah, so that’s why I said you’re against capitalism.  You need scaling.  Capitalism requires scaling.

01:00:44

KENT WELLINGTON: If you put it that way, then I guess yeah, in some sense, then I would be.  But I don’t necessarily think that that’s the case in everything…

01:00:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You can’t just have handshake deals all the time going by reputation of your first cousin.

01:01:00

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, you’re going to have a simple…

01:01:01

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Like some small Afghani village.  You need to have international transactions from remote parties who don’t know each other.

01:01:08

And they need to be able to count on each other’s commitments.

01:01:12

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, this is – I think this is natural law.  This is [indiscernible_01:01:17].  I mean I don’t even necessarily…

01:01:18

STEPHAN KINSELLA: That’s why I say.  You’re against – you want things to be small and localized and…

01:01:22

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  I mean I don’t necessarily want them to be, but I just see why Jesus, as this figure, as this person who claims to be mystical, and he says this thing about oaths, and oaths are all around us, and he’s like…

01:01:40

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So you don’t think you should be able to go see a therapist and confide some personal things to help work out a problem and be sure that they have an obligation not to reveal your information.  You don’t think you should be…

01:01:52

KENT WELLINGTON: Oh absolutely, right, right.  I’m going to assume – like with you, I’m totally cool.  I consented to talk with you.  You can use this recording however you want.  You can chop it up.

01:02:01

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I know, but I told you I was recording it, but if you had asked me not to and I had agreed not to…

01:02:06

KENT WELLINGTON: I would be fine with that too even if you recorded it and you told me – I mean if you told me you weren’t going to and then you did, then I would be like, okay, this guy is not congruent.

01:02:16

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Correct, correct.  But that means that there are some things you’re going to be uncomfortable being able to get help with because some things you – look.  If I talk to someone who I don’t completely trust, I know that even if they promise they’re going to keep something confidential, I’m going to still be careful about what I say because if they break the promise, I could still get hurt if the information got out there.  So I’m careful about what I say.  But sometimes you need to be able to say those things, and so you go to a very trusted person.

01:02:44

But you don’t always have a trusted person that’s like your brother or something.  Sometimes you have to go to a professional outsider, and in that case, you want there to be a serious institutional and relational obligation arising from a commitment not to reveal your information.  And I’m thinking a priest, counselors, medical doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers.

01:03:10

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, all the…

01:03:11

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Your system would basically get rid of all those avenues people have.

01:03:18

KENT WELLINGTON: It’s like in an Amish society, nobody ever seeks out those people because it’s…

01:03:23

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I don’t know about that.  I don’t – I can’t believe that.  I can’t believe that some Amish people don’t, on occasion, use the services of a lawyer, for example or a doctor.

01:03:36

KENT WELLINGTON: Maybe they do.  I…

01:03:40

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Of course they do, and they expect the doctor not to go blabbing their personal details.  They’re…

01:03:46

KENT WELLINGTON: But if he does, they’re not going to sue.  They don’t – I’m pretty sure they’re not litigious like that.

01:03:50

STEPHAN KINSELLA: It doesn’t matter.  They’re using the doctor partly on the expectation and knowing – they’re taking advantage of the fact that these doctors do, or they’re embedded in a society where they have this obligation, and they’re not going to violate that obligation.  I mean I think – see, to my mind, you’re turning something that’s natural and good into something that’s unnatural and bad, so that’s where I would disagree, although I can understand partly where you’re coming from.

01:04:18

I do think it’s always better if it’s natural or organic rather than forced, but I see nothing whatsoever wrong with someone making a promise to someone else.  I think you’re taking the bad examples and generalizing it.  So it is bad to have an oath to the state.  I agree with you.  It’s bad to require lawyers to have an oath to the state to become a lawyer.  It’s bad for doctors to have – to take certain oaths, although the Hippocratic Oath is not the worst oath I’ve ever heard of: do no harm.

01:04:50

KENT WELLINGTON: It’s changed over time.

01:04:52

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Sure.  But the fact that some oaths are bad doesn’t mean oath making in general is bad.  And maybe Jesus didn’t mean that.  I mean you studied it; I haven’t.  I mean what he actually said is not clear because these records are not that reliable, and they’re not comprehensive.  And they’ve been translated many times, and maybe he had some exceptions in mind.  He was just talking about a certain case.  I don’t know.

01:05:25

KENT WELLINGTON: Possible.

01:05:30

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I wonder if there’s been a book written about this, like Oath-Making as the Source of Evil in the Modern World or something.  Maybe you could make an extended argument for it.

