Trump just signed a massive, damn near 5600 page bil, which among MANY, MANY other things includes a $600 second covid relief check.

While normally I would be automatically opposed to any cash handout from the government to anyone, my feelings are more complicated here.  Anti-lockdown folks would say that given that the government ordered shutdowns that wrecked small businesses and decimated entire sectors of the economy, this is a glaring example of the government breaking your legs and then selling you crutches, all while telling you to be grateful for the beneficence…and they would be right.  And yes, some kind of UBI nonsense or stay at home payments is just more bad government on top of more bad government.  Some libertarians would point out that that stimulus is a refund of money that was stolen from you…which is also correct.  Yet others might counter that given the insane amount of money printing that that $600 will cost a fortune in interest, and therefore in future taxes…which is yet again correct.  People on many chunks of the Nolan chart would tell you that $600 is a bullshit amount…and they would also be right.  I would say that while the virus is natural, the whole covid mess was caused by an absolute crisis of leadership at the beginning…and I’d like to think I’m right.  But…we are here, and while I think the ship could be righted by doing what we should have done in the first place, ie have the government acknowledge the reality of the disease, set a good example, stay out of creating yet another liability cap, and otherwise let people live their bleeping lives, in the meantime we are still in a government mandated lockdown.  There’s no good answer here.  I think it’s like marriage licenses-the government should have nothing to do with them in the first place, but as long as they do they need to treat everyone equally before the law.  Here?  Ideally the government would get the hell out of everyone’s way, but as long as as they’re making a mess they should do something to make the people they’re screwing over whole, right?  If someone’s got a better way to cut this particular Gordian knot I’m all ears (or eyeballs, as it were).

What I can tell you though is that bundling this issue inside of an insanely large omnibus bill that includes billions in foreign aid, corporate welfare, military spending, and making streaming copyrighted content a felony is COMPLETE bullshit.

Vanity Fair just published this piece about Ross Ulbricht.  He’s not a fan of the Silk Road or what Ulbricht did.  I disagree, as much (though not all) of the commerce the Silk Road facilitated was commerce that never should have been illegal in the first place.  There were also plenty of problems with his trial, including the corruption of some of the agents involved.  Ulbricht is not the same level of hero as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, or Edward Snowden, but unless that murder charge actually resurfaces and is proven he certainly doesn’t belong in prison for facilitating commerce between consenting adults.

But fine.  Nick Bilton disagrees with me and my take on things.  That’s ok.  But what’s not ok is this supposed gotcha paragraph:  “I find it reprehensible that people on social media are so adamant that Ulbricht should be freed because he performed his crimes from behind a computer. That a Black man—without a smattering of Ulbricht’s power, resources, education, or support network—will spend the next two and a half decades of his life in prison for committing a fraction of the crimes that Ulbricht engaged in is not a part of that discussion, and that, to me, is an argument of privilege. If Ulbricht’s supporters really cared about the war on drugs or libertarian ideals, they’d be demanding that the nearly half a million people currently in U.S. jails for drug offenses should be pardoned too.”

There are plenty of reasons to criticize libertarians and libertarianism-hell, I offer plenty, and I’m in the movement.  My friends across the political spectrum usually offer plenty more…but they’ve actually read some libertarian thinkers and have at least an ok idea of what we actually think and believe, even if we disagree vigorously on interpretation and worldview.  But this statement?  This is the height of ignorance.  This is some “yellowcake uranium” level of stupidity.

So.  Newsflash for you Nick Bilton.  The Libertarian Party and the entire libertarian movement have been calling for the complete end to the drug war and immediate pardons & exonerations for its victims for as long as there’s been a libertarian movement.  It’s been the signature issue of every LP presidential candidate since at least Harry Browne, including Jo Jorgensen and and Spike Cohen this year.  We’ve been decrying the drug war for a host of reasons, including but not limited to its racist enforcement, its destructive effects on minority communities and individuals, its use to justify every other bad thing that government does from theft, to domestic spying, to eminent domain, to insane foreign policy, to economic protectionism, to its stifling of medical research, to its environmental destruction, to straight up murder, and the fact that it’s completely anti-freedom. I’m glad you’re finally catching up to where we were in the early 1970s.

I recommend the following reading, so you never write anything so divorced from reality on this issue again:

But really dude.  This took 30 seconds worth of googling.  Yet somehow you write for Vanity Fair and have a book deal, and I’m just some rando small activist on the internet.

Being transgender isn’t strictly a libertarian issue, but I’ve seen it come up enough lately in various libertarian threads around the internet where it’s just easier to have one link to reply to everything rather than retyping everything.  Because, as with many internet arguments, it gets a little old hearing the same thing over, and over, and over, and having to respond the same way to the same objections.

