In An Age Where Facts Matter, Keep Writing Fiction

Blank white book w/path

The biggest new phrases in our lexicon are things like ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’. It’s easy to say that old adage “you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts”, but it’s a perspective currently lost in the world of news and politics.

Many say – and understandably – that we need to grasp facts now more than ever before. They matter more than they have ever done. Now is not a time of escapism, of hiding from reality by delving into a fictitious world.

I respectfully disagree.

We need fiction now more than ever. We need stories more than ever. Because they’re often the best way of seeing the real truth.

I still can’t quite figure out why the book I wrote last year – Succession of Power – is selling so well. I’m sorry, that sounds like a very arrogant thing to say. I hope you understand that I’m just genuinely curious as to why a book with easily the lowest-key launch of anything I’ve ever written has done such good “business”.

A friend who read it said that she enjoyed that it features a woman president. Someone who was strong enough to stand up for herself when the forces of darkness rise over her. She said she felt that this was a reference to Hillary Clinton – the president that “should have been” (in her eyes) – taking control when all around is out of control.

I certainly don’t think the character Mary Rosalind is the same as Hillary Clinton. It’s pretty clear that Clinton wanted the presidency for most of her life, and spent all of her time trying to achieve that goal. It’s a perfectly respectable aim, but it was never the goal of Rosalind. Mary was quite happy in the position she was given, just a little frustrated that her brilliant achievements weren’t acknowledged.

But I see what my friend means. A lot of people look at the big political decisions of the past year, and are depressed. I’m personally not depressed about the politics of 2016 (or at least, not any more than any other year), and I don’t think that’s just my natural optimistic comportment. There’s a lot of things to be objectively happy about if you’re lucky enough to live in the West today. Arguably we’ve never had it better. Who cares who resides in the White House? And when it’s someone awful, then let’s take the positives out of that: it means more people are concentrating on the nuances of the Constitution than they’ve done before. That’s actually quite refreshing, if you’re more libertarian-minded. Welcome back to the fold, anti-war, anti-government overreach protestors. Where have you been for the last eight years?

And here’s the funny thing about writing fiction. Though the stories can be larger than life, they only really resonate when they speak a truth. When they tell us something about human nature.

That’s all Succession of Power has tried to do. In the middle of a crisis, a president – and a small band of allies – do all they can to stand strong for the moral principles of a republic, when everyone around is losing their heads. It’s about how not doing something is often more noble and brave than doing something.

But heck, if you’re just looking for a story where there’s a woman president who knows what the hell she’s doing, despite being surrounded by stupid, solipsistic men, then I hope you enjoy the book. And it’s available for less than a few bucks on Amazon right now.

Why We Should Celebrate Magna Carta Day

It's 'Magna Carta Day' on June 15th, and for my money, it's much better celebration of what it means to be English, than the tired old esoteric St George's day, which has just become an excuse to endulge in vague piffle to do with “what does it mean to be English”, without giving any real answer. Except for something about a dragon. That didn't exist.

If we really want to celebrate England's contribution to the world, it should be about the best gift our nation gave the rest of the world – namely, the rule of law.

Throughout the Commonwealth – and, indeed, the Anglosphere more generally – The “Great Charter of Freedom” is venerated and highly respected. Sadly, here in the country of its origin, we seem to have forgotten about it entirely.

So, on June 15th, take a moment to remember England's great contribution to the world, that radical, revolutionary truth: we, as human beings, are born free. And any tyrant who claims otherwise, is sorely mistaken.

 

The Secret to World Peace

Summed up better by libertarian magicians Penn & Teller than almost anyone else:

Yup. That.

Margaret Thatcher: The Libertarian PM?

MaggieT_IronIn light of Margaret Thatcher’s passing, everyone has added their tuppence worth, and I doubt I could add much more.

Alex Massie sums it up pretty well for my money, as does Daniel Hannan in both overall summary and here in his take on the specifics.

The fact is that the economic freedom Thatcher promoted helped laid down the groundwork for the social freedom that came after it. Ironically, neither her nor her enemies would acknowledge that.