01:05:39

KENT WELLINGTON: Oh, I’m going to write the book.  That’s part of my life work right there.

01:05:44

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Maybe start with an article, and then that would force you to kind of carefully define your terms and…

01:05:51

KENT WELLINGTON: Right, right, right.

01:05:52

STEPHAN KINSELLA: … see if you can have a flow, like a thesis, introduction, sustained argument, conclusion.

01:05:57

KENT WELLINGTON: It’s not that the oath is bad.  It’s that it opens the door to bad.  It’s just – it makes what was not necessarily before, possible.

01:06:08

STEPHAN KINSELLA: What could – if I make a commitment to my wife that I will be faithful to her for the rest of my life, what bad does that open the door to?

01:06:16

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, the way you phrased it is fine.  You just give me your word.

01:06:19

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, it’s a commitment.  Yeah, but you – it’s a commitment.  It’s a promise.

01:06:24

KENT WELLINGTON: No.  Well, so no.  To me, that’s not a promise.  A promise is like – okay, if she, after that, said, Stephan, do you promise?  Then, to me, you’re elevating.  That’s like a second level.  It’s like…

01:06:41

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I don’t know what you mean – but what does that mean, elevating?  You’ve used that before too.  That’s another thing I’m not clear what you mean.  Elevating what to what?

01:06:46

KENT WELLINGTON: Beyond – you’re taking it, instead of – it’s just beyond the base level of what you’re saying.  If – like if it’s math, it’s like, instead of 1, it’s 1.5 power, like oh, more.  It’s heavier.  It’s greater.  It’s beyond.

01:07:09

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Look.  We’ve already established that you’re not good at math, so let’s leave that to the side.

01:07:13

KENT WELLINGTON: Fair.

01:07:16

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You might divide by zero on accident.

01:07:19

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, I might.

01:07:19

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Don’t do that.  All right, I’ve got to go in a second.  If you’ve got one more topic, I could do that.  Otherwise, I’ve got to run.

01:07:27

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, I appreciate your work.  I’d like to – do you – you said that you consider anarchists libertarians and libertarians anarchists or something like that?  Do you have an article or anything where you talk more about that?

01:07:48

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah.  Read my article “What Libertarianism Is.”  It’s on my website.

01:07:53

KENT WELLINGTON: Okay.

01:07:55

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So libertarianism is just the consistent objection to aggression or the – it’s the consistent belief that aggression is unjust.  And if you just open your eyes, then you will see that the state is also unjust because it commits aggression.  So a natural application of that view opposing aggression is to oppose the state.  I mean you can’t – if you oppose aggression, you oppose the state because it’s aggression writ large.  It’s like saying if I’m against aggression, are you against murder?  Well, yeah.  That’s a type of aggression, and the state is a type of aggression.  So not all libertarians see that.  They think the state is necessary, so you need some state, and they see that it’s dangerous, so they want to put limits on it.

01:08:43

And a lot of libertarians are not anarchists – or I’m sorry.  A lot of anarchists are not libertarians like left anarchists.  I won’t say – anarcho-syndicalists, these types.  I would say they’re not true anarchists because you have to be a libertarian, and you have to believe in private property rights because if you say you’re an anarchist, and you don’t support private property rights – excuse me – if you say you’re an anarchist and you’re not a libertarian, which means you don’t support private property rights, then that means that private property rights can be violated.  And that’s what states do.  States violate property rights.  So you can’t – you have no grounds for opposing the state if you’re not against private property rights being violated.  So that’s why I say all non-libertarian anarchists are incoherent, and all non-anarchist libertarians are inconsistent.  That’s my view.  But it’s a minority view.  I mean that’s – but then we’re already a minority, so I’m a minority within minority within minorities.

01:09:45

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, that’s super interesting.  I’m going to read that for sure.

01:09:50

STEPHAN KINSELLA: It sounds like you’re even more a minority.

01:09:52

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  I…

01:09:54

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I’m like one out of a million.  You’re – it sounds like you’re one out of three billion.

01:10:00

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, it’s difficult.

01:10:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: There might be two of you in the world.

01:10:05

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, maybe, which is why I want to write more about what I’m thinking about.  I have a tough time getting anything on paper because I feel – every six months I feel like my ideas are way better than they were six months ago.  And why would I ever put anything on paper if it’s just going to be so much better later on?

01:10:24

STEPHAN KINSELLA: You should register the domain oathbreakers, oathbreakers.com.