So…transgender.  People that don’t fit in the convenient male/female box.  And for whom it often takes a lot of time, money, therapy, medication, and surgery to get them into the box they do feel good in, or for them to make their own box.  Religious conservatives, along with socially conservative people in general, are often still REALLY not big on trans folk, for reasons of faith or just being squicked.  Even generally relatively sane Democrat Tulsi Gabbard just introduced a discriminatory bill against transgender athletes.  Libertarians generally do much better (and of course Outright Libertarians includes many trans members), and I haven’t seen any libertarian call for any kind of legal discrimination, but there’s definitely a small but vocal contingent that keeps calling being trans mental illness, claiming that trans people and their supporters deny biology and science, or saying stuff like “I don’t care if a dude wants to cut their dick off and wear a dress.  I’ll call them what they want to be called.  But they’re still a dude”.  That attitude is not a terrible start, and generally reflects libertarians’ live and let live attitude, but it could be so much better.  Libertarians, as individualists, often have as part of their story a long journey to define themselves, and live as authentically as possible.  I would think that someone else trying to do the same would be something that resonates with all of us.  I think a lot of it comes down to ignorance, so…I’m going to try and help everyone be less ignorant.

First off, terms.  Because agreeing on terminology is important, otherwise you just talk past each other (cf Libertarians and Marxists talking about labor bringing in more for an employer than the employee is paid). 

  • biological sex-what your genes make you.  Usually this is traditional XY=male, XX=female in humans (the rest of the animal kingdom can get REALLY complicated), although as I’ll talk about in a minute, even in humans it can get past that quickly.
  • gender-for lack of a better way of putting it, what you feel you are.  This is a complicated interplay between genes, social expectations and mores, and science doesn’t completely understand it yet, but that’s the basic idea.
  • gender expression-what you do to fit in your gender box, or build your own.
  • your gender options-male, female, trans variants of both, and nonbinary/agender/genderqueer/genderfluid, which are varying degrees of not fitting comfortably into either side of the binary or feeling the need to move between the two.
  • cross dressing-dressing as the opposite gender.  Not the same as being trans, though for a lot of trans folks it is a first step.  Depending on who you’re talking to and context, “dressing in drag” is either a direct synonym for cross dressing or the performance art version.
  • sexual orientation-what you’re attracted to, including not being attracted to anything.
  • body dysphoria-the feeling of major uncomfortableness when part of someone’s body isn’t what their brain expects.
  • TERF-trans-exclusionary radical feminist, a contingent of feminist thought that says because men are always the oppressors and heterosexual sex is always rape trans women are just carpetbagger men trying to gain access to feminist stuff.  Related term is SWERF, for sex worker exclusionary radical feminist, which says that sex workers are sellouts and participants in their own exploitation.  And probably gender traitors to boot.

Usually sex, gender, and gender expression occur in relatively regular patterns, but not always.

Next, let’s look at the science of being trans.  As I said above, we don’t completely understand this yet, because humans are complicated.  But…given the documented evidence of trans people in lots of cultures for a long time, it’s a thing that exists.  Even if you wanted to argue just genetics, well, this thread from an expert shows pretty quick that no, it’s not just XX and XY.  And for trans folks, the best understanding we have so far is that it’s not mental illness per se, it’s a lot more like phantom limb syndrome.  The human brain is really good at knowing where it is in the world, in part because it’s really good at knowing where all of its body bits are.  But when a bit is there that shouldn’t be, or when the brain thinks something should be there that isn’t, it doesn’t do very well. 

Which brings us to the brains of trans people.  While biology as destiny is still @#^!ing dumb and everyone is an individual with all the potential therein, there are some biological differences between men and women, broadly speaking, which extends not just to the visible stuff, but to brains as well.  There’s now a lot of scholarly articles out there showing pretty conclusively that the brains of trans people more closely resemble the brains of their “target” gender than their birth gender.  Cf here and here, among many others.  It’s a mismatch between what their brains expect and what’s actually there.  When people say “trust the science”, well…science may not be able to say exactly why or how they exist yet, but science is saying pretty conclusively that trans exists.

And again, granting that the interplay between biology and social and cultural experience is complicated, it turns out that the therapies we have now-hormone replacement therapy, surgery, social transitioning, and a goodly amount of therapy-actually provide much better outcomes for trans people than leaving them untreated.  While the Heritage Foundation disagrees, I find this Cornell metastudy to be much more robust in support of the pro-transition argument.  It’s not quite DS9 era Star Trek, where we can redo someone’s whole plumbing and switch it back in the space of an episode, but it works reasonably well.

So that’s the science, now let’s look at the politics.  You can’t talk about the politics of transgender people without talking about the lived experience of transgender people.  It’s a lot better than it was, but it’s still not great, especially for trans folks at the bottom of the economy.  This article sums it up pretty well, but the short version is that trans people are much more likely to have serious mental health issues, to attempt or commit suicide, or to be disowned by their families (even more than the rest of the rainbow), and also violence and harassment…unless their families and communities accept them for what they are, in which case they tend to turn out no more messed up than the rest of us.