The rich got richer under her. But so did the poor. Yes, the gap between the rich and the poor widened, but seriously, so what? Would you rather be better off, or worse off as long as other people are worse off as well? It’s true and unfortunate that the increase in wealth for the poorest was slow, but that’s because she increased overall government spending. If Margaret Thatcher was even more Thatcherite, the government would have been smaller and poorer people would have been even better off.

Her personal opinions on many social issues were very wide of the mark for me. But – especially in the economic sphere – there has not been a prime minister in Great Britain in my lifetime whom I have agreed with as much.

Those who are bitterly and spitefully cheering her death really do so for one reason. In the political realm and in the real-world, she won and they lost. Not just during her time, but quite possibly for all time. And they’ll never be able to take that away from her.

Andy Jones TV Season 5 Episode 4

Milton Friedman is not considered a “pure” libertarian by many. Lots of people complain when I reference him, but I think he is one of the best libertarian “gateway drugs” out there – and has done more practical things to advance pro-freedom principles than anyone else. You just need to place him in the right context:

Where Adam Smith Stands

Adam SmithAdam Smith’s philosophy is not an easy concept to grasp. The principles are straightforward, but wading into his book “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” is not a task to be taken lightly.

However, there’s a new and fascinating breakdown of the pertinent details that has been grafted together by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that’s worth checking out.

It’s a big wordy though. Thankfully Matt Zwolinski over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians has got an excellently-written summary of the whole thing, that provides a nice overview and commentary.

If only the powers that be were a little more like Adam Smith, and a little less like Melvyn King…

Andy Jones TV Season 5 Episode 2

A lot of people wonder when the more libertarian period was in human history. Just the other day someone proudly pronounced to me that it was 1790. Really? I bet if you were a black slave in the cotton fields you’d have a very different point of view.

I think the most libertarian time is now:

A Guns Schools and Violence Reality Check

The recent mass-shootings in the US are nothing short of tragic. But we have to remember that they’re an anomaly. These things don’t happen that often and you’re probably more likely to win the lottery than be killed in a mass-shooting. This doesn’t distract from the real pain and suffering that the people involved are going through. But you can’t legislate against statistical anomalies.

There’s calls to not only regulate guns, but also some really unpleasant stuff being said about people with Asberger’s Syndrome. Seriously? Do we really think this 100% non-violent mental illness is responsible for the killings in the Sandy Hook Elementary School? The perpetrator of that crime did have Asberger’s – but that wasn’t why he committed that crime. He did it because he was a violently disturbed individual.

And the calls to ban ‘violent’ video games have come around again. Apparently he played “Call of Duty” a lot. No kidding. No offense grandpa, but so does everyone else under 40. He also probably brushed his teeth with Colgate. Shall we ban that too? Video games are the current thing that parents and authority figures fear, though they’re something that young people enjoy, and the generation before just don’t understand.

Stated differently, video games are the new rock ‘n roll. Remember Charles Manson saying that the Beatles inspired him to commit his horrific crimes? Remember the calls of how “rock & roll has got to go”? If you were born between 1945-1975, you’ll probably remember how crazy it sounded when your parents and government-types screamed that nonsense. Well baby-boomers, I’m sorry to say you’re doing the same thing to us here in Generation Wired. Video games are the new rock & roll and you might just never get it, the way your parents didn’t get The Rolling Stones or Elvis. Or the way their parents didn’t get Miles Davis and Chet Baker.

That’s just my feelings on this. Remember that saying “If someone says ‘there ought to be a law’, there probably oughtn’t”? I think that summarises the hysteria against guns at the moment. (And the hysteria for them, if you’re conspiracy theorist Alex Jones I guess).

So in the interest of a little objective sanity, here’s an important video from one of my favourite commentators and journalists out there, reason.com‘s Nick Gillespie:

Just to recap Nick’s points: Violent crime (including violent crime involving guns) has fallen significantly in the last 20 years. Murder, rape, assaults are half of what they were in the early 1990s. And according to the US Department of Justice’s own figures, violent crime involving the use of weapons has fallen at the same rate.