01:10:32

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, I think registering a domain is a type of oath.

01:10:35

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Yeah, I know.  You’d have to make an oath to get.  I know.  That’s the dilemma.  That’s why I said your ideas are going to spread like wildfire.

01:10:40

KENT WELLINGTON: Well, I hope that at least my ideas were novel, and maybe you – because I feel like you – I really appreciate the way you engaged with them.

01:10:48

STEPHAN KINSELLA: No, it’s interesting.  It’s interesting.  I’m just being facetious because…

01:10:52

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah, totally, totally.

01:10:54

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Because I’m just saying that your ideas are going to make them hard to spread because you won’t be able to sign the contracts needed to publicize them.  I mean so it’s sort of like there’s a joke in this great book by Jerome Tuccille called It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand where he – it’s sort of a parody type accounting, so based in fact of the rise of the libertarian movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  And he tells the story of this guy named Galambos.  I don’t know if you’ve heard of Galambos.

01:11:26

KENT WELLINGTON: No.

01:11:27

STEPHAN KINSELLA: He was an early crank libertarian who had this insane IP theory.  So he believed everything came from intellectual property, and not only that, it was inalienable.  So even if you – if you’re the owner of your ideas, you can’t even sell them to someone because they’re inalienable, which means that Galambos could tell all his followers his ideas, but they couldn’t go tell other people, and he couldn’t even give them permission to tell them.  So that’s why – it’s like – so his ideas naturally – so some people are like, well, tell us about this Galambos that’s so great and said, I wish I could tell you, but if you could only hear it, you would understand how great his ideas were.  It’s like, but you can’t tell me?  No, I can’t tell you.  So the joke, is expect those ideas to spread like wildfire, like it’s a self-defeating doctrine, like it intentionally hobbles itself from being spread.

01:12:20

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  I get it.

01:12:25

STEPHAN KINSELLA: So I see nothing wrong – if you want to write this up, I see nothing wrong with you writing a paper and putting it on the internet or self-publishing a book on Amazon even though if you have to click a couple of boxes.

01:12:33

KENT WELLINGTON: Yeah.  Well, thanks a lot.  I appreciate all your work, and I want to dig more into it.  But I just had a lot of these ideas that have been in my head for a long time, and I’m not able to talk to anybody.

01:12:56

STEPHAN KINSELLA: I got it.  Well, if you get your thoughts together if you want to have another chat some time, give me a ring.

01:13:01

KENT WELLINGTON: Thanks a lot, Mr. Kinsella, appreciate it.

01:13:03

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Okay.  Have a good one.

01:13:04

KENT WELLINGTON: Have a good day.

01:13:05

STEPHAN KINSELLA: Bye-bye.

01:13:06

KENT WELLINGTON: You too.  Bye-bye.

01:13:07

 

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 360.

Isaac Funderburk sent me this email:

Hello, Mr. Kinsella! I’m an economics student in Tennessee looking to get involved in the discourse around Austrian economics and libertarianism, particularly through culture change and academic organizations. Would it be possible to talk for a few minutes sometime this weekend or next week?

I’m currently working with Turning Point USA as a social media manager and event organizer for a local ambassador, and I am involved with the Libertarian Party in the area. I’ve been familiar with Austrian economics for years now, but I had the good fortune to get an Austrian economics professor this semester and he has influenced me to pursue connections within the Mises Institute. I came across the many Mises Institute lectures and articles, and realized this is something I could get behind.

I’ve recently spoken to Dr. Jonathan Newman, Mr. Jeff Deist, and Dr. Patrick Newman. I’m interested in understanding contract theory on a deeper level and found your lectures on intellectual property to be insightful.

Would it be possible to arrange a brief phone call this week? Thank you for your time.

We talked about college and what a libertarians goals should be, activism, careers, publishing, and economic and libertarian issues such as intellectual property.

Related:

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 359.

From the recently-concluded Fifteenth Annual (2021) Meeting of the PFS, Bodrum, Turkey (Sept. 16–21, 2021).

For others, see the links in the Program, or the PFS YouTube channel, including the growing PFS 2021 YouTube Playlist. Additional media of the proceedings will be released presently.

For a similar talk, see KOL345 | Kinsella’s Libertarian “Constitution” or: State Constitutions vs. the Libertarian Private Law Code (PorcFest 2021).

The followup panel discussion later that day is here:

My notes are below: [continue reading…]

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Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 358.

I was interviewed by Marc Victor and Andy Marcantel of the Live and Let Live project about libertarianism.

 

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