How does this all translate to politics and culture?  In some pretty crappy ways, unfortunately.  Despite the potential advantages of (mtf) transgender athletes being relatively negated over time with hormone replacement therapy (like most things here, it is complicated), and despite lots of local school and private organizations coming up with solutions that work for them and their local communities over the past few years, there’s Gabbard’s bill, which would cut off federal funding for athletics unless the organizations banned trans athletes.  You might say that the federal government has no business subsidizing athletics, or even any business in education, and I would completely agree with you, but it’s like marriage licensing.  The government should have nothing to do with it, but as long as it does it needs to treat everyone equally before the law.  There’s also bathroom bills.  Most worrying to me is that the gay panic defense is still allowed in most of the union, which is entirely too close to a license to murder someone for being LGBT+ than I’m comfortable with.  And even in terms of workplace discrimination yes, I believe in free association, including the right of people to discriminate and be non-violent, non-thieving assholes to each other.  But just because there shouldn’t be a law, do you really want to live in a society that says it’s ok to not hire an otherwise qualified person because of what they are, or some immutable biological fact about them, rather than who they are and what they can do?

What does this mean for us as a libertarian movement?  It’s kind of like us and race.  Yes, the live and let live attitude, and starting with the individual is a great start, and the proper start, but for my more socially conservative or socially isolated brethren in the movement I say that we have to move beyond that.  We need to recognize peoples’ real, lived experiences, and recognize that while the goal is a society of autonomous, freely interacting individuals, in the meantime the groups that we’re part, especially the involuntary ones, impact our lives in real and different ways.  We should seek out people that are different than us and talk to them to understand this-there are plenty of trans libertarians out there who can talk Austrian economics with you, in addition to all the hippies and commies.  And we need to recognize that just because it isn’t the age of Jim Crow anymore that there are real social and legal challenges that need to be addressed as matters of our policy and activism.  It’s how we build a freer and a better society, so we can all go about the business of being individuals.



For libertarians there’s plenty to hate about giant corporations.  The insane amount of subsidies they often receive.  Bailouts (and these).  Sweetheart government contracts.  The horrible connection between the military and oil.  The way they often get the US military to do their bidding (dramatic reading).  See also this, this, and this, among others.  Often despicable labor practices (and yes, I know that grinding urban poverty is often the first step out of even worse grinding rural poverty, but when you don’t pay people what they owe on a massive scale, or you hold them prisoner and threaten them with deportation or other terrors, you suck).  The way they’re often exempted from any accountability for the environmental damage they cause.  All of these are real things that happen, they’re concerns we tend to share with the left, and they’re terrible.  However, having the government break up corporations because they supposedly get too big?  That’s just dumb.  And the current antitrust investigation of facebook, which may result in facebook being partially broken up is part of a long tradition of dumb. 

The idea that corporations will tend towards absolute control of a market absent government regulation is natural monopoly theory, and it’s a common complaint amongst the left about corporate power…except in a free or relatively free market it doesn’t hold up to history.  While perhaps this could be dismissed as a bit of “one data point and you’re jumping for joy”, I think two of the largest examples in the public eye illustrate the point nicely.

The classic example is the classic monopoly, Standard Oil.  At the height of its power in 1904 Standard Oil had about a 90% market share, but when it was broken up just 7 years later it was down to about 64% market share-still big, still powerful, but a company in decline.  It was in decline because competitors were figuring out how to beat them at their own game, and it was before major oil subsidies took over.  Likewise, the biggest example of my lifetime so far is the the Microsoft antitrust suit of 1992 to 2001. Now…Microsoft as a company was no saint, and there were plenty of criminal and civil charges that could have been brought about their conduct with Stac Electronics, the crap that went down with them and IBM, and more.  But monopoly? Why? There was basically a decade of investigation, from 1992 to 2001, during which Apple revitalized, Blackberry and later Android came on the scene, Linux was developed, and any number of other things happened that ate a lot of the market share of Windows.

Now let’s look at facebook.  Facebook is a giant, an absolute titan of tech, to be sure.  A LOT of people use its services, at no out of pocket cost to them.  It buys up potential rivals regularly and locks them out of its platform.  There’s concerns (vastly overblown to my mind, but that’s a separate post) about the role it played in the most recent election.  It is arguably at the absolute zenith of its power.

We’ll put aside for the moment the really obvious fact, which is that facebook charges its users nothing unless they buy advertising, in exchange for the use of their data, and pretty much everyone agrees to this contract.

And yet, like myspace before it, like Microsoft, like Standard Oil, like IBM, like buggy whip and typewriter manufacturers before them, they’ve made missteps as of late.  While many decry them as safe spaces for racist snowflakes (and probably not without reason), parler and mewe are exploding.  Specialized discussion forums are still very much a thing.  Bitchute has become an alternate content hosting site.  The market continues to respond faster than the state ever could.

The only companies that survive are either those that figure out how to compete and innovate and keep giving people what they want, or those that keep getting bailouts from your wallet. In a libertarian world, only the first would survive.

If you want to hate amazon for their CIA contracts, fine.  If you want to hate car companies for getting bailed out by the government when they weren’t make things people wanted, fine.  If you want to hate  any number of companies (and the California department of corrections) for slave labor, I’m with you.  But if you want to hate them simply for getting too big by giving people what they want, I suggest you calm down, read a bit of history, and let the market do its job.