There’s no correlation that suggests mass shootings have increased in recent years. Simply, they haven’t. The data is clear. And mass-killings more generally actually peaked in the US in 1929 (the year of a particularly awful tragedy at the hands of a pyromaniac, if I’m not mistaken).

According to the National Centre for Education Statistics, schools are significantly safer now than they were 20 years ago: the violent crime victimisation rate fell from 53 per 1,000 students to 14. An incredible fall of 74% from the early 90s.

At the time of writing, there’s now only two states that don’t have ‘right to carry’ laws in the US (i.e. laws that mean you can carry a concealed handgun). The unprecedented liberalisation (in the proper sense of the word) means that there’s over 300 million guns in the US and at least one in 45% of all households. All this despite the massive fall in gun-related violent crime. In fact, the proliferation of guns in America that are held by law-abiding citizens are probably a reason why the crimes are falling. A legally held gun is significantly more likely to be used to prevent a crime than instigate one.

And as Nick points out, this call for bans on “assault weapons” (there’s a correlation between how passionately someone wants to ban them and their inability to define what one actually is), would lead to no change in the level of gun crime. And that’s at best. A report by the US governments National Criminal Justice Reference Service concludes in a comprehensive study (where you get the feeling they really wanted to prove assault weapons should be outlawed): “Should [the so-called assault weapon ban] be renewed, the ban’s effects would on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

We don’t need new laws. We just need to morn the loss of these precious people that we have lost. You want to solve the problems of the world? We libertarians cracked that a long time ago: More freedom. More love.

Why Libertarians Win. Always.

Matt Ridley - The Rational Optimist

Matt Ridley – The Rational Optimist

I’m currently re-reading Matt Ridley’s incredible book, the Rational Optimist. It’s another timely reminder that it’s very good to be a libertarian right now. In fact, being a libertarian has put you on the right side of history and reason since the dawn of mankind.

What’s great for libertarianism, is that in the 100,000 year-or-so history of our breed of hominids, we have been winning the moral and factual argument in the real world. Our brand of reality is actually the real one, not merely the one that we’d like in theory to exist. Conservatives and modern so-called ‘liberals’ (I prefer the term ‘socialist’ or ‘social democrat’ to describe them) cannot – and have never really been able to – say the same thing.

The moment homo sapiens first evolved from their homo dynamicus ancestors, we started to learn the relative value of trade (i.e. I value item A but I value item B a tiny bit more. For you, it’s the other way around, so we trade on mutually beneficial terms). In countless tests, our gorilla, chimp, bonobo and orang-utan cousins can’t pull off the same trick. None of the hominids before us could quite do it either. Our brains were about the same size as our father-species. We were weaker and not necessarily smarter than the neanderthals. But this understanding of trade was what separated us. It’s what made us the sucess we are today.

And on it goes. Everywhere around the world, at an ever faster rate, the human race is living in an increasingly freer, happier, and more beautifully hyphenated and mongrelised world. Almost everything is getting better all the time. Or to state it differently, almost everything is getting more libertarian all the time.

In fact, the only significant area where we seem to be losing the argument, is in the size and scope of the government. In the West, it appears that the unproductive sector is getting increasingly larger relative to the size of the productive sector. But libertarianism, like gravity, is a fact of life. And it will only be a matter of (possibly prolonged) time before this one minor blip in the libertarian road is finally paved over. The size of government will eventually have to come down, just as every aeroplane that has ever taken off has eventually had to land.

The only real question is, will it be an orderly, rational and safe landing, or will it be a “brace for impact” kind of affair?

I hope everybody comes to their senses long before we have to prepare for a bumpy fall to earth.

Ron Paul’s Farewell Speech

A sad day, but an inevitable one. Here’s Congressman Paul, stumbly, awkward but totally true:

Good bye Ron, we’ll miss you in that grand old chamber.